Welcome back, kids. We’ve got a cracking London UFC event in a few days off the heels of a fun KSW card, with heaps of other events surrounding the week. With that, we’re continuing our tradition of sandwiching some of our goofy and fun items from the wider world of martial arts action.
We’ve got a bit of a twist in the form of a tribute up front. This week marks the anniversary of the passing of Bruce Lee. A dedicated martial artist, international superstar, and an icon that was gone too soon.
The legend of The Dragon
We’ve had plenty to say about Bruce Lee in the past. We’ve highlighted his one documented official boxing match, words from contemporaries and friends such as Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Gene LeBell as well as Chuck Norris, stories about his training at the Hong Kong rooftop schools, the dynamics of his famous one-inch punch.
I even did a review of his biography as well as an interview with the author. Both showed a much more human vision of the man and his life. Then there’s also the matter of his drug use, which illustrated this point even further. He was mortal, as are we. But the Bruce Lee legacy is cemented.
So with the anniversary of his death this week and the 50th anniversary of his final Hollywood film Enter the Dragon this year, we’re gonna take another look at the man and his work. We’re also gonna look at some absurdity surrounding his image as well.
Enter the Dragon was released in August of 1973 and has some iconic scenes with co-stars Jim Kelly and Kien Shih (who portrayed Mr. Han). And the scene that stands out the most to audiences to this day is the tournament fight against the menacing O’Hara, played by Bob Wall. It’s pretty great and holds up marvelously.
There’s also the opening fight scene, the proto-MMA fight against a young, vivacious, and always surprisingly agile Sammo Hung.
Here’s an underrated bit from his first feature film The Big Boss, which has some great choreography and a hell of a plot reveal close to the midway point.
And here’s another personal favorite: the fight against henchman Petrov played by Robert Baker in Fists of Fury (also released as Chinese Connection).
He even managed to work with friend and student Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the posthumously released Game of Death. Nobody was doing stuff like this on this level.
Pretty badass, right?
Well, here comes the goofy part. After his passing, various studios still wanted some of that Bruce Lee money. And they did the next best thing: hiring various actors to portray Bruce Lee as Bruce Lee in other movies. That led to a deluge of films in a genre that became known as Bruceploitation.
Guys billed as Bruce Le or Bruce Li were used, maybe because the world wasn’t ready for the kind of naming variation that Tony! Toni! Toné! inevitably brought decades later. And boy howdy, were these movies weird.
For instance, The Dragon Lives Again is a movie that starts with the death of Lee (who was already dead in real life) in a funeral ritual that appears to have him rocking a massive erection (shout out to Mookie Alexander).
And he’s gonna need to regulate that blood flow quick, because he’s up against Dracula (and some aliens).
As well as a poor man’s Clint Eastwood.
Legendary blind swordsman Zatoichi (sans blindfold)…
“The Godfather” in his disco battle glory:
As well as “007” and “Emmanuelle”. The trailer helpfully explains that the man’s got backup in the form of Popeye. Because if there’s anyone people are scared of, it’s Popeye.
This malaria fever dream of a film is probably what we’ll revert to in the AI era (go unions!), and my god the SEO on this is gonna be bonkers.
Fellow Hong Kong legend Bolo Yeung was even in one of these, as he faced Bruce Le in this scene from Cold Blooded Murder that apparently was not in all versions of this film:
Then there’s Hwang Jang Lee, who also did some dabbling in Bruceploitation against Bruce Le.
“Oh, Bruce Lee in the Roman Colisseum was a great idea. Let’s run that back.”
What’s the difference between Bruce Lee, Bruce Le and Bruce Li? Only one of them made movies that were watchable.
Finally, a man influenced by the master and a returning champion of the WTF series. We’ve brought back Antonio Lee.
Rest in peace, Bruce.
Muay Thai gold
We’ve struck oil this week, with an intense collection of Muay Thai knockouts from ten years ago. Bringing back some classics for you all.
No, I’m not gonna leave you thirsty. Here’s part 2:
Ssireum hours, baby
We’ve taken a look at the Korean art of Ssireum in the past, and I’m thrilled to tell you we’ve found a nice little vid from an event earlier this year. This is from the Grand Festival back in January, and it’s fun.
Kyokushin and Kudo knockouts!
This one’s simple and to the point: comparisons between Kudo and Kyokushin Karate. All spoken in the language of electrifying finishes.
Wait, one more Bruce Lee thing…
We end things on a tender note this week, kids. Here’s Jackie Chan telling the story of Bruce Lee injuring him during his days as an extra on Enter The Dragon. It’s heartwarming stuff, and you get to see Jackie get a bit emotional decades later.
That’s the end of it for this week, kids. Stay safe and try Exoprimal. I heard it was fun. And remember – you might think you can fight, but there are many guys like you all over the world.
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