“Striking Distance: Bruce Lee & The Dawn of Martial Arts In America” Book Review

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Everyone knows who Bruce Lee is. Everyone. Unless you suddenly had a terrible and abrupt bout of amnesia, you have no excuse to not know who Bruce is, and if you do have amnesia, you better get that fixed quick. There are plenty of books on the market already about Bruce and his career in martial arts and movies, but there is little information about his life before he made it big.

“Striking Distance: Bruce Lee & The Dawn of Martial Arts In America” by Charles Russo looks to answer the questions about Bruce’s origins in America, the country where he was originally born and returned to as an adult after living abroad until he was an adult, just as his Chinese name predicted he would.

Published by the University of Nebraska Press, Russo paints a picture with his words and truly illustrates the lost timeline of Bruce Lee’s life in San Francisco, Seattle, and California as his journey into martial arts super stardom kicked off. I use the word ‘illustrate’ because Russo’s writing style is extremely visual and sensual, and will make you feel like you are there with Bruce, Lau Bun, Wally Jay, James Yimm, Diana Chang, Dan Inosanto and many other influential friends and people from that era of Lee’s life.

From the infamous exhibition during the Ed Parker Karate Invitational, the showdown with Wong Jack Man that changed how he looked at fights, to the publication of Bruce’s first book, “Striking Distance” picks up as soon as Bruce arrives to San Francisco and sees him work his way from the bottom up to owning his own school, and eventually becoming a martial arts movie star and paving the way for the genre to take over the United States. Along with some factual background info to bring you into the timeline, this book explains what led Lee to begin to change his views on martial arts and look to develop his own style, and also examines what drove him philosophically, romantically, and personally to become the person that he became. Told through the eyes of the people that entered his life as much as it is told through Bruce, it is a very personal account that feels all the closer with the spectacular writing skills of Russo.

The book is also filled with a variety of rare photos of Lee and others that make this a true treasure trove for fans of Bruce Lee.

There is no shortage of information on Bruce Lee out there, but this is the first book that delves deep into his return to America, and what helped create arguably the most famous martial artist in the world. Written in a captivating style that enhances the historical information, “Striking Distance” completes the story of Bruce Lee for many who gloss over this integral part of his life, and is a must-have for fans of Bruce Lee and martial arts history.


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