| GEO World|
| Kung Fu festival honours Bruce Lee|
| Updated at: 2240 PST, Tuesday, July 28, 2009|
HONG KONG: The first international kung fu festival in Hong Kong has kicked off, 36 years after the death of Bruce Lee, the world's kung fu movie icon.
More than a thousand martial artists from 19 different countries are expected to turn out to put their kung fu abilities to the test.
The festival, which is scheduled to continue until early August, aims to promote and develop Chinese martial arts, through holding a number of bare-handed and armed martial arts competitions.
Prior to the event, Hong Kong, home to many renowned kung fu legends, marked the 36th anniversary of the first kung fu movie sensation Bruce Lee last Monday (July 20).
Though the popularity of kung fu has taken different forms over the past three decades, many people who practice the sport still claim Bruce Lee as the original and the best.
A 19-year-old competitor from Czech said she was inspired by Chinese kung fu movies, including Bruce Lee's movies, to start martial arts herself.
"Bruce is the first. He is number one. No one is as good as him. That's my opinion. I have read his book. He is not just a warrior. He is very intelligent, very philosophical," said Jana.
In mainland China, various kung fu movies hit the theatre every year. Though people are given a variety of choices, most claim Lee's old movies as the most significant influence in their lives.
A competitor from mainland China, Xiao Qing, says Bruce Lee's old movies allow people to learn martial arts moves.
"When we were practicing kung fu, a movie called The Legend of Bruce Lee hit the TV. A lot of people watched it, and discuss about him," noted Xiao.
But it's been the life of Bruce Lee, rather than his martial arts moves, which has taken centre stage in commemorative celebrations of the star's life.
An exhibition of Lee's life opened in a shopping centre in Hong Kong, drawing huge crowds.
Families queued in front of Lee's life size wax figure and showed interest in Lee's old collection.
The exhibition also showcased other rare collections including Lee's Hong Kong driver license and books authored by the star.
Wong Yiu-keung, chairman of the organiser of the exhibition, has been pushing for Lee's remains to be preserved and protected.
In the meantime, he says he's relieved the Hong Kong government is making moves to turn Lee's former residence into a museum.
"I'm relieved that his house is still around more than 30 years after his death and we can still preserve it. Having withstood the test of time, Bruce Lee's significance and honour have become clearer. Of course, if Bruce Lee's house had been preserved earlier, that would be even better. But now it's not too late. At least the house hasn't been demolished and we can still restore it," said Wong.
Hong Kong's Commerce and Economic Development Bureau last January approved the preservation of the one-time residence of the kung fu legend, and approved plans to transform it into a major tourist attraction.
The green light comes after a long-running struggle by fans to save the 5,700 square-foot, two-storey town house from an inglorious fate as a seedy love motel in a leafy Kowloon suburb.
Parts of the home will be recreated, including Lee's study and training hall stacked with martial arts weaponry and other paraphernalia of his discipline.
The fate of Lee's last home had hung in the balance for years, until its owner, real estate and hotel tycoon Yu Pang-lin, made a surprise decision last year to donate it to the city where the martial arts master first shot to fame.