Bruce Lee, an American Icon In America
The Bruce Lee Story, Part Two
Bruce Lee Comes To America
Bruce Lee was a student at Tak Sun School (德信學校), very close to his Kowloon home at 218 Nathan Road, until he was twelve. He then attended the division of primary school at La Salle College until he was transferred to St. Francis Xavier’s College due to bad grades and reportedly bad conduct. The school boxing’s team’s coach, Brother Edward, took young Lee under his wing, but Lee continued to fight on the streets and in his school. Not only were the police called to these fights, as in the spring of 1959, but Lee also began fighting young men with connections to feared rival clan members. When he beat up the son of a powerful triad family, it was rumored that a contract was put out against Lee. In 1959 Lee’s father decided it was time to send him to America to live with his sister Agnes (李秋鳳) in San Francisco. His father knew that to stay in Hong Kong would mean either death or jail for his fourth child:
“Thе police detective саmе аnd hе ѕауѕ ‘Excuse mе Mr. Lee, уоur son іѕ rеаllу fighting badly іn school. If hе gеtѕ іntо јuѕt оnе mоrе fight, I mіght hаvе tо put hіm іn jail’”.
So it was that the now iconic martial arts instructor and movie star came to America. In 1957, with only $100 in his wallet, he moved across the sea to stay with his sister in San Francisco. At the young age of 18, Bruce already held the titles Crown Colony Cha Cha Champion of Hong Kong, 1958, and the 1957 High School Boxing Champion when he came.
After a few months of living with his sister, Lee moved to Seattle to live with friends of his father, Ruby Chow and her husband. He attended high school and worked for Ruby at her restaurant as a live-in waiter. During this time, Lee’s brother Peter (李忠琛) came to stay with him in Seattle until he moved on to Minnesota for college.
Lee finished high school and graduated in 1960 from the Edison Technical School on Capitol Hill, Seattle, a school that has since been renamed Seattle Central Community College. He went on to enroll in the University of Washington in March of 1961.
Lee’s major was not philosophy despite his claims and the claims of others; he was actually a drama major. Lee did take up philosophy and psychology, however, during the course of his studies.
It was while studying at the University of Washington that a teaching student named Linda Emery caught his eye. He married her in August of 1964 and fathered two children: Brandon Lee, born in 1965 but dying tragically on a movie set in 1993, and Shannon Lee, born in 1969.
Bruce Lee: Introduction to Long Beach International Karate Championships
In 1959, Bruce Lee began to teach martial arts in the United States. He used his own version of the Wing Chun he had been taught in his early years, a style he would call Jun Fan Gung Fu, translated as “Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu.” He mostly taught friends from the Seattle area, including Jesse Glover, a Judo master who soon became Lee’s assistant instructor. Soon, Lee’s first martial arts school, the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute, was opened in Seattle. Lee referred to his Gung Fu as “Scientific Street Fighting,” but Bruce would soon revamp even this style of fighting for a style that placed even less constraint on the fighters.
In spring of 1964, Lee dropped out of college to relocate to Oakland where he would live with the well-known Chinese martial artist James Yimm Lee (嚴鏡海). James and Bruce opened another Jun Fan Studio together in Oakland. During this time, James would introduce Bruce to the founder of The Long Beach International Karate Championships, Ed Parker. This introduction would change Lee’s life forever and put him squarely in the sights of Hollywood and the hearts of aspiring martial artists around the globe.
In 1964, Bruce Lee was invited to the Long Beach International Championships. He astounded everyone when he effortlessly performed two-finger pushups, using only the index fingers and thumbs of his hands, shoulder-width distance. He also performed his “One inch punch” which is described as:
Lee was standing in front of his partner, Bob Baker, with his knees bent slightly, right foot forward, and right fist about one inch away from Bob’s chest. Without pulling his arm back, Lee punched Bob with so much force that he fell over a chair that had been placed behind him and landed on the floor.
“I told Bruce not to do this type of demonstration again. When he punched me that last time, I had to stay home from work because the pain in my chest was unbearable.”
---Bob Baker, Stockton California
It was here that Bruce Lee met Jhoon Goo Rhee, the famed Taekwondo master. The two shared martial arts secrets and became close friends.
When Lee came back to the Long Beach International Karate Championships to perform his techniques, he was pitted against the World Karate Champion, USKA champ Vic Moore. Bruce challenged Moore to block a straight punch to the face; in eight rounds, Moore was unable to block even one of Lee’s punches.