Bruce Lee’s martial arts studio in Los Angeles’ Chinatown has been resurrected nearly 50 years after it shut its doors.
This past Sunday, martial artist Eric Carr reopened the place where the iconic Lee originally taught his students his personal style of Jeet Kune Do (JKD), which translates to “way of intercepting fist.”
Carr, whose teacher Jerry Poteet was one of Lee’s select, original students, told NBC News in a phone interview that he felt compelled to resurrect the studio to preserve the martial arts legend’s legacy and to continue Poteet’s mission.
“It's a landmark. The teaching, philosophy, and mindset of Bruce Lee have influenced people and martial arts around the world for decades,” Carr said. Poteet, who privately trained with Lee at both his house and studio and died in 2012, dedicated his life to keeping the art of JKD alive, Carr added.
"It was Jerry's wish for everyone he trained to carry the flame,” Carr said. “This was my small part in giving back and bringing the art home and accomplishing a dream on my own path.”
The studio had remained relatively vacant since 1969, aside from a stint as a dentist’s office. Though Lee, who died in 1973, had opened other studios in Seattle’s Chinatown, the L.A. location was his only one in the area. While there, he taught his fighting style and philosophy, one that’s rooted in the interception of an opponent’s technique or intent. The principles of simplicity, directness and freedom are also key to Jeet Kune Do.
Carr, who says he consulted Lee’s family in the reopening process, explained that he aims to pass the craft on to future generations in its pure form, offering one-on-one classes, seminars and children's classes.
“JKD is the life's work of Bruce Lee, and I want to offer an authentic experience and will stick to the essence of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce's methods and his philosophy, and personal training mindset and spirit,” he said.
Lee has remained a critical figure among Asian Americans and beyond because of his work in both martial arts and entertainment. He not only prompted a wave of martial arts-themed movies in Hollywood, but also served as an emblem of strength and power during a time when many Asian male actors were constrained to the stereotypical roles of threatening villains or sexless nerds.
For Carr, Lee is “proof of what’s possible in life, in the face of adversity,” which is why he personally felt it important the martial artist’s teachings remain alive.
“He has in many ways paved ways for humanity as well as martial artists. His study, exploration, path, message and philosophy, approach to unity and self expression, can be applied to any area of life, and he gives us examples and clues on how to accomplish whatever we put our energy towards,” Carr said.
Though the studio has been open for only a few days, Carr says it’s been well received with many potential students who are interested in training in authentic JKD while in Lee’s actual studio, just as others had decades ago.
“They want to be close to the man who has had such an influence in their lives,” he said, “and become a part of that history and live the experience.”
Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, did not return NBC News’ request for comment.