Birth of the Dragon begins in 1963 in a mountainous region in China, where students from the Shaolin Kung Fu school face off against students from the Tai-chi martial arts school. They will have a martial arts battle between a Shaolin Kung Fu master, a man named Wang Jack Man, and a Tai-Chi martial arts master, Wang Biao. However, in the fight, Wong Jack Man seemed to have difficulty dealing with the attacks launched by Wang Biao, forcing him to issue his signature move, the very deadly Mon Shan kick.
The scene then switches to 1964 in San Francisco, where the master of the Wing Chun martial arts, a man named Bruce Lee, is training a group of American men at his training ground, the Kung Fu Academy specializing in Chinese martial arts art Wing Chun. Bruce Lee then appears to be giving advice to one of his students, a man from Chinatown named Vinnie Wei, for being caught gambling.
In addition to his profession as a martial arts instructor, Bruce Lee also took up work as an actor and filmmaker. He was determined to introduce the Chinese martial art of Kung Fu to the world through his films and the Kung Fu academy he founded. Bruce Lee has a very tough student, a young man named Steve Mckee. Steve and Vinnie are good friends. Both of them work at Vinnie’s mother’s laundry.
One night, Steve and Bruce Lee help Vinnie who is being ganged up by a gang of thugs because he is in gambling debt. Bruce Lee looks furious that Vinnie ignored his warning, but Steve defends his best friend, despite a heated argument with the teacher. Vinnie then told Steve about a Shaolin Kung Fu master named Wong Jack Man who was rumored to be visiting San Francisco to observe the development of Kung Fu teachings in the United States.
The scene then switches and shows Steve making a delivery to the China Gate restaurant. There, he met a Chinese woman named Xiulan, an employee at the restaurant. Steve immediately fell in love with Xiulan, but the woman was forbidden to communicate with outsiders. However, Steve was not at his wit’s end. He sneaks into the restaurant secretly to give Xiulan an English grammar book to develop her language skills and teach her roommate basic English.
Knowing this, Vinnie warns Steve not to continue his efforts to approach Xiulan or deal with the women at the China Gate restaurant because Auntie Blossom’s influence is too great there and too dangerous for them. Auntie Blossom is a female gangster who is also the owner of the China Gate restaurant. But Steve doesn’t seem too worried about it and wants to stay close to Xiulan.
Meanwhile, Master Wong Jack Man was seen boarding a ship bound for San Francisco. Upon arrival in San Francisco, Master Wong was greeted by Steve who immediately took him to a cafe where he would work as a dishwasher while he was in San Francisco.
One night, Steve and Vinnie visited the China Gate restaurant for dinner and secretly handed Xiulan a letter. After that, Steve and Xiulan secretly met at the back of the restaurant and chatted with each other. Xiulan is very grateful to Steve for giving her an English grammar book to help her develop her speaking skills in English. Xiulan looks very happy after meeting Steve. However, that happiness vanished in an instant after Auntie Blossom found out that Xiulan had a close relationship with Steve who was an outsider, which she thought could disrupt her business. Because of that, Auntie Blossom forbade Xiulan to meet Steve and warned her.
Meanwhile elsewhere, Bruce Lee seems worried about Master Wong’s presence in San Francisco and thinks he will be punished for teaching Kung Fu to the Americans. Bruce Lee was very worried that Master Wong would destroy what he had been trying to do to introduce Kung Fu to the world. Even he thought that sooner or later, he would fight Master Wong.
The next day, Steve met Master Wong and took him for a walk and saw the Golden Gate Bridge from a distance. Steve then told Master Wong about Bruce Lee’s efforts to introduce Kung Fu martial arts from China through films. But Master Wong looked normal in response to this and then did a little Kung Fu practice there. When Steve imitated Master Wong’s Kung Fu moves at the Kung Fu academy, Bruce Lee then asked where he learned the movement. Steve said he saw the move being demonstrated by Master Wong. Hearing this, Bruce Lee then asked Steve to arrange a meeting for them in the upcoming martial arts tournament.
Steve immediately went to Master Wong and told him that Bruce Lee wanted to meet him. Master Wong then told Steve that his visit to San Francisco was not to fight but to calm his soul and, at the same time, to atone for his guilt because a year ago, he almost killed Master Wang with a deadly Mon Shan kick. After that incident, Master Wong started blaming himself and doing penance every day. But in the end, Master Wong complied with Bruce Lee’s request to meet him.
At the Long Beach International Karate Championships, Bruce Lee fought a karate master and made his famous one-inch punch debut. With all his experience in the martial art of Kung Fu, Bruce Lee could easily defeat his opponent. Among the audience who were there, Bruce Lee found the figure of Master Wong and introduced the audience to who Master Wong really was. Humbly, Master Wong praised Bruce Lee’s excellent fighting skills and techniques. However, Master Wong advised Bruce Lee not to be arrogant because it is against the values of true Kung Fu martial arts, where Kung Fu should not be used to make ourselves look great to others.
Bruce Lee then challenges Master Wong to a fight, but he refuses because his purpose in coming here is not to fight. Master Wong then left the tournament arena and met Steve, who questioned why he had rejected Bruce Lee’s challenge. Master Wong instead asked Steve to ask himself about the meaning of Kung Fu in his life and his goal of practicing Kung Fu. Realizing that training Steve would help free himself, Master Wong then made him his apprentice. But on condition, Steve must find what is truly valuable in his life and be willing to do anything, even lay down his life for something precious.
After that, Steve was seen meeting Xiulan and they secretly left together. Steve and Xiulan were seen chatting intimately, and Xiulan shared her desire to leave China Gate. At the same time, Auntie Blossom’s men destroy Vinnie’s mother’s laundry because they are considered not to comply with the regulations in Chinatown. Vinnie, who knew this, tried to defend his mother and stop Auntie Blossom’s men, but he was beaten badly and had to get intensive care in the hospital.
Steve then rushed to report the incident to Bruce Lee and told about his relationship with Xiulan who worked for Auntie Blossom. Bruce Lee even asked Steve not to continue his relationship with Xiulan because it would endanger him and Xiulan. Steve finally met Master Wong and said that the most valuable and important thing in his life was to be with Xiulan forever and he would do anything to make that happen. Hearing this, Master Wong accepted Steve as his student.
The method taught by Master Wong turned out to be very suitable for Steve, so he learned Kung Fu moves faster than when he was trained by Bruce Lee. When Steve finally reunites with Bruce Lee, who informs him that he will start shooting the film The Green Hornet, Steve then expresses his intention to end his time at Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu academy and fully learn from Master Wong. Hearing this, Bruce Lee understood and told Steve that he was still waiting for Master Wong’s approval to fight with him.
One day, Auntie Blossom visited Steve, who said that she would free Xiulan if Steve managed to make Bruce Lee and Master Wong fight each other. Steve immediately informed Master Wong about this and begged him to fulfill the challenge to save Xiulan. Even though he initially refused, Master Wong finally melted after Steve really pleaded with him with all his heart.
Master Wong then visits Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu academy, where he says that he accepts Bruce Lee’s challenge to fight him. After that, the two Kung Fu martial arts masters began to train in earnest to prepare for their fight. But apparently, Auntie Blossom took advantage of Bruce Lee Master Wong’s fight by making it a massive betting event.
Meanwhile, Steve meets with Bruce Lee to inform Master Wong of the pre-fight terms put forward by Master Wong, where Master Wong only wants to fight in an empty warehouse near the dock, and the fight is attended by only a few people. Master Wong proposed this because he disagreed with the method used by Bruce Lee to introduce Kung Fu martial arts to the world. However, Master Wong still appreciated the efforts made by Bruce Lee and praised him.
On the other hand, despite what Auntie Blossom had promised Steve, Xiulan apparently refused to leave without her roommate, all of whom were under the control of Auntie Blossom’s boss, a man named Wing Lo. Bruce Lee reluctantly agrees to fight on Master Wong’s terms, with the winner announced in the newspapers the next day. Auntie Blossom, Steve and several other spectators witnessed the fight between Bruce Lee and Master Wong. Bruce Lee’s aggressive style of Wing-Chun martial arts makes him superior in the first attack.
Meanwhile, Master Wong Shaolin’s traditional Shaolin style could withstand Bruce Lee’s attacks, angering him. They engage in a fierce battle until they reach the top of the unfinished ladder, which Master Wong uses to show Bruce Lee the limitation of his style. Master Wong then gracefully jumps to the floor, and Bruce Lee follows him as a symbol of overstepping his own limits. Bruce Lee and Master Wong continued to fight until Master Wong finally pressed on and was about to take Mon Shan’s deadly kick, which Bruce Lee had prepared to parry. But then, Bruce Lee noticed Master Wong’s arrival in San Francisco and decided to stop fighting, which Master Wong also welcomed. They then showed mutual respect by bowing and ending the fight.
With no winners officially announced and $15 million in bets remaining, Auntie Blossom, furious at having been wronged, decides to keep Xiulan on until they continue the fight and one of them emerges victorious. After that, Bruce Lee contemplated his style and realized that he could be killed during the fight against Master Wong.
On the other hand, Steve demands that Master Wong declare himself victorious for Auntie Blossom to free Xiulan, but Master Wong says he doesn’t need to win the fight because he has shown Bruce Lee a new path after he has crossed his limits. A desperate Steve then tells Vinnie that he will save Xiulan alone. Hearing this, Vinnie immediately told Bruce Lee because he was very worried about Steve’s safety, who would not be able to defeat all of Wing Lo’s men who took Xiulan hostage, especially after being beaten by gangsters.
Bruce Lee then met Master Wong and told him about the problems faced by Steve, where they finally worked together to help him. Bruce Lee and Master Wong go hand in hand to face Wing Lo’s men with their own distinctive fighting styles. In fact, both of them can also combine Wing-Chun and Shaolin combination movements, which are very epic and very effective in defeating their opponents. Bruce Lee, Master Wong and Steve then faced off against Auntie Blossom and Wing Lo, where Master Wong admitted defeat and declared Bruce Lee the winner. However, Bruce Lee asked Auntie Blossom and Wing Lo to free not only Xiulan but all the captive girls in Chinatown. Hearing the conditions put forward by Bruce Lee, Wing Lo’s nephew who was annoyed then tried to shoot Bruce Lee. But Bruce Lee quickly did Master Wong’s Mon Shan kick and managed to knock him down. Everyone looked surprised, but Bruce Lee just walked away.
A few days later, when visiting Steve who was hospitalized and Xiulan who was by his side, Bruce Lee expressed his desire to develop a new style of fighting that is more fluid and expressive. After that, Steve and Xiulan said goodbye to Master Wong before he boarded the ship to return to China. After getting to know Bruce Lee closer, Master Wong really believed that Bruce Lee was the right person to show Kung Fu martial arts to the world. In July 1969, Bruce Lee changed his fighting style and introduced Jeet Kune Do, the mixed martial arts pioneer.
The moral that we can learn from this film is to use our martial arts abilities for self-defense and to save others. Do not use the martial arts that we are good at to show others that we are better than them.
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