If you have Netflix, you need to check out the newly-arrived Bruce Lee classic, Enter the Dragon. It’s a movie that I’ve been wanting to own for a while now. You know what? I still remember when Best Buy had the collector’s edition and I didn’t buy it. Boy, what a mistake that was. I still intend to buy it eventually, but thanks to Netflix, I was able to check it out once again. I loved rewatching every minute of it and it brought back memories. I’m just going to get this out of the way now and say that Enter the Dragon is the greatest martial arts movie ever. If you disagree, I’ll explain why.
There’s something poetic about the very existence of Enter the Dragon. The main reason is obviously because of Bruce Lee. Enter the Dragon was Lee’s final completed film before his tragic death on July 20th of 1973. He was thirty-two years old. Why do legends have to die so young? I can only imagine what he would’ve accomplished further if he were still alive today. It’s very unfortunate that we didn’t get to see him carry on his legacy, but you know what? That’s why we need to remember movies like Enter the Dragon. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget about his other amazing movies.
This movie is a testament to everything that Bruce Lee wanted to accomplish while he was pursuing martial arts. To him, it wasn’t just about his desire to fight. Bruce Lee wanted to learn everything that he could and develop a fighting style that can adapt for anyone and for any situation. Hence, he created his own hybrid art of Jeet Kune Do. We all got to see that work out perfectly throughout Enter the Dragon. Just think about his past movies before Enter the Dragon. He would often stick to wing chun kung fu and prevail using mostly that style. Well, that all changed when this movie came around.
Throughout his martial arts journey, Bruce Lee learned many techniques from many styles from many teachers. Every Bruce Lee fan should be familiar on how he is considered to be the godfather of mixed martial arts. That’s a title well earned for him, because everything he learned and came across was showcased in Enter the Dragon. Heck, he actually showed it himself in the very first scene where he sparred against a young Sammo Hung. I mean, he made him tap out using a crucifix submission! For a fight at the Shaolin Temple, it sure made for a great MMA match before MMA was even a thing.
The most vital lesson to take away from Enter the Dragon is that it emphasizes on Bruce Lee’s martial arts philosophy. When I talk about the movie being a precursor for the creation of mixed martial arts, it’s because the movie shows many martial arts and why that’s useful. Take the scene where Bruce Lee is fighting many of Han’s thugs in his underground lair for example. He began fighting them hand-to-hand, then subdued them using all kinds of weapons. First it was the bo staff, then the two batons, and then the very awesome nunchakus. Man, he sure did make it look easy.
That was the strength of Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. He could adapt and fight his way out of any situation using many styles. That’s how he made use of his Jeet Kune Do. That’s the thing about it. Bruce Lee didn’t really consider it a style, but a philosophy. Remember what he said about water? People who have taken Jeet Kune Do understand that there’s an idea behind it. It’s about making it their own style based on what works for them. It’s about being formless, shapeless, and just adapting to whatever situation. Basically, JKD practitioners have to be like water.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about that final fight scene in Enter the Dragon. Lee vs. Han in the beginning was epic enough. I mean, seriously, that scissors takedown was something Scorpion used in Mortal Kombat! Heck, the whole movie itself inspired the creation of Mortal Kombat! Lee is Liu Kang, Han is Shang Tsung, Roper is Johnny Cage, and Bolo is Goro. Plus, they fight in a bloody tournament on an island. Gamers, say thank you to Enter the Dragon and Bruce Lee.
Anyway, back to the movie. After Han realized he couldn’t beat Lee, he decided to retreat into his mirror room. He briefly gained the upper hand on Lee using trickery and illusions, but Lee eventually figured out a way to fight through it. What did he do? He broke the glass and then kicked Han into his own spear. Yikes, that was brutal.
The point is, Lee used his training to adapt and overcome his obstacle. It was a difficult one, but he stayed true to the ultimate philosophy of Jeet Kune Do and became water. As a JKD practitioner myself, I understand the meaning of this philosophy and how it can be applied to not just martial arts, but the challenges of life itself. JKD is what we make of it, not what others make for us.
Let’s just respect how Bruce Lee gathered actors who were legitimate martial artist to make Enter the Dragon look authentic and real. Jim Kelly, the actor who portrayed Williams, studied Shorin-ryu karate since he was young and that showed in the film. The recently deceased John Saxon, the actor behind Roper, was a practitioner of Shotokan karate and judo, a skillset that he showed in the film. He even got Angel Mao, or “Lady Kung Fu” to play his sister in the movie. She was a practitioner of hapkido at an early age and gave us an amazing display of her skills during her one scene where the thugs attacked her.
Bruce Lee knew the importance of casting real martial artist to make Enter the Dragon a true martial arts movie and he assembled a great cast. Think about this for a minute. Enter the Dragon premiered one month after Bruce Lee’d death. It made about three-hundred-and-fifty-million dollars worldwide against a budget of eight-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars. Basically, it earned way over its budget and quickly became one of the most profitable movies ever.
This movie works for martial arts fans, it works for gaming fans, and it works for general movie fans. Heck, I’d like to think it works for everybody. In my opinion, Enter the Dragon is not just the greatest martial arts movie ever, but one of the best movies ever. Be like water, my friends.