The Legendary Martial Artist That Bruce Lee Inspired

Hapkido black belt, death-defying stuntman, and all-around martial arts/comedic master Jackie Chan is known for performing his own breathtaking acrobatics in fight-scene-filled flicks like Rumble In the Bronx, Rush Hour, Drunken Master, the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid, and so many other films. And where does a legend like that get the inspiration to karate chop and high kick his way off the screen and into our hearts? Why, from another absolute legend, of course.

It was Bruce Lee who inspired Chan to become such a household name in the world of the martial arts action movie. According to Thrillist, Chan began his film career working as a stuntman, and the pivotal moment came when he got a gig getting his butt kicked on the set of Lee's classic 1972 film Fist of Fury. The two got to know each other better on the set of Enter the Dragon, filmed the following year. Chan actually had a small acting role on Fist of Fury, heralding his destiny as a leading man in his career to come.

"He influenced me a lot," said Chan in a 1997 interview. "I admired him, and the way he would talk. He could even speak English. Everyone thought he was a god." Chan even feigned injuries on set in order to get a chance to talk to his idol.

Jackie Chan fought to get out of Bruce Lee's shadow

According to Evolve Daily, Chan's first few attempts at filling Lee's legendary shoes weren't successful, and he soon realized that he wasn't going to make it by doing the same stuff that his idol did on screen. So he decided to change tack. Instead of focusing on pure martial arts skill, he combined his killer moves with impressive athleticism and spectacular stunts, then mixed in a little comedy for good measure. The resulting sub-genre that Jackie Chan created in 1980s China was called wu da pian, which, writes Bright Lights Film Journal, translates to something like "fight films using martial arts." It was Chan's personal variation on the well-established wu xia pian genre of "hero films" that started in the 1920s.

"Back then, everyone made the same kind of film, so I developed a new-wave genre of martial arts film, the wu da pian, through my police films," said Chan. And like his idol, he went on to define a generation of moviegoing experiences that continues to this day. A true master and teacher of his art, Bruce Lee inspired Jackie Chan to become, not a copy of himself, but a genuine martial arts movie idol in his own right, and on his own terms.