Once of the most influential Buddhists in modern times is the late Bruce Lee, who introduced martial arts (or Kung Fu) to Hollywood in the 60's and single handedly started the whole Kung Fu excitement in the United States.
He was borned on November 27, 1940 in San Francisco, of a Chinese actor and actress parents who were traveling in the USA performing Cantonese Opera in China Town. He spent his childhood back in Hong Kong where he went to La Salle College for his high school education.
At one time during his childhood, after he was beaten up by a street gang, he began to learn Martial Arts. But that lead to more street fights. He father, worried about his safety, sent him back to his place of birth, USA, for his College education.
He went to the University of Seattle to study philosophy, and started to teach martial arts to non-Chinese Americans on a part time basis. He even invented Jeet Kune Do, or the Art of Intercepting Fist over the years as a teaching Master.
However, he had little luck during his early acting career. Although he signed on as a supporting role in the TV series the Green Hornet, the American entertainment industry was not very friendly to non-white actors and actress those days. Although the show was popular among Asians, main stream America was cold to him. The show lasted only one session, and in 1967, after the last episode of the Green Hornet was made, he returned to teaching Kung Fu to Westerners, his students included Chuck Norris and Steve McQueen. It was during this time that he re-designed many of his martial arts movements to suit the camera, taking advantage of his dancing ability.
On a return trip back to Hong Kong with his family, he was surprised that he was mobbed by fans everywhere. Golden Harvest Co. signed him on to make three films that had shakened Asia by storm: - The Big Boss (or Elder Brother from China), Fist of Fury and The Chinese Connection. While he was making the fourth one, the Game of Death, he was invited back to the States by Hollywood to make Enter the Dragon. Immediately, he grisped the chance, put down his work in Hongkong, and flew back to Hollywood.
Making of Enter the Dragon at Hollywood was very very hard work indeed. Rumour was that he suffered internal injuries because of the action - but it was the first ever Hollywood movie that used a non-white actor in a leading role. When filming was completed, he immediately returned to Hong Kong to continue with the Game of Death.
That movie, however, was never completed - he was found unconscious in the home of a local Hong Kong Actress Miss Ting Pei on July 18, 1973. He was taken to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Finally, he was famous internationally after the film Enter the Dragon held its premiere in the United States. He became a legend.
NOTE: Martial arts is generally atttributed to the Indian Monk Bodhidharma who came to China to start Zen Buddhism. It is said that he had meditated for seven years in the Shaolin Buddhist Temple, which is considered to be the birth place of Kung Fu.
Return to Buddhism Magazine Mainpage