Bruce Lee is the Father of MMA
If you don’t own a copy of Tao of Jeet Kune Do, you aren’t serious about mixed martial arts. A bold statement, but absolutely true. Bruce Lee’s masterpiece essentially laid out the framework of taking the best elements of the most effective martial systems and melding them together into a form of MMA that he dubbed the “Way of the Intercepting Fist”.
Lee’s vision was one of pitting martial arts against each other to find out which was superior and what they could learn from each other. Sound familiar? UFC 1 back in 1993 pitted kickboxing, Savate, Shootfighting, Karate, Sumo, Taekwondo, Kenpo, boxing and BJJ against each other with the tagline “There are No Rules!”
Bruce Lee learned Wing Chun from his teacher Ip Man in the Hong Kong of the 1950s. Lee seemed able to find trouble very easily, ending up in street fights and gang feuds. As a way to keep him from getting into much bigger trouble, he was sent to San Francisco to live with his sister. Lee studied at the University of Washington where he taught Wing Chun, before opening his own academy, Jun Fan Gung Fu.
In 1967, after the Green Hornet TV show was axed, Lee began reflecting on an unsatisfactory grudge match he had fought against Wong Jack Man in 1964. He felt that traditional martial arts lacked the “practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency” needed for street fighting. He began to work on the “the style of no style”, adding weight training, running, boxing and other training systems to his regimen. Jeet Kune Do was born. Bruce Lee actually came to regret the name, because it was still too limiting for him. He wanted to exist outside of parameters and limitations.
While his film career, which started with The Big Boss in 1971 and ended with his tragic death in 1973, is ultimately what brought him to the global stage, his MMA Legacy is his greatest gift to the world. It is the part of Lee that will not only live on, but will evolve in the way he foresaw with his famous quote:
“Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”