My heart was heavy to receive the news about one of my martial arts heroes, Jim Kelly, went to warrior heaven this past weekend. Jim Kelly was most famous for his role as the swagadelic martial arts fighter, Williams in “Enter the Dragon“. The Kentucky native also appears in numerous Blaxploitation films (i.e. Hot Potato, Black Samurai, Tattoo Connection, 3 the hard way) where he possessed martial art skill, style and swagger to overcome his oppressors by any means necessary (no pun intended). Above everything else, I loved his catchy phrases such as, “You come right out of a comic book” or ” When it comes, I won’t even notice because I will be too busy looking good”. The role in the Bruce Lee film was his second.In recent years, he was a particular celebrity fixture at various comic book conventions.
He started studying martial arts in 1964 in Kentucky and later moved to California where he earned a black belt in karate.His interest in acting began after winning karate tournaments. He also played college football at the University of Louisville. What baffles me about Sifu Kelly was the fact we didn’t see enough of him. True story, There are enough black martial art heroes to look up! It has been stated Hollywood was NOT ready for a black action hero, which caused a deep emotional inflicting wound to continue film during that time. Fortunately, we have other black martial arts actors such as Michael Jai White and Wesley Snipes who keeps the art true and create avenues for future martial art actors. His last appearance was from a Lebron James’ Nike “Chamber of Fear” commercial back in 2004.
As a child, I am beyond pleased my mother raised me on a person who shared my same interest as myself and someone else (besides my father and martial arts instructor) to look up to in the big screen. His work will never be forgotten.