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.

Bruce Lee's "10,000 Kicks" Challenge – Complete 10,000 Kicks in 10 Days and Feed The Children

Bruce Lee's secret to self-mastery is hidden in the following quote, "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." Discipline, dedication and perfect repetition over time are the keys to mastery. To get results like Bruce Lee we need to train like Bruce Lee.

Keep Reading Show less

If there's a martial artist in your life who's hard to shop for, look no further than this list of the best holiday gifts from the world's leading magazine of martial arts.

The holidays are right around the corner and there's no better time to shop for the ninjas in your family! Black Belt Magazine doesn't just provide the history and current events of the martial arts world, we can equip you with all the best products too. From beautiful belt displays, to stylish gloves, to collector's edition books, keep reading to check out this list of the top five gifts to kick under the tree this year.

Keep Reading Show less

ONE Championship has formally announced its final two live events for 2020, and each will be headlined by ONE Super Series World Championship matches.

The first will be ONE: Big Bang on Friday, December 4, when Roman Kryklia defends the ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Title against Murat "The Butcher" Aygun.

Also in action, top featherweight contenders Garry Tonon and Koyomi Matsushima meet in the co-main event in Singapore in the hopes of securing a title shot in 2021. Matsushima is the #3-ranked contender in the division, with Tonon not far behind at #5.

The anticipated organizational debut of Amir Aliakbari will also happen at ONE: Big Bang as he meets Russia's Islam Abasov and India's Ritu Phogat clashes with Jomary Torres before the ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix kicks-off next year.

Two weeks later, ONE: Collision Course gets underway on Friday, December 18.

ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai Tournament winner Rodlek PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym gets his shot at Nong-O Gaiyanghadao and the ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Championship.

Nong-O’s Craziest Fights In ONE Championship www.youtube.com

American Lowen Tynanes returns against former featherweight king Marat Gafurov in a lightweight tilt.

Fellow American Troy Worthen steps back inside the ONE Circle to try, and breakthrough the bantamweight rankings against #3-ranked Yusup Saadulaev as both men try to leave an impression heading into the new year.

Both events will return to the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

As the new year inches closer, ONE looks to be in a prime position to continue its extraordinary string of success with exciting martial arts action.

The final two live events will air free on the B/R Live app.

ONE: Big Bang

ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship: Roman Kryklia vs. Murat Aygun

Koyomi Matsushima vs. Garry Tonon

Marat Grigorian vs. Ivan Kondratev

Kairat Akhmetov vs. Danny Kingad

Amir Aliakbari vs. Islam Abasov

Ritu Phogat vs. Jomary Torres

ONE: Collision Course

ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Championship: Nong-O Gaiyanghadao vs. Rodlek PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym

Marat Gafurov vs. Lowen Tynanes

Yusup Saadulaev vs. Troy Worthen

Amir Khan vs. Dae Sung Park

Chan Rothana vs. Xie Wei

Raimond Magomedaliev vs. Edson Marques

Half human. Half vampire. Experience the sharper, darker, and slicker Blade now in 4K Ultra HD! Click to see more!

The martial arts action classic Blade is back in 4K Ultra HD, and it will make you feel like you are watching Wesley Snipes in person! The film is available for purchase TODAY (December 1st), but you have a chance to win the Digital Movie courtesy of Black Belt Magazine. All you have to do is share this article on your social media page and tag Black Belt Magazine and the appropriate page for Blade or Warner Bros.

On Facebook, tag @Black Belt Magazine and @BladeFilmsOfficial. On Instagram, tag @BlackBeltMag and @WarnerBrosEntertainment. On Twitter, tag @Black_Belt_Mag and @WBHomeENT for a chance to win! You must also include the hashtag #Blade4K to be eligible to win the FREE download.

Keep Reading Show less
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