Striking Distance Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America

Review :

This was a great read on the history of martial arts in the United States and about Bruce Lee's early life. The book covers a short period of time from 1959 to 1972, but it covers it in detail.

It is a well-researched history with a lot of detail about how martial arts moved from a closed community to a much broader one. It does this without posturing or postulating about one martial art being better than another. There are plenty of notes and references to point to the sources of information in the book.

The social history of the Chinese community is fascinating. The restrictions on who could study the martial arts and resistance to teaching people outside of the community led to conflicts and made Bruce Lee a lightning rod. A group coalesced around Bruce Lee and worked on incorporating lessons from other sources like boxing into the Kung Fu systems they had.

In the book. Russo writes about James Yimm Lee, who trained in kung fu and wrote books and published martial arts books by other authors. He wrote a book entitled "Wing Chun Kung Fu" in which he talks about other instructors who focused only on forms. Russo's book talks about how this is a swipe at some of the other instructors active in Oakland California at other times. It was a connection to another book on my shelf that I enjoyed.

The other part of the story that I enjoyed were some descriptions of Bruce Lee doing demos and being less than a perfect fighting machine. Seeing his development makes his biography more accessible. There is also a description of his challenge fight with Wong Jack Man.

This is not a technique book, but if you are interested in Bruce Lee or the history of martial arts in America, this is a book you can't miss.


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