Chuck Norris had an influence on Bruce Lee’s fighting style. The two martial artists worked together on one of Lee’s biggest films, Way of the Dragon, in which Chuck Norris played Colt, the movie’s final opponent. Through a well-choreographed, ten-minute fight, Lee and Norris delivered what is still considered one of the most memorable fight scenes ever to be put to the big screen.
Norris’ role in Way of the Dragon came as a result of his friendship with Lee, which began when Norris, a world champion in karate, met Lee at a karate tournament in the late 1960s. Shortly after meeting, the two began working out together in Lee’s backyard. And then years later, when Lee wasn’t able to get karate and kickboxing expert Joe Lewis to appear in Way of the Dragon as Colt, he turned his attention to Norris and cast him as the character instead.
An interesting detail about Bruce Lee’s relationship with Chuck Norris is that the karate champion actually helped Lee improve his fighting style. Lee, who was already highly proficient in Wing Chun as well as the founder of his own kung fu style during the days that they trained together, was able to learn a few things from Norris. According to Norris, it was he who convinced Lee to practice high kicking techniques (which were later demonstrated in some of his movies).
Chuck Norris has said that Lee told him that he was opposed to kicking high. Apparently, Lee believed that a martial artist should never kick above the waist. Norris disagreed with this, and explained the importance of being able to execute a high kick. Norris explained to Lee, “you should be able to kick anywhere,” and added that if an opponent leaves his head open, Lee should be able to take advantage of that. Lee realized that Norris was right and began working on his kicking moves with him. The actor said that within six months of training, Lee’s high kicks were already as good as his.
Even though some may be surprised to learn that a kung fu expert would be willing to learn from a karate master, this fits well with what was known about Lee. He was always open to learning from others, regardless of how different they were to him. For example, Lee picked up his footwork from Muhammad Ali.
Unlike many martial artists, Lee wholeheartedly believed in being open to techniques outside a person’s chosen style. One of his reasons for creating Jeet Kune Do in the first place was because he felt that some forms of kung fu were too restrictive. Lee didn’t think that martial arts should limit people. That’s why it makes sense that Lee changed his mind about high kicks and put so much effort into them. After all, continuing to avoid them altogether would have been contrary to his own philosophy because by not practicing them, he was cutting himself off from a move that could he have potentially used to win a fight