When I was a child I used to attend Kung Fu classes in my village of Tirur, in Malappuram district, Kerala. In one of the classes, the master, whom we called "Sifu" in Kung Fu language, told us a story about an Indian monk. His name was Bodhidharman, an ardent follower of the Buddha who travelled to China and developed the ancient form of Kung Fu to improve the physical health of people there. But the credit for popularising Kung Fu doesn't belong to the Indian monk. It goes to a man whose portrait can be seen on the walls of most of the martial schools in the world.
The world just celebrated his 75th birth anniversary on November 27. I am talking about the king of martial arts, Bruce Lee, the immortal hero who secured a unique place in Hollywood, Hong Kong Cinema and the hearts of Kung Fu fans everywhere in the world. Bruce Lee is special to me, and for the millions who love martial arts, as an iconic action hero and an inspirational personality who still provides us unbounded energy to challenge the adversities of life. Bruce Lee, a reel and real hero who revolutionised the image of Asian stars in Hollywood films, is the last word for martial arts, who encountered an unusual death at the age of 32.
More than an action hero, Lee was a philosopher who taught the world that martial arts are not just physical exercise but a philosophy to take life forward. He was an epitome of confidence and progressive thinking. It was through Bruce Lee that Kung Fu came out of China and Hong Kong to conquer the world. Lee was a legend who paved the way for the democratisation of the great martial art which is touted as the best method of self-defence.
Born on November 27, 1940 San Francisco's Chinatown, Bruce Lee had to his account a mere handful of movies before his early death in 1973. But the very first Asian superstar was the true catalyst for the acceptance of Asian martial arts worldwide. He developed his own style of Kung Fu called "Jeet Kune Do". It is an application of traditional Kung Fu with minimal movements and maximum effects. Literally, Jeet Kune Do means the way of the intercepting fist.
Lo Wei's The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972); Golden Harvest's Way of the Dragon (1972); Golden Harvest and Warner Brothers' Enter the Dragon (1973) and The Game of Death were the five films that made Bruce Lee the most celebrated action hero of Hollywood. As films like Enter the Dragon rocked the world, the number of people taking up martial arts increased at an unprecedented rate.
Going beyond the credentials of other stereotyped actors, Bruce Lee wanted to communicate the message of confidence and character building to his followers. When he said I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times, he meant the importance of "practice" in one's life.
"You just wait. I'm going to be the biggest Chinese star in the world," the world can still sense the message of self-confidence from these words. He taught us that mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. If you pay attention to the life sketch of Bruce Lee, it only means to convey a simple new message to those being depressed - that you are the fighter to take up your life. Be your own change-maker.
The Bruce Lee story is one of the most endearing and motivational ones in the history of the world. He always reminds the youth that the time has come to fight for themselves, to live and lead by shielding themselves and to make their voices heard louder in the world. This philosophy is evident in these words of the unparalleled martial artist: "Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it."