Was Bruce Lee Actually A Good Martial Arts Fighter?

It is early 1960, and San Francisco’s Chinatown
is the place to be if you’re a young martial artist looking to prove yourself in this world. Most of the martial arts masters however are
reluctant, if not completely opposed to teaching Westerners what they see as a uniquely Asian
art. Bruce Lee disagrees, and happily takes on
any apprentice who can prove himself. Wong Jack Man is amongst the greatest masters
of his time, and he takes offense at Lee’s willingness to take on non-asian students. Others however claim that Lee, new in town,
has bragged loudly and constantly about being the greatest martial artist in the world. That bragging has worn on Wong’s nerves, and
now he has challenged Lee to a fight in Lee’s own studio. Inside Lee’s studio a small assembly of people
are gathered to watch a fight that will very quickly become the stuff of legends. The doors are barred to the public- this is
a private grudge match, and only one man can be victorious. What happens next will leave fans of Bruce
Lee, and martial arts in general, searching for the truth for decades. In one account of the fight, Lee destroyed
Wong Jack Man within minutes, pounding Wong to the ground and getting two confirmations
that Wong surrendered before ending the fight. In another account, Wong, who realized that
Lee’s pride would never let him accept defeat unless he was killed outright in the fight,
was forced to fight defensively in order to avoid committing murder. The fight then ended in something resembling
a draw. In yet another account, Wong and Lee were
almost evenly matched, and the fight turned into a grind fest of blows and counterblows,
lasting nearly a half hour before both combatants were forced to admit a truce. This fight, along with Lee’s legendary exploits
on film, have raised a haunting specter for fans of the great martial artist in the form
of one single question: was Bruce Lee really as great a fighter as he was a teacher? The answer may not be so easy to ascertain,
given that Lee did not have very many fights on the public record. Unfortunately, Lee existed twenty years before
the establishment of mixed martial arts as a sport, and at the time there existed few
actual martial arts tournaments. Of those that did exist, they would not have
appealed to Lee- nor would they have been representative of his fighting prowess even
if they did. These ‘point’ tournaments, such as those that
Chuck Norris participated in, awarded combatants points for blows that landed on what were
perceived to be critical areas- it didn’t matter if the blow would realistically have
caused much damage or not. Often, the fighters barely even touched each
other, giving each punch and kick just enough power to land on the opponent and not much
more. Famous American kickboxer Joe Lewis once commented
that he trained extensively on his midsection so that he could absorb tremendous punishment. Yet in a point tournament if an opponent landed
a blow there he would be awarded a point for delivering a killing blow. Clearly a point tournament would not have
appealed to a fighter such as Lee, as they in no way represented the true power, endurance,
and capability to take punishment that a real martial artist needed to win a fight. Detractors of Lee though point at his lack
of actual fights as proof that he was not a good fighter, and yet this theory itself
falls a bit flat on its face when looked at logically. Firstly, Lee may not have had many recorded
fights, but he had plenty of incredible feats of strength publicly recorded and verified. Famously he once sent a man many pounds heavier
than himself flying backwards from a six-inch punch. That man, who had volunteered for the stunt
and even worn chest padding, ended up having serious chest bruising regardless of his safety
gear. Simply put, Lee’s power was so immense- as
it is with any martial arts master- that he could not have competed in a fight without
threatening the life of the man he fought. Having grown up before the establishing of
MMA as sport, Lee’s training was focused entirely on martial arts as a tool to devastate an
opponent- not a tool to win a martial arts match. Simply put, Lee did not train or practice
his martial arts so that he could safely defeat an opponent in the ring, the way that modern
MMA fighters do. Lee trained in martial arts to use them as
a self-defense tool, and every effort into further refining and evolving his martial
arts techniques was dedicated into achieving victory faster by delivering ever more punishing
and devastating blows. Evidence of this lies in Lee’s well-publicized
fascination and study of human anatomy. Lee trained himself in the study of the body
and its physical processes just as rigorously as he did in his martial arts, and he did
so with only one goal in mind: to discover how to hit on the human body so as to cause
the maximum amount of damage. For Lee, martial arts was first and foremost
a tool to kill, though one he adapted to entertain audiences on screen. Inviting Lee to fight in a standard MMA match
would have been no different than using a real gun in a paintball match, and today martial
artists who compete in MMA events have the knowledge to deliver devastating and crippling
blows- but purposefully train themselves to still abide by the rules of the tournament. One point against Lee’s fighting prowess in
an actual street fight was the simple fact that he definitely didn’t have the experience
of a modern MMA combatant in taking a great deal of punishment. MMA fighters train their minds and bodies
to survive grueling round after round in the ring, absorbing an incredible amount of punishment. Again, this is because the fighters are prohibited
from using techniques such as those that Bruce Lee trained in daily- techniques which could
kill or incapacitate an enemy. If modern MMA allowed the same lethal fighting
style that Lee mastered, then today’s matches would be a great deal shorter and a great
deal more fatal. On this point, it is true that Lee was not
as experienced as a modern MMA fighter in absorbing punishment for long amounts of time. Yet this point really only hints at the fact
that Lee may not have been a great modern martial arts fighter- or competitive martial
arts fighter, as it forces Lee to fight with modern MMA rules that completely undercut
Lee’s strategy of securing victory as quickly as possible by delivering as brutally devastating
blows as possible. Given Lee’s incredible ability to innovate
and adapt his own fighting style though, nobody seriously doubts that Lee could have become
a modern champion if he had lived today and trained to fight in today’s MMA tournaments. Lee very famously adapted his personal style
after his fight with Wong Jack Man, evolving an even deadlier form of Jeet Kune Do within
months of his match. He also very quickly learned how to become
a grappler after seeing the effectiveness of the technique for himself, and adapted
it as well into his fighting repertoire. There is little doubt that Lee could have
very quickly learned the rules of modern MMA and adapted his fighting style accordingly. Another point against Lee that detractors
of his fighting ability tout is the fact that he was an actor- as if somehow that made it
impossible that Lee was also a genuine martial artist, which he very much was. While making his living as a film actor and
wowing audiences on screen, his physical prowess was very well documented and verified. On the set of the Green Hornet for example,
he was forced to slow down his movements so the camera could actually catch them, and
even then he was shot at a much higher frame rate than normal to help capture a non-blurry
image. Careful analysis with the aid of computers
of his performance across various films shows that Lee was able to deliver devastating kicks
in less than half a second, at times clocking in as much as three or four kicks within a
second and a half. Then there is of course, his famous display
of the one-inch punch, where he is documented shattering boards and knocking men larger
than himself off their feet. All of this evidence points to a man whose
body was so finely tuned, that there can be little doubt that Lee’s kicks and punches
would’ve been absolutely devastating if delivered against an opponent in a real fight. But what about technique- after all, it doesn’t
matter how fast you are or how hard you can hit, if you can’t actually land a hit in the
first place. Well again there is little documented evidence
of Lee fighting, though there are several pieces of footage from Lee sparring with some
of his more advanced students. In these clips Lee and his student are both
wearing heavy protective gear, and very clearly limiting their attacks and counter-attacks
so as not to cause mortal injury. Some detractors of these videos claim that
the sparring matches were staged to make Lee look better than he really was, and yet carefully
watching these matches show that Lee’s students managed to land numerous, and very realistic,
blows on Lee throughout the matches. What the footage also shows however, is Lee’s
incredible adaptability, speed, intelligence, and power. Lee’s movements are completely economical,
and even when his students managed to land a blow, Lee used the opportunity to launch
a far more devastating counter-attack which often knocked the student off his feet. This proves that Lee was well aware that not
every blow could be blocked or dodged, and that in a real fight, you may have to simply
absorb a blow in order to deliver a winning counter-attack. It’s clear that Lee understood the grim reality
of a real fight- sometimes you gotta take some punishment so you can win- and this speaks
against the point raised by detractors that Lee couldn’t have been a real fighter. In one example a student launches a side kick
which Lee accepts with his midsection, allowing him to in turn deliver a powerful jab to the
head which sends the student to the mat. In another a student lands a roundhouse kick
to Lee’s chest, which he once again takes and absorbs the blow by bracing his left leg
against it- then Lee launches a rapid right jab which causes his student to duck his head,
straight into a waiting left knee. Clearly Lee knew that to win a fight, sometimes
you had to take a blow or two, and even these sparring matches showed Lee’s ability to take
blows and counter-attack with winning strikes. Then there’s the fact that many of the world’s
greatest martial artists and professional boxers all attested to Lee’s ability. Mike Tyson, Mike Stone, and Joe Lewis all
agreed that Lee was one of the strongest, fastest martial arts practitioners they had
ever met, and all believed that Lee could have easily fought and won matches against
even larger opponents. It is true though that Lee’s fights were extremely
rare and poorly documented, but Lee’s training regimen, which included things such as sparring
with metal dummies, was not. Each day Lee would launch hundreds of punches
against a metal dummy, which he did to toughen his fists up. That kind of intense training speaks for itself
in many ways. In the end, the world will never truly know
if Lee was as great a fighter as he was an innovator and teacher of martial arts. All the evidence though points to a man who’s
skills were so finely honed, knowledge of human anatomy so intensive, and training techniques
so brutal, that there existed no true way of measuring his skill as a fighter outside
of a fight that ended in death. A fighter such as Lee could never have competed
in any tournament to measure his skills, which is why he never bothered to while he was alive. Sadly, the only way to prove Lee’s fighting
prowess would have been to absolve him of all liability, and remove all rules and regulations
that would constrain Lee’s martial arts technique. Go watch “The Superhuman Monk Who Can’t
Get Hurt!” As always don’t forget to Like, Share, and
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100 thoughts on “Was Bruce Lee Actually A Good Martial Arts Fighter?

  1. But why is Bruce Lee shown in a Karate gi in this? I mean not like I know of him having any distain for Japanese styles obviously, but his initial training came from XiangGang(Hong Kong) and I believe he would have either worn corresponding garb to that region and style, later on donning either his classic track suit fashion or just casual workout gear once he adapted his own early mixed martial arts style

  2. Lol has anyone ever had the tea that his wife came out with later?
    It's straight up called "Bruce Tea" and I was only ever able to find it when I lived back in Hawai'i

  3. LOL what is with trying to discredit point fighting? It's a legit martial arts competition. Obviously MMA would be superior but it didn't exist.

  4. Bruce Lee was obviously a fake. I only wish he would have come around later and faced real MMA fighters. It's also obvious you know nothing about modern MMA. Look at ANY fight between a traditional Martial Arts master fighting a mediocre MMA fighter and the MMA fighters always win.

  5. Fun fact: bruce lee learnt tai chi at first but it never improved his fighting skills so he switched to kick boxing and a little bit of kung fu. The king of UFC. He would be famous as a mma fighter.

  6. There are some people that say out of all the people Bruce Lee sparred with, the one person he never was able to get the upper hand on was Wong Shun Leung. Then again, I forget if it was stated at which part of Bruce Lee’s life this happened. Wong Shun Leung was a senior student to Bruce Lee btw.

  7. Bruce lee was a street fighter. Its like people just dont want to admit Bruce Lee was the goat. I mean jackie chan is an actor but nobody doubts his credibility. Bruce Lee was trained by THE Ip man

  8. Stop saying Lee was fake …only envious people say it …Bruce was great ….of cource he was not invincible..but he is a legend for many martial artists …there is a reason for it…

  9. I love Bruce Lee and Muhammed Ali, two amazing human beings…

    But they were still just Human Beings. Don't believe the hype or exaggerations.

  10. He wasn't a sportsman, he was a warrior training for the sake of life and death. He's not someone you hire to teach your okie doke kids at the local Y. He's someone you hire to train Navy Seals, and that's assuming he would do it if he were still alive.

  11. Our human body has a peak interm of physical strength and mentally strength….mma fight today is a well rounded laws of physics apply to age strength and exhaustion.

  12. I do love this channel but this video is nonsense. He would be destroyed fighting a half decent MMA fighter. Lee is so over hyped

  13. Spouting hearsay and calling it verified evidence and claiming that Bruce Lee couldn’t fight people because he would mortally injure them is just bs come on dude

  14. he was great for the time and one of the fathers of MMA, i bet modern MMA fighters would beat him a lot of the time tho lol

  15. watch once upon a Hollywood in a scene Bruce lee got destroyed by a stunt man the movie is based on a true story i think.

  16. Yea…thats y i cant enter tournaments and fight cuz im so lethal myself. I just blackout and go into assbeatn mode!… Well after i get punched a few times i will. Lol yep

  17. You forgot to mention that lee beat up a gang member in Hong Kong and it was one of the reasons why he left to the usa. Lee was a street fighter. Before going to the usa.

  18. Dumb question. Bruce did constant sparring in his backyard with champions of multiple martial arts styles. He also wrote about sparring to maintain composure while under attack in his book.

  19. Bruce Lee, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe — my favorites heroes…. Sadly, they died so young.
    Elvis The king of rock n roll. La La La…. Never underestimate Elvis. 
    Maroon 5, Bruno Mars…. Not close…..

  20. If any of you here think Bruce Lee was Superman I hate to disappoint but he was man handled and mauled by Judo Gene Labelle the guy who have Ronda Rousey her Black belt.

  21. Look he was great….obcessed to the point of imbalance which is sadly why he died so young….overtrained became overly preoccupied with violence ….reminiscent of Alexander the great…both died at the same age.

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