Abbas Alizada has been dubbed the “Afghan Bruce Lee” for his striking resemblance to the legendary martial arts icon.
The 24-year-old Kung Fu fan from a Kabul suburb shot to social media fame about three years ago after posting a picture of himself striking a pose next to an image of Lee on Facebook.
On Wednesday, his story was featured in a documentary produced by RT Documentary, a Russian media company.
Alizada, the youngest of 10 children in a poor household, is a member of Afghanistan’s Hazara community, an ethnic group that possesses Central Asian features. His growing popularity reportedly brought pride to his fellow Hazaras, Shiite Muslims who have long been persecuted and reviled by the Taliban and other Sunni extremists as heretics. His people have been driven away from their farms or killed without mercy.
“In Afghanistan’s history, the Hazara people have always faced pressure and were insulted by other ethnic groups,” youth leader Abdul Qayum Naderi told The Washington Post in 2015. “Abbas’s motivation shows to Hazara youth that if you are also motivated, you will be respected in the country and in the world, too. That’s something new for the Hazara youth.”
He reportedly discovered his love for Bruce Lee action movies at the age of 9. He noted that Chinese martial arts action stars such as Lee and Jackie Chan are huge celebrities in Afghanistan, and their films are easily found in local stores.
As a teenager, he would imitate Lee’s signature moves, just like many other young fans, according to the BBC. Alizada became inspired to train and work hard to be just like his idol at age 14. However, his family did not have enough money to support his enrollment at a local sports club, so he was forced to work out at home.
Just by studying Lee’s fight scenes in the films, he was able to learn some of his moves. He even knows how to handle the nunchaku, a martial arts weapon popularized by the actor.
He would sometimes showcase his skills before an adoring crowd against the backdrop of Kabul’s ruined Darul Aman Palace. There, he would perform Lee’s moves from select sequences of his best-known films, “Fist of Fury” and “Way of the Dragon”.
While he admits he would never be able to rival his idol, Alizada still expressed his desire to become a famous martial artist or an actor in the future. He also said he wishes to work with Jackie Chan someday.
Earlier this year, Jet Li, another martial arts action hero, sent his production team to Afghanistan to document his struggle as he pursues his dream of becoming a great martial artist.