Lee Jun-fan (November 27, 1940 – July 20, 1973), known professionally as Bruce Lee, was a Hong Kong and American actor, martial artist, philosopher, filmmaker, and founder of the martial art Jeet Kune Do.
The son of Cantonese opera star Lee Hoi-Chuen, Lee is widely considered by commentators, critics, media, and other martial artists to be one of the most influential martial artists of all time, and a pop culture icon of the 20th century. He is often credited with helping to change the way Asians were presented in American films.
Born in San Francisco’s Chinatown, he was raised in Kowloon, Hong Kong with his family until his late teens. He was introduced to the film industry by his father and appeared in several films as a child actor. Lee moved to the United States at the age of 18 to receive his higher education, at the University of Washington, at Seattle and it was during this time that he began teaching martial arts.
His Hong Kong and Hollywood-produced films elevated the traditional Hong Kong martial arts film to a new level of popularity and acclaim, sparking a surge of interest in Chinese martial arts in the West in the 1970s. The direction and tone of his films changed and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in the US, Hong Kong and the rest of the world.
He is noted for his roles in five feature-length films: Lo Wei’s The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972); Golden Harvest’s Way of the Dragon (1972), directed and written by Lee; Golden Harvest and Warner Brothers’ Enter the Dragon (1973) and The Game of Death (1978), both directed by Robert Clouse. Lee became an iconic figure known throughout the world, particularly among the Chinese, as he portrayed Chinese nationalism in his films.
He trained in the art of Wing Chun and later combined his other influences from various sources, in the spirit of his personal martial arts philosophy, which he dubbed Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist). Lee held dual nationality of Hong Kong and the US.
Lee died in Kowloon Tong on July 20, 1973 at the age of 32.