"I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once. But I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times."
The quintessential Martial Arts film star, particularly for action films set in contemporary times, and popularly considered the greatest martial artist of the 20th century.
Born in San Francisco on 27th November 1940 (in a Year of the Dragon, appropriately), his time growing up was split between Hong Kong and America, specifically Los Angeles and Seattle. This resulted in having a strong command of English that helped distance himself from the stereotype of the halted Asian accent. His first real break was playing Kato in The Green Hornet. Very much the Breakout Character and being far more proactive than the main character, in Asia it was renamed The Kato Show. He proceeded to gain a strong fanbase for Asian Martial Arts Movie films until he was made an international star with the (internationally-produced) legendary film Enter the Dragon. Time Magazine named him a person of the 20th Century as the shining example of personal improvement through physical fitness while he is universally recognized as one of the ultimate film star tough guys.
He achieved this status with only one TV series, a scattering of TV guest appearances, and five martial arts films done in his adulthood, one of which, The Game of Death, was unfinished by the time of his death. The affectionate biographical film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (where he was played by Jason Scott Lee - no relation) suggests that his success in America helped to reduce the offensive levels of the Asian and Nerdy and rude Asian stereotypes.
Bruce Lee was and continues to be a revered figure in the world of martial arts. He espoused a Combat Pragmatist fighting style and created his own approach, Jeet Kune Do (Way of the Intercepting Fist), in order to create more practical martial arts. This style and the philosophy behind it (the most well-known tenet being "Absorb what is useful") has led some to call him the founding father of Mixed Martial Arts, though this is hardly unanimous. The popularity of nunchaku ("nunchuks") is directly tied to his use of them in several films. This didn't mean he was a slouch in intellectual matters, either: Bruce graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in psychology (though he also studied philosophy extensively). Lee used that latter knowledge to write a book about the philosophy behind his martial art. In short, this Asian man embodied the Greek ideal of having a sound mind in a sound body.
Said to be a Dance Battler, since he was both a Badass Warrior Poet and an award-winning chachacha dancer. Also? He was always ready to take a challenge from martial artists -- but the time one of them scared his kids, Brandon and Shannon, Papa Wolf Bruce had no mercy on him.
Died tragically young at the age of 32, due to a brain aneurysm from mixing the wrong medications for a headache. His death sparked urban legends about his "true" cause of death, ranging from suicide to being a target of the Triads. And like with Elvis Presley, there are those who still believe he never died and faked his own death.
His death so devastated the Hong Kong film industry that producers began casting numerous Bruce Lee Clones in their movies, with the hope that audiences, starved for Bruce, would simply accept the poor imitations. While, by and large, it didn't work, there are a few renowned martial arts stars who managed to get their first break during this period, Jet Li and Jackie Chan among the most famous.
Truly, Father and Son both, Too Cool to Live.
- Kato in The Green Hornet
- The Big Boss
- Fist Of Fury
- Way of the Dragon
- Enter the Dragon
- Game of Death
- Tower Of Death, AKA Game Of Death II (sorta.)
- Action Hero: His standard character, though he deconstructed it in Fist of Fury.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Some of Bruce Lee's Wing Chun classmates refused to train with him when they learned he was one-fourth white.
- Artistic License Martial Arts: In spite of his reputation as the world's greatest martial artist, his movies feature a lot of this. He's admitted that jumping high kicks are only good for movies, and he would never use them in a real fight. However, Lee's films did not rely on the Wire Fu and hyperactive pace that was strongly associated with the genre at the time.
- Asian and Nerdy: Believe it or not, Bruce played this role once on film, as a teenager in Hong Kong. Excerpts can be found on the The Real Bruce Lee 2 DVD.
- Badass: Both on screen and off.
- Badass Normal: He was basically a real-life Asian version of Batman.
- Beyond the Impossible: Good lord, he could hit quickly.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows
- Blood Upgrade: A mainstay in his fight scenes.
- Boring but Practical / Combat Pragmatist: He pretty much loved these tropes, up to the point where he developed his own fighting style based entirely around them called Jeet Kun Do (way of the intercepting fist). However, in practice, everything he did off-screen pretty much ended up falling under Awesome Yet Practical, anyway.
- Brick Break: Lee always felt this trope was a useless stunt not worth his time, in other words: "Boards don't hit back."
- Briefer Than They Think: His film career included work as a child and teenager, as well as many bit parts in Hong Kong, but he only starred in 4 complete films over a 3 year period (plus Game of Death, which was unfinished).
- Bring It: Common in his movies, and frequently homaged.
- Chuck Norris: Lee defeats Norris in the iconic climax of Way of the Dragon. It's a rare example of Memetic Bad Asses actually fighting each other.
- The Comically Serious: Once or twice. Specially here.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Any one of his movies, where he's outnumbered 80:1; and when they use weapons, he whips out his nunchucks to do things the lazy way.
- Mr. Fanservice: Has quite a following of fangirls for being athletic and good looking, particularly in his younger days.
- Fighting with Chucks: He made the Nunchaku famous, with such sequences like the big fight in Han's basement from Enter the Dragon. He also fought with a single Chuck in Way of the Dragon.
- Fountain of Expies: To the point it got its own trope.
- Genius Bruiser
- He Cleans Up Nicely: Ever seen him in a suit and tie, all groomed up? No? Then, just see. Bruce was pretty famous for being a stylish fellow. A number of years ago, Japanese toy company Medicom released an entire line of Bruce Lee 12" dolls based on the various stylish attires he wore.
- I Am Not Leonard Nimoy
- Kiai: Lee's whooping kiais were intended to convey the power of his attacks and became a signature of his fight scenes. Just about anyone who parodies kung fu films will end up imitating them.
- Lightning Bruiser: His characters and in real life. When the song said "Those kicks were fast as lightning", this is why.
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: Him and his wife Linda Lee faced opposition to their marriage in both the U.S and Hong Kong.
- Muscles Are Meaningless: Lee was very skinny, but with ridiculous muscle tone. He weighed about 160 pounds at his heaviest, and slimmed down in later years. By his movie-making prime, he was about 135-140 pounds, 5'7, and could do pushups with a 250 pound man standing on his back.
- Older Than They Think: Bruce's career. Bruce starred in numerous Hong Kong films as a child and a teen, although none of them were in the martial arts genre. Some of them do allow him to show off his mad cha-cha skills, though.
- Power Copying: He built his personal martial arts style by "absorbing what is useful" from multiple styles.
- Rated "M" for Manly: All of his movies, all of them the noble variation.
- Real Men Wear Pink: According to his wife Bruce loved soap operas, especially General Hospital
- Renowned Selective Mentor: Even before he hit the big time as a movie star, he was able to charge $1000 an hour for his martial arts lessons and still be able to pick and choose his students.
- Shirtless Scene: Every single one of his movies has at least one. You can count on him kicking a lot more ass if his top is torn or removed.
- Silent Snarker: In most films or even in interviews, you could always tell what he was thinking without him saying anything.
- Short-Lived, Big Impact: He didn't star in very many films, and died at the age of 33, but Bruce Lee is widely credited with introducing martial-arts films to the United States, and popularizing asian culture. His fighting philosophy still lives on to this day, and he has inspired dozens upon dozens of Bruce Lee clones.
- Some Call Me... Tim: Lee Jun-Fan is one of his many Chinese given names.
- Stating the Simple Solution: In an interview, Bruce cited the presence of guns as the reason why most martial-arts films were set in centuries other than the 20th.
Bruce: "Nowadays, you can't just go around kicking people, or punching people, because if you do...*he pantomimes pulling out a pistol and shooting it*...that's it."
- Training from Hell: Not only could he do one-finger pushups, he spent hours punching a stool to toughen up his fists.
- Typecasting: As the Asian version of John Wayne.
- Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: Invoked by Bruce himself. He would spend hours studying Muhammad Ali's fights in books and film, analyzing the most minute details. When asked why his only answer was "Because one day I am going to fight him."
- Walking Shirtless Scene: In many of his movies, the only times his torso is fully covered is when he's in one of his disguises. This suggests that his chest is more distinctive identification than his face.