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“Spirit-wise, he would support it 1,000 per cent,” added Robert, 64. “It’s what he came up with originally and believed in.”
Robert and his sister Phoebe were in Singapore to speak at One Fighting Championship’s Asia MMA Summit, a two-day conference for the sport that featured luminaries such as famed Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach Renzo Gracie and ex-world champion Rich Franklin.
Addressing an enthusiastic crowd estimated at 400-strong, the Hong Kong-born Lee siblings shared their experiences growing up with Bruce, and discussed the martial artist and film star’s influence on MMA via his philosophy of Jeet Kune Do – which seeks to most effectively synthesise multiple forms of martial arts for various situations.
This “mixing up” of combat styles in search of being the “complete fighter” arguably underlines the concept of MMA.
Robert, a former musician, told Yahoo! Singapore that Bruce’s willingness to embrace diversity in combat ruffled a few feathers in the Los Angeles area where he taught martial arts back in the 60s.
“One day, a traditional Chinese-style sifu (master) came in and openly challenged Bruce,” said Robert. “He told him, you better stop teaching other people, the way you teach is not correct.”
The sifu – whom Robert declined to name but is widely known to have been a martial arts teacher named Wong Jack Man – informed Bruce that if he could beat him in a duel, he could do whatever he wanted to.
“They fought in the garage. Linda was in (the adjacent) kitchen hearing thuds... ‘bang, bang, boom’… after five minutes they stopped and Bruce came in with his arm around the man. The guy was all bruised up and swollen,” he said.
So Bruce continued teaching, and 40 years after his untimely death at 32 years old – from an excess buildup of brain fluid – the cultural icon’s lessons continue to resonate, and not just in martial arts.
“One time, a taxi driver told me that without Bruce Lee, he wouldn’t be where he was today,” said Robert. “He was a gang member when young but after watching Bruce’s movies, he changed to be a better person.”
Robert then spoke of a Bruce Lee statue that was erected in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a symbol of peace, despite the man’s combative, fighting reputation. It is the “righteousness” in Bruce, added Robert, that remains timeless.
“I have small kids coming up to me and asking me how Bruce was like… can you imagine?” mused Robert. “People just love him for what he did. And what he did was a lot.”
Did Bruce Lee do anything for his brother?
“He changed me a lot. He loved me a lot. He showed me how to find myself….,” said Robert, softly.
The two also shared a healthy dose of sibling rivalry.
“He was always the star of the party, catching everyone’s attention,” laughed Robert. “I’m always left out, but I don’t mind! That’s how he is. He’s got the charisma.”
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