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Hollywood Years


"When you understand the root, you understand all of its blossoming." (Bruce Lee)


young bruce lee

Days after Bruce and Linda married they arrived in Oakland and moved in with friend and fellow martial artist, James Yimm Lee. The Oakland Gung Fu Institute opened soon after but in December 1964, Bruce received an ornate scroll formally challenging him to fight. If Bruce refused the Institute was to close. An expert called Wong Jack Man was sent to the school. He wanted to have certain rules in the fight but a furious Bruce Lee said, "Anything goes" and proceeded to straight blast his opponent. Wong Jack Man kept turning his back on Bruce and after chasing Wong around the school for 3 minutes, his opponent finally submitted. Bruce was very disappointed with his performance and this started the birth of "Jeet Kune Do" (aka "The Way of the Intercepting Fist").


"My mind is made up to start a system of my own - I mean a system of totality, embracing all but yet guided with simplicity. It will concentrate on the root of things - rhythm, timing, distance and embrace the five ways of attack. Wing Chun is the starting point, Chi Sau is the nucleus and they are supplemented by the FIVE WAYS. The whole system will concentrate on irregular rhythm and how to disturb and intercept the opponent's rhythm the fastest and most efficient way. Above all, this system is not confined to straight line or curved line but is content to stand in the middle of the circle without attachment. This way one can meet any lines without being familiar with them. Wait till I assemble everything." Bruce Lee (February 1965)


On February 1st, 1965, son Brandon was born and their daughter Shannon was to arrive 4 years later on April 19th, 1969.

bruce lee family

Bruce researched and collected every kind of Combat/Martial Arts books. He also studied Muhammad Ali fights and incorporated his footwork and mobility into his own personal expression of martial arts. He started weight training, running and began to seriously train in all aspects of physical conditioning. He took any technique that was practical and refined it and made it his own personal creation. There are no boundaries in JKD - you use what works for you - the individual. In 1967, Bruce opened a third school in Los Angeles and started to attract celebrity students such as Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Roman Polanski which he trained privately. He could eventually charge US$275 for a single one hour lesson.


A celebrity hairdresser by the name of Jey Sebring (who later tragically died along with Sharon Tate in the Charles Manson murders) was very impressed with Bruce's demonstration at Ed Parker's first Long Beach International Karate Tournament on August 2nd,1964. While cutting television producer William Dozier's hair, Dozier mentioned that he was looking for an Oriental martial artist for a new television series, Sebring replied the name Bruce Lee. Dozier watched Bruce's demonstration that was filmed by Ed Parker and was immediately impressed with what he saw and contacted Bruce to come to the studio for a screentest. That was a success and Bruce was signed to play Charlie Chan's son in the new show but sadly it was never made. Instead - because of Dozier's very successful Batman show, it was decided that Bruce would play the role of Kato (Oriental side kick and chauffeur) in a spin-off series based on an old radio serial, "The Green Hornet."


The family moved down to Los Angeles in March 1966 where Bruce underwent a month's training at the 20th Century Fox acting school. Shooting for the series began on June 6th, 1966.

Later in an interview with Ted Thomas on Hong Kong radio in late 1971 Bruce reflected, "When I first arrived (in the U.S.) and I did the Green Hornet, as I looked around, man, at myself, I was the only robot there because I was not being myself."


bruce and steve mcqueen

Although Bruce was dissatisfied with his performance as Kato, it gave him prestige in the martial arts world. Bruce was even asked to open a chain of Kato Self Defence Schools but declined as he didn't think it was the right thing to do. Although the show was cancelled in the U.S. after 26 episodes, it turned out to be a huge success years later throughout the Far East where the series broke television rating records in Singapore and the Philippines. Because of the popularity of the show, Bruce would return back to Hong Kong in April 1970 with his five year old son Brandon and demonstrated his art of Jeet Kune Do on a Hong Kong television show called "Enjoy Yourself Tonight" (the Green Hornet was renamed as The Kato Show in Hong Kong).


But Bruce had a major set back on August 13th, 1970. While performing with weights, Bruce damaged a nerve in his back and was confined to bed for three months. But Bruce's greatest strength was his Will Power and this back injury would not stop Bruce from achieving his goals and dreams. He wanted to use the medium of cinema to showcase his JKD to the world and prove that the Chinese could be as good as anyone else. Hollywood were not yet willing to accept a Chinese star so Bruce accepted an offer from a newly Hong Kong film company, "Golden Harvest" and rest, as they say, is history.