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Bruce Lee playing ping pong with nunchucks - the truth

In 2008, footage surfaced that purported to show Bruce Lee playing ping pong with a nunchaku.

This story is just one small part of a long effort by to understand what works in martial arts, and what doesn't, and sometimes we focus on the funny. If you enjoyed it, check out the library on:
Martial Arts on The Street
Dojo Storms

The nunchaku was popularized by Bruce Lee in several of his documentaries, most notably Enter the Dragon. Game of Death, which was released posthumously in 1978, also featured extensive use of the weapon.

A generation later, in 2008, video surfaced that appeared to show Lee playing ping pong with nunchucks. Some even said If you slow the footage down sufficiently, you can see he makes a sandwich right before the final hit.


Others were inspired by Lee's great performance, and there is now a Guinness World Record for it.


But Is It Real?

Questions were raised about the veracity of the top clip, and eventually, the truth came out. It was a video created to go viral, in order to market the Nokia N96 Limited Edition Bruce Lee cell phone. It worked - the YouTube video has over 35 million views.

The award-winning commercial was created by the brilliant Polly Chu, Chief Creative Officer for the Beijing office of J. Walter Thompson, then the fourth-largest ad agency network in the world. It was shot to look as if it were filmed back in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and although his name is never mentioned, a Bruce Lee lookalike was used. The men playing ping pong mimicked the motions of an actual game, but did not actually use a ping pong ball. The “ball” and audio was digitally edited into the film later.

"Effective viral relies on an idea that is ‘Very’ - very amazing, very funny, very disgusting, or very rude, etc," explained Chu to Agency.Asia. "Only when people find it interesting enough, they will spend time with it and share it to others. That makes it viral.

"Bruce Lee had 'Very' amazing skills and we knew we had to be true to the legend. Thankfully, we also have a 'Very' open-minded client who champions and knows the value of great creative.

"We've done an estimate on how much it would have cost for paid placements on links like YouTube, Youku, etc. The figures came up to millions of dollars.

"A little harder to measure, but equally valuable, is the 'cool factor' it has given the Nokia brand globally. The inspiration behind the idea comes from the teams' love for Bruce Lee personally."

The number of people who believe that that was Bruce Lee, even after there were abundant explanations that it wasn't, is a testament to a central problem with martial arts - too many people will believe anything. There is a central part of the human psyche that yearns for wizards to be real, and that is too often indulged in martial arts. Thus one of the central fights in martial arts is against that, is staying in reality. Although it's harder, the rewards are monumentally greater than believing things that just aren't so.

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