Bruce Lee Exhibition in San Francisco

The trip to San Francisco was a longing I had harboured for many years and wanted to share with my wife Angela. It had been decades since I had lived in the city during the Summer of Love. Angela and I were absorbed in my itinerary, with the very first day jammed packed with meaningful destinations. We walked some of it, and took a bus to Haight Ashbury district. Ambled through Golden Gate park and found ourselves at Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. A cable car returned us to our hotel and finally after dinner a streetcar to the Orpheum Theater to see the broadway show Moulin Rouge. Even with a Metro Pass we managed to walk twelve kilometers that day.   

The next day we toned down the pace and went to a couple of museums. The Chinese Historical Society of America and the Museum of Modern Art. The Chinese Historical Society of America reopened its museum after a two-year pandemic shutdown, with an exhibit called “We are Bruce Lee; Under the Sky, One Family.” The institution was located in Chinatown a few blocks away from our hotel. 

Both Angela and I were impressed at the memorabilia and the information throughout the display. Even though I practiced Tae Kwon Do, I admitted to my appreciation of Kung Fu as well. 

In my story outfoxed, Ru Fa Zhong is a deadly triad leader who is well-versed in Kung Fu. A character I developed from watching many martial arts films made in Hong Kong. Bruce Lee of course being my favourite protagonist in films like “Enter the Dragon” and “The Game of Death.” 

In the display, we were astonished to find out that Bruce Lee was an interesting man and far more than a Kung Fu star. His philosophy and teachings were just as important as his training.

During his time in the US, Bruce introduced Kung Fu to interested members of the public through his club or kwoon and his TV show the Green Hornet. He gave many minorities an opportunity to learn how to defend themselves.

As a young man in China, he was trained in Wing Chun by the grandmaster Yip man. Later in America, Bruce enrolled at the University of Washington and studied philosophy and dramatic arts. He combined philosophy from Carl Jung and Descartes with Asian sages Chuna Tzu  (who founded Taoism) and Jidda Krishmurti. He fused these philosophies and enlightenment truisms into martial arts techniques to blend body, mind and spirit. He called it Jeet Kune Do an independent form of martial art that prepared anyone for real-life combat.

A motivational letter he wrote caught our attention. We thought it takes a special person to write affirmations and goals and then achieve them. When Bruce Lee had a broken back and was financially destitute when he had written a letter, “My Definite Chief Aim.” He listed plans and laid out goals he intended to achieve. 

Before he did. Bruce landed the part of Kato in the Green Hornet TV series, where he encountered racism, unfair business practices, and poor wages; even though he was on screen more than his co-stars.

Eventually, he moved to Hong Kong to star, direct and produce his own movies. In doing so he became an international superstar. His thirst for wisdom was robust and what he learned, he applied, improving the quality of his life. 

Bruce was a deep thinker, a philosopher, and a visionary sharing his passion and martial arts with everyone. While doing so he included many diverse ethnic groups and brought the east and the west together on many fronts. During an appearance on the Pierre Burton show in 1971 he explained that “Under the sky, under the heavens, man, there is but one family.”

Angela and I learned while visiting this exhibit, that Bruce Lee was far more than a martial artist. His philosophy and teachings were recorded by his daughter Shannon Lee and published under the title “Be Water My Friends.” Beyond that, we found out that Bruce Lee had been working on developing a TV series about a kung fu character in the Wild West. Shannon Lee after taking over her father‘s estate became an executive producer on the show called Warrior; her father’s dream.

We are at home now and we have enjoyed three episodes of season one. We have discovered there will also be a third season of Warriors which will air on HBO. 

As a martial artist myself I can appreciate the talented actors who can make a fight scene come to life. I would not hesitate to guess that Bruce Lee would be pleased that his daughter Shannon Lee has brought us this wonderful series on the Chinese of the 1870s in San Francisco. 

Let me leave you with one of Bruce Lee‘s quotes “Simplicity is the key to brilliance.” 

In my next blog, I will continue with tales of My Summer of Love in San Francisco.

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Bruce Lee Exhibition in San Francisco