24 Things You Didn't Know About Bruce Lee

Born Lee Jun-Fan in San Francisco, CA, Bruce Lee would eventually become internationally famous as a film star and martial artist. Even if you put Lee's fighting and acting conquests aside, enough fun facts about Bruce Lee exist that reveal him to be a man of great talent and charisma. Even as a young man, Lee showed amazing resolve and dedication to every action he undertook. Responsible for propelling Hong Kong martial arts films into prominence in the West, he completely changed the stereotypical portrayals of Asians in film, especially in mainstream Hollywood films. When it comes down to it, there are likely many different things you didn't know about Bruce Lee.

Although Lee's filmography included only a few feature films, one completed posthumously, he nonetheless emerged as a major movie star in Asia and soon after the entire world. Even once you finish all those movies, Bruce Lee fun facts will keep you just as entertained. His untimely and mysterious death at the age of 32 remains controversial and only added more mystique to one of the most groundbreaking figures in the history of world cinema.

Photo: GigaPaitchadze/CC / wikimedia commons

  • Martial Arts Master, Bruce Lee Was Unable To Swim

    Martial Arts Master, Bruce Lee Was Unable To Swim
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    Despite Lee's famous advice to "be like water," both his brother and sister revealed after his death the acclaimed martial artist could not swim at all and disliked open water. This was a strange attitude from the man who also once said:

    If you want to learn to swim, jump into the water. On dry land, no frame of mind is ever going to help you.

    This fear of water perhaps stemmed from an incident when his sister Phoebe held him under water, causing Lee to vow to never again enter a swimming pool.

  • Lee's Parents Sent Him To The US To Avoid Street Fighting

    Lee's Parents Sent Him To The US To Avoid Street Fighting
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    Bruce Lee took up the martial arts as a teenager to defend himself from bullies and street fighters who picked on his slight frame. After mastering many fighting techniques, he joined a street gang himself. Although urban legend says he fled Hong Kong as a result of a beating he administered to a Triad-connected teenager, more than likely Lee's parents sent him back to the US to improve his study habits (Lee was a poor and uninterested student), hoping a change of venue would keep him out of trouble. In 1959, Lee moved to San Francisco to live with an older sister and soon moved to the Seattle, Washington area to work and live in a Chinese restaurant. 

  • Lee Was Born In The Year Of And At The Hour Of The Dragon

    Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940 at 7:12 AM. Based on Chinese astrology, this falls upon both the year of the Dragon and the hour of the Dragon. According to Chinese folklore, the dragon stands as the zodiac's most powerful animal, and an individual born during such chance timing will be strong enough to overcome any of life's obstacles. It also explains Lee's nickname as a child, the Little Dragon. Throughout both Lee's life and film career the dragon would always remain a prominent symbol.

  • Lee Was A Habitual User Of Cannabis In The Form Of Hashish

    Lee Was A Habitual  User Of Cannabis In The Form Of Hashish
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    Despite his avoidance of alcohol or tobacco, Lee did ingest cannabis on a regular basis. Perhaps Lee's only concession to the potential health risk of consuming such a substance was his habit of chewing the drug. In fact, Lee was known to ingest a particularly potent form of Nepalese hashish, a practice that only increased substantially after the martial artist's serious 1970 back injury and subsequent chronic pain. Traces of cannabis were found in Lee's stomach in the autopsy following his death. 

  • Hong Kong Producers Shamelessly Exploited Lee's Death By Showing Footage Of Him In His Casket

    Hong Kong Producers Shamelessly Exploited Lee's Death By Showing Footage Of Him In His Casket
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    Eager to cash in on Lee's wild popularity, Golden Harvest Studios, the production entity that produced all of his Asian films, wanted to finish Bruce's partially completed Game of Death  but only possessed limited footage to work with. It took over five years to release the movie,  possibly because of the studio's various challenges in assembling a film that was even roughly coherent. Golden Harvest re-shot numerous scenes using a double, disguises, and even a plot change incorporating plastic surgery to explain the main character's different appearance. Though such antics are used by plenty of production companies, Golden Harvest went one step further. They actually had the Bruce Lee character "fake" his own death so actual footage of Lee's funeral and his open casket could be included in the film.  

  • Lee Was Partially Caucasian

    Lee Was Partially Caucasian
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    That Bruce Lee was not 100% ethnically Chinese remains undisputed. Exactly who provided the Caucasian genetics to Lee's background has been misstated repeatedly in books and films about his life and family background. Many sources point to a maternal grandmother who allegedly was German. However, because his parents wished to preserve his American citizenship, they underwent extensive interviews with American immigration authorities before returning to Hong Kong in 1941. In these interviews his mother stated her father was Chinese and her mother was English.