If there was no Bruce Lee, there would be no UG.
I was 13 years old, and spending the summer with pops in the Kingdom of Lesotho. I went to the movies by myself at the Holiday Inn, and Enter the Dragon was playing. Two hours later I tried to kick several dogs during the walk home, and I had a life mission. It never changed.
There were two Korean 6th degree black belts providing technical assistance to the Lesotho Police Mounted Unit (a paramilitary force) and pop got me into training with them. When I went back to Cambridge, Mass to live with ma, and checked out local martial arts studios.
Ma took me to an Aikido studio; too hairy. We went to Tohoku Judo in Sommerville; too hard to get to by bus. Then we went to the Suk Chung Institute of Tae Kwon Do in Harvard Square; when you walked in, there was a big image of Mr. Chung and Bruce Lee, arm in arm, and I was all set.
That was 1973.
In High School I had an entire wall of Bruce Lee posters and got the Tao of Jeet Kune Do for Christmas in 75, which I read 100 times or more. I did martial arts through college and opened a gym full-time when I graduated.
UFC 1 came along ten years later and I did a do over, and finally started doing what Bruce Lee had always called for. I finished a book on MMA in 1998 and some friends built a website to promote it. Skillrules, who owned FightingTalk.com that we partnered, suggested calling it "The Underground."
No Bruce Lee I would have been a cop or an architect or something, and there would be no Underground.
In an interview with the ever awesome MMAJunkie, UFC Vice President of Community Relations Reed Harris relates a similar path, from Bruce Lee to furthering MMA, perhaps most notably by co-founding the World Extreme Cagefighting with Scott Adams, and then being a top exec at the UFC.
"When I was in high school in Illinois, we heard about this movie called 'Enter the Dragon,' and we went and saw it at the Glen Art Theatre in Glen Ellyn, just outside of Chicago," said Harris. "Literally, it changed my whole life. I was playing football, and a couple of days later, I sought out the only martial arts studio in the whole area, and I started training tae kwon do."
"I would watch all of his movies over and over to see his techniques. It completely changed the direction of my life. I became a lot more disciplined, and I would train all the time and work on doing the techniques properly."
"He was Hong Kong's native son, and he really was the father of MMA. During his movie career, and even since he's passed away, Bruce Lee had a big impact in Hong Kong, so when we came to Macau, we thought it would be great to be able to honor him.
"Again, he was the founder of entire sport. He was cross-training in all these different disciplines. Up until not that long ago, people like me would do one discipline all their life because it was almost disrespectful to your art and your teacher to study another martial art. But that's kind of all gone away now."
"In some markets we go to, people say it's violent and don't really see it as a sport. Here though, they seem to see the sport part. I just think they haven't really been exposed to it enough to embrace our stars. Once they see these guys and watch them fight and watch them perform and embrace guys like Tieqaun Zhang, then I think it's going to blow up here, just like it has everywhere else."
"Look at Brazil. Three of four years ago, I had people in Brazil telling me to be careful because while jiu-jitsu was accepted and popular there, MMA was not. Now look what's happened. I think the same thing is going to happen in China. Once they understand that the traditional martial arts are part of our sport and that it's really about taking those arts and expanding the knowledge base, they'll see it's really what Bruce Lee wanted.
"Bruce Lee created his own art, Jeet Kune Do, because he didn't like the limitations of these singular martial arts in their own little silo. He wanted to combine them all and improve those techniques, which is exactly what our fighters do."
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