Is Bruce Lee’s Triad Myth True? Why did he come to the United States?

A popular myth surrounding Bruce Lee is that the actor fled Hong Kong to the United States after getting into trouble with the Triads. Is it true?

A popular story surrounding that of Bruce Lee The beginning of his life alleges that he came to the United States because of problems with the Triads. After being a child star in Hong Kong for years, her father abruptly sent 18-year-old Lee to Seattle, WA to finish high school. His father’s decision to fire him has long been attributed to Lee’s involvement in street fighting, but some have blamed him directly on a conflict with the Chinese Mafia.

By Lee’s own admission, his martial arts skills weren’t always used in the best way or for the best reasons. At the age of 15, Lee became a pupil of the Grandmaster of Wing Chun Ip Man because he believed that kung fu would benefit him in street fights. During his youth, Lee led a gang called the Junction Street Eight Tigers who supported him whenever he faced rival gang members. He was involved in a number of violent incidents, but ultimately put this phase of his life behind him in earnest when he moved to the United States in 1959.


Related: The Hollywood Myth Of Bruce Lee & Frank Sinatra Explained

It is often claimed that the real reason Lee left Hong Kong has to do with an argument he had with the son of a Triad gangster. Throughout the story, Lee brutally beat the person in question, prompting the parents to involve the police. Police threatened to arrest Lee if his street violence and gang activity continued. Lee’s father, who was supposedly worried about retaliation from the Triads, made the decision to send Lee to the United States where he would be safe. However, Bruce Lee’s biographer Matthew Polly wrote in his book, Bruce Lee: a life, that the actor’s siblings debunked the story’s connection to the Triad.

According to Polly, the myth is only partially true. It appears to be actually a very dramatized version of an actual event that took place in 1959. It is stated in the book that Lee beat the teenager from “powerful parents», But they were not associated with the Triads. As Polly pointed out, going to the police just doesn’t sound like the kind of solution a Triad gangster would have used in this situation. When he fired Lee from Hong Kong, Lee’s father was actually less concerned about what the boy’s parents would do and more about the legal issues Lee’s constant street fights would cause. It also didn’t help that his academic outlook was far from good and that his film career in Hong Kong no longer prospered.

Looking at what happened next, it’s hard to dispute the idea that coming to the United States was a good decision. After opening kung fu schools, Bruce lee developed a reputation as a highly respected martial arts instructor in Hollywood. Getting the recognition he wanted in film and television took a long time, but his experiences in the United States and his role in The green hornet provided stepping stones for the success he later encountered upon returning to the Hong Kong film industry in the early 1970s.

More: Bruce Lee’s Original Kung Fu Style Explained (& Why He Stopped Using It)

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