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Can Bruce Lee’s martial arts be used in real combat? He amazed everyone with his skills at the Long Beach International Karate Championships.

Bruce Lee is synonymous with Chinese martial arts. He popularized Chinese martial arts and Eastern martial arts philosophy through his film and television works. He was also a martial artist who extensively studied various combat techniques and integrated them to create a new martial art called Jeet Kune Do.

Many people believe that Bruce Lee’s martial arts were only displayed in films and had limited practical combat ability. Today, let’s take a look at the renowned Long Beach International Karate Championships, where Bruce Lee gained fame, and analyze whether his martial arts were limited to flashy performances.


Amazed the Audience

Long Beach Demonstrations

On August 2, 1964, 24-year-old Bruce Lee attended the “International Karate Championships” held by Ed Parker in Long Beach, California as a guest performer. Dressed in black, Bruce Lee demonstrated techniques such as blindfolded Wing Chun Chi Sao (sticky hands), one-inch punch, one-handed two-finger push-ups, and the rapid punches of the “invisible” punch.

The “invisible” punch, also known as the “stop-hit,” involves covertly and swiftly closing the distance to the opponent while they are preparing to defend, bypassing their reaction, and accurately striking the designated target. This technique showcases Bruce Lee’s speed, as speed was his winning asset. It encompasses not only punching speed but also kicking, footwork, and reaction speed.


Caused a Sensation

Speed Overcomes All Martial Arts

On July 30, 1967, Bruce Lee was once again invited to the “International Karate Championships” and performed a demonstration of his Jeet Kune Do free-fighting against his assistant, Skip Ellsworth.

Skip Ellsworth was a karate champion, but Bruce Lee’s “invisible” punches eluded his defense eight times in a row. Due to Bruce Lee’s movements being too fast, the camera operators couldn’t even capture the details of his completed attacks. Typically, Hollywood films were shot at 24 frames per second, but when filming Bruce Lee, they had to switch to 35 frames per second to barely capture the details of his punches.

Speed prevails over all martial arts, and Bruce Lee possessed extraordinary speed. Like a small bullet that can kill, it’s the speed that matters. In physics, F=ma, and under the condition of constant mass, speed is the factor that achieves maximum destructive power. Bruce Lee’s “invisible” punch fully embodies his combat philosophy of “I can hit you, but you can’t hit me.”

Prominent martial artists and combat experts, such as Joe Lewis, known as the “Father of American Kickboxing,” and Jhoon Rhee, known as the “Father of American Taekwondo,” admitted that even if they were prepared, they couldn’t block Bruce Lee’s punches. This is one of the reasons why the three top American karate champions of that time visited Bruce Lee’s home to learn from him.

The influence of Bruce Lee’s “invisible” punch even reached the famous boxing champion Muhammad Ali. In 1976, at the age of 34, Muhammad Ali defeated Richard Dunn from the UK, securing his last knockout victory of his professional career, using Bruce Lee’s “invisible” punch.

In the fifth round of the fight, Ali landed a precise and rapid right punch, knocking down Dunn. Ali revealed that he employed Bruce Lee’s “invisible” punch. Some say that with Bruce Lee’s help, Ali delivered the final blow to Dunn. In reality, Ali never had direct contact with Bruce Lee but learned the technique through the guidance of Bruce Lee’s close friend and student, Jhoon Rhee.

Combat Ability

Swift as a Rabbit

In the full-contact demonstrations at the Long Beach Championships, Bruce Lee always managed to anticipate the opponent’s movements in advance and deliver effective strikes. Engaging in combat while wearing protective gear with two of his disciples, Bruce Lee utilized swift and powerful side kicks to intercept his opponents, countering their leg techniques with rapid punches. Faced with the opponent’s boxing attacks, he could immediately deliver devastating blows to the head, trip and throw them to the ground when in close proximity, and execute a front-leg hook kick to strike the head… With his agile footwork and techniques, moving as swiftly as a rabbit, he appeared flawless and in control. This is a true embodiment of Bruce Lee’s combat ability.

At that time, the mainstream martial art in Europe and America was Karate, which emphasized “one-inch stopping” and was mocked by Bruce Lee as “swimming on dry land.” Bruce Lee’s presence brought a breath of fresh air, showcasing techniques like blindfolded Wing Chun Chi Sao, one-inch punch, and one-handed two-finger push-ups, which truly demonstrated his strength.

A few months after the Long Beach Championships, Bruce Lee had a match with traditional martial arts master Wong Jack Man. Initiating a series of rapid consecutive punches using his “invisible” punch, Bruce Lee overwhelmed Wong Jack Man, who had no choice but to turn around and run away.

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