Monday, February 9, 2015
EVERYBODY WAS KUNG FU FIGHTING !
In the 1970's every one from Elvis to the mailman was during some form of martial arts. Most people did it for fun & exercise & some took it more seriously. Jim Kelly falls into the category of the "serious".
Jim Kelly was born May 5, 1946 in Millsburg Kentucky. He was always in sports & after his first year of college he dropped out to study Shorin-ryu karate. I'm pretty sure back then people thought he was crazy!
By the 1970's he was an experienced martial artist, he had learned another form of karate called Okinawan, and he opened up his own karate school in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles (shout out to Crenshaw !)
His school became so popular he started teaching karate to celebrities which landed him his first acting role in the 1972 movie Melinda where he played a karate instructor .
Then a year later Jim's whole world changed. Warner Brothers Studio was about to film the first Chinese martial arts film ever produced by a major Hollywood studio. It was called ENTER THE DRAGON, starring none other than Bruce Lee !
Filming was to start in a matter of days & the actor Rockne Tarkington, backed out at the last minute so the studio needed a replacement.
Producer Fred Weintraub heard about Jim Kelly's school, went to check it out & history was made !! Jim became the first Black martial arts film star !
ENTER THE DRAGON was a huge success & Jim went on to make other films with him as the star or he was paired up in movies with Jim Brown & Fred Williamson.
After his movie career ended he didn't mind because he was an athlete first and and an actor 2nd. He still kept active & would attend various fan conventions and starred in a Nike commercial with LeBron James !
He died on June 29, 2013, of cancer at his home in San Diego, California. He was 67 years old. I remember that day very well. My heart sank I've watched his movies off and on through out the years, taking them for granted. The 6 foot two Brotha with the big afro and the six pack abs may be gone but I just finished watching ENTER THE DRAGON. I guess Jim will always be with us.