Bruce Lee was many things—actor, philosopher, poet, filmmaker—but he is best known as the most bad ass master of martial arts in the 20th century, and perhaps all time.
His films reinvented martial arts for viewers, renewed interest in of eastern cultures in the West, and changed the way that Chinese were represented in Hollywood films. There is simply no way to pay homage to this mountain of a man, but a Bruce Lee tattoo is certainly a stab in the right direction.
Lee was the son of Lee Hoi-chuen, a famous Hong Kong opera star. The whole family narrowly escaped the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong because they joined him on a world opera tour. Despite Japanese occupation, they decided to return and lived for nearly four years under Japanese rule.
Lee’s mother was a member of one of the most affluent clans in Hong Kong, and he grew up in relative comfort. But under Japanese rule and then overcrowding with thousands of Chinese escaping to Hong Kong from Mao’s Communist regime, street gangs grew to control Lee’s neighborhood. After getting into several fights, his parents decided to train him in the martial arts. His own father instructed him in the Wu-style of T’ai Chi.
Soon, he progressed passed his father’s tutelage and began to learn the style of Wing Chun under the instructor Yip Man. Lee continued his street fighting throughout his teenage life, until he beat the son of feared triad family. Worried that a contract had been taken out on Lee’s life, his parents decided to send him to the U.S.
The rest is history. There is no one half so skilled in the martial arts in recent memory as Bruce Lee. With a tattoo of his likeness, some of his prowess might just rub off on you.