20 July 2023

Bruce Lee fans mark 50 years since martial arts legend’s death

20 July 2023

Bruce Lee fans have gathered in Hong Kong to mark 50 years since the martial arts legend’s death.

Lee, who smashed negative stereotypes around Asian men in films, died aged 32 at the height of his fame due to an allergic reaction to painkillers.

The Enter The Dragon star was as famous for his fight against racial portrayals of Asians on big and small screens in the 1960s and ’70s and his philosophy on persistence as he was for his fight moves.

And many of his fans said his outlook on life has inspired them since they were young – even if they only learned about him and his work after his death.

Sophie Uekawa, who said she was initially impressed by Lee’s muscular body and smooth moves on TV, said his quotes, including about how hard times eventually pass, helped her endure feelings of helplessness.

The translator, who was bullied at secondary school, said: “It can be said that he is my saviour.”

Lee, who was born in San Francisco but raised in Hong Kong, began his career as a child actor in the 1940s and started learning Chinese kung fu when he was 13.

He moved back to the US in 1959 and studied philosophy at the University of Washington.

The superstar fought hard against racist stereotypes in the US entertainment industry, where Asian men were often portrayed as servants, unskilled workers or evil geniuses in Hollywood.

Lee eventually went back to Hong Kong and made hits like The Big Boss and Fist Of Fury.

His last film, Enter The Dragon, was released six days after his death and became his most popular release.

Lee was one of the first Asian actors to attain Hollywood megastardom and fanned a kung fu craze that swept the world.

To mark the 50th anniversary of his death, on July 20 1973, a government-run museum in Hong Kong organised a camp for students to learn about Lee’s legacy by introducing them to Jeet Kune Do, the martial arts style he invented and practiced.

The museum also screened his films.

W Wong, the chairman of a Bruce Lee fan club established nearly three decades ago in the Asian financial hub, said the group’s demographics are changing as members grow older and it has only one member in his 20s.

“We face problems in passing on our work,” Mr Wong said, although the group still has some 600 members.

An instructor at a martial arts institute in Hong Kong’s Jordan district says more than half of the studio’s Jeet Kune Do students came to learn the martial arts style because of Lee.

Teacher Ricky Fong said adaptability is important in Jeet Kune Do and life and pointed to one of Lee’s most famous sayings: “Be water, my friend.”

The phrase was frequently used by protesters in Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy movement to describe their guerrilla strategy of moving fluidly across the city.

One of Mr Fong’s students, Adrian Li, said he admires Lee’s martial arts skills and philosophy.

He said Lee’s eagerness to keep learning has influenced him deeply.

“Not be bounded by anything. One can learn a lot,” he said.

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