Born this week in 1940, Bruce Lee was the first martial arts expert to become a global superstar. He is an icon of popular culture, a household name, 45 years after his untimely death. Despite only starring in a handful of Hollywood productions Bruce Lee has become synonymous with a genre of film that barely existed before him. Since his death in 1973 martial arts movies have gone on to become a Hollywood staple, yet the film that regularly tops the list of best ever is the colossal “Enter the Dragon”, released posthumously after he suffered a cerebral edema during post-production, a likely result of the pain medication he had been taking to get himself through filming.
Even those who haven’t seen “Enter the Dragon” will remember that iconic picture of Lee, cuts adorning his chest, stomach and face as he stands poised for attack, a wiry ball of muscle, perfectly honed to despatch whichever bad guy makes the mistake of getting too close. Every icon who dies too young has their own version, all of them hanging in a student flat or halls of residents somewhere in the world. Monroe pushing her skirt down; Cobain in white sunglasses and deerstalker; Lennon, a simple close up and those round glasses; Morrison topless, leather trousers, pointing straight at the camera; Dean, white t-shirt, jacket with the collar turned up, the boyish good looks, who like Lee, died during the making of his most celebrated work. All have been captured in a single moment and remain that way with us forever.
Yet, for some, the death of a rising star is a chance to cash in. The Bruce Lee name was worth more after he died than it was whilst he was alive, as a plethora of awful spin-offs sprung up to chase that gold, none more crassly than “Re-Enter the Dragon”, a film where “a martial arts movie star must fake his death to find the people who are trying to kill him” (that’s one way to stoke the fires of conspiracy) starring an actor called Bruce Le. An entire genre grew in Hong Kong and China following Lee’s death that became known as bruceploitation, where lookalikes were used to piggyback on the success that Lee had found. Anyone who even remotely resembled the great man would suddenly be known as “Bruce Le”, or “Bruce Li”, or “Bruce Lei”, “Brute Lee”, “Lee Bruce”, or my personal favourite “Bruce Lie”.
For Bruce Lee, working in Hollywood was a necessity, one that put food on the table and in the mouths of family. That is not to say that had no interest in making films, in fact, that is exactly what he wanted to do, but he wanted to do so on his terms, endorsing his philosophies and his belief in best way to fight.
Before he became an actor he was a trainer in America, with a host of schools where he promoted his philosophy and fighting style. He was partly responsible for bringing Kung Fu to America, at a time when Japanese and Korean martial arts were becoming popular. Lee believed that Chinese Kung Fu was the superior fighting style because it was more fluid than any of the others. He also had issues with any form of fighting that did not result in full contact sparring. Lee famously described the futility of fighting learning to fight without receiving or delivering any punches or kicks:
“A fighter who trains without sparring is like a swimmer who hasn’t immersed in the water.”
In other words, the only way to know if you are becoming a more effective fighter is to fight and put your learning to the test.
Over time, Lee began to develop his own martial art that he called “Jeet Kune Do”, or “Way of the Intercepting Fist”. Lee wanted to move away from fixed forms of fighting, with patterns and structures and introduced a style that was more philosophy than fighting. He believed that a martial art should be direct and simple, the best example of which comes from the name “Jeet Kune Do”, where he sees a block as an opportunity to attack and defend all at once. Instead of having two movements; one where you block and then one where you attack, Lee wanted the block to be an attack, thus blurring the line between defence and attack into one fluid motion.
Lee wanted his fighters to learn how to use their bodies as a weapon and to so they needed to be extremely fit, strong and flexible, along with knowing everything that their body was capable off to ensure that they always fought accurately and efficiently. Hence, there are no patterns to learn in “Jeet Kune Do”, instead to have to learn how to get the most out of every part of your body, to help you win the fight, even if that means biting to gain the upper hand.
The best description Lee had for “Jeet Kune Do” was his famous water imagery:
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in 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.”
For Lee, fighting was all about adapting in the most optimal way. Eventually he dismissed the concept of “Jeet Kune Do” as too structured and claimed that he could not teach anyone how to become water, that it was something that could not be taught, only learned.
This was the point where Bruce Lee began to pursue his career as a movie star. But finding that break was far from easy. He had been given small parts in movies for years and been an integral part of the production crew, helping leading actors choreograph their fight scenes, but now, Lee wanted to be the one on centre stage.
His first big break in the US came with rise of comic book TV shows, none more so than “Batman and Robin”. After a few small appearances in the show as Kato, The Green Hornet’s trusted sidekick, he landed the role permanently as the “Green Hornet” TV show was commissioned. He appeared in all 26 episodes before fliting between small parts in other TV shows.
In 1969 he stared alongside James Garner in the movie “Marlowe”, where he had a small role, but ultimately not one significant enough to elevate him to leading man in the US. To put it bluntly, in the late 60s and early 70s, Americans were not ready to have a Chinese man as the main actor in a film, so instead he flew to his native Hong Kong where he played the lead role in the movie “The Big Boss”. The plot became synonymous with the genre; one where despite his resistance Lee’s character is forced to drop his approach of non-violence and fight his way through a series of bad guys to avenge his friends against a deadly foe, in this case (and in most others) gangsters.
From here on in he would star in 4 movies, culminating in “Enter the Dragon”, all the while working on his own films that he struggled to have commissioned. When he died, parts of the script emerged for a film called “The Game of Death” that Lee had written and directed some sequences for. In 1979 it was cobbled together, with lookalikes playing Lee throughout the majority of it. Most do not credit this as part of Lee’s filmography as it was yet another attempt to scrape the barrel of his legacy for a quick buck.
Since then, the big names in martial arts movies have always had to look up to the man who kicked so quickly that the movement couldn’t be seen by the naked eye. Lee refused to slow down for the camera and instead insisted it was slowed down for him.
For good or bad he helped birth the careers of Steven Segal, Jean Claude Van Damme and Jackie Chan. Films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the Matrix owe their very existence to genre that Lee helped to develop. And despite everything that has come since, it is difficult to argue against “Enter the Dragon” being the best of the lot.
If there is one thing you can count on in the slots world it is that if you are playing a Yggdrasil game it is going to look seriously good. If there is another thing you can count on it is that there is going to be tonnes of cool features to keep you occupied as you spin away. Hanzo’s Dojo does not disappoint at all in either of those two categories. And what does it have to do with our Bruce? Well, come on people, it’s set in a freakin’ Dojo! Of course there’s way too much structure here for Lee but I have no doubt he’d get the whole place feeling a lot more fluid in no time at all. An excellent game, get it played people.
Play the game for free here
Ok, so perhaps not the best game you’ll ever play, but it would have been wrong to have ignored this one. There are some interesting things going on with the reels, you might say they look less rigid than your usual slots frame. A “Jeet Kune Do” of slots frames if ever you’ve seen one. Even if the game doesn’t hold huge amounts of entertainment you can play your own game where you try to work out if that really is Bruce Lee or if it is one of his many imposters; maybe Loose Bee or Breece Lu. Either way, if you’ve not played it, why not check it out, especially if you’re looking for something with a different set of reels.
Play the game for free here
Bai She Zhuan
Again, I’m putting a game in here that hasn’t scored very highly just because I think it is worth a little look if you haven’t seen it before. This game got its 4 out of 10 because the house edge was pretty unfavourable, so please don’t forget that if you do decide to have a look at this one. If you can put that to one side for a minute you’re left with a brilliant looking game with some seriously cool features. There’s stuff to collected, fights to be had and statues to crumble to the ground, but unfortunately all at a pretty rubbish cost.
Play the game for free here
A solid performance from this game that probably would have been higher if had just lived up the bonkers potential that a game called Karate Pig has. Something is holding this game back, like it’s conforming to a structure when it should be set free to express itself in best possible way. Perhaps if the game had been called Jeet Kune Do Pig it would have scored 10 out of 10 but as it is you have a solid game that offer some pretty good entertainment and is worth checking out.
Play the game for free here
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