This slideshow features photos of a young Bruce Lee. Lee was born in Chinatown, San Francisco to Hong Kong-native parents on November 27, 1940. He was raised in Kowloon, Hong Kong, where he appeared in several films as a child actor. His father was a Cantonese Opera star, who introduced him to show business at a young age. As a teenager, Bruce Lee got into many street fights, often badly injuring his opponents. When he was 18, Lee moved back to the United States and began teaching martial arts while he studied at the University of Washington. He left Hong Kong partly to continue his acting career and his education, but also because he was likely to be arrested for fighting if he stayed in Hong Kong.
Bruce Lee was well-known for his outstanding career in martial arts. He opened his own studio to teach a style of martial arts called Jun Fan Gun Fu, which translated literally to "Bruce Lee's Kung Fu." He began participating in the Long Beach International Karate Championships in 1964. It was there that he first demonstrated the "one-inch punch," where he would stand with his arm outstretched one inch away from his opponent. Without retracting his arm, he would punch his opponent in the chest, causing them to sail backwards. It reportedly hurt so bad that Bob Baker, the volunteer who took this punch from Lee, asked him to never do the demonstration on another person ever again. Lee also demonstrated his "unstoppable punch" at the LBIKC in 1967.
Lee began acting in films when he was barely a year old. His film debut came in 1941, where he played the role of an infant in The Golden Gate Girl. He went on to appear in over 20 Chinese and American films before his 18th birthday, including Xi lu xiang, Ren zhi Chu, It's Father's Fault, and Lei yu. After moving back to the United States, Lee starred in Batman and The Green Hornet as Kato.
Bruce Lee is widely credited for bringing martial arts films to America. Without him, it is unlikely that this film genre would be as popular as it is today. He is responsible for choreographing many famous fight scenes in films, such as The Wrecking Crew and A Walk in the Spring Rain. He went on to star in The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Marlowe, and Longstreet.
Arguably his largest film roles were in the 1972 and 1973 films, The Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon. He died shortly after Enter the Dragon finished filming, during filming for his next upcoming movie, Game of Death. There was so little usable footage for Game of Death that the final project was ultimately scrapped, and the footage was used instead in the 1993 documentary, Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey about Lee's life.
Bruce Lee died in 1973 after taking a painkiller for a headache. The medical examiner ruled his death as a "death by misadventure," even though many people speculate that he couldn't have had a deadly allergic reaction to just one pill. Lee was only 32 years old when he died, leaving behind a wife and two children.
Vote for your favorite photo of Bruce Lee when he was young below!
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Ultra-Hip Bruce Lee Has Badass Taste in SunglassesPhoto: Metaweb / CC-BY
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If You're This Close to Bruce Lee's Face, You're Probably Already Dead
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Young Bruce Lee Really Appreciates Your Invite to Go Camping, But He'll Probably Pass
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Young Bruce Lee Really Hates Going to Home Depot
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He Has Really Bold Taste in Living Room DecorPhoto: flickr / CC0
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Bruce Was a Philosophy Major In College, Just Like All of Your Ex-BoyfriendsPhoto: Metaweb / CC-BY