Why Bruce Lee is Better than Chuck Norris

Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Thanksgiving, birthday, Laser Time

Did you know this Thanksgiving was Bruce Lee’s 74th birthday? What better time to pit him against the Texas Ranger himself?

Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris are two of the best known martial artists in the world, and have been regarded as top entertainment fighters for decades. They have been internationally celebrated for their unique fighting styles and expertise. But if they were both in the arena, who would win the fight?

Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Thanksgiving, birthday, Laser Time

When trying to compile a list of some of the most notable figures in martial arts, it’s almost guaranteed that Bruce Lee will come to mind. Born on November 27th, 1940 in San Francisco, California, Bruce Lee began teaching martial arts at the age of 19. He taught what he called Jun Fan Gung Fu, which translates literally to “Bruce Lee Kung Fu.” It was his own approach to Wing Chun, which is a Chinese form of martial arts based on utilizing striking and grappling as a form of self-defense. Lee performed various tricks and maneuvers at the Long Beach International Karate Championships in 1964, including the two finger push-up (using only the thumb and index finger of one hand) and the “unstoppable punch” against USKA world Karate champion Vic Moore. Lee threw a straight punch at Moore’s face and stopped before impact. In eight different attempts, Moore failed to block a single punch.

Lee was exposed to films at a young age, as his father was a famous Chinese opera singer. He performed several roles as a child actor, but in adulthood, he created a body of martial arts classics like Enter the Dragon, Fists of Fury, Return of the Dragon, and The Game of Death. In all of these, Lee performed his own stunts, leaving audiences astonished at his grace, style, and agility (in honor of Lee’s birthday, the El Rey Network showed a “Way of the Turkey” marathon of Kung Fu movies, including many of Lee’s classics; tune in if you have DirecTV).

Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Thanksgiving, birthday, Laser Time

Chuck Norris, who trained with Lee and starred with him in Return of the Dragon, was born on March 10th, 1940 and raised in Oklahoma. Norris’ career in martial arts began in his twenties when he participated in various Karate tournaments and championships. He initially started off on a losing streak, being defeated in his first two tournaments and later losing all three matches at the International Karate Championships by Tony Tulleners. However, in 1969, he won Karate’s triple crown for the most tournament wins of the year, and went on to make history in 1990 when he became the first Westerner in the documented history of the martial arts field of Tae Kwon Do to be given the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt Grand Master.

Norris’ movie career began in the 1969 film The Wrecking Crew, but it wasn’t until 1972 that he met Lee at a martial arts demonstration in Long Beach. The two sparred together frequently, with Lee often beating Norris, but became friends. Norris played the nemesis of Lee in the The Way of the Dragon, which many agree is what launched him into stardom.

Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Thanksgiving, birthday, Laser Time

Now, taking into consideration that both Lee and Norris both reached their martial arts peak in the early seventies (before Lee’s unfortunate death in 1973), who would have won a fight with them both at their best level of physical fitness and mastery? The widely debated issue has gotten downright scientific, with some even going so far as to analyze the differences between Lee’s and Norris’ stances and coming up with formulas to prove who the real winner would be. Others choose to stay out of the debate altogether, with the rebuttal that neither Lee nor Norris were professional fighters, but instead performers who merely staged well-choreographed fights. Authentic, yes, but not real.

Personally, I find that both men were professional fighters and performers. They both have experience in tournaments and championships, none of which they would have been able to win if they were measly martial arts stylists. But when it comes down to it, Lee would have more than likely taken out Norris in a battle. Why? Because of his sheer, unadulterated agility, endurance, and dedication. Bruce Lee was an amateur boxer, and a master of martial arts to the extent that he instructed others. He won countless tournaments and events, and while Norris was clearly an impressive contender and fighter himself, he was simply excellent, while Lee was–and still remains, to this day–unmatchable.

Article by contributor Beth Kelly.

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6 thoughts on “Why Bruce Lee is Better than Chuck Norris

    1. I think that’s a good thing. The jokes are a hyperbolic representation of chuck norris’s career. They’re funny because in Norris’s B-movie-esque films, he portrays these hard-as-nails, NRA wet dream, Clint Eastwood wannabe’s who come off as simply camp.

      Bruce Lee retains his legend because he was the real deal. Maybe not in the superhuman sense, but he could act, direct, choreograph, write, teach, and fight. I’m glad that it’s not overstated by a bunch of jokes.

      Even though I’m a bit bias, I’ll add that Chuck Norris movies are still a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

      1. Doesn’t matter cause Stallone wins hands down every time! 100 percent kidding and great article Sir. If Bruce was still alive he would totally be in expendables 4. Just think about that for a second.

  1. This article is factually inaccurate. Bruce Lee did not win countless tournaments and events. He won one amateur Boxing tournament in Hong Kong in 1958. That’s it. Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee probably did some light sparring (they did choreograph an epic fight scene) but what is your source for Bruce Lee winning these sparring matches? I am a Bruce Lee fan but this article is adding to the Bruce Lee myth. The only footage of Bruce Lee in a real sparring match is against Dan Inosanto where they wear heavy padding and headgear. Bob Wall says he sparred with Bruce Lee on the set of Enter the Dragon but someone owns the rights to the footage and won’t release it. Bruce Lee was not a professional fighter. He did not have one professional fight in any combat sport.

    He was however a street fighter since his early teens who accepted challenge matches against other Martial Artists on occasion. One of his students Jesse Glover recalls a fight in Seattle between Bruce Lee and a Karate master on a YMCA handball court that Glover refereed. The time keeper recorded the fight as lasting 11 seconds with Bruce Lee winning by knockout. Another fight which has become infamous occurred in Bruce Lee’s studio in Oakland against a Kung Fu master named Wong Jack Man. Bruce Lee and Linda Lee both claimed that this fight ended in about 3 minutes with Bruce Lee beating Wong Jack Man into a state of demoralization forcing him to verbally submit. The result of this fight is widely disputed notably in a book titled Showdown in Oakland: The Story Behind the Wong Jack Man – Bruce Lee Fight. The author says the fight was actually a draw that lasted 20-25 minutes and that Bruce Lee probably lied about his side of the story. Whatever happened the fight occurring is well documented and is one of many fights for which there are eye witness accounts.

    Chuck Norris of course competed in point Karate tournaments which is technically professional fighting but a far cry from full-contact fighting. The early UFC events showed that point fighters weren’t the most effective when it came to full-contact fighting with no rules. I’m not familiar with Chuck’s street fighting exploits but I’d be willing to bet that Bruce Lee had more street fights. Bruce was clearly in better physical condition but Chuck was the bigger fighter. I don’t know who would have one if they fought in their prime. My money is on Bruce Lee because his knowledge of fighting was on another level and he was in superior physical condition. Chuck Norris is an excellent Martial Artist but Bruce Lee’s Martial Arts training was geared towards real fighting. He didn’t like point fighting and his criticisms of it were proven true in Mixed Martial Arts competition.

    Bruce Lee was ahead of his time. I think he was one of the greatest Martial Artists of his era but that was a long time ago. I believe that he has been surpassed by Mixed Martial Artists like Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre and current UFC champion and contenders. MMA combines all of the Martial Arts disciplines in to a full-contact, freestyle setting where fighters compete against other world class athletes. No sport like it existed in Bruce Lee’s time (there was Vale Tudo, MMA’s predecessor but it wasn’t well-known outside Brazil). No Martial Artist in Lee and Norris’ prime could attain the level of skill of modern Mixed Martial Artists because they didn’t have these key components to making a great fighter:

    1. Full-contact fighting

    2. World class competition

    They had the conditioning. They had the knowledge. They had skill but it wasn’t on the level of modern Professional Fighters. Bruce Lee was great but he was not unmatchable. He has been surpassed and its to his credit that he had a profound impact on the evolution of Martial Arts. The greatest compliment you can give your master is to surpass him and that is what modern Mixed Martial Artists have done to the Martial Artists of old.

  2. Till this day people still look at Bruces physical feats as to why he was so good.
    Focusing on his external training and practicing techniques from various external martial arts.

    Bruce was an internal gung fu practioner first and foremost he was taught Wu Style Taiji by his father.

  3. The fact that Norris never talks about the sparing matches they had tells it all. Other fighters have said they spared and Bruce won. Norris will never say Bruce was better because he such a great fighter him self. Also he always starts of the convo with. Well when I was the grand champion and. Bruce was a great actor. He always through a that in. Norris always Fought in one punch point contact fights too. Bruce would have killed home in 45 seconds

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