Bruce Lee: Martial Action

Bruce Lee's martial journey from Wing Chun Gung Fu to his own art of Jeet Kune Do.


Bruce Lee by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation


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. 

1953 - Begins studying Wing Chun with Yip Man. (1953)Bruce Lee Foundation

Hong Kong

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". 

A Young Bruce Lee in Fencing Gear by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

At an early age in Hong Kong, Bruce (pictured here in Fencing attire) was exposed to other methods of combat, including Sword Fencing, which his brother Peter was involved in.

A High School Boxing Tournament (Circa 1958) by UnknownBruce Lee Foundation

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.

Bruce with JFGFI Seattle students. (Circa. 1963 / 64) by UnknownBruce Lee Foundation

Author Charles Russo, and Bruce's daughter, Shannon Lee share how Bruce thought of himself as a martial artist before anything else.

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.

Bruce Lee and Taky Kimura by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation


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.

Bruce Lee training with a Wooden Dummy by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

Bruce, pictured here, training with a wooden dummy.

Bruce Lee and the Oakland Crew (1964/1966) by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation


Eventually Bruce relocated to Oakland, California. In Oakland, Bruce found like minded martial artists, who were also pushing the envelope and thinking outside the box, when it came to their individual approach to the arts, and adopted training methods. James Lee (pictured far right) and Allen Joe (pictured at the back of the group in-between Bruce and James) were instrumental in Bruce's personal development, both mentally and physically. 

Charles Russo, and Shannon Lee, discuss martial arts in San Francisco, Oakland and Bruce's impact in these places. (1967) by Bruce Lee Podcast and Bruce Lee Enterprises LLCBruce Lee Foundation

Listen to author Charles Russo, and Shannon Lee, discuss martial arts in San Francisco's Chinatown, Oakland and the impact Bruce's presence had on these area. The footage is of Bruce's demonstration at Ed Parker's 1967 Long Beach International Karate Championship.

Bruce Lee and Dan Lee in Los Angeles by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

Los Angeles 

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 excelerated 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. Do you notice how Bruce's stance has evolved from the earlier "Seattle" photo? 

Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto - Preparing for a Demonstration by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

Opening day at the Los Angeles Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute. February 5th, 1967. Bruce Lee is seen here in the background standing next to Dan Inosanto, who was Bruce's assistant instructor at the time.

Bruce Lee and Ted Wong by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

Bruce with Los Angeles student, Ted Wong. Bruce is said to have particularly enjoyed teaching Ted as he had no previous martial arts experience, and was not tainted by any set style or form. Ted is also pictured in the exhibit cover photo, although, in that image, his smile is nowhere to be found.

Bruce redefined what it meant to train all parts of your body. by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation


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. 

Bruce Lee designed his own unique pieces of training equipment. by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

The purpose of some pieces (pictured) was to be more realistic, and mimic the unpredictable movements of a human opponent.

Bruce Lee in "Enter The Dragon" by Warner Bros. and Concord Moon, LLCBruce Lee Foundation

Personal Evolution

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." 

Bruce Running with the Family Dog by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation


One of Bruce's childhood nicknames "Mo Si Ting", or, "Never Sit Still", rang true throughout his life, as he trained religiously. Whether that 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. Here he is running with the family dog "Bobo". 

Bruce and Linda Lee in Los Angeles by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

Bruce demonstrating his explosive, otherworldly, abilities while wife Linda, eyes closed, leans to the left and out of harms way. Linda was no slouch herself, and trained vigorously with Bruce during their time together.

1968 Day Timer Entry - January 1st (1968-01) by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

This is how 1968 began for Bruce Lee. How does this compare to a typical New Years Day for you?

Bruce Lee in "Enter The Dragon" (1973) by Warner Bros. and Concord Moon, LLC.Bruce Lee Foundation

Jeet Kune Do

Jeet Kune Do, or, "The Way of the Intercepting Fist", was the name Bruce gave to his own art and approach to martial arts. Bruce described Jeet Kune Do as "the art of fighting without fighting" and "the formless form". 

"Jeet Kune Do" - Appears for the 1st Time in Writing. (1967-07-09) by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

Jeet Kune Do first appeared in writing in Bruce's daytimer on July 9th, 1967. The original entry is pictured here.

Bruce Lee was an Eternal Student by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

Jeet Kune Do

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 Lee, James Lee and Ted Wong by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

A lighter training moment, captured with students James Lee (center) and Ted Wong (right).

Notice the handwritten note on the image. "In must be 1. Flexible, 2. Agile, & 3. Mobile."

Bruce Lee in the Los Angeles Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

Self Cultivation

Bruce created the "Stages of Cultivation", pictured here 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. 

Listen to Bruce's response when asked what he felt was the most effective martial art, by journalist Ted Thomas.

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".

Belt Buckle (front)_2Bruce Lee Foundation

A belt buckle Bruce designed, and had made, for himself. Notice the wording.

A Symbolic Headstone by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

In an 1972 phone interview with journalist Alex Ben Block, Bruce talks about why he closed his schools and how his Jeet Kune Do philosophy differs from other martial arts.

Bruce had this miniature tombstone made specifically as a physical reminder to let go of anything that kept him rigid or limited his growth. These physical manifestations were crucial in the development of Jeet Kune Do, and Bruce's own journey of self actualization.

Bruce Lee in Training Gear by Bruce LeeBruce Lee Foundation

The Individual First 

"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. 

Bruce discusses martial arts on the Pierre Berton Show. (1971)Bruce Lee Foundation

"A process of continuing growth." Bruce speaking on the Pierre Berton show in 1971, about martial arts.

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(C) 2017 Bruce Lee Enterprise, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Created by the Bruce Lee Foundation. Thank you to all our donors and supporters. Without you, this exhibit would not be possible.


BRUCE LEE® and the Bruce Lee signature are registered trademarks of Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC.  The Bruce Lee name, image, likeness and all related indicia are intellectual property of Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Footage courtesy of Bruce Lee Enterprises, Spike TV.

Ted Thomas interview audio provided by Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Alex Ben Block interview audio provided by Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Charles Russo and Shannon Lee interview audio provided by the "Bruce Lee Podcast". For complete episodes visit

Reference Material: "Bruce Lee: Evolution of a Martial Artist" by Tommy Gong.
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