To start off it was a new experience visiting Seattle; I had first visited the city when I was 12 and then it was just another family trip that I was hauled off to. But this time it was with friends – people around my age and although it wasn’t the best trip, it was still a good reprieve away from looking for a job.
I regret only spending 3 whole days in Seattle, however I feel that at least I accomplished what I had came for: a visit to Bruce and Brandon Lee’s grave.
It took my party and I about 30 minutes to locate them in the Lakeview Cemetery. When we got there I missed the tombstone – I found out quickly that it is hidden behind a hedge, perhaps to avoid more attention than it already is receiving. Seated next to Bruce and Brandon are two other graves that were buried there 50 – 100 years before Brandon (one you can barely see to the left of Bruce).
There was a fellow there who had came from Vancouver, BC. About 2 dozen other visitors came in and out to view these two. My friends went and viewed it for a couple minutes and left. I found myself attracted to the site and came back several times from my friends just to view them. I don’t know what came of me, all I knew then was that I want spend as much time as possible in the presence of perhaps the greatest martial artist in the 20th century. In the end I gave a couple bows and I took my leave.
Not too many people understand, but Bruce Lee’s journey as a martial artist was as much martial as it was personal. Bruce Lee’s childhood was characterized by the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during WWII and it’s aftereffects up to the 50s. Following the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949), Hong Kong became a refuge for those fleeing the mainland, inadvertently turning parts of the territory into a breeding ground for criminality. Bruce grew up in a wealthy family, therefore his family didn’t have to worry about money most of the time. But that didn’t help the area that he was living in. Think of the situation as Hong Kong’s equivalent of Compton, the Bronx, or east Oakland. It was a ghetto and Bruce Lee polished his chops getting beaten up – and beating up – gangsters who were caught in a cycle of poverty and crime. Fortunately he and his family were able to avoid that and he ended up in Seattle.
Though Bruce Lee and family were able to leave the ghetto, you have to understand that growing up in a ghetto and trying to break the cycle is a hard endeavor, and as any of us who have had the experience of hearing someone’s life of it, it’s not a life to be remembered fondly of. Most people, if they survive their adolescent years, are nonetheless caught in the cycle of poverty, crime, insanity, and codependency (among others) that caught their parents before them.
It is my belief that Bruce Lee’s journey is a fine example of Aikido. He had a solid foundation family and personal wise, which enabled him to overcome the many obstacles that were in his life. He wasn’t a 2D character; he was a Cha-Cha Champion while he was studying Wing Chun, he became an actor and developed his own martial art. He was (and still is) an incredible martial artist revered by many today but he was also a philosopher. His views on martial arts have been influential to other facets of human society – life, business, what not.
But above all else, in my opinion he is a wonderful example of Aikido is because he was balanced. He could kick any one’s ass (Chuck Norris included) in his sleep yet solve the world’s economic issues all the meanwhile serenading his wife while doing Cha-Cha. He could be teaching Batman how to take on a room full of ninjas while teaching his daughter how to pick the right man…on top of reading Tolstoy and correctly reciting (and understanding) the US Constitution.
On a personal note, Bruce Lee is also a wonderful example to those men who are of Asian ancestry. As the male child of Asian immigrants, it frustrating to find that there are few (if no) examples of manliness that are of the same ethnicity. Bruce Lee personified a man who had the best of both worlds: the confident, cocky, can do, John Wayne-ish , f-u attitude along side the personae that was characterized by humility, passion, empathy, calm, cool, attentive, and honor (am I missing anything?).
It is with regret that perhaps I couldn’t gather more from my visit to the great one and his son. I hope that my journey in Aikido and beyond will be a journey of personal liberation and freedom as much as it was for him.