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Wrath of the Dragon

The Real Fights of Bruce Lee

by (author) John Little

ECW Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
Martial Arts & Self-Defense, History, Sports, Entertainment & Performing Arts
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

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Bruce Lee remains the gold standard that all martial artists are compared to. But could he actually fight? World Champions in karate competition have gone on record to point out that he never once competed in tournaments. Were his martial abilities merely a trick of the camera?

For the first time ever, Bruce Lee authority and bestselling author John Little takes a hard look at Bruce Lee’s real-life fights to definitively answer these questions with over 30 years of research that took him thousands of miles. Little has tracked down over 30 witnesses to the real fights of Bruce Lee as well as those who were present at his many sparring sessions (in which he was never defeated) against the very best martial artists in the world.

From the mean streets of Hong Kong, to challenge matches in Seattle and Oakland, to the sets of his iconic films where he was challenged repeatedly, this is the incredible real-life fighting record of the man known as the “Little Dragon,” who may well have been the greatest fighter of the 20th century.

About the author

Contributor Notes

A former judge for the UFC and a practicing martial artist, John Little is the bestselling author of Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body, Who Killed Tom Thomson?, and the two-volume series The Donnellys. His work on Bruce Lee has been lauded internationally. He lives in Bracebridge, Ontario.

Excerpt: Wrath of the Dragon: The Real Fights of Bruce Lee (by (author) John Little)

“Are you sure you want this fight?” Bruce asked.

“Ya, ya, ya.”

Bruce turned so that the witnesses in the room would hear what Nakachi’s answer to his next question would be.

“And you are the one who pushed to have this fight, right?”

Nakachi repeated his previous reply.

Bruce smiled. “All right, then.”

Nakachi now settled into a wide front stance — his left leg forward and his right fist clenched and at his hip, ready to strike. He extended his left arm toward Bruce with the palm open.

Ed Hart, serving as timekeeper, looked down at his wristwatch and waited for the second hand to hit twelve. He held up his left arm and said, “Ready … Begin!”

Nakachi fired a front kick toward Bruce’s chest, which Bruce deflected with his right arm. Before Nakachi could reset, Bruce struck him flush in the face with a left-hand vertical fist and then reeled off a series of rapid-fire chain punches. Each punch landed in Nakachi’s face and drove him across the length of the racquetball court until his back slammed hard into the far wall. Nakachi had attempted to punch back during the initial onslaught, but all of his strikes had been easily deflected. With his opponent now momentarily trapped, Bruce unleashed several more punches to Nakachi’s face.

The Karate man, in a move of desperation, now attempted to grab hold of Bruce’s arms. But at that very moment Bruce pivoted and delivered a double fist punch, one fist striking Nakachi’s face, the other his chest. Because he threw the double punch while twisting, both strikes landed with considerable power. He sent Nakachi, by Jesse’s account, “flying six feet through the air.” When he landed, Nakachi came down on both knees — and was instantly met with a full-force front kick to his face. Blood exploded from the man’s nose, and the force of Bruce’s kick flipped Nakachi over onto his back. According to Jesse:

I hollered “Stop!” because that was one of the rules; if you hit the floor, that was it. But then the guy just went out. He looked like he was dead. I was afraid. I thought, “Damn, I hope this guy’s not dead.”

Ed and Jesse looked at each other in muted shock. Nakachi’s friends were frozen in disbelief.

Ed and Jesse dragged the fallen fighter across the floor to the nearest wall and propped him up against it.

As Nakachi regained consciousness, his eyes blinked, and, recognizing Ed as the timekeeper, he struggled to articulate a question.

“How long [did] it take him to defeat me?”

“The total time of the match was only eleven seconds,” Ed recalled. “But I felt sorry for the guy, so I doubled it, telling him, ‘ah, twenty-two seconds.’ And the guy said, ‘Oooohhh!’ and collapsed back against the wall. That he should lose so quickly was disgraceful to him. Shit, if I had told him the match was only eleven seconds.”

Editorial Reviews

“I consider Bruce Lee to universally be the greatest martial artist that ever lived, and now — for the first time — John Little has documented every meaningful instance of combat that Lee was a part of. Wrath of the Dragon is fascinating from front to back. I couldn’t put it down once I started, and it is an absolute must-read for all Bruce Lee and martial arts fans around the world.” — Scott Coker, president of Bellator MMA

“The masterful account of Bruce Lee’s fighting record that defenders of Lee have long been waiting for. Little’s attention to detail and honest depiction of both legendary and lesser-known Bruce Lee fights puts Wrath of the Dragon on the list of indispensable books on the subject. No Bruce Lee fan should miss this!” — Alex Richter, the “Kung Fu Genius,” author, podcaster, and New York-based Wing Tsun instructor