I made this post on the Sherdog forums on a discussion about Bruce Lee:
So what? Are you saying that because Bruce Lee “inspired” more people to do martial arts, he can rightfully be called the Grandfather of MMA?
The sad things is, the evidence points to Bruce Lee inspiring people with his MOVIES and not his actual martial arts or rantings about martial arts.
Did anyone actually listen to his JKD musings? Apparently not, because when UFC 1 came along seems everyone was doing single style fighting and nobody was cross training.
In effect, he netted the same influence with his JKD philosophy as Dempsey did with his Tough Crosstraining Manual: NADA.
Everyone still thought that martial arts was about standup fighting with fancy kicks and going “Wataa!” Thanks no doubt to Bruce Lee’s movies that glorified this kind of fighting. And this is pretty much what everybody who got into martial arts because of Bruce Lee was thinking. I read the article on the frontpage a few days ago about Vera’s wife. She described herself as a “Bruce Lee-crazed tomboy begging her parents to enroll her into taekwondo” (or something to that effect.
How many people got inspired by Bruce Lee and enrolled into Brazilian Jiujitsu or Greco Roman Wrestling or Sambo? Probably none. They all went to the arts we like to sneer at with disdain as McDojo arts (Karate, Taekwondo, and various forms of Kungfu).
One dimensional as they were, the Gracies are the ones who opened up the gates to what MMA is like today, by proving in the actual spectacle of combat that standup would get demolished by grappling. That is what ultimately led to people crosstraining en masse to succeed in MMA.
It was putting together the different styles in ACTUAL COMBAT that people were able to see what worked, what didn’t, and what needed to be thrown away and to find out what to keep. Not all the theorizing and bullshido Bruce Lee did that never proved anything — again everyone still went back to TMAs and standup in the wake of Bruce Lee’s heyday. It wasn’t Bruce Lee’s JKD who got Mo Smith learning the ground game in order to take out Coleman and eventually become UFC HW Champ, it was actually fighting in real combat, with real stakes, that got him to realize the importance of being a true Mixed Martial Artist.
Bruce Lee is old news. He gets credit for increasing the public awareness and interest in martial arts in a way nobody else ever managed, but his actual success — or lack thereof — in actual practical martial arts will never go away no matter how much the diehard Bruce Nuthuggers wish for it. Theoretics only goes so far, you can’t swim unless you get into the water and get wet. You can’t really do martial arts unless you actually fight.
This is something I had always believed in. Bruce Lee is the Grandfather of the Martial Arts Movie, and perhaps the Grandfather of Bullshido, but it would be a stretch to really call him the Grandfather of MMA.
He had the right idea going — getting out of the style and learning what works — but his lack of actual practical combat experience and more importantly his emphasis on his Kung Fu Movies and his McDojo approach were what ultimately led to people doing nothing but using their interest in him to get into the McDojo TMAs that are scorned by real mixed martial artists and even regular martial artists.
We all know the wonderful site Bullshido.com and it is quite arguable that Bruce Lee is the man most responsible for the rise of McDojo Martial Arts as we know it today, which we all love to call Bullshido. Bruce Lee was famous for going around America doing martial arts demonstrations like his one inch punch, and getting people to believe in his style of fighting, not unlike the various demonstrations Bullshido McDojos use to gather students.
Maybe if Bruce Lee put his money where his mouth was, he’d have a real airtight legacy. Joe Lewis, a world karate champion, always lamented that Bruce Lee never sparred with him and often talked about how Bruce wasn’t the best ever because he never really competed. I have to wholeheartedly agree.
As it is, while there will always be people who will consider him the best martial artist the world has ever known, there will also be a lot of us who see him as nothing more than a glorified movie actor.