As y'all may very well know by now, I'm a big Bruce Lee fan. In order to create my previous Bruce Lee article, I had to watch all his martial arts films back to back. Looking at all his classic movies only reinvigorated my fandom and heightened my love for him. For the past week, I've been reading more articles about the man born in the year of the dragon, as well as watching various documentaries about his life. Following an article about Enter the Dragon, a reader raised the following question in the comments section: "Would Bruce still be considered a legend if he hadn't died?" This raised a very valid question, and I decided to ponder the matter in this article.
There are many people that raise the same question about Elvis Presley. Elvis's career was taking a nose dive until his untimely death in 1977. After he passed, Elvis's popularity rose once again, and he was officially hailed as "The King of Rock and Roll," and has been known as such ever since. Not to take anything away from Elvis, but one can't help but wonder if the same thing happened to Bruce following his death. Has he remained a legend because he was so awe-inspiring, or is it because the world is still in mourning? After giving it some thought, I came to my conclusion. I honestly believe that if Bruce Lee had lived to see his 76th birthday, he still would've achieved his legendary status.
Check out how this little guy has studied Bruce's moves to become a fierce fighter:
Bruce Was An Innovator
Not only did Bruce invent Jeet Kune Do, a non rigid form of martial arts, but he also managed to modernize martial arts films. Many martial arts films in the '50s and '60s took place in ancient China, and involved many unrealistic stunts. Bruce's films, on the other hand, were mainly set in contemporary times and he showcased his real-life fighting style, forever changing the landscape of the martial arts film industry. Bruce would've remained in high regard for his groundbreaking work alone if he were still around today. There are many martial arts fans out there that prefer a more realistic approach to filming to fight scenes over those that were obviously created with the help of wires and CGI.
He Was Multi-Talented
We all know that Bruce was an absolute genius when it came to fighting and instructing others in his style. However, Bruce was also skilled behind, as well as in front of the camera. Bruce wrote, directed and produced the film The Way of the Dragon, and also worked as the fight choreographer. He also wrote, directed and produced the original cut of The Game of Death. Circa 1972, Bruce and Raymond Chow, the founder of Golden Harvest Studios, created Concord Productions, Inc., a film production company. Concord Productions was heavily involved with The Way of the Dragon, as well as Enter the Dragon, which many consider to be Bruce's magnum opus. As I previously mentioned, Bruce was also a very talented actor. In 1969, Bruce guest starred in the TV show Here Come the Brides, where he relied solely on his acting chops, and did a great job (seriously, he doesn't fight anyone in the entire episode). Before he struck it big in martial arts films, he also performed in various movies as a child. He had 20 movies to his credit before he reached the age of 18. If Bruce had lived, he could've taken on other roles that wouldn't require his fighting skills, or he could've done more work behind the scenes, which would have only added to his legacy.
Bruce Was A Philosopher
While attending the University of Washington, Bruce studied philosophy, and carried his doctrine in all aspects of his life. His book, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, explains not only the philosophy behind the martial art, but also the physicality of it. Bruce also had a strict physical ideology when it came to his workout routine and work ethic. He felt that training was the art of expressing one's body, and spent hours getting into proper shape. It was this very same self-motivation that helped him heal from a devastating back injury in 1970. Given how much Bruce's philosophical quotes and fitness regime are as popular as ever, 43 years after he left this mortal coil, you can just imagine how cherished and evolved they'd be if he were still alive.
Bruce Was Just The Truth, Period
Bruce was a man that could do two-finger pushups, knock down men a few feet away with one and six-inch punches, and kick an opponent with all the power of a mule, even when doctors predicted that he would never be able to kick or even fight again. He was 5'4" and only weighed about 135 lbs., but he could realistically hold his own against a 7ft. giant (who was actually one of his students). He had a body that most men would kill for (did I mention he was a hottie back in his day?). Not only that, but he moved so quickly that sometimes the cameras would have to slow the footage down to catch most of it, and then there'd still be footage that was too blurry. Bruce lived without limitations, and he constantly broke through any barriers naysayers laid before him. Even the mantra of Jeet Kune Do is, "Using no way as way; having no limitation as limitation." It's no wonder that his fans see him as a superhuman. If he had lived to see 2016, I'm certain he wouldn't see his age as a limitation either; he would've continued to shock and amaze us all.
Bruce Lee was a man with immense talent, intense philosophies and innovative approaches to his career. It's no wonder that his overall body of work is held in such a high reverence to this very day. It's also no wonder that the world still mourns him, because God only knows what he would've achieved had he still lived. Do I believe that Bruce would've retained his illustrious position among the ranks of action stars if he were still here? Hell, yes.
"The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering."
— Bruce Lee
Do you think Bruce Lee would've still been considered a legend if he were alive today? Give me your thoughts in the comments section!