Wenceslao: The Legend of Bruce Lee

Candid Thoughts

I viewed the 50-episode television series The Legend of Bruce Lee that Netflix featured recently. After all, I grew up idolizing Bruce Lee in the 1960s and 1970s. Not only Bruce Lee, actually but all the other martial arts stars as well.

I used to cut classes when I was in Grade 6 at the City Central School and watched old double feature films, both local and foreign, in cheap movie houses instead. Before Bruce Lee, there was the blind swordsman Shintaru, the handsome Wang Yu and the boxer Chen Xing. I even eagerly watched a parade near Fuente Osmeña that featured a lesser-known Chinese star called Unicorn Chan. The local films were not to be left behind. There was, for example, karate practitioner Roberto Gonzales and the “Bruce Lee” wannabe Ramon Zamora.

The TV series The Legend of Bruce Lee was a hit in China even if Bruce was, to be precise, Chinese-American. He was born in the United States to Chinese parents but grew up in Hong Kong. He vigorously promoted Chinese kung fu (gung fu). And although the series always referred to him as “Bruce Lee,” it did not elaborate on how he got the name.

A Wikipedia search showed that he was actually born Lee Jun Fan. Which answered my question on why his friends in the early years like Taky Kimura and the university professor with Filipino blood Dan Inosanto described themselves as practitioners of both Jun Fan Gung Fu and the Bruce Lee-created Jeet Kune Do.

The TV series also made me proud because some scenes featured Inosanto and his contribution to Jeet Kune Do. That contribution is, of course, from the moves in the Filipino style of fighting called “arnis.” I actually heard of the name Dan Inosanto before but his role in Bruce Lee’s life and philosophy was clarified to me by this series.

The series also made me appreciate the story of the Wing Chun master Ip Man, who was Bruce Lee’s first trainer. It was just sad that, as shown in the latter episodes, Bruce Lee, was considered by some Wing Chun practitioners as a betrayer. That scene showing Bruce walking on his bloodied knees towards Ip Man’s coffin proved that he always had reverence for his master. I actually saw an Ip Man movie recently starring the current Chinese kung fu darling Donnie Yen.

A big chunk of the series focused on clarifying the role played by martial arts in Bruce Lee’s life. This is important for me because I have long heard stories claiming Bruce Lee was only a good practitioner in the movies but not in real life. The series, whose executive producer was Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon, proved this to be untrue. In sum, the series showed a Bruce Lee that was not only driven but who was considered by some of his Chinese rivals as arrogant and stubborn.

Bruce Lee’s promotion of kung fu even in Hollywood has actually benefited the Chinese stars that followed him like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Chan and Li were cast in some Hollywood films, virtually ending the prejudice that once hounded the Chinese in Hollywood. Lee’s struggles to make it in Hollywood was also well illustrated by this series.


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