Bruce Lee's Flawless Technique

Bruce Lee strikes a pose in a scene from "Enter the Dragon" (1973). When his character is asked what his fighting style is, the actor sums up his philosophy with the line, “You can call it the art of fighting without fighting.” Neal Peters Collection

In honor of Bruce Lee's 75th birthday, Newsweek shares some of the legend's revolutionary moves that illustrate the boundless imagination and tireless discipline he applied to his martial arts. This article, along with others dedicated to Bruce Lee, is included in a Newsweek Special Edition, Bruce Lee—75 Years of the Dragon.


This hard-hitting blow still mystifies fans and martial arts experts today. Arguably Bruce's most famous attack, the kung-fu master broke wooden boards and knocked men on their backs by extending his fist only one inch. Pulling this off required more coordination than raw strength. Bruce had to move his wrist, elbow, shoulder, knees and hip in the correct order within seconds. This combination of movements created a force strong enough to shatter a piece of wood in two.


Viewers won't see this kick in many of Bruce's movies because it's not as flashy, but in a street fight or sparring, Bruce preferred to aim his kicks at the ankles, feet, thighs and midsection of his foes. Kicking low takes less time in a bout and catches the combatant off-guard. In Bruce's case, it was difficult to anticipate when he was going to extend his leg out to knock his sparring partners off their feet and onto the ground.


Using this technique, Bruce always kept constant contact with his opponents' hands and arms. It's a method he learned as a teenager while studying Wing Chun in Hong Kong. It deflects blows as well as allowing Bruce to attack hard and fast in a short distance.


The way Bruce set up his hits and kicks was just as important as the blows themselves. He stood with his most dominant foot one step forward, angled inward. His knees were bent, and he kept most of his weight centered. Bruce put his left arm up under his chin and his right outstretched in a fist. The left primarily protected while the right would attack. He then angled his chin forward and lowered his shoulder—ready for anything.


This maneuver functioned as a sustained offense, knocking an opponent off balance by attacking the abdomen. Bruce would move his fists in a circular motion while running at his opponents, forcing them into defensive positions immediately.

This article is excerpted from a Newsweek Special Edition, Bruce Lee—75 Years of the Dragon, by Issue Editor James Ellis.

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