Bruce Lee

 By Shamus Jul 3, 2010 61 comments

splash_bruce_lee.jpg

Here is Bruce Lee playing ping-pong…


Link (YouTube)

…with nunchaku.

Let’s see…

  1. He had above-average strength.
  2. Ridiculously high Dexterity.
  3. Firm constitution and incredible fitness, aside from that unfortunate bit at the end.
  4. Above-average intelligence, seeing as how he was able to run a business and innovate the world of performance martial arts before 32 years of age.
  5. Strong wisdom that gave him the discipline to engage in the constant study, training, networking, and performance required to maintain his career.
  6. Stellar charisma by way of acting chops, good looks, and mass appeal.

We could argue over his stats, but if I were to put Mr. Lee on a 3.5 edition character sheet I’d give him:

STR: 14
DEX: 18
CON: 13
INT: 12
WIS: 16
CHA: 17

There is no way around it: Bruce Lee was a munchkin of epic proportions. In a game, he’d be the GM’s PC.

Alas that we didn’t get more time with him. Hong Kong style filmmaking might have come to mainstream western cinema a couple of decades sooner. We could have gotten it in the late’ 70′s with Bruce instead of waiting for the late 90′s with Jackie Chan. Even better, we would have gotten some movies with proper camera work that let us see his performance. While Enter the Dragon wasn’t too bad, a lot of his other films suffered from too much close-in camera positioning that framed out many of his movements. I can’t watch them without wanting to shout “TAKE FOUR STEPS BACKWARDS!!!” to the cameraman. Imagine how incredible it would be to have a Fists of Fury shot in the style of Rumble in the Bronx.

Bruce would be be 70 this year.

EDIT: Awwww shucks. It is a fake after all. I still can’t believe someone mimed Bruce Lee’s style and body language so well. The end where he tucks the weapon under one arm with his chin up is classic Lee.

So now it’s an amazing display of imitation and audacity instead of a display of martial prowess. Still pretty cool.

202020161 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.


  1. Wonderduck says:

    That… can’t be real, can it?

    • swimon says:

      agreed, no one is that awesome

      • PurePareidolia says:

        My first thought would be to agree – he’s wearing his Game of Death costume, which doesn’t make a lot of sense – why would he wear it to a ping pong game, even as a demonstration?

        My second thought was “wait, he died during the filming of Game of Death”. He was actually working on Enter the Dragon at the time, so why would he be wearing his Game of Death Jumpsuit AT ALL?

        Aside from the obvious difficulty of him playing ping pong with nunchucks, I don’t know if he ever played ping pong, let alone practiced with nunchucks for the sheer amount of time it would take to do that.

        So I’m calling fake – either a stuntman, a guy painted in, a CGI ball or a combination of the three. maybe with some other tricks I haven’t thought of.

        • swimon says:

          Ok it’s apparently a fake but I want to point that I did not call it, so to speak. I realise that it wasn’t all that clear from how I wrote it but I was amazed rather than doubtful. I bought it completely that Bruce Lee did that, sure it would’ve been nigh impossible but have you seen the man? He punches hard enough to get a rather heavy guy (seems like it anyway) to fall on to a chair and then fall off it in 1 inch!
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHKb0kuTiGw

          So when I saw this movie I did believe it (call me gullible) but I played amazed to unbelief for comic effect, something that is very hard to convey without sound (like sarcasm).

          I just felt that I needed to say this since so many were sincere in their disbelief and since it apparently was fake.

          It could’ve been real though!

          • PurePareidolia says:

            Oh I’m by no means doubting that Bruce Lee was awesome and incredibly skilled, or that this was a very convincingly made video.
            I’m sure he could easily pull off any number of amazing martial arts feats, this included (well, maybe with a few practice takes) and there are some extremely complex shots in this that would have been really hard to edit so I did completely buy it until I saw the ad at the end.

  2. PurePareidolia says:

    A very well made video. Even if it’s fake I am a huge Bruce Lee fan, and this is frankly awesome.

    I swear that man had what we in the biz call “IRL hax”.

  3. Josh R says:

    Yeah I’m throwing my voice in calling that a fake.

    Either that or the second coming.

    Also – I’ve tried spinning about like that playing tennis and you can’t do it well because you need to be aware of where the ball is going to be returned to. Doubly so in table tennis, and a billion more times so if you are going to try and hit it with nunchuks.

    Awesome video though.

    Also – Also – After looking on youtube, many commenters on a similar video are saying that it’s not Bruce Lee, but he totally could have done it. Having not seen his films I’m not sure on that but I’ll take the general consensus off that and just tell people here.

    • Will says:

      I wouldn’t call it either way; having seen Bruce Lee’s list of confirmed exploits, this really doesn’t strange my credulity at all. The man was a Paragon in every sense of the word and is responsible for some truly incredible achievements.

      Is this amazing? Yes. Bruce Lee was an amazing person, him doing amazing things doesn’t surprise me.

      It’s still possible this is fake, but i definitely don’t have the experience or knowledge required to call it. And i doubt your average youtuber does either.

    • Shamus says:

      I’m pretty confident it’s really Bruce Lee, so if it’s a fake, it was done so by editing him into footage of a ping-pong game. Certainly you can insert an actor’s face into a scene on top of a double, but that’s Lee’s body language all the way. (Near the end, when he catches the thing under his arm and stands chin-up, smiling.) Incredibly hard to fake. If an actor studied to the point where they could mimic his style, stance, and body language with such perfection, I don’t think this is how anyone would choose to use that kind of skill.

      Lee is real. The ball, table, and ping pong players are still suspect, though. :)

    • David V.S. says:

      Also – I’ve tried spinning about like that playing tennis and you can’t do it well because you need to be aware of where the ball is going to be returned to. Doubly so in table tennis, and a billion more times so if you are going to try and hit it with nunchuks.

      I’ll assume that Bruce Lee’s “opponent” is actually trying to put the ball in the same spot each time to make the publicity stunt go smoothly, with as few camera takes as possible.

  4. Droid says:

    And here’s the scary part: those are probably his stats at level 1. How many divisible-by-4 levels do you think he managed to get before his tragic death?

    • Kell says:

      No, those are his stats in his prime; by the time he was famous he was well over level 1. Level 1 is where he was as a teenager, or whenever it was he began training in martial arts.

  5. Tizzy says:

    I think you could safely bump up STR a couple of points: he spent a *lot* of time working out in a very thorough fashion (i.e. even muscles that most gym rats don’t even know they have — and no, this is not a dirty joke).

    You could also safely bump WIS down, possibly even to below average. A strong taste for street fighting in his youth, getting into feuds with people who had strong ties to organized crime, that (in)famous fight with Wong Jack Man. Sure, he mostly won (or at least ran away reasonably successfully in the case of the Hong Kong mafia), but still, all this speaks of someone who had trouble getting extra XP by reflecting on his experiences…

  6. pnf says:

    I’m probably going to sound like a bitter old fart here, but I’ll say it anyway: I can’t see how the new The Green Hornet movie is going to be anything other than a waste of time, because Bruce Lee made that show.

    • Shamus says:

      What fascinates me is that they’re embracing that idea. The original was supposed to be about the GH and his sidekick Kato. But Kato was the real show and his upstaged the GH despite hardly ever getting any screen time. The new one casts the GH as a bumbler. They’re making a movie based on how people perceived the original instead of on how the original was intended or written.

      I don’t know if it will WORK, mind you. I’m just surprised they’re taking this approach.

      • Tizzy says:

        These days, whenever Hollywood revisits old TV shows, it seems like most of the time they decide that it should be done with at least a twist, if not downright irreverence. (Makes sense to me BTW, if “The Film of the Series” is going to be the same as the series itself, why bother?)

        So I’m not overly surprised by this approach.

        • Kell says:

          Holloywood doesn’t select franchises to remake/reboot/reimagine/revisit because of any inherent value in the stories they could tell. They select them based on their current cultural currency. The A-Team movie wasn’t made because a studio reckoned the old TV show had great untapped entertainment potential. They reckoned that a sufficient number of contemporary moviegoers retained a fond nostalgic belief that it did.
          Hollywood greenlighting is every bit as cynical and calculated as that, by the sheer ( and admitedly understandable ) neccessity of the amount of money involved.

          • Bret says:

            If I remember, they were going to do the movie with Stephan Chow at first. Which would have been worth doing.

            Everyone who has seen Kung Fu Hustle, you agree, right?

            (If you haven’t seen Kung Fu Hustle you are a horrible human being and your opinion does not matter)

  7. David V.S. says:

    It is sad how few great Bruce Lee moments are on YouTube.

    The scene from Way of the Dragon where he whallops Chuck Norris keeps being removed and then re-added.

  8. Lefty says:

    I want to believe that this video is real. In fact, I do. It was mentioned why Bruce was wearing his Game of Death tracksuit at all- from what I’ve read, he filmed countless upon countless hours of unused footage that he trashed because he didn’t like it, so I can see plausibility in him having it in the video.

    And even if it is fake… if there is anyone who I would even conceive of ever having the skill to do this, Bruce would be my only choice.

  9. Spider Dave says:

    I think we can safely call #3 a botched save.

  10. Graham says:

    It is, unfortunately, not actually Bruce Lee.

    http://www.agency.asia/issue-02/126-interviews/237-jwt-beijing.html
    (From the bottom:)

    Polly Chu: Yes, we discussed with the director how to make it look like a never-seen-before secret footage of Bruce Lee. The director took a great effort to study Bruce Lee and found the right talent.

    It is a stand-in, likely a Chinese lookalike contest winner according to some speculation I’ve seen.

    The company is refusing to say if it is real footage or faked, but the prevailing explanation is that there is no ball. The two sides played along to a soundtrack (in order to time their hits), and the ball was digitally inserted later.

    No confirmation of that, but at minimum, it is not Bruce Lee.

    (Not even Bruce Lee was good enough to play ping pong (a precision- and accuracy-based sport) with nunchaku (a weapon that is incredible hard to be super-precise with). Since the ball and nunchaku are both round, you quite literally have a razor’s-edge point where you would need to hit the ball in order to guide it with any accuracy.)

  11. I would even give him a higher Int. He was a philosophy student, and his writings on Jeet Kune Do and philosophy are very sophisticated. He also made his way through college on almost nothing.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Hes not only playing ping pong with nunchaku,he is showing off while he does it.I dont think he would be playing like that if he was playing against a professional though.Nor would he win.Still,it doesnt make him any less awesome.

    And I dont think its a fake.It just doesnt show how much time he spend perfecting this,which could be months.Everything is doable with sufficient training.

  13. Doug Sundseth says:

    “Alas that we didn’t get more time with him.”

    Well, he’s been dead for too long for a Raise Dead by now. Since the location of his body seems to be known, a Resurrection should suffice.

    I’m sure that, for the right price, De Beers and the Pope would be willing to handle the spell.

    ;-)

  14. Patrick The Malcontent says:

    Bruce Lee was as close to a true life super-hero, in the physical sense, as we will ever see.
    While I cannot find it on Youtube or anywhere else, there is a video of his ‘one inch punch’,(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_inch_punch) which looks ever bit the Hollywood fake but is 100% real.
    His wife once recounted a story for a workout magazine describing how he would do 2 SETS OF 500 two-finger pushups ( using only the forefinger and thumb) AS A WARMUP. And then place a railraoad tie (about 250 lbs) across his shoulders and jump around the back yard a hundred times or so. Amazing….
    I would lower his INT a bit, because he did let Hollywood steal his idea for the TV show ‘Kung-Fu’ and he didn’t sue the hell out of them for doing so. And he didn’t kill/maim/disembowel David Caradine for being cast as a friggin 1870′s chinesse/american shaolin friggin monk. And the show made even less sense than that last description of it. An American Shaolin Monk? SERIOUSLY?

    This stupidity later bred the Caradine clone of Steven Segal. Forcing us to 10 years of Segal’s mumbling idiocy, in which the only thing he really beats the hell out of is the english language.
    So really I blame Bruce’s merciful tolerance for 10 years of terrible cinema.

  15. Josh R says:

    Kinda unrelated to Bruce Lee, but one thing I have noticed despite not having ever played D&D or anything similar, is that whilst the latter 3 attributes are things that you are generally stuck with from birth, the top three are things you could actually improve fairly easily in a modern day setting.

    Surgeons have exercises to increase dexterity, and there are gyms for powering up strength and constitution.

    I guess my point is that if Barack Obama stopped all his timewasting with running the USA and just started doing all day gym sessions, he could probably have a better character sheet then even Bruce Lee….
    (Clever, charasmatic and wise, I assume. I don’t really follow US politics so can’t be sure on this, I trust that you wouldn’t elect an idiot to run your country … oh ho ho irony.)

    • Shamus says:

      Gentle warning: Mentioning public figures (as Josh R as done) is fine, but please do not use this as a launching point of politics.

      Thank you – mgmt

    • Syal says:

      Logic puzzles help improve intelligence. I never really understood how wisdom was different, but I’m sure there are ways to improve it. And practicing small talk and body language (and proper hygiene) will increase charisma. Everything can be improved; it’s just less obvious for some things.

      • rayen says:

        wisdom i always thought of as cause and effect knowledge. like int. will tell you a stove can get hot how to turn it on and stuff like that. wis will tell you that the stove will burn you if it’s on and won’t burn you if it’s off. it’s more like life lessons than something you could learn from a book or explanation.

        • Telas says:

          Since I’m old-school, I’ll go with SIWDCoCh…

          Strength can easily be improved, although the upper limit starts to go downhill after 30. Strength-at-speed is harder to improve, but not impossible.

          Intelligence can be improved a bit, but not terribly much IMHO. In my experience, there’s an upper limit on this, whether by genetics or early environment. Knowledge OTOH can definitely be improved.

          Wisdom is simply experience in action. Some have more at an earlier age, but if you’re open to self-criticism, you’ll improve your wisdom with age. The “wisdom as willpower” aspect can be improved, but most people don’t have what it takes to keep pushing themselves.

          Dexterity can be improved, especially if you start early. (Former personal trainer and martial artist, married to a physical therapist.)

          Constitution can be improved, especially when it’s regarded as stamina. Most stamina-based athletes don’t really hit their stride until their 30s.

          Charisma can easily be improved with the right training, but there may be a limit to it. Some folks simply have too much or too fragile an ego to be a good leader.

          If you want to hear more about Bruce Lee, attend a Dan Inosanto seminar. In addition to watching a 70 year old man move faster than most 20 year olds, you’ll get some great stories of Bruce Lee. For instance, did you know that Bruce Lee had really long arms for his height? This is why his arms are crossed in most of his pictures…

      • Josh R says:

        I’ve always thought of intelligence as having booksmarts or applied knowledge, and wisdom as being savvy and sharp.
        Or Wisdom being the rate at which you can take in information, and intelligence being how much you already know.

        For example – you would go to a wise man to settle your disputes, whereas an intelligent man would be who you’d see if you needed to know of a cure for a disease.

        Though I think there is a line between actual definitions and RP definitions.

        • silver Harloe says:

          “Or Wisdom being the rate at which you can take in information, and intelligence being how much you already know.”

          It’s more like the other way around.

          You put a bright person in front of a puzzle, they figure it in a certain speed you might say is related to their intelligence.
          You put an experienced puzzle solver in front of a person, they probably already know the answer – that experience, except applied to all of life, is what we generally mean by wisdom. The intelligent general is better at tactics, the wise general is better at strategy.

          Moreover, wisdom almost automatically increases with age, unless you’re too stupid to learn from what’s going on in your life. So it’s more like intelligence is the uptake rate to the accumulated experience of wisdom.

          Also there’s a lot of things you can “learn” which aren’t also “experience” that makes you wiser. I can memorize all the formulas I want (intelligence – uptake rate), but without experience I will not be able to apply the right ones at the right times (wisdom – application of knowledge).

          There are actually different parts of the brain involved, too. Intelligence is often associated with good short term memory, language facility, and spatial awareness. Wisdom is more associated with long term memory, intuition, and planning.

          Sadly, all D&D teaches us is that intelligence means “good magic user, and anything smarts related” and wisdom means “good cleric, and no other value” (though, it could be worse. All D&D says about charisma is “dump stat, unless you’re rolling for a Paladin, then you need it for completely inexplicable reasons. Or you’re making a female character, in which case everyone will automatically assume charisma = sexual attractiveness without regard for what charisma is.”)

        • Shamus says:

          My own take on Wis vs. Int: An intelligent fool will blow money on the lottery or at the blackjack table even when they know the odds. A dim but wise person will avoid gambling because they intuitively know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, even if they can’t figure out the odds.

          • Sekundaari says:

            I’d think the first one wouldn’t gamble on unfavorable odds either, unless they’re addicted. But if the odds were actually favorable, they would gamble all their money, and not have the common sense to realize the game is with all probability rigged. The wise one knows they would somehow end up losing money, be the odds unfavorable or (seemingly) not.

          • silver Harloe says:

            Woot. the First time Mr Young responded to one of my comments. I feel less invisible now :)

        • Jep jep says:

          Wisdom = Common Sense & Emotional Intelligence

          Intelligence = Knowledge & the sort of “Mechanical Intelligence”

          That’s how I see it anyway without going too in-depth. You can be an Einstein but not necessarily have the social skills to match that level of knowledge and understanding or vice versa in real life… so yeah.

          • Nalano says:

            I always thought it was fairly simple:

            High Int Low Wis = Absent-minded Professor.

            Y’know, the kind of guy who would design the guidance systems to intercontinental ballistic missiles BEFORE considering the implications in international politics.

      • winter says:

        Wisdom is definitely “trainable”–that’s the whole theory behind, for instance, Buddhism.

        Charisma is similarly improvable, thought it’s a little more unclear what the exact training techniques are.

  16. Psithief says:

    I think you’ve got it all wrong, Shamus.

    Bruce has average stats, he just took the “Really Awesome” trait, in exchange for the “Die really young” flaw.

  17. JohnTomorrow says:

    I’m not going to be one to assume that Bruce Lee could do something like this, but if it had happened seriously, and if he’d been sufficiently challenged to do it, i think i might have at least given it a shot. Charismatic he was – but he was also rather cocky, almost conceited at times.

    The man was legendary, and i think that if he was still alive today, the world would be a very different place.

  18. The D&D statistics are probably way off. I think you are deeply underestimating Bruce Lee.

    Of course it all has to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

    I once did a comparison of Olympic records and 3.5 gaming difficulty. I concluded that attempting to represent athletic difficulty in D&D was pointless. For example, any human with the run feat can run 300 feet in twelve seconds, but there is no way in the rules for a normal human, unaided by magic, to run faster.

    A human long jumper, might well take 2 levels of Expert, granting them +13 maximum to jump from their character class.

    Level 1 total +10 jump (4 tumble, 4 jump, Feat RUN +4 Jump, Bonus FEAT Acrobatic +2 Jump)
    Level 2 +13 jump (1 tumble 5 levels of tumble grants +2 to jump, 1 jump)

    Of course, that doesn’t jive with reality. Such a person would just have to roll a 17 to beat the current world record without any STR bonus.

    Long jumpers don’t look like body builders. In D&D super body builder types with 18 STR would be able to take 10 and jump 27 feet at 2nd level, which puts in them in the top of the NCAA. Roll a twenty and they’d obliterate the world record.

    No world class long jumper is going to vary their longest jumps by +/- 10 feet.

    So, putting Bruce Lee- or any real person- into D&D terms is silly- and the newer the D&D version the sillier that is. That said, and demonstrated, I’m going to do it anyway.

    Bruce Lee’s feats of strength, from his regular training, would put his strength at 18(91-99) in the 2e system. (one hand curls with 80lb dumb bells, two finger push ups, jumping exercises with a 250lb railroad tie across his shoulders etc.) I’m guessing his strength should be 20-21 in 3.5e

    Dexterity is harder to gauge… but I think he was more dextrous than strong, so I’d give him a dexterity of 20 or 21 in 2e, and 26 or thereabouts in 3.5e

    In 2e and earlier, INT could be compared to real life IQ divided by 10. Based on that, and his philosophy writings, I’d guesstimate that his 2e INT would be between 13 and 15. I think I’d grant a 14 which is “Very Superior Intelligence” (162 or above is “genius”)

    CHA should be very high- he was a Hollywood movie star, and definitely stole the show from other professional actors on many occasions. 17 or 18 I’d have to guess in 2e terms … I’d probably guess around 20 for 3.5e.

    CON is a tough one. Based on his training routines again, he had a very high constitution in order to deal with the duress he put his body through and for his endurance. I’d guess that he had a 2E CON of 18, and a 3.5 E CON of 22. I picked that 2E CON because its the highest figure that has a chance for “System Shock” failure… and no Poison save bonus.

    I can’t guess about his WIS very well. If I treat it like an IQ score, then I’d guess he had a 14 by the end of his life… but as a younger person he may have had a 8 or 9 WIS.

    That isn’t “munchkin” either. Looking at the 2e STR chart, I have either 15 or 16 STR… and I’m fairly ordinary now. When I played minor league ice hockey my STR was a mixed bag, by “Max Press” I was 18(51-75) by “Weight Allowance” I was a 18(100). (I did lunges with 300 lbs, and squats with nearly 700 lbs.)

    I’d design Bruce Lee to be a “Hero” or “demi-god” and yeah, in 3.5e I’d grant him a divine rank of 0. That’s unrealistic of course… but its how it should be. Its actually a favorite NPC tactic of mine… I take a real person of historical note, and change them in one key way. For Alexander the Great, under 1st edition, I made him a Paladin instead of a “cavalier.” Since the real Alexander died of disease… it opens doors to “alternate reality fantasy.”

  19. Gandaug says:

    Despite knowing otherwise I’m going to just believe this video is real. My world is much more awesome that way.

  20. Zaghadka says:

    No offense to your site, but it just occurred to me that all the links to “this really cool website,” have now become links to this “really cool You-tube video.” It’s like the Internet has gotten, somehow, smaller. Are we sure we’re running out of address space in IPv4?

    That said, really cool video, great viral ad, they should have called the phone the “Dragon.”

    • merle says:

      There is no such thing as a “great viral ad”. It’s just advertising being more dishonest than usual, and using the name of a great martial artist to do so.

  21. Gale says:

    Yeah, as a table-tennis player myself, this was never particularly convincing. Playing table-tennis with even a smooth wooden nunchuk-sized rod – not to mention placing it with any degree of accuracy, or controlling the spin of the ball, as the video suggests – would be bordering on impossible. Looks cool, but even if it was a Bruce Lee who ditched his filmaking career for a life of alternative table-tennis, unlikely.

  22. Vladius says:

    Do the one where he tapes sandpaper to his nunchuk and lights thrown matches with it.

  23. (LK) says:

    Why did they have people wandering in front of the camera, take close-ups of the stand-in’s butt, and hire a cameraman with cerebral palsy?

  24. merle says:

    I hate when a company tries to cash in on the image of a dead hero.
    Thanks for losing any chance of my business in the future, Nokia!

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