Gene LeBell Comes To Grips With Bruce Lee - Martial Arts & Action Entertainment (2023)

Gene LeBell Comes To Grips With Bruce Lee - Martial Arts & Action Entertainment (1)Judo and wrestling legend Gene LeBell has hooked horns with the best in the game and in the process has earned the moniker as “The Toughest Man Alive,” by his peers. One of those to sing the phrases of “Judo” Gene was Bruce Lee.

In addition to his years of training and teaching martial arts, Gene is also one of Hollywood’s top stunt men. In fact, it’s almost impossible to watch an action film without seeing Gene firing a machine gun, getting tossed out of a window or taking a fall for one of the super stars of the silver screen.

It was because of Gene’s prowess in the martial arts and his popularity in Hollywood’s stunt community that he was called in to check out a “new guy” by the name of Bruce Lee.

“I met Bruce when he was working on the television series, Green Hornet,” recalled LeBell. “Benny Dobbins was stunt coordinator for the show and he called and asked me to check out some kid by the name of Bruce Lee. ‘I got this guy who does the same stuff you do,’ Dobbins said. Of course Benny didn’t know the difference between judo and kung fu, but he wanted me to watch this new actor work. One of the first things I noticed was that although Bruce was small, about 130 pounds, he had a tremendous upper body. Bruce was also very fast and wanted to always take the action beyond what the script called for. Once the director called action, he got that and a lot more from Bruce.”

New to American humor, the Chinese actor didn’t know what to make of it when Gene hoisted him over his shoulders and ran up and down the stairs doing a fireman’s carry with Lee draped over his shoulders.

“Stuntmen and wrestlers have their own brand of humor and at first Bruce didn’t take my little joke too kindly,” LeBell said with a chuckle. “Eventually he realized we were just welcoming him into our group and before long he fit right in with the rest of the rowdy stuntmen.”

Gene went on to do stunt work in many episodes of “The Green Hornet,” with Lee. During their time together on the set, the future kung-fu super star and the legendary judo master got to know each other.

“Bruce liked doing parlor tricks on the set,” recalled LeBell. “He would make a dollar disappear and other magic tricks. “You’ve got to remember when I first met him Bruce wasn’t famous. Back then he was just another actor who did martial arts.”

LeBell and Lee became friends and frequently trained at each other’s dojo. It was during these sessions that Bruce was introduced to Gene’s grappling skills, and in return Bruce taught Gene how to kick.

“At that time I had a small dojo near Paramount Studios,” LeBell explained. “Bruce would come to my school and I’d go to his. Back then he had a small school in China Town. We worked out on a one-on-one basis and we both learned a great deal from each other. He taught me a lot of kung fu moves that I had never seen before, and Bruce was phenomenal with his kicks. He taught me how to do crescent kicks, and spinning back kicks. Of course nowadays everybody does those kicks, but back then it was all new and exciting. In return, I showed Bruce some judo throws and grappling techniques. In fact, he used one of the judo grappling armbars I taught him in “Enter The Dragon.”

Although Bruce was impressed with Gene’s skill he wasn’t taken with grappling as a sport that would ever draw a big audience.

“I remember Bruce saying that pro wrestling would never be a popular spectator sport because they spend so much time struggling to get a hold or grip on each other,” Gene said. “Bruce would say, ‘wrestling is boring and people will turn on another channel.’ Well I wonder what Bruce would say if he were around today and saw the WWF, which is the most popular show on television today.”

As Gene and Bruce continued to work together on The Green Hornet, the kung fu star incorporated a few of Gene’s judo moves into the action.

“There was a couple of times when Bruce threw me using a judo throw during the filming of the Green Hornet,” Gene said. “He’d use a shoulder throw on me and I said to him, ‘Bruce toss in a couple of your kicks and show off your versatility.’ Another time I did a martial arts demonstration with Bruce. I was throwing a bunch of people all over the place then Bruce came out and threw me using a judo throw. I’ve even got a tape of that somewhere around the house.”

Gene also recalled the time when his friend, martial arts legend Bob Wall called and was all excited about working with Bruce Lee in the film “Enter The Dragon.”

“Bob called and said, ‘this guy is the toughest guy in the world.’ Of course I’d been working with Bruce and I told Bob that Bruce was also the nicest guy in the world. Another thing that made Bruce a superstar was his outstanding showmanship and on screen charisma.”
In addition to working with Bruce, Gene also shared a lot of screen time with his son Brandon.

“Brandon was a very tough martial artist and his dad would have been very proud of him,” Gene said. “The way Brandon and I met was kind of funny. Mike Vendrell is a great stuntman as well as an outstanding martial artist and Brandon’s kung fu teacher; well he frequently worked out with Brandon and one day Mike brought him to my dojo. Mike (Mike Vendrell is a man that Gene respects so much he named a move after him in his Encyclopedia of Finishing Holds: “The Vendrell Vice.”) introduced us and asked me to work out with Brandon. Brandon said, “You really want me to work with this old man?” Well I was about 50 then so I got on the mat and showed him how sadistic some old men are. (Gene claims he’s still an old man and some claim he’s just as sadistic. Gene’s definition of “sadistic” is administering an attitude adjustment.) We had a lot of fun together and by the end of our workout I think Brandon went away with a new found respect for judo and senior citizens.”

Following their initial meeting some time passed before Brandon and LeBell met again. This time it was on the set of the movieRapid Fire. Gene was naturally playing the bad guy and Brandon the good guy.

“I was shooting a machine gun and Brandon shot me during a fight sequence,” Gene said. “I wanted them to let Brandon beat me up and throw me through a window so I could take some nice falls for him and really show off his martial arts skills. Unfortunately they didn’t have time to do the extra stunts and it would have changed the script so Brandon just shot me. Too bad, it would have been fun if he could have beaten me up a little first. Brandon was a great, great athlete. I just wish he coulda beat me up on screen. I mean, every star in Hollywood has beaten me up at one time or another so it would have been nice if Brandon could have done that too.”

Like his father, Brandon realized that Gene’s techniques could greatly augment his fight scenes in the movies so he sought out “Judo” Gene’s help to add some throws and locks to his growing martial arts repertoire.

“Brandon was really into his acting, but he also didn’t mind mixing it up on the mat either,” Gene said. “He came down to a few classes and we worked out together just like I did with his dad. Brandon was a tough little scrapper.”

In recounting his experiences with Bruce Lee, LeBell modestly said, “He learned a lot from me and I learned a lot from him. It was a tremendous experience knowing him and Brandon. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have shared mat time with such a nice and talented family.”


What did Gene LeBell say about Bruce Lee? ›

He was the best martial artist of his time,” LeBell recalled in Black Belt Magazine. “Bruce and I had a bond with the martial arts, and we would get together frequently. We worked out about 10 to 12 times at his place in Los Angeles' Chinatown and at my place.”

Did Gene LeBell fight Steven Seagal? ›

LeBell is said to have placed his arms around Seagal's neck, and once Seagal said "go", proceeded to choke him unconscious, with Seagal losing control of his bowels.

Did Gene LeBell teach Bruce Lee? ›

In the end, the ever-curious Lee had LeBell train him in various wrestling moves, which he incorporated into his style. Calhoun notes that Lee “finishes off Chuck Norris with a chokehold in Way of the Dragon (1972) and beats a young Sammo Hung with an armbar in Enter the Dragon (1973).” Both are wrestling moves.

Who is the best martial artist in history? ›

It is widely accepted by fighters and other people around the world that Bruce Lee was the most influential martial artist of all time. From his famous action movies to his unique martial art of Jeet Kune Do, the legend of Bruce Lee has held strong.

What is an inspirational Bruce Lee quote? ›

Bruce Lee Quotes
  • I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. ...
  • Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it. ...
  • Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.

What did Jackie Chan say about Bruce Lee? ›

As excited as he was to finally get his big break, his enthusiasm was somewhat tempered when he realised the director wanted him to emulate Lee's fighting and acting style. “I said, 'No, I'm not Bruce Lee. Nobody can be a Bruce Lee'," Chan said. "He said, 'You are the second Bruce Lee.

Can Aikido be effective? ›

Aikido training is not only good for health, but also develops self-confidence naturally for daily life. In Aikido you learn techniques to defend against a variety of attacks such as kicks, punches, single-hand or two-hand grabs from the front or rear, chokes, multiple person attacks, and attacks with weapons.

What happened to Steven Seagal's voice? ›

Okay, first off, Seagal's voice is dubbed over for like 50% of the film... Why? Because apparently there were rewriting the script and story as they were shooting and they need to change his dialogue for story continuity as they have multiple versions.

What's the difference between judo and aikido? ›

There are two principle differences between Aikido and Judo. First, Judo is a sport and it has tournaments and medals. There are many rules that govern matches and certain moves are not allowed. Aikido is non-competitive and is practiced for self-improvement and effective self-defense.

Who taught Bruce Lee to kick? ›

One of the most fascinating characters in film of recent years has been Yip Man, the real life teacher to Bruce Lee.

Who was the real master of Bruce Lee? ›

But have you ever heard of Ip Man, the man who taught Lee how to fight? In the first half of the 20th century, in in the village of Foshan in Guangdong Province, Southern China, there lived a man known as Master Ip, or Ip Man.

Who trained Bruce Lee first? ›

Bruce began his martial arts training with Wing Chun master, Yip Man (pictured), in Hong Kong, at 13. Bruce trained with Yip and Yip's top students until he left for the USA in 1959.

Who is the best female martial artist? ›

1. Michelle Yeoh – The 2023 Oscar-winner for best actress is known for her graceful martial arts moves. Yeoh is a Malaysian actress and former Miss Malaysia has starred in numerous action-packed movies, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Supercop, and, of course, Everything Everywhere All at Once. 2.

Who is the best fighter to ever live? ›

Muhammad Ali is the greatest fighter of all time. Some say Bruce Lee could bring down Ali. Ali is 6'3 weighing 220lbs. Lee is 5'9 weighing 150lbs. If the fight would of happen between Ali and Lee.

Who is the best martial artist alive today? ›

Jet Li has won the national championship for the Beijing Wushu Team. He is from Beijing and gained worldwide popularity all around the world. Jet Li is a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. At the age of 8, he took the initiative to be trained at Wushu academy that performs various versions of martial art and styles.

What is the most motivational quote ever? ›

What is the most inspiring quote ever?
  • “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” – Confucius.
  • “Magic is believing in yourself. ...
  • “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney.
  • “The real test is not whether you avoid this failure…
Aug 19, 2021

What is the most powerful motivational quote? ›

1. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Gandhi. “Live for what's worth dying for, and leverage technology to create the world you wish to see.”

What are 5 famous quotes? ›

Famous quotes in English
That's one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.Neil ArmstrongEnglish
The love of money is the root of all evil.the BibleGreek
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.Franklin D. RooseveltEnglish
The truth will set you free.the BibleGreek
54 more rows

What did Steve McQueen say about Bruce Lee? ›

Worried that Lee had not considered the risk of purchasing such a hot rod, McQueen, who was close to becoming a professional race car driver, offered to take the actor out for a spin in the Porsche, telling Lee, “It's a hot car, but if you don't know what you are doing you can get into trouble with this thing”.

Who was stronger Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee? ›

For all of Jackie Chan's skills, it's likely that Bruce Lee would still prevail in a one-on-one fight. After all, Lee has the advantage in real-life fighting experience.

What can beat Aikido? ›

MMA wins every time in a direct battle between MMA and Aikido, and it does so effortlessly. Aikido is not a tested fighting system whereas MMA is the closest life or death combat you'll get.

How many years does it take to learn Aikido? ›

Aikido (4-5 Years)

A student must practice diligently several times a week for at least four to five years to obtain the first level of black belt.

Can Aikido beat taekwondo? ›

The intense conditioning, powerful kicks, and astounding flexibility are amazing bases to build upon with other martial arts or combat styles, even though alone, they won't help you too much against a boxer or a wrestler. All-in-all, though, Taekwondo wins in this category over Aikido, and by a large margin.

Did Van Damme call out Steven Seagal? ›

Jean-Claude Van Damme told what happened years later

I saw him in Planet Hollywood and I said, 'Hey, Steven, you speak bad about me on TV. Why?' "And he goes--" he breaks off, spewing Cro-Magnonesque mutterings, then continues in his own voice. "I said, 'Come on, look, I'm a nice guy.

Does Steven Seagal speak fluent Japanese? ›

Steven Seagal is the only western celebrity we found who is truly fluent in Japanese! The actor and martial arts expert lived in Japan for at least 10 years and previously was married to a Japanese woman, Miyako Fujitani. Seagal moved to Japan at around 20 years old and stayed on to study marital arts.

How old is Steven Seagal today? ›

Are there punches in Aikido? ›

Many of the strikes (打ち, uchi) of aikido are often said to resemble cuts from a sword or other grasped object, which indicates its origins in techniques intended for armed combat. Other techniques, which appear to explicitly be punches (tsuki), are also practiced as thrusts with a knife or sword.

Are there black belts in Aikido? ›

Students wear a white belt for the first four Kyu levels and then move to a brown belt for the last two levels, finishing with a black belt once the Dan levels are reached. Weapons class students add a stripe onto the end of their colored belts for each level successfully completed.

Does Aikido have offensive moves? ›

Aikido was designed to be a humane method of self-defense. It redirects the force of the attacker and then controls the attacker with joint manipulation or a throw, and it is very painful if resisted by the attacker. Strict Aikido has no offensive techniques.

Who's the better fighter Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee? ›

Chuck Norris match would be. Many feel that Lee's speed – which Norris himself has repeatedly praised – would be enough to overwhelm Norris, while others feel that the karate champion's strength and size would prevail against the kung fu legend.

Was Chuck Norris trained by Bruce Lee? ›

While competing, Norris met Bruce Lee, who at the time was known for the TV series The Green Hornet. They developed a friendship, as well as a training and working relationship. In 1969, during the first weekend of August, Norris defended his title as world champion at the International Karate Championship.

What fighting style did Bruce Lee master? ›

Jeet kune do founded by Bruce Lee in 1967 and translates as “the way of the intercepting fist”. It is a hybrid of martial arts systems and life philosophy. “Jeet kune do is just a name”, says Lee, and cannot be compared to any other style because it is not a collection of techniques or movements.

Has Bruce Lee ever fought a real fight? ›

In the early 1960s, Bruce Lee was challenged to a street fight by a kung fu master who was reportedly unhappy with Lee's teachings of Chinese martial arts to non-Chinese students. The fight was brief but intense, and it solidified Lee's reputation as a true martial arts master.

Was Bruce Lee strong in real life? ›

However, the peak of Lee's strength was his signature one-inch punch, which could impact targets at around 190 km/h, the equivalent of being punched by a train (via South China Morning Post). Popular Mechanics postulates the move's strength comes from Lee controlling his entire body with pinpoint precision.

How did Bruce Lee become so fast? ›

One of Bruce Lee's training regimens to be more explosive and faster was isometric training. Bruce Lee was a big fan of isometrics. He did it 2-3 times a week. Isometrics helped Bruce Lee and his offense and defensive martial arts techniques, be faster and more explosive.

How long did Bruce Lee train a day? ›

He varied his exercises to avoid boredom. One of his favorite exercises was running four miles a day in 24 to 25 minutes.

What martial arts does John Wick use? ›

Gun fu in John Wick, as described by director Chad Stahelski, is a combination of “Japanese jiu-jitsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, tactical 3-gun, and standing Judo.” Under the watchful eye of Jonathan Eusebio, the fight coordinator for both John Wick films, Keanu Reeves took those arts (and others) and threw them into a ...

Who is the most loved martial artist? ›

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is ranked first among the top 10 martial artists in the world in 2021. Lee Jun-fan (27 November 1940 - 20 July 1973) was a Chinese martial art performer, star, film maker, martial art teacher, and philosopher.

Who is the most muscular female fighter? ›

1) Gabi Garcia

Brazilian MMA fighter and BJJ world champ Gabi Garcia is, simply put, a freak of an athlete. At 6 feet and 2 inches (188 cm) and 238 pounds (108 kgs), she easily dwarves most MALE UFC fighters in size. Nobody in Women's MMA even come close to her in terms of size and muscles.

Can a woman trained in martial arts beat a man? ›

Whether you're male or female you don't need an extraordinary amount of strength or power to strike and defeat your opponent, instead, you need proper technique, agility, and speed. A female fighter who dominates proper technique remains calm and in control of herself, can overpower a larger and stronger male.

Who is the best fighter pilot of all time? ›

1. Erich “Bubi” Hartmann. Erich Hartmann is the most successful fighter pilot of all times – with 352 kills.

Who would win Ali or Tyson? ›

Muhammad Ali fought in 541 rounds while Tyson only fought in 211 rounds. That's an astounding 330 round difference or the equivalent of 27.5 more 12 round fights for Muhammad Ali. That experience simply can't be discounted. Muhammad Ali was a boxer who fought to embarrass and outclass his opponents.

Who has the strongest punch in boxing history? ›

Mike Tyson - The Hardest Puncher in Boxing Ever! The World of Boxing!

Which is the No 1 martial arts in the world? ›

Judo is renowned for emphasising chokes, trips, joint locks, throws, and sweeps despite being descended from Jiu-Jitsu. There are no deadly moves in the Judo techniques. It is thus one of the most sport-safe forms of martial arts. Judo is the best martial art to study if you want to learn how to defend yourself.

Who really taught Bruce Lee how do you fight? ›

But have you ever heard of Ip Man, the man who taught Lee how to fight? In the first half of the 20th century, in in the village of Foshan in Guangdong Province, Southern China, there lived a man known as Master Ip, or Ip Man.

What was Bruce Lee's fear? ›

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." Here is an old quote from a famous martial artist, Bruce Lee.

Why was Bruce Lee rejected? ›

He wanted to join the army and rigorously trained for it but didn't make it. Several reasons have come forth for Lee's rejection, and it had to do with his medical condition. While it is speculated that he had an undescended testicle that stopped his enlistment, it has never been substantiated.

Who was the master who trained Bruce Lee? ›

Ip Man, also known as Yip Man, (Chinese: 葉問 / 叶问; 1 October 1893 – 2 December 1972) was a Hong Kong-based Cantonese martial artist and a grandmaster of the martial art of Wing Chun when he was 20.

Who is stronger Bruce Lee or Ip Man? ›

Who Would Win in a Fight – Ip Man or Bruce Lee? This is a question that has perhaps added to the mystique of both Ip Man and Bruce Lee. The idea alone is enough for some to view it as a clash of two Wing Chun titans. In this case, however, Ip Man would win, and even Bruce Lee would attest to that.

How was Bruce Lee so powerful with so little muscles? ›

Bruce Lee was constantly experimenting with new training techniques and spent hours every day honing his body and his technique. He was pound-for-pound one of the most powerful people on the planet and that was undoubtedly a result of his training for speed and strength rather than size.

What was Bruce Lee suffering from? ›

Bruce Lee's death was officially ruled to be the result of cerebral oedema caused by hypersensitivity to Equagesic.

Was Bruce Lee a shy person? ›

Bruce was very quiet and shy but could be very aggressive if he wanted to be. He was a show-off and always wanted to flaunt his body'.

What did Bruce Lee have removed? ›

Why Did He Get His Armpit Sweat Glands Removed? Bruce Lee faced an issue with excessive sweating while he used to perform stunts. In order to achieve the sweat-free look, Lee had his sweat glands removed from under his armpits, according to Cheat Sheet.

Did Bruce Lee have friends? ›

Takauki "Taky" Kimura (March 12, 1924 – January 7, 2021) was a Japanese American martial artist who was best known as being one of Bruce Lee's top students and closest friends - and a certified instructor in Jun Fan Gung Fu, personally certified by Bruce Lee himself.

What fighting styles did Bruce Lee use? ›

Bruce's martial journey, of almost 20 years, begins at age 13, with him learning the Chinese art of Wing Chun Gung-Fu and ends with the development of his own art of Jeet Kune Do.

Was Bruce Lee good at boxing? ›

Lee was trained in boxing, between 1956 and 1958, by Brother Edward, coach of the St. Francis Xavier's College boxing team. Lee went on to win the Hong Kong schools boxing tournament in 1958, while scoring knockdowns against the previous champion Gary Elms in the final.


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