Although Bruce Lee is revered as the first and best martial artist to hit the Big Screen, imagine what 'Bruce the Bully' would have become had he not been famous. He would probably have gotten himself into trouble with the law and either been killed, seriously wounded or imprisoned.
By many, if not all, accounts Bruce Lee was fortunate to be "born in the United States into a showbiz family [and to have] a better command of English than the other boys [in Hong Kong]". He was also a child actor. From an early age, all this 'privilege' gave him a sense of superiority over others. This arrogance (or 'his charisma' as those who diplomatically put it) can be seen in his earliest TV interviews and movies … his trademark characteristic is to look down his nose at other people and to appear smug and superior and a "Know-it-all".
Bruce Lee childhood film scene 李小龙童年电影片段 (YouTube)
Bruce Lee - The Lost Interview (GoogleVideo)
Bruce Lee quote (at 11:25 in The Lost Interview):
"To me, ultimately martial arts means 'honestly expressing yourself'. It is very difficult to do. I mean it is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky and be flooded with a cocky feeling and I feel like pretty cool. Or I can make all kinds of phony things and fancy things and be blinded by it."
"But to express oneself honestly, that my friend is very hard to do. You have to train, you have to keep your reflexes so that when you want it, it is there. When you want to move, you are moving. And when you move you are determined to move. Nothing less than that. If I want to punch, I am going to do it Man! I'm gonna do it. That is the type of thing you have to train yourself, to become one with what you think, you know."
So, Bruce Lee's philosophy was to 'honestly express himself' ... what he thought, he did, and you can bet that he did so determinedly. We can see that his thoughts and values and desires include being arrogant, cheeky, self-confident and violent. And that is how he expressed himself.
Basically, Bruce Lee wanted to justify his basest physical urges (i.e. wanting to punch and kick someone). "If I want to punch, I am going to do it Man! I'm gonna do it."
[Note: This blog champions critical thinking. So, taking a leaf from Bruce Lee's book of philosophy: If I want to think, I am going to do it Man! I'm gonna do it. ]
By all means, enjoy and revere Bruce Lee for his work and contributions to the movies and to our popular culture. But let's not forget that he was also an ABC!* Arrogant, a Bully and a C...
*American Born Chinese
Childhood days with 'Big Brother' Bruce Lee (SCMP; paywall)
Jun 03, 2012
Robert Wang, age 12, on the school boxing team. Photo: SMP
Robert Wang Wei-han may have rubbed shoulders with some of Hong Kong's most powerful tycoons for years, but none of them was as famous as the man with whom he went to school - Bruce Lee.
The movie star, four years older than Wang, was a loner who did not mix with the other pupils at La Salle College, which was then located at Perth Street, Ho Man Tin.
"There was something extraordinary about him that marked him out from the others," Wang said. "He carried himself as if he was superior to others. But he was not popular and lived in his own world of martial arts."
Lee was born in the United States into a showbiz family, which gave him a better command of English than the other boys, and he already considered himself a star after appearing as a child actor in local films. Wang remembers him as being temperamental. All the 16-year-old Lee wanted to do was to practise his fighting skills, and most of the time it was on the other pupils.
"He was always on the prowl, looking for trouble. He was very unpleasant. Everyone was afraid of him," Wang said. "He had a reputation as a troublemaker and was involved in so many fights that he was summoned to see the principal frequently and earned himself many disciplinary warnings. He was eventually kicked out of the school."
Before this though, Wang and Lee competed on the school boxing team together. Wang idolised him as a boxer because he was so good and freely admits to "sucking up to him" and calling him "Big Brother" because he was older. He went out of his way to befriend him and in return Lee called him "Kid".
Even after Lee was expelled from the school and returned to the US, Wang was destined to meet him one more time. It was 1972 and Lee was standing on the concourse of the Star Ferry terminal beside a large billboard advertising his new film Way of the Dragon. Wang was on his way to work and called out: "Hi, Big Brother, you're now big in the movie world!"
"Hi, Kid," Lee replied. "Just stand here by my side." Lee didn't take the conversation with him further and just wanted to give Wang his 15 minutes of fame. "I shared in his glory as passers-by gasped in astonishment", snapping pictures, Wang said.