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Facts You May Not Know About Bruce Lee

Original Post: 05/09/2017

While he was also known for his time as an actor and director, Bruce Lee is most famous for his work as a martial artist. He had a trademark fighting style that involved lightning-quick movements, paving the way for many of the moves you’ll find in the mixed martial arts (MMA) scene today. The more facts about Bruce Lee that people learn, the more they begin to realize just how iconic he was as a man, an actor, a martial artist, and a philosopher.

Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940 to his parents, Grace Ho and Lee Hoi-chuen. While some Bruce Lee facts are common knowledge, you may be surprised by other interesting details from his life. Learn more about the founder of Jeet Kune Do who also starred as a legendary pop culture icon with this list of unique and intriguing details.

Top Bruce Lee Facts

1. In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Faced Off Against Jackie Chan

One of the more interesting facts about Bruce Lee involves Jackie Chan before Chan was the famous actor he is today. In the film Enter the Dragon, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee battled in a couple of iconic fight scenes. On two different occasions, Jackie Chan got beaten up by Bruce during the movie.

"Jackie Chan" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

At one point during the filming process, the injuries were more than just acting, which Jackie Chan later admitted is his favorite story ever. It turns out Bruce Lee accidentally hit Jackie Chan in the face with a stick. Jackie recently recounted the story in a video interview on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight.

2. Time Magazine Says Bruce Is One of the Top 100 Most Influential People of His Century

According to Time Magazine, Bruce Lee was one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Mentioned under the section for heroes and icons, his name resonated with other famous people like Muhammad Ali, Anne Frank, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Charles Lindbergh, and others.

3. Bruce Charged Hundreds of Dollars for Private Lessons

Would you pay someone $275 for an hour of martial arts training? What if that teacher was Bruce Lee?

Back in the 1960s, Bruce Lee charged a whopping $275 per hour to give people private lessons. Based on inflation, the amount of $275 in the 1960s would be the equivalent of $2,500 in 2020. It wasn’t surprising that there were many people who were more than happy to pay top dollar for a martial arts class with him.

4. He Owned Thousands of Books

Considering how much time he spent on working out and practicing martial arts, it is amazing Bruce had time to do anything else. One of the lesser-known Bruce Lee facts is how much he loved to read.

In total, Bruce had more than 2,500 books in his personal library. As a voracious reader, he had books on a range of topics such as Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Herman Hesse’s Beneath the Wheel, Chang Chen Chi’s The Practice of Zen, Rene Descartes’ Meditations, and Tsai Lung-Yun’s Fundamental Training on Martial Arts.

His love of reading and self-learning was so great, he even dreamed of owning a bookstore before he became famous as a martial artist. 

5. Bruce Lee Had No Regrets

In one of Bruce Lee’s many popular quotes, he once said, “If I should die tomorrow, I will have no regrets. I did what I wanted to do. You can’t expect more from life.”

By living life to the fullest, Bruce was never scared of death. This mindset has since become a staple of the person he was.

6. Bruce Lee Kicked Too Fast for Cameras

With amazing advancements taking place every year, we are used to dealing with technology that is more powerful than we are. In chess games, supercomputers have beaten the world’s greatest chess masters. But when it comes to technological innovation, even the best cameras in the world couldn’t keep up with Bruce Lee.

"Bruce Lee!" by ncole458 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When he filmed Enter the Dragon, the filmmakers said he had to redo scenes because his kicks were too fast. The speedy kicks were so quick that they made the shot look fake, so directors had to reshoot the scene in slow motion at 34 frames per second.

7. His Reaction Time and Punching Speed Was Untouchable

Another one of the best Bruce Lee facts is his impressive punching speed. When Bruce Lee was at a distance of three feet away, he could react and punch in just five-hundredths of a second.

That is 0.05 of one second.

Bruce had to slow himself down on screen because the cameras couldn’t even detect his speedy punches. In early footage of him in the Green Hornet, many scenes had to be completely redone so his fellow actors could react more efficiently for the scenes. When they were initially played back, Lee’s punches were so fast it looked like his opponents simply fell over for no reason.

8. Chuck Norris Said Bruce Would Win in a Fight

For a while, there were a lot of Chuck Norris jokes and memes going around about how no one could ever beat him. But it turns out even the legendary Chuck Norris knew there was at least one person who he couldn’t take on. When someone asked who would win in a fight to the death between him and Bruce Lee, he said, “Bruce [Lee] of course, nobody can beat him.”

9. He Could Do 50 One-Arm Chin-Ups

One of the most incredible physical facts about Bruce Lee is that he could do 50 one-arm chin-ups. There are also stories of Lee doing push-ups with 125 pounds of weight on his back, which is even more remarkable since he only weighed around 130 pounds.

10. Bruce Was Part Dutch

While he rose to fame as a martial artist from Hong Kong, his family ancestry was more diverse. His great-grandfather, Mozes Hartog Bosman, was a Dutch Jewish businessman from Rotterdam who was once the Dutch Consul to Hong Kong. Because of this, Bruce Lee had some Jewish and Dutch heritage on his family tree.

11. Many Fighters Still Call Him the Greatest Martial Artist of All Time

There have been hundreds of famous martial artists to shine in the spotlight since Bruce Lee passed away back in 1973. But even today, most of these individuals still call him the greatest martial artist of all time.

The list of people who have said this includes champion fighters like Mike Tyson, Anthony Pettis, Randy Couture, Anderson Silva, Manny Pacquiao, and more.

12. Bruce Lee Was an American Citizen

Another one of the most interesting facts about Bruce Lee is that he was an American citizen. Since he was born in a Chinese hospital in San Francisco, he was able to emigrate back to the United States right before he turned 18 to legally claim his American citizenship.

"Master-Bruce-Lee" by @Peta_de_Aztlan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

13. His Son Became a Martial Artist Too

Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, ended up becoming a famous martial artist as well. He trained under his father in the special art of Jeet Kune Do and was truly gifted at it. Brandon also followed in his father’s footsteps and became a talented actor.

Unfortunately, Brandon passed away at a young age as well. While Brandon filmed his breakout role in The Crow, he was killed when a prop gun was shot with improperly deactivated bullets.

14. Bruce Lee Studied Under Yip Man

When he was 13 years old, Bruce Lee began studying Wing Chun Gung Fu under the legendary Yip Man (Ip Man). During his five years of study with Yip Man, he revered his master as a wise man and master teacher. Later in his life, Lee returned as an adult to visit him.

15. Bruce Lee’s Cause of Death is Still Uncertain

Over the years, there have been many rumors about how Bruce Lee died. While some believe he was killed by the Chinese mafia, others swear he was killed by an ancient curse. At the time of his death, doctors believed his cerebral edema (brain swelling) was caused by a reaction to an Aspirin painkiller he took for a headache.

"Graves of Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee" by Tony Fischer Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0

More recently, medical professionals have even hypothesized that heatstroke was his true cause of death. While this theory appears to be well supported by facts about Bruce Lee at the time of his death, it is still all speculative information.

Bruce Lee’s wife, Linda Lee Cadwell, has constantly invited people to view the other side of this situation. She has said, “All these years later, people still wonder about how Bruce died. I prefer to remember how he lived.”