The great Bruce Lee has been referred to as the ‘Father of Mixed Martial Arts.’ While he dazzled us with his on-screen punches and kicks, Lee also demonstrated his grappling skills in several of his fight scenes. When Lee lived in Hollywood, he trained in grappling with stuntman and Judo legend Gene LeBell. While the grappling technique he demonstrated in his films is questionable, it is still ground breaking considering it was from the early 1970s when fighting in movies was solely defined as fist fights. Here are a few examples of the grappling of Bruce Lee on film.
#1 Crucifix Arm Bar
In ‘Enter the Dragon,’ Bruce Lee demonstrated several aikido throws before catching his sparring partner in a crucifix arm bar.
#2 Standing Guillotine
In one of the all-time great fight scenes from ‘Return of the Dragon,’ Bruce Lee catches a tired and beaten Chuck Norris in a standing guillotine choke. Unfortunately for Chuck, there is no tapping in the streets.
#3 Double Leg Takedown
Bob Wall was a decorated martial artist, but will be best known for being Bruce Lee’s punching bag in ‘Return of the Dragon’ and ‘Enter the Dragon.’ In this scene from ‘Return of the Dragon,’ Wall comes in with an upright stance as he throws punches against the shorter Lee. Lee quickly drops his level and scoops up Wall’s legs at the knees and drives forward to take Wall to the ground. Lee then finishes Wall with a deadly shot to the groin in Wall’s open guard.
#4 Arm Triangle
When NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar was a student-athlete at UCLA, he befriended Bruce Lee and studied Jeet Kune Do under his tutelage for a number of years. Their friendship led to the showdown between the 7’ tall Kareem and the 5’7 Lee in Lee’s last film, ‘The Game of Death.’ In their fight scene, Kareem initially used his height and reach advantage to land strikes and keep Lee at bay. However, Lee started to land counter strikes and wear Kareem down before taking the fight to the ground. Once on the ground, Lee attempted an arm triangle choke, but did not maintain a low base which allowed Kareem to roll him over.
#5 Arm Bar Defense
In the ‘Chinese Connection,’ Bruce Lee squared off against Russian martial artist Petrov, who was played by Robert Baker. During their fight, Lee was caught in an arm bar by Petrov. While Lee could have countered by stepping over and around Petrov’s head, he instead opted to bite Petrov in the leg in order to break the hold. In a real fight, this could have led to Petrov cranking the arm bar even harder and breaking Bruce’s arm. However, in a movie it is simply a funny way for the hero to escape a dire situation.