Bruce Lee - The Dragon’s Legacy Lives On. By Thomas Gerbasi
Growing up in the 70?s in New York, local kids may have been aware of the exploits of boxing greats Muhammad Ali or George Foreman, but when it came down to it, everybody wanted to be Bruce Lee.
Just ask current UFC welterweight champion and Long Island, New York native Matt Serra about his first martial arts influence.
?I used to watch those movies with my father,? Serra told me before his UFC debut against Shonie Carter in 2001. ?Game of Death and Enter the Dragon are classics. I just enjoyed the fighting. It just stayed with me.?
Looking back, some thirty years later, that decision was a no-brainer, and fellow UFC fighters Luke Cummo, Stephan Bonnar, Tito Ortiz, Frank Mir and Crafton Wallace ? all of whom listed Lee as one of their heroes on their UFC bios ? would undoubtedly agree.
For while Ali and Foreman were fighting one on one in a ring with gloves, Lee - through the magic of Hollywood - was beating down five guys at a time, taking Chuck Norris to school, and surviving a size 16 foot to the chest from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to come back and beat the basketball legend in the movie Game of Death.
But that was just one aspect of Bruce Lee, born Lee Jun-Fan in San Francisco in 1940. At his core, Lee was a serious martial artist who made the study of various arts and the development of his own, Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee?s Way of The Intercepting Fist) his life?s work.
It was this work, done far away from the bright lights of Hollywood, which still makes Lee relevant today, 67 years after his birth, and almost 34 years after his tragic death at the age of 32 in 1973.
In fact, a resurgence of interest in the life and work of Lee has been taken place, due to the work of the Bruce Lee Foundation, last Sunday?s Bruce Lee day on Spike TV, and the mainstream success of mixed martial arts, a sport which UFC President Dana White has called Lee ?the father? of.
And this isn?t just a snappy soundbite from White. Just google the phrase ?Bruce Lee? and UFC and you?ll come up with 283,000 entries. And it?s not just fans speculating on how Lee would have done in the Octagon; it?s because a key element of Jeet Kune Do is the idea of keeping it as a never ending process, just like the continually evolving sport of mixed martial arts.
To Lee, styles separate and limit people, and as MMA history has shown, fighters who specialize in one style exclusively are quickly shown the door when facing hybrid athletes who have learned at least the basics in all phases of mixed martial arts (boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu).
As Lee said in a Hong Kong television interview, ?Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can either flow, or it can crash. Be like water, my friend.?
It would be interesting to see what Lee would have thought of mixed martial arts had he lived to see its birth in 1993. Most likely, he would have loved it, seeing how athletes studied various styles of fighting and then developed their own unique fighting style, just as he took his base of Wing Chun and analyzed hosts of different styles before coming up with JKD. And if MMA was around while he was alive, you can bet he would have taken a shot at it.
?He was always a guy who was up on the latest things,? said Serra. ?He already was well rounded back then. So I?m sure that if he was alive, once the Jiu-Jitsu boom came into play, he would have been a black belt by now I?m sure. Because that?s a guy who was a
fanatic. I?m sure he would have been fantastic. He was a great athlete.?
And a true legend.
About The Bruce Lee Foundation
The Bruce Lee Foundation seeks to preserve, perpetuate, and disseminate Bruce Lee?s life example, philosophies, and art of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do through inspirational events, educational programs, martial arts instruction, and the Bruce Lee Museum. The UFC has teamed up with the foundation to produce a special edition Bruce Lee T-Shirt to honor the man, and the shirt is now available at the UFC store. To order, click here