Striking Distance

Striking Distance

Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America

Charles Russo

264 pages
25 photographs


July 2016


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

July 2016


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

July 2016


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In the spring of 1959, eighteen-year-old Bruce Lee returned to San Francisco, the city of his birth, and quickly inserted himself into the West Coast’s fledgling martial arts culture. Even though Asian fighting styles were widely unknown to mainstream America, Bruce encountered a robust fight culture in a San Francisco Bay area that was populated with talented and trailblazing practitioners such as Lau Bun, Chinatown’s aging kung fu patriarch; Wally Jay, the innovative Hawaiian jujitsu master; and James Lee, the no-nonsense Oakland street fighter. Regarded by some as a brash loudmouth and by others as a dynamic visionary, Bruce spent his first few years back in America advocating a more modern approach to the martial arts and showing little regard for the damaged egos left in his wake. 

In the Chinese calendar, 1964 was the Year of the Green Dragon. It would be a challenging and eventful year for Bruce. He would broadcast his dissenting view before the first great international martial arts gathering and then defend it by facing down Chinatown’s young ace kung fu practitioner in a legendary behind-closed-doors high noon–style showdown. The Year of the Green Dragon saw the dawn of martial arts in America and the rise of an icon.

Drawing on more than one hundred original interviews and an eclectic array of sources, Striking Distance is an engrossing narrative chronicling San Francisco Bay’s pioneering martial arts scene as it thrived in the early 1960s and offers an in-depth look at a widely unknown chapter of Bruce Lee’s iconic life.

Author Bio

Charles Russo is an award-winning journalist who lives in San Francisco. 


"I learned a lot. . . . Truly fascinating . . . and written in an engaging way."—Shannon Lee (Bruce Lee's daughter)

"As someone who has been a Bruce Lee fan since I was a teenager, I remember the time when Bruce Lee's life was all myth and mystery. Thank you to journalist Charles Russo who has a written a fun-to-read Bruce Lee book for grownups. It both solidifies Bruce Lee's place in martial arts, pop culture, and history while at the same time demonstrating that there was a good reason Bruce was a walking legend in his brief time on this planet. Bravo!"—W. Kamau Bell, comic and host of CNN’s United Shades of America

"Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America is one of those rare martial arts volumes that is likely to be widely read by individuals practicing a variety of styles."—Ben Judkins, Kung Fu Tea

"A must-have for fans of Bruce Lee and martial arts history."—Matthew Kaplowitz,

"[Striking Distance is] a hard-bitten biography of Bruce Lee's early days before movies made him a mega-star. . . . [It] expertly separates fact from myth and also features some righteous fight scenes."—Dinner Party Download

"For anyone interested in learning more about the origins of martial arts in this country, Striking Distance is a tremendous read."—Brian Burmeister, ARETE

"Russo's work is a useful addition to both the biographies of Bruce Lee, and the history of martial arts in general, and is quite an entertaining read as well."—Delano Lopez, Origins

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Dissident
Part 1. San Francisco
1. The Patriarch
2. Native Son
3. The Good Long Fist
4. The Little Dragon
5. The Soft Arts
6. Three Moves or Less
Part 2. Oakland
7. The Innovator
8. The Hawaiian Connection (Part One)
9. The Hawaiian Connection (Part Two)
10. Way of the Integrated Fist
Part 3. 1964
11. Year of the Green Dragon
12. Long Beach
13. Incident at the Sun Sing Theater
14. Exchanging Hands
15. Aftermath
Epilogue: Screen Test
Author’s Note

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