Complex: As An Asian-American, Here’s Why Bruce Lee Still Matters


As An Asian-American, Here's Why Bruce Lee Still Matters


This week Bruce Lee made his HD debut on EA Sports UFC as a pre-order bonus—or, if you beat the game on Professional Difficulty, as an unlockable. The results, thankfully, are impressive. The developers have Bruce’s face and body structure down, but more importantly, they’ve captured his little mannerisms—the nervous tic where he rubs his nose, the stance when he lets loose with a signature punch or kick, and the scowl on his face when he approaches the Octagon.

UFC fighters, in their promotions of the game, have fallen over themselves to praise Bruce Lee. They speak reverently of him—he’s a childhood hero, an inspiration for how to lead one’s life, a warrior that all other fighters should aspire to. Dana White refers to him as the founder of mixed martial arts, and although this claim smacks of hyperbole, it has some merit. Bruce was someone who valued practicality over form—he disliked the traditional arts’ reliance on stances, believing that these things were too stiff, and thus, predictable. Instead, Bruce believed in Jeet Kune Do—the “Way of the Intercepting Fist.” It was a philosophy that encouraged formlessness—what was flexible and applicable in a ‘real life’ situation.

Why does Bruce continue to inspire us, over 40 years after his death? Imitators and heirs to the throne have come and gone, but no one has captured the public’s love, loyalty, or imagination in quite the same way. Every new martial arts actor, from Jackie Chan to Jet Li to Tony Jaa, is referred to as ‘the next Bruce Lee.’ Even in our quest to escape him, we still return to him, as the unreachable standard by which all others must be measured.

There’s a few reasons why Bruce Lee has endured, and they combine to create the legend we know today. There is, of course, his legendary athleticism and fitness. We’ve all heard those hyperbolic ‘Chuck Norris jokes,’ but Bruce Lee, scarily enough, was the real deal. From his two-finger pushups to his 1-inch punches, his physical abilities belied his actual size. He was only 5’7″ and 135 lbs—even physically, he was a model of economy and efficiency.

And of course, there was the pure lethality of his persona. Compare Bruce to his fellow action compatriots—most Hollywood fights are intricate, choreographed ordeals, with hundreds of punches, kicks, and counterattacks. Fights can last for twenty minutes or more, and the outcome can shift several times over their course. Bruce, on the other hand, extended his philosophy of efficiency to the fight scenes themselves. There were no wasted movements—every action was consequential. Take, for example, the O’Hara fight in Enter The Dragon. Bruce Lee decimated his opponent with 12 painful-looking, brutal moves. This was not a man to be playfully sparred with—this was a man to be feared.

As an Asian-American kid growing up in the suburbs, I was drawn to Bruce Lee. To many of us Asian boys, Bruce was more than a good fighter. He was a symbol of masculinity—he was an ethnically Asian male role model in a Western society where so few existed, before or since.

The Asian-American male undergoes a systemic humiliation in America, and it’s not always explicit. After all, the positive stereotype of the Asian male is that of an intelligent, bookish math nerd. Being considered smart is better than being considered stupid. There are, however, negative implications to this.


Acceptance of positive stereotypes is an implicit acceptance of negative stereotypes—although we Asian men are considered book smart, we are also said to lack passion, emotion, and raw sexuality. Our penises are rumored to be small, our social interactions are perceived as awkward, and any sexual interactions we do have must be bizarre or creepy. In the same way that black men are hyper-masculinized (and thus, are perceived as violent and threatening), Asian men are hyper-feminized (and thus, are perceived as no threat at all).

Is there a basis of truth to these stereotypes? My parents raised me to believe in the value of hard work above all else, including my social life, and that the key to success in this country was to study hard and get the best grades possible. I later learned (thankfully, in time) that hard work alone would make one an assistant to the leader, but never the leader himself. Success in America meant networking, socializing, and knowing the right people, in addition to working hard. It also meant assertiveness—that at some point, you had to fight back, protest, and disagree with those around you to earn respect. Our parents did the best with what they knew, but the result—a generation of young, Asian-Americans which, by and large, is politically disengaged and much too passive—is unfortunate.

Bruce Lee rectified the ‘deficiencies’ that America saddles upon Asian men. Physically, Bruce was classically handsome, and he exuded virile sexuality. He was all greased muscle and sinew—a coiled panther, ready to pounce. Bruce had several romantic scenes in his films, and that, by itself, was incredible to see. Bruce was a ‘desirable’ Asian man, and in a society where Asian men are considered eunuchs, this is a welcome change of pace.


Bruce was also an ‘angry’ Asian man. Although he came from an ethnic heritage that valued unity and the importance of immersion, Bruce knew how to scream, and holler, and challenge those who did him wrong. He was ‘Asian-American,’ in the truest, hybrid sense of the phrase. The film The Chinese Connection stirs the blood of any Asian man who watches it. Here, we see a liberated Chinese man who doesn’t take insults from anyone—a man who is real, and emotional, and uncompromising in his righteous anger. It was this unhinged emotion, this ability to cry manly tears, that thrilled us so. Not everything had to be calculated, and measured, and inscrutable—not everything had to be intelligent.



Sometimes, you just want to get mad and scream. I think of Bruce in my worst moments—when I am discriminated against, when I am underestimated, when I am wronged. I think of Bruce when I speak up for myself against my better interests—when standing out is more important than blending in. I think of Bruce when my sense of justice trumps my passivity. Bruce is the ‘id’ that whispers in my ear—that bigots treat me with disrespect, because they think they can. They think I’ll be passive, but I have a voice. I can use it to affect change. I can scream.

In his eulogy to Malcolm X, Ossie Davis referred to Malcolm as “our own black shining prince.” For Asian men, Bruce fulfills the same role—our own Asian shining prince, who told us to be vocal, proud, and outspoken for who we were, and for everything we could be.


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Complex: As An Asian-American, Here’s Why Bruce Lee Still Matters


UFC’s First Asian American Female Fighter: Shayna Baszler



I had thought I had carefully read through all the big name female MMA fighter athlete bios searching for anyone of Asian heritage, and I started to scour through the up-and-coming ones when I couldn’t find any more. But to my delight, it was brought to my attention by one of our readers that there is in fact a major female MMA fighter of Chinese heritage that I had totally missed–Shayna Baszler.

One of the reasons I was delighted was because I had seen Baszler fight before, and I actually really like her fighting style. For someone who’s made a name for herself on wrestling skills aside from MMA, she’s got some crazy counter punches! In the fight above with that beast of an athlete Cris Cyborg, who is a whole weight class above Baszler’s regular bantamweight opponents, Baszler is the embodiment of tenacious. Further, Baszler is not just another female fighter–she is one of the pioneers.

Up there with Gina Carano and Julie Kedzie, Baszler has been fighting since 2001, well before Women’s MMA was even a blip on people’s radars. Add on top of that, she is the first Asian American female UFC fighter and the first Asian American female fighter on TUF, I’m surprised her nickname isn’t “Trailblazer” instead of “Queen of Spades”. Fight on indeed.

Baszler will be fighting in UFC 176 at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, California on August 2nd!


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UFC’s First Asian American Female Fighter: Shayna Baszler


Bruce Lee is EA Sports UFC’s mystery fighter

Martial arts legend and action film star Bruce Lee will appear in mixed martial arts title EA Sports UFC, EA Sports revealed today.

To ask why Bruce Lee is in a UFC game is “the most ridiculous question,” according to creative director Brian Hayes, because the UFC is fastest growing sport in the world and Bruce Lee’s philosophies “laid the groundwork for modern mixed martial arts.”

I can’t conceive of a universe where bringing these two things together doesn’t make sense,” he was quoted on the EA Sports blog. “I know there are going to be countless fans that feel the exact same way and they will be eager play with such a legend in the UFC Octagon. I am one of them.”

The development team worked with Bruce Lee Enterprises to introduce Lee into the game. Bruce Lee Enterprises provided them with a library of digital references, a life-cast of his body to create a 3D reference as well as behind-the-scenes and candid shots that helped “identify the specific era we wanted to capture as well as the iconic elements of his face and body.”

When we first heard that there was a possibility of adding Bruce Lee to the roster for EA Sports UFC everyone was excited at the prospect and more than a little nervous,” art director Ian Lloyd wrote. “Nobody wants to tackle a legendary icon like this and mess it up.

We had done a pretty exceptional job on our UFC roster to that point, with the majority having been scanned expressly for the game,” Lloyd added. “A handful of fighters were being built in the ‘traditional way’ – using whatever reference we could get our hands on. Bruce would have to be built the same way.”

Players can unlock Bruce Lee in flyweight, bantam weight, featherweight and lightweight divisions by finishing the game’s career mode on pro difficulty or higher. Day one access is available by pre-ordering the game from select retailers. You can see Bruce Lee in action in the gameplay trailer below.

Fighters previously revealed for EA Sports UFC’s roster include Forrest Griffin, Chan Sung Jung, Costas Philippou and more. Swedish UFC fighter Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson appears alongside Jon “Bones” Jones on the cover of EA Sports UFC after being selected in a fan vote.

The title will launch June 17.

EA Sports UFC is the first release under EA’s new licensing agreement created to reboot the company’s MMA series. The title won’t allow users to share fighter creations with other players because of issues surrounding intellectual property rights.