Film of Bruce Lee demonstrating his martial art at the 1967 Long Beach International Karate Championships has leaked, but it’s proving to be tricky to pin down.

Legend of Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee Statue

The year was 1967, a young martial artist and actor named Bruce Lee was about to take centre stage at the most prestigious martial arts tournament on the West Coast, the Long Beach International Karate Championships. There was everything to play for.

Bruce Lee had made his debut on the martial arts scene at the same event back in 1964. He hadn’t been shy in criticizing traditional martial artists since then for being “crammed and distorted by the classical mess”. This was his chance to back up those words with action and demonstrate his martial art through the only medium he believed could properly reflect it: live sparring.

Back in 1967, Bruce was still pretty much unknown in the USA outside of martial arts circles. Also, he was trying hard to make a name for himself as an actor. He’d made a business out of teaching martial arts skills to movie stars. And he had found success playing Kato in The Green Hornet. But the break he needed into the mainstream movie industry was proving elusive.

Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Heather Paul,Flickr CC License.

Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do

Bruce had come to America in 1959 under a bit of a cloud, bringing traditional Chinese Kung Fu with him. Separated from Yip Man, his traditional Kung Fu master, he found himself a stranger in a strange land. He’d started to modify his art to deal with the physically bigger people he was teaching and in line with his expanding personal philosophy. Initially he’d called his modified WingChun system ‘Jun Fan Gung Fu’, after his given Chinese birth name, Li Jun Fan. But as he’d continued to evolve his style, he would eventually settled on the name ‘Jeet Kune Do’. It translates as ‘the way of the intercepting fist’.

To develop his personal style, he’d added in concepts from boxing, fencing and grappling to the heady mix of Chinese Kung Fu he already possessed. They were all governed by the principles of simplicity (‘use only that which works’), economy (‘longest weapon to nearest target’) and freedom (‘using no way as way’). Rejecting the traditional conservatism and secrecy of martial arts styles, Bruce Lee was an avid student of any martial art. He could get his hands on and taught anybody he thought was worthy, regardless of their race.

Bruce Lee
Bruce lee on the sidewalk
Sal Ami,Flickr CC License.
Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee
tonynetone, Flickr CC License.

Bruce Lee New Sparring Footage – Fight Breakdown

Bruce Lee
Screenshot of Bruce Lee New Sparring Footage
Photo Source: Youtube The Modern Martial Artist,

Brief clips of Bruce’s demonstration at the 1964 and 1967 events have surfaced before. But they’ve been low quality, black and white or lacking the sparring footage. In June 2017, the missing sparring footage finally made its way onto the Internet. First on Facebook, and then on YouTube, however it didn’t stay there long. No sooner was it posted (and viewed by thousands) than it was taken down for copyright infringement. Since then the clip has resurfaced continually, only to be taken down again.

We can’t guarantee a link to it here, because most of the clips don’t last long. However, it gets reposted so often it’s still likely to be on YouTube somewhere. If you’d like to see it then do a search for ‘Bruce Lee Long Beach 1967’ and try your luck.

Bruce Lee Sparring New Footage

Bruce Lee Films

Bruce Lee
Publicity photo of Bruce Lee with son Brandon
By Unknown photographer (RR Auctions) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the clip itself, he’s sparring two of his students – Ted Wong and Taky Kimura. Jeet Kune Do was still two years away from being officially founded, but you can see the foundations are clearly in development. All the characteristics of the art are on show in this early prototype – his use of the JKD fighting stance, with the back heel raised (as you find in fencing), the lead hand pointed directly at the opponent’s face, again like a fencer’s foil, the use of longest weapon to nearest target and the hand trapping and perfect timing as he intercepted strikes.

Bruce’s performance at the 1967 championships helped cement his reputation amongst his peers. It formed part of his legacy as a martial artist. It remains the only footage available of Bruce Lee engaged in live sparring with anyone. Also, it provides a valuable historical record of his skills.

To become the actor he wanted to be, Bruce Lee would need to return to Hong Kong to establish himself with films like The Big Boss and Fists of Fury before his popularity rose to the point where Hollywood wanted to invest money into one of his films. Sadly, Bruce’s Hollywood career was over almost as soon as it started, with his untimely death at age 32. It was just after the release of his last and biggest film, Enter the Dragon.

Bruce Lee
The grave of Bruce & Brandon Lee, Lake View Cemetery
/kallu,Flickr CC License.
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