When martial arts legend Bruce Lee was on the set of Enter the Dragon, an extra challenged him to a real fight. Here’s what happened next.
When Bruce Lee was filming Enter the Dragon, an extra challenged him to a fight. As an actor known for being an expert in kung fu, many were curious about whether or not his skills could be utilized effectively in real-life.
Enter the Dragon, the movie that turned Lee into an international martial arts icon, was the final film the actor was able to complete before his death in July 1973. When the movie was in production, Lee had already starred in three martial arts films for Hong Kong studio Golden Harvest: The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, and Way of the Dragon. He had also filmed a portion of another Golden Harvest movie, Game of Death. Because of the fighting he did in his movies, Lee revolutionized the way people viewed Eastern martial arts and was instrumental in starting the kung fu craze of the 1970s.
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One consequence of his reputation was that people often wanted to see for themselves just how good he was. An example of this occurred in 1973 when Bruce Lee was busy filming Enter the Dragon in Hong Kong. Bolo Yeung, who played a villain in the movie, revealed in an interview that Lee was challenged by one of the film’s extras. According to Yeung, this person wanted to test out his Jeet Kune Do, a martial arts style and philosophy founded by Lee himself. Lee accepted the challenge, and the fight began. According to Yeung, both combatants were able to land blows, but Lee was too fast for him. He won the fight by executing a high kick. His speed in the match was described as “incredible” [via YouTube].
There are multiple accounts of this incident, but Yeung’s is the most reliable, considering that he worked on the film. Others have claimed that the extra taunted Lee into fighting him, and that instead of firing him after the fight, simply sent him back to work. It’s also been said that this wasn’t an isolated incident. Some say that Lee fought with other extras on the set of Enter the Dragon as well.
Allegedly, this is a problem that Lee faced for years. Like the protagonists in countless kung fu movies, Bruce Lee’s skills made him a target for people who wanted to prove that they were better than him. Bruce Lee reportedly received a lot of challenges from people who doubted that his kung fu would work in a street fight. However, making sure his moves had practical use had always been one of his goals, and was perhaps his most important reason for coming up with Jeet Kune Do in the first place. Bruce Lee had concerns about traditional kung fu styles and wanted to develop a form of martial arts that could be used in real-life situations.
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