I had been studying Jeet Kune Do since 1982 was also a classmate of the late Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son. We both studied under the same instructors. I would occasionally connect with him in acting workshops and movie conventions. I also visited him in his home, which was in the Rolling Hills estates, and got to know him on a personal level.
As Brandon was growing up, he ultimately was being groomed to succeed his father. This was evident in the films he was chosen to do. Showdown in Little Tokyo was a success which was followed by Rapid Fire. The next film was The Crow a fate of misfortune, or whatever word you would want to use, prevented that from happening back in 1993. A couple of years later, Shannon Lee came on the cinematic scene, but somehow the Jeet Kune Do movies, starring its followers, came to a halt. Now I will tell how the death of Brandon inspired me to continue with the Jeet Kune Do cinematic quest.
In 1993, I was already a practicing doctor in Los Angeles and one day a patient came in and said to me, “I am so sorry about Brandon”. I turned on the TV and was speechless and stunned for hours. I just could not believe it. The next year, I visited the gravesite of Bruce and Brandon at the Lakeview cemetery in Seattle, Washington. Looking at the two of them buried side by side, I broke down and cried as I kept asking the question, “Why”? On the plane, riding back home, I kept saying to myself, “I need to contribute something for the inspiration that they brought to the martial arts.”
It was a few weeks later when I decided to go to film school and subsequently, I was able to produce thirteen independent pictures as of this date. This has allowed me to expose Jeet Kune Do to a larger audience of practitioners as well as spectators. I have dedicated them to Bruce and Brandon as well as to the continuation of Jeet Kune Do around the world.
How did I produce thirteen pictures? It was simply through the understanding of the film industry. I bypassed a lot of hurdles by using the principles of Jeet Kune Do, which was being, “simple, direct and effective”. While others using the conventional way, waiting forever until their budgets or productions were cleared, I was able to find ways to make it happen sooner.
In any given tradition, there are extraordinary creators who have started something and had to give it up, Bruce and Brandon were no exception. But the sad part was, how much more they would have achieved and contributed to the martial arts and mankind had they lived. As a follower, it would be my duty to honor them.
Jeet Kune Do movies actually paved the way for other martial arts to move ahead. What about Jeet Kune Do itself? Surely that should not be ignored. After all these years of standing still, it is time to perpetuate and further the art, but the movies should be produced by the Jeet Kune Do followers. This is contrary to the once upon a time lookalike Bruce Li box office spoofs. Our mission is simple: It is time to continue to propel “Jeet” meaning Jeet Kune Do, forward and to continue on with its cinematic quest.
As Bruce Lee, my Sigung used to say:
“Knowing is not enough, one must apply. Willing is not enough, one must do.”
We are honoring him by doing.
PS - If you are in Los Angeles in August 16-19, I am hosting a screening of my new film “Gung Fu, JKD & MMA” as well as some other JKD and filmmaking seminars during this time. I hope you can join me. You can reserve tickets here.