Bruce Lee and his Seattle roots — A retrospective comes to the Wing

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

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Bruce Lee and his legacy in Seattle will be featured at the Wing.

A recent launch of a video game featuring mixed martial arts fighters entitled “EA Sports: UFC” included a well-known martial artist that never fought for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.  Bruce Lee.  In fact, Lee adorns shirts sold by the organization.  The name Bruce Lee is synonymous with martial arts.  Lee is still the founding father of modern martial arts and had his start in Seattle.  An upcoming exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum will look at the life of Lee in the city where he started.

Lee moved to Seattle from San Francisco in 1959 to finish high school.  Through a family friend, he worked as a waiter for Ruby Chow’s Restaurant.  As many know, Chow was the first Asian American elected to the King County Council.  Lee lived upstairs, above the restaurant.

Lee received his high school diploma from Edison Technical School, which is now known as Seattle Central Community College.   He went on to the University of Washington (UW) in March 1961, where he studied drama and philosophy.  According to the Bruce Lee Foundation website, Lee’s passion for the art of kung fu inspired him to study the philosophical principles of the arts in school.

While at the University of Washington, Lee supported himself by teaching martial arts.

He first began teaching friends anywhere they could find space and then progressed to opening up a modest basement room studio in Chinatown.  Lee named his school the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute.  Lee taught his interpretation of Wing Chun, a form of Chinese martial art primarily used for close-range combat.  By 1963, Lee opened a larger school in the U-District after receiving interest from conducting numerous demonstrations at the UW.

One of his students at the new studio was Linda Emery, who was a freshman at the UW.

Emery had known of Lee from his guest lectures at Garfield High School on Chinese philosophy.  The two took an interest in one another. They were married in 1964.  Lee’s school continued to grow, which led to the opening of another school in Oakland, Calif., where the two moved and Lee left the Seattle school in the hands of friend Taky Kimura.

Lee passed away in 1973 at the age of 32. He is buried at the Lake View Cemetery in Seattle.  He is buried next to his son Brandon, who passed away in 1993.  Many fans visit Lee’s site as a source of inspiration.  When the UFC held an event in Seattle in 2011, mixed martial artist Dan Hardy went out of his way to visit the gravesite and was brought to tears.  “To only live such a short time, and to contribute so much, and to be inspiring people that were born many years after him, it’s just amazing,” Hardy told The Seattle Times.

Still inspiring many, one day a museum will be built in Seattle honoring his legacy. The Bruce Lee Foundation, which is run by Lee’s daughter, Shannon, continues its efforts to establish a Bruce Lee Action Museum in Seattle.  It started a $10 million capital campaign in October 2011 to secure a location for the museum, hire a project manager, and design and plan the structure.  According to the organization’s website, the museum’s vision is “one of community, education, inspiration, and innovation.”  The museum will hold Lee’s memorabilia and be an interactive place of learning.  No date or location has been set for the museum as of this date.

The special exhibit at The Wing Luke Museum will take an intimate look at Bruce Lee’s connection to Seattle.  The exhibit opens October 4th. (end)

For more information on the Bruce Lee Action Museum, visit www.bruceleeactionmuseum.org.

For more information on the Bruce Lee exhibit, visit www.wingluke.com.

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

3 Responses to “Bruce Lee and his Seattle roots — A retrospective comes to the Wing”

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  1. […] Bruce Lee and his Seattle roots — A retrospective comes to the WingNorthwest Asian Weekly, on Sun, 10 Aug 2014 22:26:26 -0700A recent launch of a video game featuring mixed martial arts fighters entitled “EA Sports: UFC” included a well-known martial artist that never fought for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Bruce Lee. In fact, Lee adorns shirts sold by the organization. […]

  2. […] month I wrote an article for the NW Asian Weekly on the upcoming exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum detailing the life of Bruce Lee in […]

  3. […] Bruce Lee and his Seattle roots — A retrospective comes to the WingNorthwest Asian Weekly, on Sun, 10 Aug 2014 22:26:15 -0700A recent launch of a video game featuring mixed martial arts fighters entitled “EA Sports: UFC” included a well-known martial artist that never fought for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Bruce Lee. In fact, Lee adorns shirts sold by the organization. […]


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