There is no doubt that Bruce Lee was a modern day pioneer of martial arts, on a global scale. Bruce's martial journey, of almost 20 years, begins at age 13, with him learning the Chinese art of Wing Chun Gung-Fu and ends with the development of his own art of Jeet Kune Do.
Bruce began his martial arts training with Wing Chun master, Yip Man (pictured), in Hong Kong, at 13. Bruce trained with Yip and Yip's top students until he left for the USA in 1959. Wing Chun Gung Fu is a concept-based Chinese martial art and form of self-defense utilising both striking and grappling while specializing in close range combat. Here, Yip Man and a young Bruce, are practicing "Chi Sau" or "Sticky Hands".
At an early age in Hong Kong, Bruce was exposed to other methods of combat, including Sword Fencing, which his brother Peter was involved in.
In 1958, Bruce found himself in a High School boxing tournament. He won. This was a significant feather in Bruce's cap as a Wing Chun student, because he could only use his punches. These early experiences in both fencing and boxing fueled Bruce's curiosity and helped shaped his abilities to evaluate and adapt the most effective methods from other arts, to his own. Bruce is not in this photo, taken at that same tournament, but one can only imagine.
Having recently arrived in Seattle via San Francisco, Bruce Lee quickly establishes himself as a unique martial artist with a modern view. Here he is pictured with a group of his Seattle students.
During his time in Seattle, Bruce mainly practiced Wing Chun Gung Fu and continued with many of these training methods such as wooden dummy's and sandbags. However, his interest in other Chinese martial arts, as well as Boxing and Judo, grew steadily in Seattle, and he began experimenting with many training routines from these systems. He was known to be extremely fast with his hands; almost invincible. Wooden dummy training was an important part of his training routine during this period. Taky Kimura was one of his prominent students here.
Here in Oakland he studied Tai-kwan-Do and introduced high kicks to his system of fighting. In addition he also studied Fencing with his brother and brought in the footwork from fencing into his system. James Yim Lee became his friend and student who trained with Bruce Lee during this period.
During a Karate competition organised by Ed-Parker, Bruce Lee demonstrated his techniques at Longbeach. Dan-Inosanto became his admirer. Coming from a Karate background and a professional martial artist himself, Dan-Inosanto started training with Bruce Lee and aided his development of the art of Jeet Kune Do. Bruce Lee was also joined by Richard Bustillo in Torrance. Both Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo became his close students. Bruce Lee opened Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute on February 5th, 1967. Dan Inosanto was Bruce's assistant instructor at the time and Bruce Lee started teaching his modified Wing-Chun at this institute. It is here that Bruce Lee eventually introduced the term Jeet Kune Do for his Art.
In 1966 the Lee family moved to Los Angeles. As well as beginning a new chapter in regards to acting, celebrity students and being exposed to Hollywood culture, Bruce accelerated his own martial process during his years in the City of Angels. Here he is demonstrating a finger jab with friend, and student, Dan Lee in the Los Angeles Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in LA's Chinatown. Bruce's stance got evolved from the earlier Wing Chun Stance to a more dynamic 45 degree stance.
Ted Wong became his student here in LA. Bruce Lee particularly enjoyed teaching Ted Wong as he had no previous martial arts experience, and was not tainted by any set style or form.
Bruce Lee was an innovator. As his martial skills, and educated curiosity in other fighting art forms and philosophy, evolved, Bruce not only innovated his own training regimens to focus on all facets of his physical and mental development, he designed unique pieces of less-rigid training equipment.
At 5'7" and 128 pounds, Bruce Lee was not a big man, but he optimized a healthy, strong and mentally fit human being. His example showed others that size truly did not matter when it came to combat. Here he is at the height of his physical fitness and martial prowess, on the set of "Enter The Dragon" in 1973. He once said "It's not the daily increase, but daily decrease. Hack away the unessential."
Whether it be reading, studying, writing, physical training or martial arts practice, Bruce was in a constant state of growth. This level of dedication, to all facets of his being, was a crucial part of his uniqueness, and set him apart from his contemporaries.
During his recovery from a near career ending back injury to his sacral nerve in 1970, Bruce threw himself into self evaluation and study, reading self improvement books and writing volumes of notes. He also spent many hours studying physics, biomechanics, nutrition and training theory. A man of action, Bruce wasted no time applying what he was learning in a scientific sense to further enhance not only his martial art, but his own self. He was on a journey to self liberation.
Bruce created the "Stages of Cultivation", hanging in his Los Angeles Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute, as part of the ongoing development of Jeet Kune Do. PARTIALITY - the running to extreme, FLUIDITY - the two halves of one whole, and EMPTINESS - the formless form.
All three stages combined to become the total of all their parts; total personal liberation. The Chinese characters around the complete symbol mean "Using no way as way, having no limitation as limitation".
"The individual is of first importance, not the system. Remember that man created method and not that method created man, and do not strain yourself in twisting into someone's preconceived pattern, which unquestionably would be appropriate for him, but not necessarily for you." Bruce Lee.
Later Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo went on to spread the art of Jeet Kune Do by teaching and certifying a select few students around the world. Grand Master Richard Bustillo Certified Major Deapak Rao as Master Instructor and Dr. Seema Rao as the Senior Instructor in Bruce Lee’s Art of Jeet Kune Do. Living the true spirit of Jeet Kune Do the Rao Couple has innovated and developed Jeet Kune Do further in their own right expanding its horizon further.