Debunking the skeptics of Bruce Lee: How Bruce Lee is misunderstood within Western martial arts communities

When people think of martial arts, Bruce Lee is among the first individuals that comes to everyone’s minds. Bruce Lee is perhaps the most famous martial artist in history. But like all popular individuals, Bruce is subject to both praise and skepticism. The main reason is that a lot of his fighting prowess is actually shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that he was in incredible shape and had martial arts training. But unfortunately many skeptics and that’s a nice way of calling them seem to think Bruce Lee was all smoke and mirrors because these “skeptics” only judge him by his fight choreography. Which is why this skepticism must be challenged.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying Bruce Lee was some sort of “unbeatable kung fu super hero” as his more fringe fans seem to think. But rather Bruce Lee was a legit fighter who was ahead of his time in regards to philosophy and training.

Debunking the skeptics of Bruce Lee: How Bruce Lee is misunderstood within Western martial arts communities

1.) The misconception that he was only a striker: A lot of skeptics of Bruce Lee, specifically those within the MMA community doubt his combat prowess because they assume he was only a “fancy kicker” with no experience in grappling. But upon further research, there is indeed proof that he had some grappling skills in Judo and Jujitsu. How proficient he was in grappling and how he acquired grappling experience is mostly unknown but it has been heavily implied that both Wally Jay(Jujitsu) and Gene Lebell(Judo) taught him some grappling. In fact there are pictures of Bruce Lee wearing Judo Gis and training in Judo.

2.) His physical size: Ah yes a lot of meat head skeptics like to patronize him for being a bantamweight(5’8” 132lbs). When it comes to fighting, size usually means weight rather than height because height isn’t as important as weight is in a fight. So yes size matters in a fight but just cause you are bigger doesn’t mean you will always win a fight. There have been many occasions where smaller fighters manage to beat larger opponents even when they are equal in skill. Why? Because size is only one of the many factors that determines the outcome of a one on one fight. Aside from size, there are many other factors involved that will also determine who wins the fight. For example Yuki Nakai a 5’7” 135lb bantamweight who in his prime did not have the same physical capabilities as Bruce Lee, still managed to consecutively submit two much taller heavyweights of equal skill in one night.

Yuki Nakai, a 5’6” 135lb bantamweight managed to submit two heavyweights in one night.
Yuki Nakai, a 5’6” 135lb bantamweight managed to submit two heavyweights in one night.

3.) How would he fair in a mma environment: A lot of skeptics also seem to think that Bruce Lee would get wrecked in a modern day mma environment just because he doesn’t have a “professional fight record”. Here’s the thing, if we are talking about hypotheticals then who’s to say Bruce Lee wouldn’t adapt to fight in an mma environment? Skeptics seem to forget that mma wasn’t a thing during the height of Bruce Lee’s popularity, how can he be expected to have an mma record? So in a sense, assuming Bruce Lee was a “fake” just because he doesn’t have an mma record is as stupid as assuming the Samurai were weak just because they didn’t have M4 carbines and drones. So if Bruce Lee were around and in his prime today and would want to fight in mma. He would most likely adapt to fight in an MMA environment.

Bruce Lee in UFC 3(2018)
Bruce Lee in UFC 3(2018)

4.) His one inch punch: There’s so much debate about his one inch punch, whether it be praise or skepticism because only heavyweights and super heavyweights should have this kind of punching power. A lot of skeptics tried to “debunk” it by recreating similar videos but the problem with the recreations is that first of all, it’s not a one inch punch but rather a 3 inch punch. Second of all, context is missing. These skeptics only focus on Bruce Lee punching the guy. But ignore the fact that a boxer by the name of Joe Lewis tried the punch first and could barely budge the large guy. It was only afterwards that the much smaller Bruce Lee demonstrated his incredible punching power. It was no magic, it was physics. The amount of force combined with short distance, velocity and kinetic linking(which starts at the fighter’s feet and makes its way up to the fighter’s fists) allow a skilled fighter to punch harder than he normally would punch. Bruce Lee was not a large man but was able to compensate with Velocity. Second all. Bruce Lee emphasized grip/forearm strength training which also contributes to punching power due to improving the density of the hands and forearms. Further more, the one inch punch was put to the test on myth busters and it was concluded that it is a legitimate technique that could be utilized by skilled fighters. While a Shaolin monk named Shi yan Ming on “Stan Lee’s superhumans“ had his one inch punch tested which was proven to cause more injury than a 30mph car crash. So is it accurate to say that Bruce Lee could punch above his weight class? The answer is a resounding yes. Here’s a very detailed scientific breakdown of Bruce Lee’s punch.

5.) His physical capabilities: His physical capabilities were truly beyond extraordinary, yet there seems to be skepticism from those who think a below average sized man can’t exhibit such feats. Well the evidence of Bruce Lee’s physical feats is self evident, whether it be first hand accounts of those who knew him, footage etc. 3 of his many feats: He could do two finger push ups, he needed custom made 300lb heavy bags because he was too strong for regular heavy bags, he was so ridiculously fast that he had to slow down when filming fight scenes.

Bruce Lee doing 2 finger push ups
Bruce Lee doing 2 finger push ups

6.)What did he contribute to martial arts? A lot of skeptics also doubt the legitimacy of his primary martial art Jeet Kune Do. The thing these skeptics don’t seem to understand is that JKD can be described as a philosophy rather than a martial art that gave birth to mma. It can also be called a prototype of mma. The idea of JKD is gathering the most practical techniques of various martial arts styles and putting them together, a concept applied to mixed martial arts. In fact, many mixed martial artists revere Bruce Lee and JKD for being a pioneer in martial arts. Even Connor Mcgregor acknowledges that Bruce Lee could have been a champion in mma.

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is specifically your own- Bruce Lee

7.)His actual fights: Perhaps the biggest debates regarding Bruce Lee have to do with the fights he was reported to have been in. There’s very little information available about these fights. However it is known for a fact that he won a boxing championship when he was 16 years old and got in some street fights. There are also around 7 or so fights that have been confirmed to have happened. Among those fights was a fight against Muhammed Ali’s body guard George Dillman, another fight with a stunt man named Yuen Wah and a fight with skipper Mullins a karateka. Joe Lewis a 6’0” 191lb karateka, kickboxer and wrestler also became a student of Bruce Lee after they sparred each other. The implications being that Bruce Lee beat Joe Lewis in those sparring sessions. There’s also rumors that Bruce Lee was submitted by Gene Lebell but that’s been debunked, instead what actually happened was Gene Lebell lifted Bruce Lee up in a fireman’s carry and carried him around for a while and then put him down but that’s it, no fight. Although Bruce Lee would go on to learn some grappling from Gene Lebell. Perhaps his most famous fight was against Wong Jack Man which the 2016 film “Birth of the dragon” was about.

So yes, a lot of Bruce Lee skeptics don’t really understand who he actually was. Instead they focus on who his fans think he was. But there is no honor in picking on a man who is not around to defend himself against such criticism. These skeptics should do more research on Bruce Lee before making all sorts of assumptions about Bruce Lee.

sources:

https://www.ozy.com/true-story/debunking-quentin-tarantinos-mockery-of-bruce-lee/95956/

https://youjiujitsu.com/did-bruce-lee-know-bjj/

https://www.toptenz.net/top-10-reasons-bruce-lee-may-have-been-superhuman.php

https://bjjfanatics.com/blogs/news/yuki-nakai-a-true-inspiration-to-all-martial-artists

Debunking the skeptics of Bruce Lee: How Bruce Lee is misunderstood within Western martial arts communities
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