Without a doubt, Bruce Lee is planet Earth's most famous fighter, but his influence extends far beyond the martial arts. Find out how extensive — and long-lived — it is.

A great artist is measured not just by his fame or even his achievements. He’s measured by his influence on others. Fame alone is nothing. An artist can be well-known for quality work or infamous for terrible work. Achievements are similar. A man can spend a lifetime creating technically amazing things, but his list of achievements is as inspiring as an accountant’s ledger. Influence is different. Great artists make people want to be artists. This is taken from literary theory — specifically, the work of literary critic Harold Bloom — but it applies to the martial arts, too. Just like Bloom’s “strong poets” who influence all subsequent poets, we have our collection of martial artists whose influence permeates certain arts. Examples: Karate was never the same after Mas Oyama created kyokushin, and the contemporary grappling arts are infused with the strategies and techniques of Jigoro Kano’s judo. In our time, only one martial artist has achieved an influence that spans everything: Bruce Lee.


***

Bruce Lee’s influence is everywhere in the martial arts. It’s in everyone who studies a traditional art and chafes against its restrictions. It’s in our easy acceptance of cross-training. Indeed, it’s in our pluralist attitude toward martial truth that allows us to study different styles and learn things from each of them. Even when you turn your attention to sport fighting and reality-based self-defense, you can see Bruce Lee’s influence. It’s evident in the way MMA focuses on functional technique while still trying to be a martial art, and in combatives it’s evident because jeet kune do is part of the lineage of pioneers such as Jim Wagner.

Bruce Lee's Fighting Method: The Complete Edition brings the iconic four-volume Fighting Method series together into one definitive jeet kune do book. Click here to order.

But Bruce Lee’s influence extends outside the martial arts, too. In the film world, he embodies the fighting arts. For years after he died, Hong Kong moviemakers churned out pale imitations of Lee’s now-classic films. No Retreat, No Surrender took it one step further, making Lee’s ghost a major character. The influence of the “Little Dragon” showed up in mainstream films, as well. For example, Eddie Murphy said in interviews that he was imitating Lee in 48 Hrs. during scenes in which he’s stalking the bad guy. Bruce Lee also has been an enduring pop-culture figure. Sometimes it’s subtle — like Urge Overkill singer/guitarist Nash Kato borrowing the name of Lee’s Green Hornet character for the stage and calling one of the band’s albums Exit the Dragon.

Bruce Lee's Fighting Method: Basic Training and Self-Defense Techniques is a best-selling DVD featuring Ted Wong and Richard Bustillo. Get your disc here.

Sometimes it’s ironic — like Mark Wahlberg’s Bruce Lee-idolizing adult-film star in Boogie Nights. Lee’s influence is in all these things, but most of all, it’s in the millions of people who’ve seen his movies or read his books and said, “I want to do that!” His particular combination of martial arts, philosophy and kung fu theater was exactly what they were looking for, and it sent them on a million martial arts journeys. Influence like that isn’t necessarily benign, however.

***

Bloom’s literary theory is about the anxiety of influence. That is, great poets inspire people to love poetry and write it themselves. But the great poets’ work is so powerful and compelling that it suppresses the creativity of new poets, and that’s why most poetry is derivative and weak. Only the strongest poets manage to create something original. Again, the martial arts are similar. You can see the humbling influence of Bruce Lee in all the eclectic styles that have been launched since the 1970s but never really went far. They all claimed to meld the best of many styles into one great style, but they wound up being less compelling than jeet kune do.

To download a free guide titled “Bruce Lee Quotes on Philosophy: An Excerpt From the NEW Bruce Lee Biography and Your Guide to Four More Bruce Lee Books!” click this link.

You also can see it in the would-be martial philosophers like me, people who try to write something compelling and original. Whatever seemingly new ideas or approaches we have, a little research usually shows Lee was there first.

***

Only time will tell how long Bruce Lee’s influence will last in the martial arts. But while it does last, ambitious martial artists can’t avoid it. They have to find a way to extend or surpass the truths of jeet kune do. It’s what Lee had to do when confronted with the genius of wing chun. First, he developed a modified version and called it Jun Fan gung fu, but it was too derivative. So he further developed it into jeet kune do. Anyone who wants to be a great martial artist will have to overcome that edifice of deep thought and functional technique and build something even better. (“Bruce Lee” is a registered trademark of Bruce Lee Enterprises LLC. The Bruce Lee name, image and likeness are intellectual property of Bruce Lee Enterprises LLC.) Go here to order Keith Vargo’s book Philosophy of Fighting: Morals and Motivations of the Modern Warrior.
SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

Just like royalty has dynastic families that rule over nations, martial arts have dynasties that rule over the world of combat. So here's a list of our top five family dynasties in martial arts...


Keep Reading Show less

Having just concluded hosting the Hungary Grand Slam, the first international judo competition in eight months, it was announced Hungary will now host the 2021 Judo World Championships. László Tóth, head of the Hungarian Judo Association, said the event will take place starting on June 3 in Budapest.

The 2021 championships were originally slated to be hosted by Uzbekistan with Hungary to have hosted the 2022 tournament. The world championships will be a qualifying event for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

On Friday, October 30, ONE Championship presents ONE: Inside The Matrix. The event will feature World Championship contests across four divisions with some of the best and most exciting global stars.

The six-bout card from Singapore will air live and free on the B/R Live app starting at 8:30 a.m. EST/5:30 a.m. PST.

Click here to find out how to watch the event if you live outside of the United States.

A Card Full Of Finishers

If there is anything fans should know going into ONE: Inside The Matrix, it is to have their snacks ready because every contest will feature athletes who can finish bouts in the blink of an eye.

Two title challengers, Thanh Le and Iuri Lapicus enter their respective World Championship clashes with perfect finishing rates. However, both of their opponents, Martin "The Situ-Asian" Nguyen and Christian "The Warrior" Lee respectively, have finishing rates above 90%.

In the main event, both Aung La "The Burmese Python" N Sang and Reinier "The Dutch Knight" De Ridder have finishing rates of 92%.

And strawweights "The Panda" Xiong Jing Nan and Tiffany "No Chill" Teo have also finished more than half of their wins before going to the scorecards. In an evening of title tilts, every match for gold is filled with the possibility of a show-stealing ending.

Keep Reading Show less

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov defended his title at the company's "Fight Island" in Abu Dhabi Saturday defeating Justin Gaethje by second round submission, then promptly announced his retirement from mixed martial arts.

Gaethje employed a stick and move strategy that helped him avoid Nurmagomedov's relentless wrestling game until the end of the first round when the champion took him to the mat and easily passed his guard going for an armbar attempt. Though the bell sounded before Nurmagomedov could cinch in the armbar, he was instantly back to work in the second round taking Gaethje down, mounting him and wrapping his legs around the challenger's neck to fall back into a perfect triangle choke. Gaethje quickly tapped but, when referee Jason Herzog was slow to step in, he appeared to briefly go unconscious.

Reaction to Khabib Nurmagomedov retiring after UFC 254 win vs. Justin Gaethje | UFC Post Show www.youtube.com

Nurmagomedov, competing for the first time since his father passed away earlier in the year, immediately announced this would be his final fight. If he does stay away from the cage, he leaves the sport with an unblemished 29-0 record.

Free Bruce Lee Guide
Have you ever wondered how Bruce Lee’s boxing influenced his jeet kune do techniques? Read all about it in this free guide.
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter