Famed actor and martial artist Bruce Lee would have celebrated his 76th birthday today.
Lee was born in the Chinatown section of San Francisco in 1940 to parents Lee Hoi-chuen and Grace Ho. It was not until Bruce’s family relocated to Hong Kong, however, that he became so well versed in various fighting and martial arts styles.
Per Comicbook, the age of 16 brought great change into Bruce Lee’s life. It was around that time that Lee began studying Wing Chun and cultivated his own interest in, and knack for, competitive fighting. Two years later, Lee returned to the U.S. as an adult in order to work as a martial arts instructor.
Over the years, Bruce Lee is known to have studied and mastered a number of disciplines, among them Jun Fan Gung Fu and Jeet Kune Do.
While Lee’s natural ability in the martial arts field would likely have not distinguished him from others, it was a random foray into acting – paired with this natural talent – that made him what Combicbook called “a coveted talent by Hollywood.”
Frustrations with his acting career in the U.S., unfortunately, did little to quell Bruce’s ambitions to become a huge mainstream star. Shortly after his television show, The Green Hornet, disappointed in the ratings, Lee decided to return to Hong Kong once again where he was cast in a top role for the 1971 film The Big Boss.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Even today, more than 43 years after Bruce Lee’s tragic passing, his talent in martial arts is only surpassed by the ambition with which he starred in various movie roles.
Films such as Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon, and The Game of Death became cult classics in light of Bruce Lee’s performances in them.
“Lee’s starring roles in those films altered the ways Asian actors were perceived in media,” noted Comicbook’s Megan Peters. “[Bruce’s movies] also caused a wave of Western interest in martial arts.”
“[Bruce’s movies] also caused a wave of Western interest in martial arts.”
In other words, Bruce Lee had become a well respected, worldwide household name leading up to his own unexpected death in 1973.
A few years after the birth of his children – actor Brandon Lee (who, himself, tragically died in 1993 during the filming of The Crow by a defective blank bullet just eight days before the movie entered production) and Shannon Lee – Bruce Lee was found collapsed on the ground while doing dialogue for Enter the Dragon.
Bruce, who was known at that point to suffer occasionally from seizures and headaches, was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with cerebral edema, a disease that is known to cause accumulation of fluid in the brain.
Later that year, Lee – complaining of a headache following a meeting with producer Raymond Cow – laid down to take a nap and never again responded.
A subsequent autopsy report determined that Bruce Lee’s brain had been swollen by about 13 percent at the time of his death.
The mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, whether it was by a seizure or allergic reaction to painkillers, was never determined.
Regardless, however, of the circumstances regarding this exemplary man’s life, what is known is that his legacy will live on in the hearts and the minds of his rabid fanbase for years to come.
Lee, after all, seemingly made the most possible use out of his time on this earth.
As Bruce Lee himself once famously said, per BrainyQuote, “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”
Life, after all, can be short and fleeting for some, including “The Master” himself. It is what we do with our time on this planet that determines how well spent our lives were.
Happy birthday, Bruce Lee.
[Featured Image by China Photos/Getty Images]