How Many Black Belts Did Bruce Lee Really Have?

Bruce Lee is a true legend. Even in his short 32 year life span, he left a mythical legacy rivaled only by dragons, unicorns and the laserdisc.

Of course, with monstrous fame and respect comes an aura of mystery, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction. To many born after Lee's time, he is a larger than life figure seemingly separated from mortality, influencing pop culture from beyond the grave.

For example, most people assume Lee was a highly decorated martial arts master. But believe it not, he never actually earned a black belt in any discipline, or any other rank, for that matter. 

When Lee was asked about his rank, he replied: "I don't have any belt whatsoever. That is just a certificate. Unless you can really do it – that is, defend yourself successfully in a fight – that belt doesn't mean anything. I think it might be helpful to hold your pants up, but that's about it," according to Magazine Americana.

Bruce Lee's own fighting style

Obviously, Lee could "really do it," but the closest he came to an official rank within a discipline was his study of Wing Chun, which History Link says he learned under the tutelage of Yip Man, a master who taught him individually for years.

He eventually would leave for America before mastering Wing Chun, partially because he was beating other fighters so badly he began to run into legal trouble.

In America, Lee would go on to develop his own mix of martial art, Jeet Kune Do, which eschewed any one form, technique, in favor of total fluidity. In his own words, Lee considered styles to be "crystallization," rather than a preferable "process of continual growth."

At the end of the day, the legacy of Bruce Lee speaks for itself. He was a man who was unafraid to flying kick conformity in the face, and the result was immortality, and a lifelong pass on things used to hold up pants.