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.


Debunking the skeptics of Bruce Lee: How Bruce Lee is misunderstood within Western martial arts communities
Add Opinion
2Girl Opinion
15Guy Opinion

Most Helpful Guy

  • WadeDanielSmith
    Speed beats size in a real fight.

    Royce Gracie won the UFC 3 times when he was 175lbs and he beat several heavyweight and super-heavyweight fighters.

    When I was 20 years old and 165lbs, I could beat a 220lb heavyweight second degree black belt and a 145lb second degree black belt in a 1vs2 handicap match with both of them armed with escrima sticks and I start with no weapon. So a smaller fighter CAN defeat a heavyweight fighter, and can even win a handicap match against a heavyweight fighter.

    I am currently 180lbs and trying to cut weight back to 165lbs. I intend to fight in the UFC if I can cut weight back to 165lbs. I still have a 600 foot pound punch, I used to have a 1000 foot pound punch.

    I don't know whether Bruce Lee's 1-inch punch was really able to knock a heavyweight back, but it's conceivable that a 1-inch punch could have knock-out power in the right part of the head.
    Like 2 People
    Is this still revelant?
    • Royce Gracie wasn't fast, in the early days of ufc he used a martial art the other martial artists had no experience of and the Gracie's were smart in that theyd always challenged other martial artists of other styles and cross trained so at UFC Royce was more than capable of handling any martial artist he came across. Most of the other martial artists at the early ufc tournaments had never competed against anyone outside their own martial art and that was their major weakness. The Gracie dominance in UFC & MMA disappeared when more martial artists started learning BJJ as a 2nd martial art so they could defend from it better and use its techniques to win.

Most Helpful Girl

  • Hot_potato123
    It was nice to see someone write about bruce lee since I didn’t really know much about him other than my whole family are really big fans. Now I have another thing to bond over!
    Like 1 Person
    Is this still revelant?

Scroll Down to Read Other Opinions

What Girls & Guys Said

  • LoU_Hades
    Kinetic energy is mass multiplied with speed and human muscles are limited in speed. In his weight class he was very likely outstanding, but in a fight of a man with teen posture versus 100kg UFC fighter, I would set my money on the bigger guy.
    Disagree 3 People
  • simplelikeme
    Western martial art communities are very much uneducated in the Fine Art of martial arts. Size Doesn't Matter which most westerners think it does. Bruce Lee was taught the ancient art not the Modern Art. I myself was taught the ancient art not the stupid Modern Art. There is a big difference between the two. I myself highly respect Bruce Lee not because of his martial arts but because of everything about him. He was a true man of himself and not a fake like most. I trained for six years with my close friend Ken Shamrock, which most of you should know who he is. First rule, never underestimate your opponent especially when they are smaller than you. Second rule , Master the art of weight transfer and knowing your stance. One thing about Bruce Lee is he never bragged or opened his mouth he just whooped ass. Generally if not almost LOL the one who opens his mouth and brags is the one he's going to get his ass whooped hands down. I never misunderstood Bruce Lee nor was I a skeptic of him or his art. Even though him and his family have been gone for a long time I will never stop respecting them.
    Like 2 People
  • Succubus-slayer65
    Fact about Bruce Lee is that martial artists from all the different arts respected him and his abilities, for instance karate competitions invited him to give talks and demonstrations.
    Martial Arts movies especially Chinese ones are a big project in regards to separating myth from fact as well as separating how good kungfu and all its styles are in an actual fight for instance there's an average chinese mma guy going around china right now beating the shit out of kung fu masters. Bruce lee himself said that if a fighter had boxing and wrestling he could beat any kung fu guy.
    Could Bruce Lee compete in MMA, if taken out of time in his prime and put him in a match against khabib or John Jones hed certainly lose same as any of the best martial artist of his age and this is true for early legends of UFC or other legends such as Benny the Jet, the Gracies, chuck Norris because they just lacked that all around experience of other martial arts techniques.
    Bruce Lee's legacy was as a teacher and promoter of martial arts not as a fighter, he tried to close the gaps of his kung fu by inventing Jeet kun do which incorporates wing Chung, judo and kick boxing.
    The most effective martial arts have a full contact realism rather than point contact light sparring like most karate or taekwondo which is why judo, boxing, kick boxing, wrestling, and muay thai are usually the better fighters. Because there were no full contact tournaments or fights for Bruce Lee to compete in his legacy as a great fighter will always be in doubt but not as a great martial artist.
  • R3DthatDude
    Great My Take. I watch a documentary and chuck norris said Bruce Lee would destroy mma fighters, and to be quiet announced so would any real fighter. It’s because mma is a competition type fight. No disrespect to MMA fighters.
    Like 3 People
  • someginger
    On bruce lee having a fair chance in mma I would have to disagree. In the early ufc yeah he would have a pretty good shot but modern at he's prime no he wouldn't have mich chance.

    Since mma has evolved so much in the last 20 30 years and while judo does have ground fighting no where near as much as wrestlerling and BJJ. Also athletes are just better then they were back in bruce lees time.

    Also the one inch punch while useful isn't a game changer, because if the one inch punch was great for mma someone would have already used it (lots of people can do a 1 inch punch) and two the one inch push isn't really a punch its a push check out hard to hurt talk about the one inch punch.

    While i think bruce did great things for martail arts he wasn't the greatest fighter of he's time
    Disagree 2 People
    • ADFSDF1996

      It’s fairly common for Judokas to beat Wrestlers.

    • someginger

      Yes but what about someone who knows both or someone whos know BJJ, wresterling and judo.

      Also i forgot to mention that fact that no-gi grapperling wasn't as developed then and most of the grapperling Bruce lee would have done would have been gi based which puts him at a big disadvantage in an mma situation

    • ADFSDF1996

      Craig Pittman is a wrestler, yet he still lost.

    • Show All
  • AdithyaR
    This is very well written. Bruce Lee is one of my heroes in the world of martial arts. An amazing man.
    Like 3 People
  • willisg
    Bruce Lee is the most famous name next to Mohammed Ali in fighting.
    App this bullshit talk and no famous people.
    Go anywhere and say Bruce Lee. Go anywhere and say Mohammed Ali.
    Go anywhere.
  • Guffrus
    I think if your main hobby is getting hit in the head repeatedly then your second hobby shouldn't be thinking.
  • WowwGirl
    He's actually one of the only stand up fighters respected by ground fighters. Guess you would have to be in MMA to know that though
    Like 2 People
  • gruvman
    Really agree on this. Size is often overestimate. Let's not forget that a 100mph sedan and a 30mph bus can posess same destructive powers
    Like 1 Person
  • Ratmuffin
    All i know is that he was supposedly trained by Grandmaster Ip Man
    Like 1 Person
    • Bruce Lee was trained with the ancient art of martial arts not the Modern Art of martial arts. There is a huge difference between the two. And it's a true fact if Bruce Lee was alive today he would whoop so many MMA fighters it wouldn't even be funny or maybe it would be LOL 😂😂😂😂

  • TommyLee73
    Very well done. Bruce Lee was a pioneer of mixed martial arts a philosifer and inhumanly badassed. My personal hero growing up. There's a picture of him on the wall 2 feet away from me now with a quote. " Knowing is not enough we must apply. Willing is not enough we must do." Most people don't have a clue what incredible things a person can do. With a clear goal in mind and an unrelenting determination to reach it almost anything is possible. When we think we're giving %100 it's really not even %50. If you want something bad enough you will find a way to give a little more and a little more until you find yourself doing things you never thought were possible. We all have that ability but few have the drive to get there. For the entirety of human history people have been proving the impossible to be very possible.
    Like 1 Person
  • Avicenna
    Damn great Take. I'm a fan though.
    Like 3 People
  • TienShenhan
    This is the best mytake I've seen on here
    Like 1 Person
  • Bogoboj
    great my take!
    Like 1 Person