When I was about ten or eleven years old, I saw an article on Bruce Lee. There were photographs of him kicking towards a man’s head and it seemed impossibly high… yet, there it was. Human physical perfection. There were other images of him sparring, running, lifting weights and there was one photograph of particular interest to me. I didn’t know it at the time, but this photograph would change my life forever. Bruce is sitting in front of a wall of books. Personal library.
In the image, I could see some of the titles. There were books by D.T. Suzuki on Zen Buddhism, works on Confucius, several books by Krishnamurti and works on philosophy, religion, weapons, wrestling, Karate, boxing, fencing and other things. I wrote down as many titles as I could read and went to the school library the next day. They were accustomed to me being in there. I practically hid out in the school library. It kept me from being bullied and having my ass kicked. I learned early on, that jocks don’t use the library too often.
I read and read. Most of it I didn’t understand. The philosophy and religion books were too wordy and deep for me. I was young. But several things stood out to me from this experience. The world was vast and interesting, I lived in a very isolated backwards area and that I could do anything, if I set myself to the task. Bruce Lee was a small, thin and sickly boy. He was rebellious, hyperactive and in trouble regularly. He discovered the martial arts and weight lifting. Soon, he began to build himself up. He applied himself to reading and cultivating his mind. He channeled his energy into becoming the best human being that he could be.
Norman Vincent Peale’s book, ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ quickly became a regular read for me. It made sense. Krishnamurti’s ‘Think on these Things’ was one book that I thoroughly enjoyed at a young age. He wrote, “Religion is the frozen thought of man, out of which they build temples.” I was raised a Christian and I saw hypocrisy all around me before I even knew what hypocrisy was. Krishnamurti was like a cold drink on a hot day. Through the years, I’ve practiced martial arts, lifted weights, trained, ran and kept super fit. I read voraciously. All of the books and words I’ve read didn’t help with my alcoholism… I couldn’t quite escape its tortuous calling. Words are weapons… but only sometimes.
Once I turned myself over to a course of recovery however, those books and pages of knowledge became invaluable. I could see and apply principles everywhere. Another thing that came from all of this at a young age, is that by reading the books in the Bruce Lee photograph, it really opened my mind to other people, races, cultures and religions. I may not have completely understood, but I was open to learning about it. My Pennsylvania Christian fears gave way to a freedom and desire to learn… I received this gift from Bruce Lee.
Back porch. Bruce Lee and relative 1968
Back porch 2018
Bruce Lee with Brandon and Shannon. Roscomare Road 1969
Bruce Lee Roscomare Road 2018 (compare neighbors palm tree with previous image)
Over the years, I’ve gone to places that Bruce Lee lived and trained. When I was in the military, a few of us went to his old place on Cumberland Road in Hong Kong. Now that I live in Los Angeles, I go up into Bel Air and periodically stop by the Roscomare Road property. I stretch out and jog up onto Mulholland and run the route Bruce once took on his exercise days. I’ve been able to have access to the back yard of that property after a long effort. I took images of Bruce and shot the same angles from then and now. It is interesting that the property hasn’t changed that much.
Backyard. Bruce with family 1969
Bruce Lee and sparring partner. Back porch. 1968
Back porch 2018
Bruce Lee’s ‘Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute’ in Chinatown Los Angeles is empty and unchanged as well. I stood on the sidewalk yesterday and marveled at that fact. The Roscomare Road Bel Air property is mostly the same after forty plus years and I found the Chinatown location the same. I must admit that it was a spiritual experience being at both. I pictured Lew Alcindor and Danny Inosanto and the others, walking through the door back in 1967… I sat on the stoop and took it in.
Bruce Lee and Bobo at the Chinatown Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute at 628 College St.
628 College St. Chinatown. 2/22/2019
Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute Chinatown Los Angeles 1968
Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute
As a teenager, my inspirations were mostly skateboarders… Tony Alva, Kent Senatore, Jerry Valdez and others. However, Bruce Lee always held the top spot for me. His life–as an example–made me realize that I could accomplish anything, that I was worth something and that I could build myself up. If I wanted to do something, I had to go do it. Thinking about it, wasn’t enough. “Knowledge is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” Thank you Bruce Lee. Love you man! XO Ozzie