I would like to offer my condolences to the Jim Kelly family. June 29th the world lost the first African American superstar martial artist Jim Kelly. He was 67. Jim Kelly was a prominent African American martial artist/actor having worked with Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon.”
He also appeared in many other films with actors such as Jim Brown and Fred Williamson throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. Kelly was also a professional tennis player. He has also been active recently having had starred in a few movies and a Nike commercial with Lebron James. Jim Kelly died from cancer.
Watch the commercial here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q22VEviS-Os
I will most definitely miss him because he helped usher in the popularity of martial arts among African Americans in the 70’s. He also portrayed a confident, skillful black man as well. I remember hearing him be interviewed at 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International, and he was such a humble man. He expressed that he felt moved to motivate his people positively and let them know that they too can become great in whatever they seek.
I remember the first time I watched Jim Kelly across the television screen. I was watching “Enter the Dragon”. I thought he looked so cool with his afro. He was also very smooth and an excellent fighter. I wanted so much to learn about the man behind the character. When, I learned that Kelly was a world class fighter, having competed in competitions and being trained in Shorin-ryu karate and trained Okinawa-te karate, I was amazed. He received a black belt in Okinawa karate. He also studied Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and trained in boxing with boxer Muhammad Ali. Kelly along with martial artists Bruce Lee, Joe Louis and Chuck Norris helped introduce the art of mixed martial arts before the existence of the UFC.
Kelly has also been a martial arts choreographer. He also went on to open his own dojo (karate school). He has trained many up and coming African American martial artists.
He was educated in his craft, and sought to teach people about it. He also sought to motivate African Americans into training in martial arts as well. This was a man who strived to become great despite the hurdles of race he experienced. I loved this about Jim Kelly. He will be missed. His confidence and humbleness will be missed. May his accomplishments and life continue to further influence African American/black martial artists and visionaries alike. -M. Millie