Boards don’t hit back!!! The reply Bruce gives to bob Wall in “Enter the Dragon” when he breaks the board in front of Bruce to show-off before that famous fight. Then begins with an interesting showdown where Bruce with his powerful side kick throw Bob off the feet on other standing viewers and they too fall down on the ground along with the chairs. That scene was one of the classic examples of the demonstration of the force combined with the anger of vengeance on the silver screen. I was particularly impressed with the way Bruce gave those amazing facial expressions while finishing Bob at the end. People do not expect much of acting abilities from martial artists. They watch martial art movies for pure action. Bruce Lee may be the first exception for this general observation. He could act and act brilliantly particularly in action sequences. I strongly believe that action also need good acting ability apart from physical skills.
What made Bruce Lee so special among all other martial artists? We have Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Steaven Seagal, Van Damme to mention a few and female counterparts like Michelle Yoah, Cynthia Rothrocks. I am sure each of these martial artists has lot more flicks in their account than Bruce. Bruce Lee left with four movies and one incomplete “Game of Death” with twenty minutes of action footage and he still claimed to be world’s greatest martial artist. I have not taken his childhood films or his much talked TV serial “Green Hornet “into account. Is that his seemingly supernatural martial art ability made him larger than life? The answer is not simple. One can not overlook his efforts to reach to that level. According to me if you look at his body language it will tell a lot about his charisma.
Consider any action sequence from his movie, even the above mentioned famous Ohara showdown and one can make a note that Bruce speaks with his whole body and not just with his kicks and punches. His eyes, his face, his lips, his stance and his walk, everything involve with the action. Apart from the skilful action piece, in the regular scene also could be seen dominated by martial artist Bruce rather than actor Bruce. I remember watching his interview where he say that famous line “Be like water” with such a conviction that shows this man and his art are not two separate things they are one single entity. This is where Bruce is different than his colleagues. One can argue that being one with martial arts may limit the acting ability but according to me Bruce Lee was all martial arts and just martial arts. I don’t think he could ever be able to act without the influence of his art on the screen.
Another most important thing is the element of reality in his action sequences. Prior to Bruce Lee, Chinese martial art flicks were full of fancy stuff which was though entertaining, the viewers could not relate themselves to whatever was shown. Bruce brought the raw realistic approach to the action in martial arts. It seems that he carefully kept this element of practicality in his mind while staging the action sequences. The classic example is of “Return of the Dragon” where the famous showdown with Chuck Norris demonstrates Bruce Lee’s skill and his inclination for practical approach. The sequence in the beginning starts with both the giants preparing themselves for the final battle facing opposite to each other. It also hits that it’s a battle for life and death.
Last but not the least, Bruce as a serious thinker of the philosophy of martial arts developed his own way, Jeet Kune Do which he incorporated in the action he staged for his movies. While filming final fight scene in “Game of Death”, he comes across Karim Abdul Jabbar, the tall basket ball player who throw away Bruce with a single kick and one doesn’t know how Bruce is going to win this uneven combination. Bruce, with his non classical approach, flexibility in movement, without any ornamentation made this scene extremely believable. I personally feel that was the magic of his Jeet Kune Do. Bruce Lee in his own words said” I have not invented “New Style”, composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from “this” method or “that” method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or moulds.” You get the essence of his philosophy in his action.