How the ‘Way of The Dragon’ influence people?

Sung Cheuk Yi (宋卓宜) 

[ 第三屆恒基温暖工程基金傳播獎學金「最佳評論」得獎作品 ]

‘Way of The Dragon’ is the famous martial arts action comedy film written, co-produced and directed by Bruce Lee. He also acts as the main character Tang Lung and this film is the only complete directorial film for Bruce Lee. As this movie is legendary in the 70th century, all movie storyboards and action movements were designed by himself. Therefore, I would like to study its extent of influence around the world and how this movie propagates the ‘Bruce Lee Spirit’. Below, I would like to split this paper into four part: Story plot, importance at their time, importance for us nowadays and the extent affects oversea audience.

(來源:香港政府一站通 。)

Story Plot

In this Movie, the story setting is in Rome. It begins with a plot that Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) helped Chen Ching-hua and her uncle Wang who encounter trouble who wants their property at their own restaurant. The story shows how Tang Lung is dazed by the distorted environment when Rome and Hong Kong have a big culture contrast. There are many fierce battle scenes between Tang Lung and their enemies. Even more, for the last battle scene, Ho (a secretary of the big boss) hires Colt (The top

European karate master) to fight against Tang Lung at the Colosseum. That’s one of the iconic scenes of the Hong Kong movie industry at that time.

The importance of ’Way of the Dragon’ to people at their Time (Cultivation Analysis)

As Bruce Lee is a famous martial actor at that time, the fighting scene impressed the audience at that time. ’Way of the Dragon’ represents Lee’s use of humor by blending his own character personality and his superb martial arts action. According to the Cultivation Analysis Theory created by George Gerbner, it stated that the media picture is reinforcing the audience’s thoughts but not really changing our minds. The more we accept the picture in this movie, the higher chance we are going to be impacted and get a distorted view. In this theory, the movie is a message system that cultivates our idea towards Jeet Kune Do (截拳道) which is a hybrid philosophy of martial arts created by Bruce Lee. As Gerbner believes that the repeated representations will change our behavior or social believes over time, ‘Way of the dragon’ really create the idea of Kung Fu Martial Arts at that time. Audience at that time will start to pay more attention on Chinese Kung Fu Martial Arts or even try to learn Jeet Kune Do. For examples, JUN FAN JEET DO (Hong Kong) LTD is an association recognized by the Bruce Lee Enterprises. [1] It held some martial art training course and it attracts many people to join at that time. They were more interested into this sport which is one of a big influence on the Chinese martial arts industry. It is important to let the audience to know the main idea of this movie ‘The so-called Kung Fu martial arts has no sect restrictions, as long as you can freely control it as long as you want, as long as you are trained to a certain level, there is no difference.’

The importance of this piece of media product to the people Nowadays (Symbolic Interaction)

Nowadays, Bruce Lee still occupies a lofty position in Hong Kong people’s hearts. ‘Way of the dragon’ as one of the masterpieces of our hero, many scenes that included some symbol that represent ‘Bruce Lee spirit’. Those symbols hold the audience and the movie together and become the ‘common language’. This case is applicable of the Symbolic Interactionism created by George Herbert Mead in 1934 which stated that what holds us together as a culture is our common creation of society through our interactions based on language or symbol. [2] If our language or symbol is understood, we are able to communicate, the share meanings represent the concepts of ‘common language’. In this movie, I found two famous symbols from this movie: Nunchaku (雙截棍) and the sound effect of ‘Wada!’ and ‘Whoa’.

Nunchaku (雙截棍)

In this movie, the only weapon for Tang Lung is nunchaku. The complicated moves shown in those fight scenes are eye-catching and impressive. Nunchaku seems to have become one of the iconic images of Bruce Lee or even the well-known symbol to associate with him. In martial arts, like Okinawan and karate, nunchaku is most commonly used. This arbitrary symbol makes nearly every audience come to have the same shared meaning and respect Bruce Lee.

Sound effects: ‘Wada!’, ‘Hi-yah!’, ‘Whaaa!’

During the fight, Tang Lung often made some sound effects. This is because there are some styles with special vocalization practices in martial arts. For example, when he is ready for the fight, he shouts’ Wada!’, when he is doing a punch, he will ‘Hi-yah!’, when he is having the ‘Last Punch’, he shouted ’Whaaa!’2. Those sound effects not only give entertainment and enjoyment to the audience, but also become a kind of symbol of martial arts. When we hear the sound of ‘wada!,’ the first thing that comes to our mind is the ready position of Tang Lung. In conclusion, those symbols became our common language among the viewers of ‘Way of the Dragon’.

To what extend it affects the oversea Chinese community or society international-wide

In my opinion, this movie influences the world view to a large extent. In the western world, Bruce Lee changed the perception of Chinese culture and succeeded in making martial arts popular. He is the hero with fans who impressed by his endurance towards Eastern culture. At the same time, he effectively bridged the gap between western and eastern culture. This large extent of cultural integration broke westerner’s stereotype that a Chinese is not a ‘Sick man of Asia’. They will have a distorted view on Chinese Kung Fu or even try to respect our mainstream culture. In some ways, Bruce Lee is trying to convey or educate this main message to the audience by being the writer, director, choreographer and actor at the same time to achieve this goal.

Undeniably, the results are very successful. ‘Way of the Dragon’ not only instills the message to the audience, it also helps Bruce Lee to gain more foreign fans who are obsessed with his enormous talent. Those fans worldwide will open a fan page for him, such as Malaysia, United Stated, Japan etc.… For their fans club, they will be holding different types of activities like holding pop-up stores to sell 80th anniversary collections, holding exhibitions etc. The main goal for them is to spread the ‘Bruce Lee Spirit’.

Other than influencing people to dig out more about Chinese Kung Fu, ‘Way of the Dragon’ also conveys the ‘Bruce Lee spirit’. Many foreigners are influenced by those famous quotes said by Bruce Lee and even integrate Bruce Lee’s quotes from five movies [3]. Those inspiring quotes became our mainstream logic or mindset. For example, the more inspiring quotes ‘BE WATER MY FRIENDS’ affects the audience perspective. The meaning of these quotes is that a successful man should be flexible and anonymous just like the flow of water, don’t be too fixated on something minor. This important concept also becomes the quotes to embrace the protesters around the world to encourage each other not to give up. For example, the poster below stated

How Hong Kong protestors learn from ‘Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless,

Like water. Be water, my friend.’[4] He taught us to be adapt to any situation no matter the situation is unaffordable, there is always a way to achieve and never give up. This is one of the important philosophies for ‘Bruce Lee Spirit’.


To sum up, ‘Way of the Dragon’ as the most influential martial arts movie across the globe, it creates the different concepts on Chinese martial arts and influence the audience by the inspiring plot. From the movie, Tang Lung said ’No matter any boxing skills, if you are not well practiced, you still soft-handed.’ This quotes not only make Chinese Kung Fu prominent, but also conveying the message that don’t complain about the environment or any factor, don’t try to find the reason from yourself when you are facing some troubles. ‘Way of the Dragon’ is an essential movie both at that time and in 2020. Not only Hong Kong, it’s large extent of influence also expands to international world-wide audience.



[1] ‘Welcome to Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do HK Chapter’:

[2] ‘Bruce Lee WHAAAAAAAA!’:

[3] ‘Bruce Lee Quotes and Spiritual Sayings’:

[4] “Be water”: Hong Kong protesters learn from Bruce Lee:

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