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Birth Name: Guh Ryong
[Name changed to Vyachaslev Yaksysnyi upon move to the USSR]
August 12, 1958 in North Korea

Spouse #1: ?


I received a lot of help in this feature from a 14-year-old fan of kung fu movies from Bosnia.  I think it's really great when young people get interested in this "older stuff".  Marko's a special guy.  Thanks, Mr. Galic!

BiographyDragon Lee is one of the most fascinating martial artists in cinema.  It's a shame he's so commonly thought of as a Bruce Lee "imitator", because Dragon Lee himself is quite a marvel.

    This Korean boy from the former Soviet Union was given a very Russian name.  He was born as Guh Ryong, but upon the family's move to Soviet Russia he was renamed
Vyachaslev Yaksysnyi.  Is it any wonder film bosses wanted to change it to something pronouncable?  Anyway, his family moved again to Seul, Korea, and this is where he met his Teakwondo teacher Kim Tai Jung (star of "Tower of Death") and Hapkido teacher, Grandmaster Hwang In-shik.

    One day in the early 1970s, a man saw Vyachaslev and exclaimed, "Hey, you look like Bruce Lee!".  The young man took this as a great compliment as Bruce Lee was very popular there at the time.  The man in the theater knew some "big" people in Hong Kong, and from there the young martial artist was offered work.  He was only 19 when he was christened Bruce Lei by the producers in his first film, "The Real Bruce Lee".  "The Real Bruce Lee" was not a great movie.  It was partly a documentary on Bruce Lee, somewhat of a showcase for the actor Bruce Li, and largely an original feature starring Bruce Lei.  Lei's feature was heavily borrowed from Bruce Lee's "Fists of Fury".  It was a terrible film compared to the much better movies of which the man would later star.  However, it seemed to be a hit with audiences.  The actor's remarkable resemblance to Bruce Lee gave him an instant following.

    After "The Real Bruce Lee", the actor changed his name to Dragon Lee.  In American releases of the film, he is credited as Dragon Lee.  This is the name of which he is best known.  Dragon Lee was in a lot of movies, most of them quite good for low-budget kung fu flicks.  Dragon Lee was an outstanding martial artist, but what REALLY made him marketable was the fact that he looked almost EXACTLY like the real Bruce Lee (who was Chinese, by the way).  Dragon was a bit shorter and more muscular.  He is probably the only "imitator" to actually fight in a style close to the real Bruce Lee.  Another excellent "imitator", Bruce Li, looked like Bruce Lee but fought differently.  Dragon is a pretty good resemblance in every regard.

    Unlike many Bruce Lee copycats, Dragon Lee was honorable.  He did respectable work.  Bruce Lee, himself, would have made the kind of movies Dragon Lee did had he lived.  Bruce Lee died, movie audiences wanted a similar facsimile, and Dragon Lee gave the people what they wanted to see.  I think he did wonderful work. 
Bruce, himself, would have been proud.  Bruce is not a man you can replace, but to carry on his legacy is a great achievement in its own right.

    Dragon had a long movie career from the 1977 to 1994.  When the "Bruceploitation" era ended in the 1980s, Dragon Lee lost some of his star power, but still found work in films playing original characters.  Sometime in the 1990s, he moved to South Korea and started a production company.  He has since developed a chain of cinemas in Korea.  As of August, 2004, Dragon Lee is still active in Korean film and television.  He is also a family man with a wife and children.

  1. Blues of Chongro
  2. Bruce Lee's Ways of Kung Fu
  3. Champ Against Champ (1983) [Alternate titles: Champ vs. Champ; Wutang Champ vs. Champ]
  4. Clones of Bruce Lee
  5. Dragon's Showdown
  6. The Dragon, The Hero
  7. The Dragon, The Young Mater
  8. Dragon Bruce Lee Part 2
  9. Dragon Lee Fights Back
  10. Dragon Lee vs. the Five Brothers (1978) [Actual title: Wu da di zi]
  11. Dragon On Fire
  12. Dragon Snake Fist
  13. Emperor of the Underworld
  14. Enter The Invincible Hero
  15. Five Pattern Dragon Claws
  16. Golden Dragon, Silver Snake
  17. Kings Woman, The
  18. Kung Fu Fever
  19. Last Fist Of Fury
  20. The Magnificent
  21. Martial Monks of Shaolin Temple
  22. Mission For The Dragon
  23. National Constituency
  24. National Constituency 2
  25. Ninja Champion
  26. Secret Ninja, Roaring Tiger

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Dragon Lee