The Real Reason Jet Li Refused To Be Richard Nixon's Bodyguard

As Biography details, in 1974, an 11-year-old Jet Li was crowned the All-Around National Wushu champion and would retain his throne for five years. As part of a tour of 45 countries, Li visited Washington D.C. with the Beijing Wushu Team and put his martial arts mastery on display. In the process, he met President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Around this time, Nixon was rapidly cracking under the pressure of the Watergate scandal for which he resigned in August 1974. Per The Daily Beast, he was a paranoid mess behind the scenes, raving insanely about enemies and drinking like an alcoholic fish.

In the months before he kicked himself out of the Oval Office met, the commander in chief was so out-of-control that Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger allegedly told the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ignore Nixon's orders in case a power-drunk POTUS tried to nuke a country or start a war in a desperate effort to rescue his presidency. Perhaps that same sense of power-drunk self-preservation drove the soon-to-be-ex-president to say to Li, "Young man, your kung fu is very impressive! How about being my bodyguard when you grow up?"

Why Tricky Kick said no to Tricky Dick

What Nixon was thinking when he made this job offer is anyone's guess. But the logical guess is that it was a kind gesture intended to compliment Jet Li and in no way meant to be taken seriously. But that kind of ruins the whole premise of this article ... Regardless of whether Nixon was serious, why didn't Li jump at the chance? Did Nixon smell like paranoia and booze? Was Li afraid of getting saddled with some ridiculous Nixon-themed nickname like "Tricky Kick" or, worse, "Kicky Dick?"

As Slate recounts, Li recalled in an essay that he told Nixon, "No, I don't want to protect any individual. When I grow up, I want to defend my one billion Chinese countrymen!" Apparently, an awkward silence ensued until Henry Kissinger chimed in: "Heavens, such a young boy and he already speaks like a diplomat!" Li did become a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization in 2009, which sounds like a much better choice than palling around with Tricky Dick and ol' Kissy.