Bruce Lee is one of the most well known Chinese names; recognised all over the world, especially in the west, Lee spread knowledge of Kung Fu and Chinese culture. The world today recognises his four and a half movies as being revolutionary for martial arts, for Chinese culture and for spiritual support.
One of these four films is especially significant to me, Fist of Fury, also known as Jing Wu Men.
The story is quite simple: Chen Zhen (Bruce Lee) suspects his master Huo Yuan Jia was murdered, so he begins his search for the culprit. As it turns out, it was a Japanese man who poisoned Huo, and upon learning this, Chen Zhen searches for vengeance.
The IMDB page for this movie describes it as “A young man seeks vengeance for the death of his teacher”. I disagree with this statement. Firstly, it should be his “Master” rather than his teacher, because a teacher is someone who educates people in special knowledge and skills, but what “Shi Fu” (master) in Chinese means is more than that. It also presents a father-son-like relationship. There is also a proverb: “He who teaches me for one day is my father for life.” This could help the audience more easily understand the emotions of the main character. The next point is the motive of Huo’s death; the culprit of the murder is Japanese, which suggests that this is more of a patriotic act and the awakening of nationalism. The 1970s saw the rise of nationalism, therefore this is a reflection of a main featre of the era. He may not have had that huge influence on a national level, but, to some extent, Lee made a lot of non-white people realise that they can achieve much more in a Western-dominate world than they expected.
As for me, the line “My blood is boiling” is a good description of how I feel after every time I watch this film.
A good description of this movie would be a game of patriotism, instigated by vengeance. The significant conflicts of the movie are largely based on historical fact. There are two signposts that are indicative of this in the movie: a flyer with the phrase “Sick man of Asia”, the other, Chinese People Not Allowed, in a park. I tend to believe the two scenes shot in order to increase dramatic tension. When a piece of paper paper with insulting words is forcibly made to be swallowed two Japanese Judo practicer, the other signpost kicked and smashed by Chen Zhen, the audience, especially the Chinese audience, are highly motivated and excited to feel the enthusiasm in changing the Western perspective of the Chinese culture. It inspires them to adapt their environment and aim to improve the way the world perceives their nation. I am no exception to this, which builds a certain amount of confidence in oneself.
In addition, Fist of Fury gave the expatriated Chinese the courage to fight for themselves, to fight against discrimination. In the documentary How Bruce Lee change the world, a Chinese comedian, Margaret Cho, residing in the US, admitted that Bruce made her realise she “could do whatever she wanted”
Admittedly, most of the audience enjoyed it because of the Kung Fu of Bruce Lee, the recognised art of Jeet Kune Do. In the movie, Chen Zhen was a star student. Yet, Huo was better at the art of Mi Zong Quan. Huo created the Jingwu Sports Association, also know as Jingwu Men; he shared the same opinion as Bruce Lee, that martial arts should not be confined by Menpai(mode) , each practiser should absorb what is useful and then abandon what is unnecessary, in order to become more flexible. Bruce once mentioned in an interview that he didn’t believe in styles. That there is not a regular way of fighting, that styles separate men and you express yourself using any part of your body, without any rules.
Consequently, let`s examine the fight scenes. The first dramatic conflict in the film was instigated by the use of the phrase “sick man of East Asia”, the Japanese insult to the Chinese. Bruce was famous for his speed; he was so fast in his movies that one couldn’t tell how he took down his opponents.I therefore tried to start and stop every second of the fight, searching frame by frame, over and over again for what must have been almost 20 times .The first combatant Bruce took down was dispatched with a right hand to the face on Bruce`s right side, and then an elbow hit to the head. All of this is done within 6 seconds
The following group fight scene is quite interesting. Because Bruce was the director of fight choreography , the whole circular grouping of men surrounding Bruce in the movie represented one of Bruce`s favourite theories ‘YIN&YANG’, which refers to the exercise of adversely embracing inflexibility and yielding to the flexible when perfomring martial arts.
This Flexibility is a pillar of the art of Tai chi. In this scene from the movie, you can see the design of the group is extremely similiar to the Taichi and Yin Yang symbol.
The fact is that Bruce started his Kung Fu career by learning Taichi from his father when he was 7. This influence impacted Bruce for the rest of his career.
Move to 19th minute, he begins to use his favourite weapon – the Nunchuck. From what I have learned, there are four basic methods to utilize nunchuku
- Luo Xuan way – “S” shape waving (you use the power from your body; your body moves with each move you make to hit)
- Wu Hua way – wrist mode (use the power from your wrist to wave)
- Huan Shou way – switching hands (you switch your nunchuck anytime to any position of your body)
- Pi way – chopping with the purpose of hitting!
Bruce in this movie cut off a lot of waving techniques, almost entirely using the chop, mostly holding his nunchuck in his right hand. I think this also is presented in his philosophy of practising martial arts; simple and direct. He wasn`t doing any extravagant movements like the traditional practicer.Even in the movie,he didn’t do that for visual effect.Instead, he took out the unnecessary moves and got directly to the point to defeat opponents.
Death of hero
In many westernised individualistic heroism movies, heroes may not have to die to save the day. Many people also agree with that. But not in Jing Wu Men. I have read one of the many biographies of Bruce Lee. It described a press conference at the premiere of this movie in Hong Kong, a journalist asked him why his characters almost always end in death. Bruce answered like this: He might be a hero doing the right thing, but he killed many people, and it`s kind of what goes around comes around. It is the cost of his actions.
Obviously, the philosophy behind this sacrifice is a spirit long existed in the Chinese WU XIA films. Although Bruce only himself made four and a half films, they were all typical Chinese Wu Xia films(martial hero films), except they were different from the previous ones. They were more modernised, held a focus on a Chinese vigilante-like character assistng normal overseas people by means of Kung Fu.
“empty your minds, be formless, shapeless, like water. you put it into a cup, it becomes the cup. you put it into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. you put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friends.”
——————————————————-Bruce Lee on the Pierre Berton show in 1971
Much of his philosophical opinions may not be directly mentioned by him in a way, but it was something our ancestors once said. But it is become practical and prevalent in his Jeet Kune Do and his movies. This is what Bruce studied for a lifetime thus brought realism into his practice. It means always being creative off the back of tradition and continuing to perfect it until it becomes powerful enough to revise the established public opinions.
His daughter, Shannon, gave a TED talk about her father in 2015. She discussed the reasoning behind her father being her hero is from finding out who he from his heart and soul and thus trying to express this thought to others. In Bruce`s own words: “start from the very root and ask how can I be me?”
This is what makes Bruce a true hero to me and to the world.