Game Of Death: Bruce Lee’s Yellow Tracksuit Means More Than You Think
Bruce Lee famously wears a yellow tracksuit in his incomplete movie Game of Death, and the suit perfectly captures Lee’s martial arts philosophy.
Bruce Lee’s yellow tracksuit in his unfinished movie Game of Death is emblematic of the movie’s deeper message. In the early ‘70s, Bruce Lee was a major rising star, with 1973’s Enter the Dragon being his first leading man outing in a Hollywood production. Unfortunately, Lee’s unexpected passing in July 1973 led to Enter the Dragon being released posthumously, with the movie becoming one of the most enduring martial arts classics in history.
Game of Death had been a passion project of Lee’s, specifically as a vehicle to communicate his philosophy about martial arts. Lee had been in the middle of production on Game of Death when he was cast in Enter the Dragon, with Lee putting the former on hold and intending to finish it later before his death. Bruce Lee’s famous yellow tracksuit that he wears in Game of Death itself exemplifies everything he intended with the film.
Game Of Death’s Yellow Tracksuit Reflects Bruce Lee’s Philosophy
In Game of Death, Bruce Lee’s character ascends a pagoda, fighting exponents of different martial arts disciplines on each level and adapting his method of fighting to all of them. This was intended by Lee to work as a parable illustrating his philosophy of martial arts, in which fluidity and adaptability to any skill set is the highest virtue. This also formed the basis for Bruce Lee’s martial art, Jeet Kune Do. Lee’s yellow tracksuit captures this on multiple levels.
In the documentary Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey (which assembles all the footage Lee managed to complete for Game of Death prior to his passing), Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Caldwell, explains how his yellow tracksuit captured the essence of his view of martial arts. In Caldwell’s words, Lee’s yellow tracksuit exemplified his view that “You need not be dressed in a traditional uniform to be an effective fighter.” By wearing a uniform unaffiliated with any specific school of martial arts, Lee was sending a message of what every martial artist should strive for through Game of Death.
Why The Yellow Tracksuit Works So Well In Game Of Death
Caldwell’s explanation of Lee’s yellow tracksuit can be seen in action in Game of Death’s fight scenes. In each fight scene in Game of Death, Bruce Lee stands as a direct visual contrast to each opponent, who all extol a combative skill that Lee must analyze and overcome. With Lee having put so much thought into what he wanted to convey through Game of Death, his yellow tracksuit made it easier for that message and the film as a whole to stand out from his others.
Despite the infamous body double debacle of the finished version of Game of Death, Lee’s yellow tracksuit became as closely associated with him as his use of the nunchaku. The yellow tracksuit has been put to use in everything from the Tekken video game franchise to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, showing how much of a staple of Lee’s legacy it has become. While Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey is the closest possible representation of what Bruce Lee’s finished Game of Death would have been, his yellow tracksuit brings his philosophy of martial arts to life in both versions.