As a life long fan of Bruce Lee, a conversation I find myself having often times with other people, is whether or not Bruce Lee could actually fight, or if he was a “fraud” and just an actor.
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My short answer to that question is yes, Bruce could definitely fight. I believe he is one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. Not only based on his character and obsession with perfecting martial arts and the concept of fighting at large, but also the results of his recorded fights, the testimonies of those who actually witnessed his fighting ability first hand, and the proficiency of the students that he taught.
Real Fights of Bruce Lee That We Know About
When Bruce was 18 years old, at the 1958 Hong Kong Inter-School Amateur Boxing Championships he defeated three time champion Gary Elms by knock out (after knocking out 3 opponents in the first round). Bruce was also constantly getting into street fights which ultimately inspired his move to the United States.
When Bruce came to the U.S., he was outspokenly unapologetic about what he perceived to be inferior conventional martial arts in the region, which he thought were limited by tradition. He gave demonstrations to back up his claims and this behavior put him on a collision course with local fighters. A man named Yoichi Nakachi began aggressively pursuing a fight with Bruce, who eventually accepted — Bruce knocked him out in 11 seconds, fractured his skull and cracked his eye socket.
According to Jesse Glover, a witness to the fight and student of Bruce Lee, “Bruce made us promise that we wouldn’t talk about the fight to outsiders,” Glover was amazed that in spite of Yoichi Nakachi running around, bad mouthing Bruce Lee prior to the fight about how he could beat him, Bruce was incredibly humble even after he easily destroyed him.
According to Bruce Lee’s wife, and martial artist James Lee (no blood relation between the two) a few years later, Bruce fought a man named Wong Jock Man in private, no holds barred, and beat him quite easily in roughly 3 minutes. According to Bruce’s wife, the fight took quite long because Wong was actually running away. Despite this, Bruce was displeased with his performance and began to adapt his style and create what we now know today as Jeet Kun Do.
Now, rare newly restored footage of Bruce Lee sparing has emerged which gives us a glimpse into his proficiency (I had to update this with a new video since the original uploader’s video seems to have been taken down);
Despite so many people looking to downplay Bruce Lee’s legacy as a fraud, those who witnessed his fights, sparred with him, and trained with him personally, have spoken openly on how he was truly the real deal. But perhaps the most interesting testimony on Bruce Lee comes from karate champion Jim Kelly, who suggests that Bruce sparred with some incredible fighters, but never bragged about it, and he always remained “untouchable”
Today people make the nonsensical claim that Bruce Lee would never have been able to compete with modern fighters, but what made Bruce great, was his ability to adapt, innovate, and rise above the norm of society. It is this reason why the the president of the UFC calls Bruce Lee “the Father of Mixed Martial Arts”. He was light-years ahead of his time.
As someone who has studied this man’s mind and way of life, if he were around today, I have no doubt that he would naturally adapt and push himself beyond the common crowd. Because what ultimately made Bruce Lee the legend that we know today, was the uncompromising power of his remarkable mind.
Thank you for giving us an example of what a complete human being looks like brother — Strong in mind, body, and spirit.
Your legacy and what you stood for continues to live on today.
If you would like to learn more about the incredible life of Bruce Lee, and how he achieved all of his life goals by the young age of 32, please read my blog HERE
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