Creator: Bruce Lee

"I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once. But I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times."

Bruce Lee is the quintessential martial arts film star, particularly for action films set in contemporary times, and is widely considered the greatest martial artist of the 20th century.

Born in San Francisco on the 27th of November 1940 (in a Year of the Dragon, appropriately), Lee's time growing up was split between Hong Kong and America (specifically Los Angeles and Seattle). This gave him a strong command of English that helped him break away from the "halted Asian accent" stereotype. His first real break came when he was cast as Kato in The Green Hornet TV series as a Hypercompetent Sidekick. Kato became a Breakout Character; in Asia, the show was renamed The Kato Show. He proceeded to gain a strong fanbase for Asian Martial Arts Movie films until he was made an international star with the (internationally-produced) Enter the Dragon.

Time named Lee a person of the 20th century as the shining example of personal improvement through physical fitness, and he is universally recognized as one of the ultimate film star "tough guys". He achieved this status with only one TV series, a scattering of TV guest appearances, and five martial arts films done in his adulthood, one of which (The Game of Death) was unfinished by the time of his death. The affectionate biographical film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, where he was played by Jason Scott Lee (no relation), suggests that his success in America helped to reduce the offensive levels of the Engrish-speaking, Asian and Nerdy, and rude Asian stereotypes — though Lee's work did help grow the All Asians Know Martial Arts stereotype as a result.

Lee was, and still is, a revered figure in the world of martial arts. He espoused a Combat Pragmatist fighting style and created his own approach, Jeet Kune Do (Way of the Intercepting Fist), in order to create more practical martial arts. This style and the philosophy behind it (the most well-known tenet being "Absorb what is useful") has led some to call him the founding father of Mixed Martial Arts, though the sentiment is hardly unanimous. The popularity of nunchaku ("nunchuks") is directly tied to his use of them in several films, including Enter the Dragon. And his skill as a martial artist doesn't mean he was a slouch in intellectual matters: Lee graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in psychology and he also studied philosophy extensively. Lee used the knowledge gleamed from those philosophical studies to write a book about the philosophy behind his martial art. In short, this Asian man embodied the Greek ideal of having a sound mind in a sound body.

Lee was said to be a Dance Battler, since he was both a badass Warrior Poet and an award-winning chachacha dancer. He was always ready to take a challenge from martial artists, too — but the time one of them scared his kids, Brandon and Shannon, Lee had no mercy on him.

Lee died tragically young (32 years old) on the 20th of July 1973 from a brain aneurysm caused by a reaction of painkillers and brain-swelling medication. His sudden death combined with his young age sparked urban legends about the "true" cause of his death — these range from suicide to his being a target of the Triads. Much like Elvis Presley, there are those who believe he faked his own death. His death devastated the Hong Kong film industry to the point where producers began casting numerous Bruce Lee Clones in their movies; they hoped that audiences starved for more Bruce Lee would simply accept the poor imitations. While, by and large, it didn't work, there are a few renowned martial arts stars who managed to get their first break during this period (notably Jet Li and Jackie Chan, the latter of which had a brief appearance in Enter the Dragon).

As a tragic postscript to his life, Lee's son, Brandon, died from a prop gun accident on the set of The Crow.


Notable roles:


Bruce Lee is the trope namer of:


Tropes associated with Bruce Lee's body of work include:

  • Action Hero: His standard character is a mighty martial artist.
  • Artistic License Martial Arts: In spite of his reputation as the world's greatest martial artist, Lee's movies feature a lot of this. He admitted that jumping high kicks are only good for movies, and he would never use them in a real fight. On the other hand, Lee's films did not rely on the Wire Fu and hyperactive pace that was strongly associated with the genre at the time.
  • Asian and Nerdy: He also does a bit of it in Fist of Fury, when he impersonates a telephone repairman to infiltrate the enemy headquarters. As the Rifftrax guys point out, he seems like a Chinese man doing Jerry Lewis doing a Chinese man.
  • Badass: Always an action hero with amazing martial arts.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: An unintentional example, given that Lee was born with them.
  • Blood Upgrade: Blood is a mainstay in his fight scenes.
  • B-Movie: His early movies were treated as B-movies in America. That soon changed.
  • Brick Break: Lee would demonstrate his famous "one inch punch" on boards, though he would criticize board breaking later on. "Boards don't hit back".
  • Briefer Than They Think: His film career included work as a child and teenager, as well as many bit parts in Hong Kong, but he only starred in four complete films over a three-year period (plus Game of Death, which was unfinished) as an adult.
  • Bring It: Common in his movies, and frequently homaged.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower:
    • Lee's followers often ascribe his abilities that border on superhuman, such that the viral video (falsified by the ad company) of Bruce Lee playing ping pong using nunchuks was done well enough and Lee's own superhuman reputation was such that many believed wholeheartedly that it was all true.
    • Lee felt that many martial artists of his time did not spend enough time on physical conditioning. Lee included all elements of total fitness — muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility — as part of his workout routines. He even tried traditional bodybuilding techniques to build bulky muscles or mass.
      • To achieve this he had to have custom-built equipment simply because his normal exercise routines would break them. For example, his usual punching bag weighed 300 lbs and was filled with metal. The average commercial bag weighs a mere 70 lbs and is filled with sand.
    • The superpower part is right, as certain documentaries have calculated that the force in one of Bruce's kicks is equivalent to a fully loaded truck going at 30 miles per hour!
    • He was also extremely fast, able to take a coin out of your hand and replace it with another one before you could close your hand. An even more prominent example is the fact that he had to slow down during the filming of The Green Hornet simply because he was too fast for the camera to capture properly. Even then he was only a blur!
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Lee made this a signature of his fight scenes by using his own fighting philosophy, Jeet Kun Do, as the basis for them.
    • While all those flashy moves he uses in films are a big part of his reputation, when asked what he would do if attacked randomly on the street, Lee said he'd first bite the assailant. He took the view that traditional martial arts techniques were too rigid and formalistic to be practical in scenarios of chaotic street fighting. Lee decided to develop a system with an emphasis on "practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency".
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Cuts through crowds of chivalrous mooks, usually with only a few blows each, but his one-on-one fights last much longer.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Dying in his prime almost certainly aided his legendary reputation.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: His first "big" film, The Big Boss, is very different from his other films. It's a little more cartoony (cut-out wall punch), cheesey (the big bad's demise), and very bloody. Lee's character also has a lot more trouble against his final opponent, rather than curbstomping the second half, than those that would follow.
  • Fighting with Chucks: He made the nunchaku famous with sequences such as the big fight in Han's basement from Enter the Dragon. He also fought with a single Chuck in Way of the Dragon.
  • Finger Poke of Doom: The "one-inch punch" technique he popularised is one of the rare examples that looks unimpressive-but-devastating enough to count for this trope — while also being moderately effective in real life. It consists of jerking your fist approximately one inch forward incredibly fast, hitting a target with a remarkable amount of force despite the tiny range and lack of windup to build momentum. In real life, such a punch won't send your opponent flying across the room — or even do as much damage as a proper punch — but it's still a decent surprise attack that can significantly injure your opponent without you having to move more than...well, an inch.
  • Fountain of Expies: He has so many copies that they got their own trope.
  • Genius Bruiser: His characters are always as intelligent as they are powerful. In real life, Lee studied philosophy in addition to ways of making himself stronger.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: While much of his movements are more along the lines of Lightning Bruiser territory, he dabbles into this at his slowest moments. A good example would be the Chuck Norris fight, where — after a series of rapid punches and kicks — Lee knocks Norris over with haymakers.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Lee averted this trope, as he had no illusions about the supremacy of an armed man against an unarmed one. One of the reasons he signed on to Enter the Dragon was the possibility that, since he was playing a badass Secret Agent, he might get to carry a gun in a few scenes. He was disappointed when he learned how the script required his character to go in unarmed, so he changed the script slightly to have his character's annoyance at those rules reflect his own.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Ever seen him in a suit and tie, all groomed up? No? Then, just see. Lee was pretty famous for being a stylish fellow. A number of years ago, Japanese toy company Medicom released an entire line of Bruce Lee 12" dolls based on the various stylish attires he wore. In another example, Bruce's only English role where martial arts wasn't involved (an episode of Here Come The Brides called "Marriage Chinese Style"). Likewise, his only turn as an antagonist when he played Winslow Wong in Marlowe in two different but just as stylish suits.
  • I Have Many Names: Bruce Lee, Lee Junfan, Sai-fon, Li Yuanxin, Li Yuanjian and Li Xiaolong. The fact that he has so many names just boosts his legendary status.
  • Insufferable Genius:
    • During the The Green Hornet/Batman crossover, Bruce apparently flew off the handle at the revelation that Robin was supposed to beat Kato and threatened to beat the actor to within an inch of his life if the script wasn't changed. Supposedly, Bruce even chased Robin's actor, Burt Ward, around the set until someone made a joke about "the black panther and the yellow canary," after which everyone broke down laughing. An alternate version of the story, however, has Burt Ward shooting his mouth off about how his judo skills could easily outmatch Lee's kung fu, which leads to the aforementionned chase-around.
    • In the original cut of Game of Death, Lee fights through the world masters of all martial arts, kills them, and finally fights the only foe who can match him: someone else who practices Jeet Kune Do.
  • Kiai: Lee's whooping kiais were intended to convey the power of his attacks and became a signature part of his fight scenes. Anyone who parodies kung-fu films will likely imitate them.
  • Lightning Bruiser: This applies to both Lee's characters and Lee himself. When the song said "Those kicks were fast as lightning", he is the reason why.
  • Mook Chivalry: Lee's films include lots of scenes where mooks surround him and attack one at a time.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Has quite a following of fangirls for being athletic and good looking, particularly in his younger days.
  • Nice Guy: A loving family man and is very concerned for the well-being of his coworkers. During the filming of Enter the Dragon he accidentally kicked Jackie Chan (in the films the actors are supposed to stop just short of the person they're fighting with sound effects being inserted later on). He immediately stopped filming and rushed over to Jackie to see if he was alright. As well as that, Jackie also stunted for the Big Bad in Fist of Fury, and proceeded to suffer Hong Kong's highest-ever wire fall when the scene was shot. Bruce responded by immediately rushing over (along with everyone else) to see if Jackie hadn't died during the fall.
  • Papa Wolf: One idiot found that side of Lee when he broke into Lee's residence and scared his kids in order to challenge him. Lee, royally pissed off at this affront, laid the fool out with one kick!
  • Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: Most of his fight scenes focus on the speed at which Lee could deliver his attacks.
  • Rated M for Manly: Most of his movies are about martial arts, and can get pretty violent.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Not only a martial arts god, but also a pro-level ballroom dancer (He won several cha-cha competitions), soap opera junkie (missing an episode of General Hospital could leave him in a big blue funk for days) and something of a dandy.
  • Shirtless Scene: Every single one of his movies has at least one. You can count on him kicking a lot more ass if his top is torn or removed.
  • Silent Snarker: In most films or even in interviews, you could always tell what he was thinking without him saying anything.
  • Short-Lived Big Impact: Lee didn't star in very many films, and died at the age of 32, but he is widely credited with introducing martial arts films to the United States and popularizing East Asian culture. His philosophies on both martial arts and life live on to this day, and his films inspired dozens upon dozens of Bruce Lee clones.
  • Start My Own: Lee created Jeet Kune Do because he felt he could have won a fight in seconds instead of minutes were it not for the then-current styles of martial arts holding him back.
  • Tranquil Fury: Most of his films often portray his anger this way; the only time he ever expresses a berserk style reaction is when he strikes a blow to someone.
  • Type Casting: Lee all but became the Asian version of John Wayne.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: In many of his movies, the only times his torso is fully covered is when he's in one of his disguises. This suggests that his chest is more distinctive identification than his face.