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Bruce Lee’s brother shares tale of late action hero’s fear of cockroaches

By Rachel Tackett

On July 13, the film "Bruce Lee, My Brother" (released as "Young Bruce Lee" in English), will be coming to Japan. It was originally released in Hong Kong in 2010 and tells the story of Bruce Lee’s childhood and early career as based on a book, "Memories of Lee Siu Loong," written by the dearly departed movie star’s siblings.

Robert Lee, Bruce Lee’s younger brother, has visited Japan to promote the film. While here he took part in an exclusive interview with online newspaper Tokyo Sport, where he addressed many of the rumors surrounding Bruce Lee’s untimely death at the age of just 32. He also shared an unexpected story involving the top-notch fighter’s dreadful fear of cockroaches.

There are a great many rumors and speculations regarding the early death of the beloved martial artist. In a medical examination just two months before his passing, doctors declared that Lee’s body was like that of an 18-year-old, and yet for some reason, his life could not be sustained. People wonder if perhaps his death was the result of some allergic reaction or maybe a nefarious murder plot. According to an early autopsy, brain swelling was the cause of death. However, after the body was returned to Hong Kong, it was examined a second time, and the cause of death marked as unknown.

When asked about the possibility of Bruce having been murdered, Robert found that bit of speculation unlikely. “Before dying, he was far too busy to have gotten wrapped up in any sort of trouble,” the younger brother stated.

It’s so difficult to reconcile the thought of such a healthy young man dying so suddenly. Apparently, there are many fans who believe that Bruce Lee is still alive somewhere. Hanging out with Elvis, perhaps? At the mention of this theory, Robert took on a forlorn expression and responded, “I love Bruce very much, but I have to embrace the truth. I’m sorry to say that that’s really not the case.”

Thankfully, rather than dwell on all things sad, Robert Lee was kind enough to share an interesting side of Bruce that one wouldn’t really expect from the famous action hero we’ve seen in the movies.

Apparently, Bruce Lee was terrified of cockroaches. Robert, himself, had no idea of this until one night in Hong Kong there was a sudden series of loud bangs coming from the kitchen. It was the middle of the night, and everyone had been asleep, but quickly jerked awake and ran to the kitchen to see what was going on. There, on top of the kitchen table was Bruce Lee screaming and crying as a cockroach flew circles around him.

Funny as it is, the story seems a bit unbefitting an epic action hero, but to Robert, Bruce was above all his brother, a friendly guy, with a wonderful sense of humor and a big, warm heart.

Source: Tokyo Sports

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Me too. But Bruce could have just one inch punched them. Do cockraoches fly in HK?

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There, on top of the kitchen table was Bruce Lee screaming and crying as a cockroach flew circles around him.

They fly, but usually in straight trajectories. I've never heard of them flying in a holding pattern. Disgusting things. Combat helps.

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Wow, the movie come to Japan two years after a DVD is on Amazon? Must we pay 1800 yen for so old movie? Why so late, Japan? Many people love Bruce Lee here!

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Possibly he was poison and this may show in exaggerated fear of cockroaches. Pressure building in his brain could compress nerves in his brainstem suggesting possible slow poisoning.

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Well, who does not fear cockroaches?!

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didn't even know he had a younger brother, never hear about him... strange.

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One does not simply, not fear cockroaches.

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JA, wiki is your friend. people have siblings, regardless if we know or not about them.

"Bruce was the fourth child of five children: Phoebe Lee (李秋源), Agnes Lee (李秋鳳), Peter Lee (李忠琛), and Robert Lee (李振輝)."

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Bruce Lee was The Man! My first "favorite celebrity." He's been gone for 40 years but no one will ever surpass him as far as legendary martial artists are concerned.

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Mocheake - not even the legendary Chuck Norris? Steven Seagal? Jackie Chan? Jet Li? plus others i am too excited to list.

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plus others i am too excited to list.

Both hands back on the keyboard, please.

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Bruce Lee used to visit Okinawa to study the Okinawan form of karate. Wonder if he ever encountered a cockroach there? I sure did. And they did fly ... and not only in one direction, but, I guess, in circles. At night I would stand on the roof of my home and look at the stars and outer space through my telescope ... and occasionally a flying cockroach would bang into my body (usually my head).

And, yes, Hong Kong had its share of cockroaches, too. Maybe a cockroach buzzed Bruce ... and his heart gave out? Who knows? My Hong Kong friend said Bruce's death was probably the result of the "North Wind ... that blew up his rectum while he was nude ..." (He might have said while having sex ... but I forget ... but I think the implication was there.)

Oh ... and, yes, Bruce did turn some out some neat (and hilarious) movies ...

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akbfan . Steven Seagal you have got to be kidding? Bruce was and still is the best,Jackie and Jet cannot split them but a way distant second together which is no disgrace i think.

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In terms of screen charisma Bruce Lee is a memorable legend. In terms of actual martial art skill noone will ever know as he never got in the ring against any of the full contact champions of that time such as Benny Urquidez, Bill Wallace, Joe Lewis and Chuck Norris (although friends no actual "last one standing" matches).

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Bruce Lee was OK for his time and helped open wushu to the west but there way more ma stars before he came along.

As for the best way far from it, ditto for most of the 'ma actors' in movies. Jet Li has a very deep MA background. People forget that movie-fu does NOT represent/reflect true MA skills or knowledge.

Most fights are choreographed, rehearsed, etc.

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Joe Lewis and Chuck Norris were both students of Bruce Lee so i would still say he is the best.Also practised Wing Chun from Ip man not Wushu prior to him developing his own style which is still practised today.

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Wushu is not a style, ma in Chinese is called chuan-fa(Kempo in Japanese).

Bruce Lee never got permission to teach Wing Chun or any other style as his studies were got short.

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martial arts has been known by many translations in chinese for over 2000 years. Lee never taught Wing Chun ,he taught Jun Fan Gung Fu then Jeet Kune Do both his own styles and interpretations.

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"There on top of the kitchen table was Bruce Lee screaming and crying as a cockroach flew circles around him"

Heck, even Chuck Fear the Norris would have been screaming and crying if a cockroach were flying circles around him. I've seen flying cockroaches, but they only flew from, for example, the side of the refrigerator to the kitchen table, or from the kitchen table to behind the gas range. I'm getting ready for another cockroach season, lol.

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AKBfan- Mocheake - not even the legendary Chuck Norris? Steven Seagal? Jackie Chan? Jet Li? plus others i am too excited to list. AKB Fan, none of them are AS legendary as Bruce Lee, especially to people of my generation. Bruce Lee was world famous at the time of his death. I seriously doubt most people in China, Korea and a lot of Europe know who Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris are, no offense to either of them. I'm sure neither of them has had a statue made in their likeness outside of the U.S. Bruce Lee has one in Bosnia

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When I was a lad, Bruce Lee was my sports hero.

We had a couple things in common: we both practiced martial arts, we both married interracially (Asian-Caucasian), with Eurasian children....and now we have one more thing in common -- dreadful fear of cockroaches. =)

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we korean like bruce lee.

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I was a HUGE fan of Bruce Lee when I was a kid growing up back in the 70's.

When anyone thinks of Martial Arts, Bruce Lee is the first name to pop to mind. He made martial arts a household name. For that he is and always will be a legend.

But remember he was an actor and all his movies were choreographed, to perfection I might add. Best martial art fight scenes ever come from the movie Enter the Dragon in my humble opinion. Never seen a movie since that matches that.

However, with regards to his true fighting skill, as others have posted, he never fought in any tournament so we will never know. We only know hearsay from those close to him, especially Danny Inosanto who was probably Bruce's best friend in America. And I'm sure these guys make him appear better than he really was just to honor his name and what he did for martial arts back in the day. He even gave demos at the great Ed Parker (RIP) Karate tournaments back in the 1960's, one inch punch, one finger push ups, kicking, etc..... but never accepted any invitation to compete.........

I saw an interview years ago with Chuck Norris talking about Bruce Lee. The interviewer had asked him who would have won a fight between the two. Chuck as usual was very respectable saying that he (Chuck) at the time he knew and trained with Bruce was the reigning World Full Contact Karate champion. He went on to say that Bruce however was 'Good'.

He also said that during their years of training together they never sparred to see who was the best because 'Chuck didn't want to go there, and Bruce didn't want to go there.'

At the height of his career, Bruce was about 5'7" tall and weighed about 135lbs.

Doing demos of your skills and actually fighting are two different animals!!

As Bruce himself famously said in the movie Enter the Dragon, 'Boards don't hit back.' meaning demos of your skills are worthless unless you can carry them over into actual fighting.

However you remember Bruce, he is a Legend. And one last comment, to even mention someone like Steven Seagal in the same sentence with Bruce Lee is laughable.

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Bruce has never been to Okinawa according his biography. He has been to INDIA which was a birthplace of all martial arts and Yoga. In fact Bruce is more interested in INDIA than his ancestors homeland. According youtube interview for his first audition, he mentioned Karate hit likes a Iron bar. When it was hit, the will be heard as Whack. It is not fluid as Wing Chung Kung Fu when it was hit it will be heard like Whangggg!!!. Although he admitted Kung Fu will not work on real street fight.

Bruce has a Chinese heritage with Maternal German Grandpa. Therefore Bruce himself is mixed race. No wonder he enjoyed mixing Wing Chung with Tae Kown Do, Jujitsu, Western Boxing, fencing and wrestling. MMA is more practical and efficient than traditional martial arts. However very few MMA fighters beat that Myamar(Burmese) Let Wei boxer which is similar to Thai Muay. They use more elbows and knees.

According the Tao of JKD, , if he has to fight more than 2 mins , he assume that he was a loser of match. Therefore MMA or Myanmer let Wei, Thai Muay or Laotian Parsley are different from real street fight. There are no rules, no judge, no back up or no ring on the street. Real fights like fighting cocks killing each others. Kung Fu has one cruelty unlike other martial arts. It has allow to poach the eyes or kicking the groin of opponent.

It is unacceptable for rules dominated tournament ring fight. Bruce has never fought inside ring and he admitted he may lose a lot of his opponent. However Bruce and Mike Tyson demonstrated they will use anything for fight. Mike bite George Forman ear to become pieces. In theory, George won the match. According Tao of JKD, he was a loser. Real fight is cruel , violent and merciless. Both Bruce and Mike became animals when they fought. Not many MMA or Myanmar Letwei boxers are willing to fight with animals. Therefore successful competitors from ring or tournament can not expect they will perform as same on the street.

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Bruce Lee will always remain a legend! :D

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Octagon: I have been to Hong Kong about 20 times, for both business & pleasure, but I never mention it in my "biography," resume or whatever. Way back then Okinawa & Hong Kong were very close to each other and travel was quite easy. Still is ... So ... the only way to confirm whether Bruce was ever in Okinawa would be to check his passport.

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Pls refer to Bruce Lee wiki. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Lee

The most accurate biography one was written by Linda Lee Cadwell who was a his wife. Pls read your old post again.

edojinJun. 12, 2013 - 04:14PM JST

Bruce Lee used to visit Okinawa to study the Okinawan form of karate. Wonder if he ever encountered a cockroach there?

It is a self made story. Bruce Lee was never a fan of Karate which was originated from Okinawa Tae. Okinawa tae was called as Chinese hands before. He did not trust any rigid formed traditional martial arts. He developed his art which is suitable for real world. There was a interview made in 1972. Before it was released as 3 parts in youtube.

So ... the only way to confirm whether Bruce was ever in Okinawa would be to check his passport.

It does not need to check his passport. After his passing, passport needed to be surrendered. You can check with his daughter Sharon Lee whether he has been to Okinawa not. She and her mother Linda Lee Cadwell has every detail of Bruce Lee information. She will feel very sad you are messing up her father martial arts philosophy. You can check the blog in

WWW.BRUCELEE.COM. The site was also created by Shannon Lee and Bruce Lee fans.

Her contact no is Phone: 1-888-383-1088 Her postal address is

Three Twins Entertainment, Inc.

P.O. Box 210

Staten Island, NY 10310

Karate is robot like rigid art for Bruce Lee according Tao of JKD written by him. He wants to be fluid as water. In the Way of the Dragon, waiter who was a Karate artist was punched and fall down at once by a gangster.

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On the cockroaches: Robert doesn't say what age Bruce was when he was screaming on the table. Sounds like he was a little kid. To answer The Chronic and the question of Bruce Lee's real ability: He trained for actual combat, not sport. Things he would use in combat are illegal in sport, such as breaking a leg, etc. I read Jon Benn's book, and also you can find his interview on Youtube. Benn was the boss gangster in Way of the Dragon. Benn said when having dinner in Manila with Chuck Norris he asked him who would win in a fight to the death, 'You or Bruce?' Norris replied, "Bruce, of course." Dan Inosanto is one of the gentlemen of martial arts, with a top reputation as a man of integrity. He and others of that caliber have said: "While not naming names, when Bruce sparred with the tournament champions, he was far above all of the top names." He also went on: "I did not witness this, but trust the witnesses, who saw Bruce spar with Joe Lewis (heavyweight champ karate). "It was like Muhammad Ali against a golden gloves boxer, strictly no contest." One of Elvis' bodyguards said that sparring with Lee "was like fighting a shadow.' Perhaps the most strongest proponent of Bruce Lee's real life ability is Sifu James DeMile. He was US Air Force heavyweight boxing champion, undefeated in 100 boats. He was a streetfighter head of a gang. He said in Seattle, in the early years, "Bruce surrounded himself with streetfighters. When he knew he could defeat the best, he became even better. To this day, I believe that Bruce could have beaten anyone in the world.... tournaments are sport, with rules. Bruce trained for life and death." When people like Lewis questioned concepts such as trapping hands DeMile said, Come on over. Lewis never showed. When people thought they could have beaten Bruce Lee, DeMile said, "You should be able to beat me easily, if you can beat Bruce." No one succeeded against DeMile. When Lee was in his first film made in Thailand he searched for the kickboxing champions. One account, (you can google) one of the champions is named. He says that in a friendly match Bruce defeated him. Lee than asked to match with the champion. The first champ says that Lee also defeated the thai champion. When Lee was in Hong Kong he was challenged in the newspapers by a Hong Kong western boxing champion and martial artist. Since such matches are illegal there, they arranged a private setting in New Territories. It was arranged by Lee's friend who was high in the police dept. The challenger is also named (google, I forget his name). He thought he could blend western boxing and a certain gung fu style. So they met with about 20 witnesses (this was also confirmed by an executive of Golden Harvest): the challenger attacked with a barrage of punches. Lee covered like 'a seasoned boxer' .... then the challenger attempted a leg sweep. Lee avoided the attack and kicked the challenger in the chest. He went down, and was carried off. He had three fractured ribs. Lee's power is well documented, as is his speed and reflexes, etc. When friends made a 300 pound heavy bag as a joke, he kicked it and the garage had to be fixed because of the damage to the supports. When he met the singer Vic Damone in Las Vegas, Damone asked Lee to his suite after the show. There were Damone's two huge, armed bodyguards. The discussion of course came to fighting. The three men said that martial arts were no good. A good Italian streetfighter could beat a top martial artist. Lee said, "well let's do this. The first guard will stand in front of the door, guarding. The second a few feet away with a cigarette in your mouth. This represents a holstered gun. When I come through the door, the first guy will try to stop me. The second I come through, you, the second guard, will take the cigarette from your mouth --- this represents your holstered gun. Now you all know what I'm going to do beforehand, so I'm at a disadvantage. I'll do this all under five seconds, so Vic -- you start counting when I come through the door." So Lee goes out to the hallway and closes the door. Damone says, "Go easy on him. I don't want to hurt him, just knock him on his ass, and we'll be done with this." So they wait a few seconds and then the door comes wrenching off its frame with a big CRACK! with a Lee sidekick. Then he jumped to the second guard who was frozen in place, and kicked the cigarette out of his mouth. He looked at Damone, who said, "Holy Shit!!!" Lee could think on his feet, as we can see there. There are similar stories where the biggest, toughest guys were easily defeated by him. DeMile said the early Seattle students had some really tough guys, "So and so could tear your head off." "So and so was a mountain man who lived with bears..." and these guys said "Bruce could have beaten us all at the same time." Manny Pacquiao says, "Bruce Lee is my hero." Sugar Ray Leonard, a great champion, the Pacquiao of his day has said the same: "He was so fast, so powerful, so fluid. When you call someone the greatest, that's Bruce Lee. When you look in the dictionary, look up 'icon' and that's Bruce Lee." The very BEST champions say that Lee was the best. They have the talent to see he was the real thing. It's only the second grade talents who say "I could have taken Bruce Lee." It is interesting that when he was alive these tournament champions did not challenge him. The top champions were his students, including Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis, Mike Stone. When a top black belt from Japan (and had met all the masters) was visiting Los Angeles and met Lee, he was asked what do you think of him? "Frightening!" Game of Death hapkido master said that he would never film another fight scene with Lee again, because he was too intense. (ie, scary!). And remember, Lee did not have a coach, unlike sports champions. He was his own coach, in the tradition of the great masters. He was not afraid of the triads. As DeMile says, "Those who never met Bruce can wonder if he was the best. Those who knew him don't have that luxury of wondering." (paraphrase).

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