This Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the most famous martial artist of all time, the legendary Bruce Lee, and his memory is being celebrated around the globe. From Vancouver to Hong Kong, where the Hong Kong Heritage Museum is honoring the city's favorite son through an exhibition and 5 day summer camp for children, the world is remembering the late martial arts icon.
Fans in the United States can remember Lee by visiting the Pico House museum in Los Angeles where a life-size sculpture of Lee executing his trademark sidekick has been unveiled. There are also a series of interactive street murals on display this month in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York commemorating Lee and his contribution to what became the Cinemax/HBO Max television show "Warrior." A commemorative book, "In My Own Process," featuring never before published writings by Lee and tributes from friends and students like Dan Inosanto, is also scheduled for limited release later this year.
Lee, who was inducted into the Black Belt hall of fame as instructor of the year in 1972 and posthumously, as martial artist of the year, in 1974, was born in San Francisco in 1940 but raised in Hong Kong where he was a child actor in movies. He took up wing chun kung fu as a teenager before returning to the United States where he attended the University of Washington and began teaching his own brand of martial arts.
Following a demonstration at the Long Beach International Karate Championships, he was hired to play the part of Kato in the Green Hornet television series. Though the show was short-lived, it made Lee the most visible martial artist in America. His renown in the martial arts community was also furthered by his friendship with Mito Uyehara, the founder of "Black Belt Magazine" who regularly featured Lee in the publication despite his then controversial criticism of traditional training methods like kata practice.
Opening a school in Los Angeles' Chinatown, where he taught what he referred to as "jeet kune do," Lee produced several well-known martial arts students including Inosanto and Richard Bustillo, as well as training celebrities like James Coburn and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Unable to break through in the Hollywood film industry, which was reluctant to take a chance on an Asian actor, Lee eventually returned to Hong Kong to film the movie "The Big Boss," which shattered box office records in Asia. He passed away in Hong Kong on July 20, 1973 with the cause of his death still much debated. A month later, his final completed movie, "Enter the Dragon," would be released becoming the most successful martial arts film in history.
Lee was survived by his wife, Linda, son, Brandon (now deceased) and his daughter, Shannon, who currently runs the Bruce Lee Foundation in her father's memory.