In the spring of 1959, eighteen year-old Bruce Lee returned to San Francisco, the city of his birth. Although the martial arts were widely unknown in America, Bruce encountered a robust fight culture in the Bay Area, populated with talented and trailblazing practitioners such as Lau Bun, Chinatown's aging kung fu patriarch; Wally Jay, the innovative Hawaiian jujitsu master; and James Lee, the Oakland street fighter. Regarded by some as a brash loudmouth and by others as a dynamic visionary, Bruce spent his first few years back in America advocating for a modern approach to the martial arts, and showing little regard for the damaged egos left in his wake.
The year of 1964 would be an eventful one for Bruce, in which he would broadcast his dissenting worldview before the first great international martial arts gathering, and then defend it by facing down Wong Jack Man—Chinatown's young kung fu ace—in a legendary behind-closed-doors showdown. These events were a catalyst to the dawn of martial arts in America and a prelude to an icon. Based on over one hundred original interviews, Striking Distance chronicles Bruce Lee's formative days amid the heated martial arts proving ground that thrived on San Francisco Bay in the early 1960s.