Martial Arts Myths & Misconceptions
Bruce Lee Was Assassinated By Shaolin Killer Monks
By Jonathan Maberry
This myth one began circulating shortly after Lee’s untimely death
in 1973. Actually there are dozens --perhaps hundreds-- of myths surrounding
the death of Bruce Lee. The one I heard most often as a teenager was
that he was killed for revealing secrets of the Shaolin Temple; or murdered
by rival kung-fu teachers in Chinatown. In the 1980s, during the height
of the Ninja movie craze, the story that ninjas killed Lee became the
big urban legend.
None of that is true.
Despite his megalithic stature as an actor, and his quickly-growing
reputation as a top-flight martial arts innovator and thinker, Lee was
an ordinary man subject to the same weaknesses and medical frailties
as anyone else. It was an allergic reaction that slew the Dragon, not
Lee had been discussing script points with Betty Tingpei, an actress
with whom he was co-starring in the never-finished Game of Death. Lee,
who suffered from severe headaches, began getting a pounding one that
afternoon and asked for some painkillers. She offered him some Equagesic,
a painkiller she often used; Lee took some and then went into another
room to lie down for a few moments. Unfortunately the medicine the actress
offered him contained aspirin, to which Lee was severely allergic. The
anaphylactic reaction caused a brain edema (a swelling of the brain caused
by a congestion of fluid) and he lapsed into a coma during his nap. Though
there were heroic attempts to revive him, he never recovered and died
quickly. Dr. R.R. Lycette of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, cited Lee's death
as a hypersensitivity to one or more of the compounds found in the Equagesic
tablet he consumed that afternoon.
Considering how much life and energy Lee projected on the screen and
in public appearances it was almost impossible for anyone --myself included—to
accept that he had just simply died. Lee was the martial arts cinema’s
superman. He was unbeatable, unkillable; and we all could have accepted,
in some strange way, that he had gone down fighting against a rash of
overwhelming enemies; but an allergic reaction to aspirin was not possible.
Giants don’t die so easily.
Now, over 30 years later, there are still conspiracy theorists who make
elaborate cases for the mysterious and nefarious murder of Lee; and with
the tragic and unfortunate death of his son, Brandon --who died in a
way that bizarrely mirrored a scene in Game of Death-- the myths persist,
coroner’s reports notwithstanding.
About the Author:
Jonathan Maberry is the award-winning author of over 700 articles as
well as several books, including Ultimate Jujutsu Principles and Practices
and The Martial Arts Student Logbook. He holds an 8th degree black belt
in jujutsu and a 5th dan in Hapkido, is a member of the Martial Arts
Hall of Fame, and is co-founder of the COP-Safe program. Visit his website