The martial arts world lost an American legend as Joe Lewis lost a year-long battle with brain cancer on August 31, 2012 at the age of 68.
Joe Lewis was born on March 7, 1944 in Knightdale, North Carolina. He began martial arts training in Shorin-Ryu Karate while serving in the Marines. He would earn his black belt in seven months and then was stationed to Vietnam, where he met boxing legend Rocky Marciano. After his service in the military, Lewis would go on to become part of the United States Karate team and compete in point fighting tournaments in the 1960’s as well as become world heavyweight karate champion for the Professional Karate Association (PKA) in the 1970′s. Lewis has been credited with coining the term “American kickboxing” and has been friends with legends such as Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and Mike Stone. He was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 1975 as Fighter of the Year.
Lewis has also become well known in the world of martial arts films. Along with Chuck Norris, Lewis started as a stuntman in the film THE WRECKING CREW (1969), which featured fight scenes that were choreographed by Bruce Lee. Lewis was the original choice to play Colt in WAY OF THE DRAGON (1972) according to Bey Logan, but Lewis was replaced by Norris in the end. In 1979, Lewis made the transition to lead actor with JAGUAR LIVES (see trailer above) and FORCE FIVE, two low budgeted films that feature Lewis in top form when it came to fight sequences.
Lewis also had the chance to appear in a Hong Kong film, DEATH CAGE (1988), which starred Robin Shou and Mark Long. Lewis played the main villain of the film. He would go on to appear in numerous documentaries as well as conduct martial arts seminars all over the world with the likes of Bill “Superfoot” Wallace and Benny “The Jet” Urquidez to name a few.
Prior to his passing, Lewis had completed work on his final film, WHITE TIGER, shot on location in Thailand. Lewis had a small role playing a policeman whose death leads to his partner, played by Matt Mullins, teaming up with a mercenary, played by kickboxing legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson, to avenge his death. Cynthia Rothrock plays a villain and the fights were choreographed by Kazu Patrick Tang. The film, directed by Toby Russell, is due for release soon.
Truly one of the most respected martial artists in the world, Joe Lewis will sadly be missed as he leaves behind a great legacy as a champion, an actor, and a great person. Kung Fu Cinema sends its deepest condolences to the family of Joe Lewis. Rest in Peace.