How fast was Bruce Lee?

The only thing that's more impressive than Bruce Lee's legend is his reported real-life fighting skill. Even though he was a lightweight whose physique was not unlike a particularly fit stick figure, Lee was so strong that he could reportedly do 50 one-armed chin-ups and hold a 75-pound weight with an outstretched arm. 

Cool, right? Still, Lee's strength wasn't even his most impressive physical property. Instead, as anyone who has seen his movies can attest, the thing that made Lee stand head and shoulders above the competition was his incredible speed. Have you ever wondered just how fast Bruce Lee really was? Let's find out! 

The speed of the Dragon

Bruce Lee was fast, you guys. Really, really fast. How to measure it, though? It seems unfair to estimate just how fast he can, say, run a mile, because Bruce Lee doesn't need to run. With that in mind, let's look at the legendary martial artist's two main forms of on-screen communication, kicking and punching. According to Wing Chun News, some of Lee's close friends actually started calling him "Bruce's Three Kicks" because of an incident in Hong Kong where he demonstrated his lightning-fast kicking speed: "Bruce Lee hung a very small ball with a fishing line from the ceiling. The height is about his eye. He stands three feet from the ball and then sidekicks. The first kick makes the ball swing hard, but Bruce Lee is still able to kick it three times without putting down his leg." The book Bruce Lee: A Life recounts that Lee used to demonstrate his moves to the camera crew on set, and although he obviously didn't connect, his sheer speed had an assistant director's entire body "swaying back and forth in reaction to blows too fast for his brain to register." 

If you want numbers, look no further than Lee's legendary one-inch punch. According to South China Morning Post, this seemingly lightweight attack belied the fact that Lee's punches came at you at speeds of up to 118 miles per hour — the equivalent of a "high-speed train" hitting you on a fist-sized area.