Since Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon Time in Hollywood came out, fans are angry at Tarantino’s degrading portrayal of Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee’s Daughter, Shannon Lee and his students like Dan Inosanto and NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have come out to defend his Character.
In the film, Bruce was portrayed as an arrogant douchebag who is bragging about defeating Muhammad Ali by ” making him a cripple”. On top of that in the film, Bruce goes on to pick a fight with Brad Pitt’s fictional character, a tough stunt man named Cliff who is just minding his own business. Despite Cliff’s efforts to avoid trouble, Bruce keeps pushing for a fight like an asshole bully.
Eventually, they end up fighting and Bruce closes in with a flying high sidekick which knocks cliff down. Cliff gets up like it’s nothing then Bruce kicks him again, Cliff dodges the kick and throws Bruce into a car. Afterwards, there is some back and forth counter for counter trapping blocking sequences which Cliff catches and cracks Bruce’s arm lol.
My opinion on this….
At first, I thought it was funny because Pitt beating up Bruce is like making a clip where I beat Michael Jordon in basketball. It’s so out of touch that I could not understand why people were getting so mad. But later, it became clear that a lot of the younger generation was starting to believe that it could be true. Wow, the wisdom of the internet! So here some things to consider about Quentin Tarantino’s depiction of Bruce Lee:
1. Bruce would never bully and pick a fight in his adult life – I studied briefly with 2 of Bruce’s friends and students in Seattle, Jesse Glover and Ed Hart. They were both present when Bruce got challenged and fought a Japanese Karate Sensei at the Seattle YMCA. Bruce knocked the guy out in 11 seconds. This fight is well known in the MA community but what is not usually mention is that , the challenger went to the same school as Bruce and Jesse, and he harrassed/ challenged Bruce for a couple of months before the fight took place – Jesse wrote about this extensively in his book on how Bruce was trying to AVOID the fight for 2 months ! So the real-life Bruce Lee did the exact opposite of picking fights, he was not a bully, instead, he believed in avoiding fights.
2. Anyone that is vaguely familiar with Jeet Kune Do, Bruce’s MA would know that one of his basic concepts is directness and economy of motion. The idea that Bruce Lee would scream and do an indirect, exaggerated, slow, big, telegraphic motion like a flying side kick in a real self-defense situation is delusional, even a novice would know never to do that. According to his students, Bruce only practiced flying, spinning kicks for movie making.
3. Cliff gets up from Bruce’s kick like its nothing. In LA, Bruce had a custom made heavy bag that was 300lbs, which he could shake and move with his sidekick easily. There are footages of this bag in LA in a few Bruce Lee documentaries that anyone can dig and find on youtube.
4. Cliff dodges Bruce’s Kick and throws him into a car LOL – Sammo Hung, a good martial artist, said on record, he once got into a challenge with Bruce in HK. He kicked Bruce with a short rear front snap kick but before it was halfway chambered, Bruce had already stopped a hook kick to his face! Now that’s speed! I am not saying it’s not possible to counter throw a kicker, sure you can but the way that they made it so easy on a world-class speed guy, no way. The truth is Mr. Pitt would be on his ass before he can blink if he stood in front of Bruce LOL and no amount of fight club would help him.
I feel kinda stupid to have to type this common sense stuff but what concerns me more than the physical stuff is the example this sets for the future generations. Picking fights, being arrogant is NOT the way of the Martial Arts.