I always wondered why Bruce Lee was so good-looking for a Chinese man. But more than that, I wondered what made him so attractive, not just to me but to millions of people worldwide over the decades.
On a recent flight to Melbourne, I managed to watch I Am Bruce Lee (2012), a 90-minute documentary about his life, work and death. Ever since my trip to Hong Kong in July last year, I have had a sort of fascination with the martial artist as I began to learn more about the man and watched some of his original films.
In the documentary I saw that he had an extremely diverse group of fans who equated martial arts with athletics and even breakdancing, from boxer Manny Pacquiao to actor Mickey Rourke, basketball player Kobe Bryant to So You Think You Can Dance dancer Jose Ruiz III.
In the documentary he explains that martial arts to him is simply self-expression, of which he developed his own hybrid style called Jeet Kune Do. What really stood out for me was how inclusive he was when it came to teaching his art. His early studios in Seattle and San Francisco attracted students of all races and backgrounds, and he was willing to teach them as long as they were willing to learn.
But what really attracted me to Bruce Lee was how true he was to himself. He never compromised on his vision in filmmaking (as explained in the production of Game of Death) and understood what worked for him and what didn’t. To me, his universal appeal lies in his profound uniqueness – there can only be one Bruce Lee, and that was all he had to be.