*Includes their own quotes about their lives and work
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents
It would be nearly impossible for someone to pack more action into 32 years than Bruce Lee, whose name remains practically synonymous with martial arts excellence and kung fu movies. He was undoubtedly the forerunner to martial arts stars who came in his wake, including Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that he grew up as a sickly child. His upbringing was simultaneously one of great privilege and hardship, which had a huge impact on his career down the road; even when he began to fill out his skinny frame, trouble on the streets created a whirlwind set of circumstances that all but required Lee to move to America before he was 20.
Despite being the most famous star of the genre and the man who almost singlehandedly popularized martial arts in the West, the films that helped make Lee a global icon were not even made in the United States but were instead shot and produced in Hong Kong, after which they received large-scale international distribution. Furthermore, for all of his fame, none of Bruce Lee’s movies are commonly regarded as masterpieces, and they have always been viewed more as popular entertainment than as significant artistic achievements. Some might be able to name the short list of movies in which he starred and may know that Enter the Dragon (1973) is his most iconic picture, but his movies were never among those considered for Academy Award nominations.
Bruce Lee was arguably the greatest martial artist who ever lived, but he’s also remembered today for being spiritual and philosophical. In addition to writing at length about those topics, Lee considered those elements essential to his physical fitness and training. In reference to a form of martial arts that came to bear his name, he explained, “Too much time is given to the development of skill and too little to the development of the individual for participation…[Jeet Kune Do] ultimately is not a matter of petty techniques but of highly developed spirituality and physique.”
It is not uncommon for a culture to create intricate mythologies around its combat arts champions, but those celebrity fighters who have produced enough tangible accomplishments to merit such adulation are generally limited to a few in each generation. In the second half of the 20th century, boxer Muhammad Ali commanded such reverence, and in the martial arts, two stars have primarily reestablished the entire combat genre for the international movie-going population. In terms of raw popularity, Chuck Norris represents the West.
In contrast to Lee’s fame, which emerged from a Chinese version of martial arts entertainment laced with tinges of the superhuman, Chuck Norris was karate’s verismo artist, with his characters based on the realities of actual tournament and military experiences. His films capitalized upon the preexisting model of the American international male persona, both as it was and as he and the studios believed that it should be. In this way, Norris followed in the footsteps of Gary Cooper and John Wayne, with the addition of martial arts as a spur to the action. Critics have derided the quality of his acting from the onset of his career, but Norris has always maintained that his interest in acting was for the messages he intended for viewers, and he has never expressed a moment’s care for the pundits. A master of the paramilitary underdog and lone law enforcement officer film, his career would come to an apex with the television series Walker, Texas Ranger, a household name among viewers for nearly a decade and one that rivaled such classics as Gunsmoke and Bonanza.
Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris like never before.
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