Written by Maci

Modified & Updated: 23 Sep 2023

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

Bruce Lee Facts

In the 20th century, Bruce Lee stood out among many names in the film industry for his grit and passion. As the poster boy of Kung Fu, Bruce Lee quickly made a name for himself as an all-around action star. With his lightning-quick fighting styles and philosophy, the world continues to admire Bruce Lee long after his passing.

After introducing the art of Kung Fu into western pop culture, Bruce Lee easily became one of the most iconic people in the world. Find out more about the man behind the Fist of Fury with these Bruce Lee facts.

  1. Bruce Lee was born on the 27th of November 1940.
  2. Bruce Lee stayed active between 1941 to 1973.
  3. Bruce Lee stood 1.72 meters in height, or 5 ft 6″. 
  4. Bruce Lee married Linda Emery and had 2 children with her; a son and a daughter.
  5. He died on the 20th of July in 1973 at the age of 32.
  1. Bruce Lee was born as Lee Jun Fan in San Francisco, California, United States. 
  2. His cause of death was due to cerebral edema where he suffered from seizures and headaches. 
  3. Bruce Lee is also known by the names of Lee Yuen Cham and Lee Yuen Kam. 
  4. He is most famous for his roles in several martial arts films and acting careers. 
  5. Bruce Lee is considered by the media as one of the most influential martial artists in the world.
  6. Bruce Lee is also given credit for helping change how Asians were represented in American films.
  7. Bruce Lee began teaching martial arts and its discipline during his time in college in the United States. 
  8. After his death, autopsy reports stated that Bruce Lee’s brain had swollen considerably.
  9. Time Magazine included Bruce Lee as one of the Top 100 most important people of the 20th century. 
  10. Bruce Lee is buried at the Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, Washington next to his son, Brandon Lee.
  1. Bruce Lee does not hold any belts or rankings in martial arts.
  2. He is also a well-known pop culture icon of the 20th-century world.
  3. Bruce Lee was introduced to the film industry by his father and became a child actor.
  4. His most famous works include Fist of Fury, Enter the Dragon and The Big Boss.
  5. The death of Bruce Lee was officially ruled as ‘Death by Misadventure’.
Table of Contents

Bruce Lee began taking up martial arts at 13 years old.

In his early youth, Bruce Lee began practicing the Southern Chinese art of Wing Chun Gung-Fu that utilized both striking and grappling forms of self-defense. This art form also primarily specialized in close range combat which helped Bruce Lee develop his special form of martial art that was later referred to as Jeet Kune Do

As he grew up, Bruce Lee also explored several other forms of martial arts and methods of combat such as fencing and boxing. Bruce Lee also experimented with several types of training routines and systems to help further develop his unique form of martial arts.

He opened a martial arts school called the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute at 20 years old.

After moving to the United States and enrolling in the University of Washington, Bruce Lee opened his first martial arts school in the city of Seattle. The Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute allowed Bruce Lee to teach several people the discipline of martial arts, self-defense, and his philosophy of the fighting styles. 

After some time, Bruce Lee opened two more schools in Oakland and Los Angeles where he prioritized a system that emphasizes practicality, speed, flexibility, and efficiency. Bruce Lee noted that the martial arts style that he developed is meant to exist outside of the parameter and limitations of other traditional martial arts styles. 

He was not circumcised until he was age 22.

In 1962, Bruce Lee came back home to Hong Kong to visit his family and friends. During this time, his father gave him a sudden request to become circumcised

Bruce Lee stated that he agreed to do so because he did not have a good reason to refuse. He also believed that by doing so, he would seem to be more American. 

His first screen test in Hollywood came by the chance of luck.

In 1964, Bruce Lee gave a Kung Fu demonstration at Long Beach where a salon owner by the name of Jay Sebring came to join the audience during his performance. Impressed by Bruce Lee’s skills, Sebring invited him to a screen test for a role in a television show. 

During the screen test, Bruce Lee demonstrated his quick reflexes and precise movements without hitting the actor he was going to do the scene with.

Bruce Lee helped coin the term and the fighting philosophy of Jeet Kune Do.

The term Jeet Kune Do was established by Bruce Lee in 1967 in an attempt to name the expression of martial arts that he was developing. At the time, Bruce Lee wanted to avoid putting a name on his art form as it would lead to a type of crystallization which could limit it. 

However, because of the simple need of referring to the art form, Bruce Lee eventually coined the term, which he regretted later on. By naming his martial art form, his art style implied a particular framework that would generally limit his philosophy and ideals in the long run. 

Bruce Lee Facts
Source: Pexels

Bruce Lee’s father performed in the Hong Kong Cantonese Opera.

Lee Hoi Chuen was considered to be one of the leading Cantonese opera singers and film actors during the height of his career. His success also allowed him to go on tour for a whole year and eventually take his family with him to the United States.

Later on, he returned to Hong Kong after the birth of his son, Bruce Lee. With the Japanese occupation, they ended up spending a considerable amount of time at home. During the time Hong Kong was rebuilding itself after the war, Lee Hoi Chuen began acting once again and gained considerably large popularity among his audiences. 

Stirling Silliphant helped Bruce Lee get acting roles in feature-length films in America.

When Bruce Lee opened his first martial arts institute, he also taught many people that were involved with the film industry. One of these students was a screenwriter named Stirling Silliphant who became a close friend of Bruce Lee and later worked on the development of The Silent Flute. 

Additionally, Bruce Lee also acted and provided help regarding his expertise in martial arts on several projects penned by Silliphant, such as Marlowe. Their relationship also allowed Bruce Lee to choreograph several fight scenes in several films such as A Walk in the Spring Rain and also had creative freedom to choreograph his fighting scenes in the films that he was a part of. 

Bruce Lee gained a reputation for his sense of humor.

During his career, Bruce Lee not only became famous for his skills as a martial artist, but also his joyous personality. According to his family, friends, and those that he closely worked with, Bruce Lee enjoyed playing around and telling jokes to make other people laugh and share a feeling of happiness. 

On multiple occasions, Bruce Lee was also known to pull several pranks while on film sets and was considered to be a playful character filled with fun-loving energy. His family has also stated that Bruce Lee might have inherited this type of behavior from his late father who was also known to be a jokester during his time. 

He had filmed a fight scene with Kareem Abdul Jabbar with no prior script to the movie.

In the Hong Kong film Game of Death, Bruce Lee recorded a fight scene with Kareem Abdul Jabbar before the completion of the script for the movie. The movie was filmed between August to October in 1972 and was never completed due to Bruce Lee’s passing. 

However, during the development of the movie, Bruce Lee was able to form a good relationship with Kareem Abdul Jabbar where he shared his frustrations with him regarding the stereotypes of Asians that were being shown in films and television shows. Aside from their friendship, Bruce Lee also mentored Kareem Abdul Jabbar, partly inspiring him to compete in professional men’s basketball. Definitely one of the Bruce Lee facts to remember.

Bruce Lee had won a boxing tournament when he was age 17.

During his high school days, Bruce Lee joined a boxing match in Hong Kong and ended up winning the tournament altogether. This occurred a year before he moved to the United States in 1958. During this time, Bruce Lee also performed a hybrid fighting technique, mixing Wing Chun Kung Fu and boxing combos.

While Bruce Lee stated that he was not too thrilled with his victory in the boxing tournament, he did state that the victory helped him develop his form of martial art called Jeet Kune Do. Later on, this martial art style also helped in paving the way for modern-day Mixed Martial Arts.

Bruce Lee Facts
Source: Pexels

He was not drafted into the army because he was deemed physically unacceptable.

In 1963, Bruce Lee got rejected from the United States military after failing his his pre-induction physical. According to his results, Bruce Lee was classified as 4-F due to an undescended testicle and his poor eyesight which required contact lenses to fix. 

Other test results also noted that Bruce Lee had a sinus disorder, which ultimately made him physically unfit to join and train with the United States military. How’s that for unlikely Bruce Lee facts?

The last person to see Bruce Lee conscious before his death was Betty Ting Pei.

According to an interview conducted in 2008, Ting Pei stated that they were last with Bruce Lee before he was admitted to the hospital on the day of this death. Ting Pei stated that Bruce Lee did not wake up from his sleep and died suddenly in his apartment complex. 

Bruce Lee and Betty Ting Pei first met at a hotel in Hong Kong in 1972 where they were introduced by film producer Raymond Chow Man Wai. Betty Ting Pei stated that Bruce Lee was the first man that she has ever truly respected and admired during the time that they were seeing each other.

Bruce Lee tried to marry Amy Sanbo numerous times.

In 1960, Bruce Lee began dating a Japanese girl named Amy Sanbo and later on fell in love with her, asking for her hand in marriage on multiple occasions. However, Amy Sanbo kept rejecting Bruce Lee’s proposals for marriage, which ultimately led to their break up during the summer of 1963, right before Bruce Lee had to visit his family back in Hong Kong. 

Since then, the two have not contacted each other or seen each other at all after Bruce Lee’s return to America. 

Many individuals considered Bruce Lee to have issues with anger management.

According to the people who have worked with Bruce Lee, he was often quick to anger and always wanted things in a particular way. Bruce Lee was also noted to have incredibly high standards which could lead to his outbursts if they were not met to his satisfaction. 

However, in several interviews, Bruce Lee has stated that he uses his outbursts of anger as a new opportunity to learn and become better. This fits his philosophy of always looking for self-improvement, which could ultimately lead to better changes in not only your own life but in others as well. 

Bruce Lee was born during the Year of the Dragon in 1940.

Bruce Lee was born at the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco, California. Born on the Year of the Dragon on the hour of the dragon, Bruce Lee’s birth was considered a strong and fortuitous omen in Chinese traditions. 

In the Chinese Zodiac, the hour of the dragon lies between 7 to 9 in the morning. Additionally, Bruce Lee was also born on the Year of the Earth Dragon which is the fifth animal in the order of the Chinese zodiac

Bruce Lee Facts
Source: Pexels

Bruce Lee was also known as a film director, producer, and screenwriter.

At the height of his acting career, Bruce Lee worked on several productions as a film director, producer, choreographer, and screenwriter. Early in his career, Bruce Lee also had several small roles in films where he co-starred with his father, who was prominent in the film industry at the time. 

According to his history, Bruce Lee’s career in the film industry began thanks to his background in martial arts where he was scouted by screenwriters during his time in the United States. By the 1970s, Bruce Lee had already made a name for himself in Hong Kong films as well as in Hollywood, while continuing to teach several the discipline of martial arts. 

The studio behind ‘Enter the Dragon’ attempted to change the title of the film.

When this change was made, Bruce Lee had threatened the studio in charge of the film that he would quit and never work for them ever again if the title was not changed back to the original title. After settling the argument, the film’s title was changed back to ‘Enter the Dragon’ and debuted in cinemas on July 26, 1973, which was a few days short of the death of Bruce Lee himself. 

After the release of the film, the success accumulated a total of $350 million and became famous for being the last completed film that Bruce Lee had appeared in. Additionally, several movie critics and film groups have dubbed the film as one of the greatest martial arts films of all time. 

Bruce Lee attended the University of Washington to receive higher education in America.

In 1958, Bruce Lee moved to San Francisco, California to receive a higher education level at the University of Washington where he enrolled in Philosophy. However, Bruce Lee dropped out of university and continued his career in the film industry instead.

After dropping out of college, Bruce Lee moved to Oakland and founded his second martial arts studio with James Yimm Lee, who also introduced Lee to Ed Parker. Later on, this led Bruce Lee to the Long Beach International Karate Championships, where he got scouted by a screenwriter. Now, there’s one for Bruce Lee facts that’ll make you believe in fate.

He was offered a role for a tv series called The Green Hornet.

During the production of the pilot for the series, Bruce Lee was invited to play the role of Kato alongside another actor named Van Williams. The series lasted for a single season and aired on television between 1966 to 1967.

Additionally, Bruce Lee was also able to play the character of Kato again in a total of 3 crossover episodes of Batman. After this, Bruce Lee also appeared in other television series such as Ironside, Blondie, and Here Come the Brides

Bruce Lee taught several celebrities martial arts.

After opening his first martial arts institute in San Francisco, Bruce Lee welcomed several students into his dojo. Among his many students, Bruce Lee taught during several celebrities and other individuals in film and television. 

Later on, some of these students became close friends with Bruce Lee, which helped him start his career in acting and stunt work. From this point, Bruce Lee slowly grew in popularity thanks to his great physical abilities.

Bruce Lee Facts
Source: Pexels

He had many difficulties on set during the filming of Enter the Dragon.

During the filming of the film ‘Enter the Dragon’, Bruce Lee suffered from several injuries, including his hand getting bitten by a cobra during one scene in the film. However, despite needing numerous medical treatments during filming, Bruce Lee always opted to move on and continue filming to finish at the scheduled time. 

With each injury that he sustained while shooting, Bruce Lee asked filmmakers not to stop recording, only accepting medical treatments after shooting the scene. This not only showed how dedicated Bruce Lee was to his work, but also how strong he was both physically and mentally while production was in progress. 

Bruce Lee’s nickname The Little Dragon comes from his sister, Agnes.

Bruce Lee was born during the Year of the Dragon and on the hour of the dragon which caused him to be referred to as ‘little dragon’ during his youth. Over time, the nickname has stuck with Bruce Lee and has also followed him in his career in the film industry and in the martial arts world. 

Additionally, Bruce Lee also had several Chinese names that referenced the little dragon as his Chinese screen name. In Chinese traditions, the dragon symbolizes strength, good fortune, and great power – which fit the background of the actor and his legacy. 

Bruce Lee had no control over the Americanization of the spelling of Gung Fu.

When the ancient art of Gung Fu was first introduced in the United States, Bruce Lee spoke with author James Lee, who wrote several books on the fighting arts of the orient. When he was wrong about the art form, the G in the word Gung Fu was changed into the letter K to make Kung Fu. 

When Bruce Lee inquired about this issue, the author stated that he made this change to help Americans who were unaware of Chinese pronunciations say the name of the martial arts forms out loud. Additionally, by making this change, the author also stated that the term would become more accessible and marketable within the United States. 

He was considered to be good friends with the American stunt actor, Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris was one of the many celebrities that had joined Bruce Lee’s martial arts institute in Seattle. First meeting in 1965 during the filming of The Green Hornet, they quickly became close friends. 

Coincidentally, at the time, the two stayed at the same hotel, spending all of their remaining time together until Chuck Norris had to take a flight back home to Los Angeles. Additionally, the two shared several interests such as their philosophy, love for martial arts, and their core beliefs. 

Bruce Lee continuously suffered from severe back pain for most of his life.

In 1969, during a routine training session, Bruce Lee severely injured his back due to improper warm-ups before the start of his routine. Initially, Bruce Lee was told that he would not be able to walk properly and might not be able to practice martial arts anymore.

Determined to recover, Bruce Lee began searching for a cure, going through several weeks of therapy and designing a bed that would help treat his injury. After some time, Bruce Lee began training again and regularly took medication for his condition but would still suffer from chronic back pain.

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The Green Hornet was considered to be the first time that the west had seen Kung Fu.

When Bruce Lee took on the role of Kato in the TV show The Green Hornet, the art of Kung Fu was introduced to the western media for the first time in history. During the airing of the series, Bruce Lee captivated thousands of Americans and several other people back in Hong Kong thanks to his physical abilities. 

The show was also believed to have been successful thanks to the recent popularization of the concept of ‘heroes vs bad guys’ in the western media. Before its cancellation, there were plans for 30 more episodes that would further highlight Bruce Lee’s lightning-fast movements and fighting style. 

Bruce Lee was once voted as the Worst Dressed Actor of the Year by the Hong Kong press.

Despite his fame as a top tier martial artist, Bruce Lee was never known to have great style when it comes to fashion. In the 1970s, Bruce Lee was voted by Hong Kong press as the ‘Worst Dressed Actor of the Year’ due to his penchant for silk full-body suits and his many other elaborate outfits. 

However, out of all his outfits, the iconic yellow jumpsuit was the most well-known and valued throughout the years. Additionally, the very suit that he wore in the film ‘Enter the Dragon’ was later on sold at auction in Hong Kong for $100,000.

Bruce Lee had a traumatic experience in a swimming pool as a child.

As a young child, he had pushed his sister Phoebe into a swimming pool as a prank. As a result, his sister took revenge and held Bruce Lee’s head underwater, traumatizing him to never go into a swimming pool ever again. 

While he apologized to his sister for playing tricks on her, Bruce Lee never set foot into a swimming pool ever again for the remainder of his life. However, many people considered this ironic as one of his famous quotes states that if one wants to learn how to swim, they must dive into the water. 

He followed a strict diet of eating 4 to 5 small meals a day and avoided alcohol.

Bruce Lee was known for his great philosophy and belief that one should not only have a healthy mind but a body as well, which involves a complicated eating routine. Generally, Bruce Lee was known to avoid processed foods and stuck with more balanced foods from Asian cuisine rather than Western ones. 

Portion sizes were also particularly important to him, as he would consume around 4 to 5 small meals in a day, with the occasional fruit for snacks. Bruce Lee also consumed protein drinks that varied from eggs, peanut butter, bananas, lecithin, and non-instant powdered milk. 

Bruce Lee had become famous in Asia due to his role in the tv series The Green Hornet.

After the success of The Green Hornet, many other countries gained access to the show, including Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, the show had the alternate title, The Kato Show, which helped Bruce Lee become the hot topic of the series and led him into starring in several other films during his career.

Bruce Lee’s version of his character Kato was also featured in two spin-off series written by Mike Baron. Additionally, this feature marked the start of Bruce Lee becoming an icon in pop culture and the world of martial arts. 

Source: Pexels

Bruce Lee dropped out of college in 1964.

Bruce Lee enrolled in the University of Washington in March 1961, where he studied philosophy, dramatic arts, psychology, and several other subjects. While he was largely known to have majored in philosophy, a 1999 article from the University of Washington stated that he officially majored in drama. 

However, in early 1964, Bruce Lee dropped out of college and was never able to receive his bachelor’s degree from the university. After dropping out, Bruce Lee began to focus more on his training and teaching other martial arts and his philosophy of the art form that he had developed. 


Bruce Lee often wore his old taped-up glasses instead of new ones.

For years, Bruce Lee kept his old ‘coke bottle’ glasses as a way of reminding himself of where he came from. The martial artist stated that this was a special way for him to remind himself to stay grounded and continue working on becoming the best version of himself possible despite the fame and fortune that he had collected thanks to his success. In a scene from Fist of Fury, Bruce Lee can be seen wearing these glasses.

Bruce Lee ordered a Rolls Royce Corniche in the anticipation of the success of ‘Enter the Dragon’.

According to those close to him, Bruce Lee would often get giddy about the idea of the vehicle and would often talk about it and other celebrity icons that had already owned one. 

Before the filming for the movie ‘Enter the Dragon’ was finished, Bruce Lee had anticipated that the movie would be a success and got himself on a 6 month-long waiting list to get the vehicle. Unfortunately, Bruce Lee unexpectedly passed away before riding his dream car

Bruce Lee decided to emigrate to the United States so he could claim American Citizenship.

Bruce Lee was born in the United States before his family relocated to Hong Kong, which gave him a time limit of when he could claim his American citizenship before the option would lapse. Before he turned 18 years of age, Bruce Lee left Hong Kong and moved to Seattle to file the necessary paperwork to become a United States citizen. 

Bruce Lee moved in with family friends and enrolled in a vocational school to earn his high school degree, which would later on make him qualified to attend university. Additionally, Bruce Lee’s mother also predicted that he would return to the city one day because it was his birthplace. 

The association of nunchucks with Bruce Lee was thanks to the film Fist of Fury.

The success of the film ‘Fist of Fury’ changed not only the image of martial arts in the western world but as well as the film industry in Hong Kong. Additionally, the film is famous for associating the weapon of nunchucks with Bruce Lee himself ,despite him using the weapon briefly in The Green Hornet

After the film, Lee decided to create productions himself and formed Concord Productions together with Raymond Chow. As a result, more people in the film industry began demanding better pay including actors, actresses, as well as other crew members. 

Bruce Lee Facts
Source: Pixabay

The film Enter the Dragon was Bruce Lee’s sole starring role by an American company.

Out of all the films and productions that he had been in, Bruce Lee’s last film is known as the only movie financed by an American company. Directed by Robert Clouse, Enter The Dragon was considered to be an American and Hong Kong co-production and was distributed by the Warner Bros company. 

The film ran for a total of 99 minutes and premiered one month after the death of Bruce Lee. The success of the film also inspired several fictional works such as films, TV series, comic books, and even anime. 

Bruce Lee’s wedding to Linda Emery was a shotgun wedding.

In 1964, Bruce Lee returned to Seattle and secretly married Linda Emery, who was pregnant at the time. Bruce Lee stated that he used the wedding ring of James Lee’s wife, which was lent to him for the occasion. 

After the wedding, Bruce Lee and Emery had a daughter who grew up to become an American actress and a martial artist. In 1965, Bruce Lee had another child which he named Brandon who later on followed in his father’s footsteps as well. 

In 1969, Bruce Lee had damaged a sacral nerve which led him to experience severe muscle spasms.

Due to this injury, Bruce Lee was placed on bed rest for several weeks which put him under much more stress. Ultimately, Bruce Lee took his rest as a chance to write his famous My Definite Chief Aim.

In this aim, Bruce Lee stated that he would become the first highest-paid Oriental superstar in the United States. In this written declaration, Bruce Lee also stated that he would achieve world fame till the end of 1980 and attain inner happiness and peace. 

Bruce Lee worked with Jackie Chan in two of his films.

In the film Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee briefly worked with a young Jackie Chan for a scene. In the movie, Jackie Chan plays the role of a guard who quickly jumps into the frame and grabs Bruce Lee from behind.

However, Jackie Chan’s role in the film was only brief as his character was killed off immediately by Bruce Lee. 

Bruce Lee’s film The Big Boss had a budget of $100,000.

At the time, this amount would not be even considered enough to fund a minute-long commercial in the United States. Additionally, because of this, there was also not much to the script of the film itself which was common for films made in Hong Kong at the time. 

Once it was complete, the film was well-received by its audience and in the box office, earning over $3 million in Hong Kong dollars. 

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