Monday, July 1, 2013

Jim Kelly, Black Marital Arts Icon Dies At 67

SAN DIEGO — Actor Jim Kelly, who played a glib American martial artist in “Enter the Dragon” with Bruce Lee, has died. He was 67.

Marilyn Dishman, Kelly’s ex-wife, said he died Saturday of cancer at his home in San Diego.

Sporting an Afro hairstyle and sideburns, Kelly made a splash with his one-liners and fight scenes in the 1973 martial arts classic. His later films included “Three the Hard Way,” ‘’Black Belt Jones” and “Black Samurai.”

Tattoo Connection Starring Jim Kelly 1978

During a 2010 interview with, Kelly said he started studying martial arts in 1964 in Kentucky and later moved to California where he earned a black belt in karate. He said he set his sights on becoming an actor after winning karate tournaments. He also played college football.

The role in the Bruce Lee film was his second. He had about a dozen film roles in the 1970s before his acting work tapered off. In recent years, he drew lines of autograph seekers at comic book conventions.

Jim Kelly appeared in a couple more lesser known movies in the early eighties before slipping into obscurity and didn't appear onscreen again until 1994's "Stranglehold". By this time, he was also a Martial Arts Instructor as well as a huge tennis enthusiast and coach, playing on a professional level in the USTA Men's Senior Circuit.

“It was one of the best experiences in my life,” he told of working on “Enter the Dragon.” ‘’Bruce was just incredible, absolutely fantastic. I learned so much from working with him. I probably enjoyed working with Bruce more than anyone else I’d ever worked with in movies because we were both martial artists. And he was a great, great martial artist. It was very good.”


See Enter The Dragon below (Remember this was the only film to have Bruce Lee's real voice, The first major Black Marital Arts Star Jim Kelly, and John Saxon who was one of best and underrated Marital Artist during that time. Saxon is now the only surviving member of that trio alive today, due to early passing of Bruce Lee who died  before the film was ever released, and now with the passing of Kelly. Watch it now):

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