My love for both Asian films and martial arts began more than two decades ago, with my earliest memories originating when I experienced the legendary Bruce Lee on the small screen. I was about five years old or so at the time, but even then, I knew this man on television was special. He emanated an aura from within that burned brightly, and by doing so, he was able to reach out to people all across the world, transcending boundaries regardless of race or gender.

The way he moved, his swagger, attitude, and physique made it impossible for me to turn my eyes away.I may not have been sure of what exactly was happening on the television screen in front of me, or why he was fist-fighting these men, but that did not matter because I was full of curiosity and wonder; not to mention, he sure looked badass and cool doing it.

Witnessing a man of small stature possess such prowess and power was a remarkable sight to behold. However, years later, I would discover that he had been far removed from our world in physical form, but as I made progress throughout life and battled my personal demons, I would learn that his spirit would remain and continue to live through millions of us.

Hi yah! A very young me practicing some kicks.

Having family members who were interested in martial arts provided a gateway to Bruce. My grandmother and uncle were the ones who introduced me to his films, and ever since then, I’ve been hooked and interested in anything pertaining to him. Whether it be his filmography, books, and philosophy, as well as video games featuring characters with a likeness to him; I wanted to get lost in his world because it appeared to be a place where anything was possible, and one could dream as big as their imaginations were able to take them. Soon enough, he crept into my world as I began drawing Bruce in class during elementary school.

In one particular drawing, I was attempting to capture his look during the famous finale fight scene from his epitome film, “Enter The Dragon,” complete with bloody slashes across his chest and face. At the time, I did not know how odd and unique it was for a child my age to be interested in Bruce, but this would prove to be just the beginning of my fascination with him, as he would influence me in different but integral ways.

My homage to “Enter The Dragon.”

Being born over a decade after Bruce’s passing did not diminish the impact he had on my life. From that moment on, transitioning from childhood into adulthood, he became an important part of me. Although, it was his amazing supernatural fighting ability which first drew me to him; I struck a chord through seeing what seemed like an underdog reign supreme by turning the odds upside down, and kicking them straight in the face with a swift and deadly kick. Small in size myself, I was exposed to bullying most of my life during grade school; being called horrendous names, as well as physical abuse due to being different, was something I endured.

Bruce became a figure for whom I looked up to during those difficult times. Aware of how serious he took nutrition and fitness, I decided to begin working out at a gym to improve both my confidence and strength, and for that, I felt better about my life and circumstances as I was beginning to stand up for myself and face my fears.

Pushing myself to the limit.

Bruce was also an inspiration to me during my days of pursuing the world of golf, which proved to be a true testament of his reach well beyond martial arts. His work ethic to become the absolute best he could be inspired me to push myself to become the best I possibly could at anything I set my sights on. Every afternoon after school, one would find me in either my backyard or at a local golf course practicing for hours hitting golf ball after golf ball until it was completely dark. My hands were eventually covered in calluses, as I could barely grip the golf club anymore. However, this led to many fruits of labor, as I had become one of the top junior golfers in my area after years of hard work and training.

I had won several tournaments, many of which were actually recommended for adults instead of kids. Moments like these make me proud to look back on and see how I was able to beat the odds stacked against me through pure determination and endurance.

Practicing in near freezing temperatures.

A true global icon, and the most renowned martial artist of all time, Bruce Lee gave all of us reasons to not give up on our dreams. He has been that little voice in the back our minds whispering to all of us to do one more rep, run one more mile, study one more hour, and take one more swing until we not only succeed and fully reach our goals, but we smash through them with incredible force well above our initial expectations.

We can all become the person we wish to be, and have the life we wish to live, but it is up to us to go out there and get it, and as Bruce once said: “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Thank you, Bruce.