The History of Bruce Lee for Kids

The year is 1955 and you live in Hong Kong.   You are a teenage boy and everyday, you study hard in school and then go to the Kung Fu training centre and practice Kung Fu for hours and hours.  Your dream is to become the best Kung Fu master in the world and your coaches are telling you that you are on the path.  If you study hard and practice hard, you may be a Kung Fu champion.  You are Bruce Lee, the most famous Kung Fu master in the world in the 1960s.  You don’t know it yet, but you will go on to become a movie star in China and then in America and around the world. 

Jun Fan (Bruce) Lee was born on November 27, 1940, in Chinatown, San Francisco, California. His father was a famous Chinese opera star.  He often toured around different countries with his opera. On one trip, Bruce’s dad took his wife on tour and while they were in the United States, she gave birth to a son there. 

Bruce was a happy and active baby.  According to the Chinese Zodiac Bruce was born in the hour and the year of the dragon. The Chinese Zodiac is an ancient system Chinese people used to predict the future. In traditional Chinese culture, that Bruce was a dragon was a strong and fortuitous omen.  An omen is an event that is meant to be a sign of things to come.

Bruce and his parents returned to Hong Kong when Bruce was just three months old.  His father’s opera tour was finished, so Bruce and his family moved back to Hong Kong to be near their family.  At the time, China was at war with another country called Japan, so Chinese people did not get out to do many fun activities.  However, after the war, Bruce’s dad continued to work in opera and also started to work as an actor in movies.

Because Bruce’s dad was an actor, he tried to help Bruce get in films as well.  Bruce was successful as a child actor.  He appeared in over 20 Chinese films. Bruce liked being in movies, but he also liked studying dance and kung fu.  

When Bruce was a teenager, he started to get into a lot of street fights.  Because a lot of teenage boys in China studied Kung Fu at the time, they would often try to fight each other in the streets to see who was the best.  Bruce Lee was a very good fighter, so many other teenagers wanted to challenge him to a fight to try to beat him.

During the street fights Bruce’s parents were worried that he would get hurt so they continued to encourage him to study Kung Fu so he could defend himself.  Bruce became a very good fighter and in 1958, Bruce won the Hong Kong school’s boxing tournament. There he knocked out the previous champion in the final fight.

When Bruce was 18, he got into another street fight in Hong Kong, and the police were called. This scared Bruce’s parents and they decided that Bruce should leave Hong Kong and move to the United States so that he could have a safer and happier life.

Bruce moved to the United States and at first, he went to stay with his older sister, Agnes Lee, who was already living with family friends in San Francisco. Bruce lived in  San Francisco for several months and then he moved to Seattle so that he could study at the University of Washington in Seattle.  In order to help pay for his education, Bruce worked as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant.  He also lived in the back room of the restaurant for free.

In 1964, Bruce met an American woman named Linda Emery and fell in love.  She was a fellow student studying at the university to become a teacher.  They got married and the next year, Linda gave birth to their son, Brandon Lee.  They later had a second child, a daughter named Shannon.

Two years later, in 1966, the Lees moved to Los Angeles and Bruce started to try to be in movies.  Like his dad before him, Bruce had decided that he wanted to be an actor.  One of Bruce’s first acting roles was on the tv show The Green Hornet (1966-1967), where he played the Hornet’s sidekick Kato. 

Bruce found that he was often being cast as a sidekick, because at the time there were not a lot of good roles for asian people in Hollywood movies.  He heard about how popular martial arts movies were becoming in Hong Kong and this was more interesting to Bruce than staying in Hollywood.  He was excited about the idea of being the star in movies and so he decided to return to Hong Kong.

Back in Hong Kong, Bruce began to get a number of great movie spots because of his acting and amazing kung fu skills.  He also started writing movies so that he could act in them.  And once he got the money to make the films, he would direct them too.  This included the movies The Big Boss (1971) and The Way of the Dragon (1972). These movies were very popular in Asia and they also started becoming very popular in America and around the world.

Bruce’s next film was called Enter the Dragon, and it was released in the United States by Warner Bros., which is one of the biggest Hollywood movie studios.

Unfortunately however, Bruce Lee died one month before Enter the Dragon was released.  Bruce never got to see himself starring in a Hollywood movie even though he had worked so hard to achieve this goal.  He was only 32 years old.

Enter the Dragon was a big hit though and it made a lot of money.  After Bruce died, he continued to be very famous as a movie star in America. After Americans saw Enter the Dragon, they wanted to see more of his films so they started watching the movies that he had made in Asia.

Bruce Lee is still remembered as an amazing athlete and actor who changed the way that people around the world looked at Asian people. 

Bruce also taught many people to love kung fu and martial arts.  He inspired people who saw his films to want to be good at kung fu like he was.  And while he was alive, Bruce opened a martial arts school and taught people who wanted to learn.

Bruce Lee is thought of as one of the most influential martial artists of all time and a pop culture icon of the 20th century. 

Is there a sport or hobby that you would like to be good at?  Do you have a vision of yourself as a famous actor or being able to travel the world sharing a particular skill?  Like Bruce Lee, you can find success at the things you are passionate about. The most important things you need are a vision of what you want, hard work and the ability to be adaptable.  Adaptable means to be able to change as things around you change.

Bruce traveled from Hong Kong to San Francisco when he was only 18 years old.  He had to learn a new language and a new culture.  Culture is the way people behave and do things in their part of the world. Bruce had to work very hard to make money and he continued to practice kung fu and work on his vision of becoming a movie star.  He was able to accomplish so many things in his short life due to his dedication and drive.  Bruce adapted to life in America and was flexible enough to move back to Hong Kong when he could see that it provided a better opportunity for himself and his family.  

We can all learn from Bruce Lee about the power of having a dream and working hard to make that dream a reality.