Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

Question 1: Do you have an authentic copy of the book?

Answer: Yes, I have an authentic copy. I purchased it from a gentleman who provided a signed affidavit that he acquired it in 1967 by ordering it from the back of a magazine (he didn’t recall which one but it was likely Popular Science). He lived in Studio City, CA at the time and had become aware of Bruce Lee via The Green Hornet television series.   

Question 2: What is the significance of page 98?

Answer: For a long time, collectors said that all authentic copies had an ad for a James Lee book on page 98 and that if your book had anything else on that page it was a fake. This is not true. Some authentic copies have the James Lee book ad on page 98 and some have an ad for the Bruce Lee essay, “Tao of Gung Fu”.   

Question 3: Were there only 500 copies of the book printed?

Answer: No, this is totally false. No one knows exactly how many were printed but it was probably at least 1,500 copies. There are several facts that support well more than 500 were printed :

  • In the book “The Dragon and the Tiger Vol 2: The Oakland Years” by Sid Campbell and Greglon Yimm Lee (James Yimm Lee’s son) it is stated 1,500 copies of the book were printed at a cost of $612. This is three times the number typically quoted when discussing the scarcity of the book.

  • James Lee published several books. In "The Dragon and the Tiger Vol 2" Greglon states that his father would sometimes have another "batch" of one of his books printed whenever supplies ran low.

  • Being an established author James Lee already had a distribution system in place. This included several businesses in the Oakland Chinatown area. Bruce made sure that once his book was printed businesses in the Seattle Chinatown area stocked it as well.

  • 100 were accidentally disposed of. If only 500 were printed this would mean only 400 remained for sale and that's just too few to be realistic [Note: Greglon Lee told me a friend of his was storing 100 original copies of the book in his garage for several years. Not realizing the value of the books the friend later “threw them out” when cleaning out his garage. This likely cost Greglon $100,000 total as each book (assuming condition was like new) could probably have fetched $1,000 each].

  • Bruce gave numerous copies away - to friends, students and fellow martial artists like Ed Parker, Wally Jay, Ralph Castro and others. In a way it was his "calling card". Bruce felt that being a published author added significant credibility to his status as a gung fu master.

  • The book was advertised for sale in the backs of magazines in the 60’s as late as 1967. It’s likely the popularity of the Green Hornet television show moved more than just a few hundred copies of the book.

  • The book was for sale for nearly five years. Multiple owners have stated they purchased via ads in the backs of magazines like Popular Science and Popular Mechanics in the 60’s. The following are actual Oriental Book Sales ads referencing the book that appeared from 1963 through 1967. The earliest appearance I could find in Popular Science was June 1963 and the last November 1967. The earliest for Popular Mechanics was November 1963 and the last January 1964.

Question 4: So what do you think the real story is with the book? 

Answer: I believe the original run of the book was 1,500 copies. Later, additional "batches" were printed as needed – quantity unknown – but still considered the first printing by James Lee and Bruce Lee. Evidence to support that not all copies were printed at the same time includes:

  • Some authentic copies have two staples on the inside cover (first & second picture) near the spine while others have three staples (third picture). It's unlikely this would be the case if all copies were printed at the same time.

Question 4 continued:

..... Evidence to support that not all copies were printed at the same time includes: 

  • Some authentic copies have an advertisement for a James Lee book on page 98 (first picture) while others have an ad for Bruce Lee’s “Tao of Gung Fu” essay for $2.00 (second picture). While it's possible the original printing was divided into two runs with different ads on page 98, I believe the earlier printing contains the James Lee ad and the later printing contains the ad for the Bruce Lee essay. The "Tao of Gung Fu" essay was copyrighted @ 1967 lending support to the theory there was a printing around that time.

Question 5: Rumor is that Bruce Lee stapled the books himself by hand. Is that true?

Answer: No, the thought of Bruce Lee sitting in James Lee’s garage at 3039 Monticello in Oakland CA carefully stapling each and every book by hand is laughable. James Lee had published several books previously beginning in 1957. He used an actual publishing company to create all his books. These were professionally done books with slick covers and glued binding reinforced with staples, not do-it-yourself pamphlets put together by hand in James Lee’s garage.

Question 6: Are copies with a pink cover authentic?

Answer: No. Can you imagine Bruce Lee excitedly showing students, family and friends his brand new book with a pink cover? Bruce may have been raised in Hong Kong but he was very aware of American culture and the feminine perception around the color pink. There is no way he would have chosen this color. While I don’t have a picture to share on this website I have seen pink copies for sale on eBay.

Question 7: Did Bruce Lee publish a second book called “The Tao of Gung Fu”?

Answer: Not exactly. Bruce published an essay in 1967 called the “Tao of Gung Fu” which could be purchased from Oriental Book Sales for $2.00. This was more of a pamphlet than a book. I have only ever seen one copy of this essay for sale and it is undoubtedly much rarer than Bruce’s first book. The back page of the essay has an ad for Bruce's book "Chinese Gung Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self-Defense". 

Question 8: Did Bruce Lee publish a book called “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do”?

Answer: Sort of. “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do” was published by Linda Lee in 1975, two years after Bruce’s death. Rather than being a structured book it is more of a collection of Bruce Lee’s notes, thoughts and drawings on martial arts accumulated over several years of this life. First edition softbound copies of this book in good condition have a high collector value. Original hardback editions are much rarer and may be more valuable depending on edition (1st, 3rd, etc). In 2011 a revised, expanded version of the original book was published.