Millennials would only vaguely be familiar with Bruce Lee, if at all. But without him, the martial arts and fitness world would not be what it is today. On the other hand, virtually any baby boomer would know about him. So, who was Bruce Lee and what made him so special?
Well, this is not a biography of the man; that would require a much longer post or a book. Our focus is his contribution to health and fitness world (via martial arts).
Bruce Lee: Not Just Another Martial Arts Guy
Born Lee Jun-fan on November 27, 1940, Bruce Lee was a martial arts expert per excellence as well as innovator (he created a fighting method known as Jeet Kune Do). He was also a philosopher, teacher, cultural icon, and movie star.
Bruce Lee starred in 4 main movies including Enter the Dragon, arguably his most popular, in his short-lived acting career (tragically cut short by death at 32 years old on July 20, 1973).
Men who saw him in the movies wanted to be look and be like him (ripped and tough). Women wanted their men to look and be like him or, perhaps secretly, wanted to be with him.
Despite being a lousy actor, his movies drew the crowds (because he could entertain) and he had a cultic following that still exists today. In fact, some of his followers today refuse to believe he is dead. The world also went bananas for fitness and martial arts.
Bruce Lee: The Fittest Man in The World
Lee included all aspects of training, mental and physical, in his regimen. He would do free body exercises, aerobic and anaerobic, as well as use fitness equipment including lifting weights. His 45-minute stationary bike ride would leave a pool of sweat on floor.
Bruce Lee may well be credited for the fitness craze that persists today. He was so ripped and powerful that he was called “the fitness man in the world”. His martial arts skills are the stuff legend.
At a time when bodybuilders only had toned bellies but not six-packs (see picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger above), Bruce Lee had a six pack. Also, he had what is known as a “Christmas tree”, which are lower back muscles thus named because they resemble a Christmas tree when well-developed.
Little wonder, then, that they called him “the fittest man in the world”. (Continued below).
“Feats” of Fury
One of his movies is titled Fists of Fury, hence the above header. His fighting expertise earned him the title “King of Kung Fu”. To understand what this man was capable of, here are some feats he’s known for:
1. He kicked a chandelier hanging eight feet from the ground (he was only 5 feet and 7 inches tall).
2. His famous “one-inch punch” could knock men clean off the ground.
3. He could knock out 1600 pounds of force using the nunchaku, a martial arts weapon he helped popularize (if not popularize all by himself).
4. Punching power of 350 pounds. Though legendary boxer Muhammad Ali is said to have achieved this, he was a heavyweight weighing 260 pounds while Bruce Lee only weighed 130 pounds.
5. He was so powerful, he needed his own specially-made extra-heavy punching bag, for he would tear up any regular bag. While normal “heavy” bags weigh about 150 pounds, his bag weighed 300 pounds!
6. He could do two-finger pushups using one arm.
7. He is said to have caved in a protective head gear made from heavy steel rods that had previously withstood several blows from a sledgehammer.
Bruce Lee was superhuman. He was also way ahead of his time. He would make his own protein shakes when these were virtually unknown. He also made his own training equipment. He was always in pursuit of self-improvement, both mental and physical, and had a voracious appetite for learning.
Bruce Lee taught us constant self-improvement, toughness of body and mind without losing humility, living a full (clean and healthy) life, and the virtues of hard work among other life lessons. There was none like him. And there never will be.
Watch: Bruce Lee Exhibition
“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.”
– Bruce Lee
See also: Bruce Lee Quote on Achieving Immortality