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Ottawa Chinese Martial Arts
Comics, Theatre and Television - Then and Now
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Hsing Yi
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Martial arts can be found in comics, traditional chinese theatre and now on television. Each of those communication vehicles re-inforce the principles and philosophy of wuxia fiction. In addition, the training of the mind and the body is an important element within each story. Each story is a reflection of the public's fascination and interest in the martial arts.

This section highlights some of the memorable examples in each genre.

1. Wuxia - the Chinese Martial Arts Fiction
Comics, Theatre, Television (Asia, West)
3. Bruce Lee and Heroic Cinema
4. Sports, Blood Sports and the Mixed Martial Arts
5. Video Games and the New Arm Chair Warriors


Television (Asia)

W uxia (ZL) fiction an also be found in Hong Kong television. Television viewing is a significant leisure activity in Hong Kong, as evidenced by television penetration of almost 100% and average television-viewing time of four hours per day per person. Two television companies dominant the production market, Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) and Asia Television Limited (ATV). They produce long martial arts type series that last for 20-50 one hour episodes. Although those series have elements of soap operas, the truely great series have more attributes of the Wuxia genre. Recently, Taiwan and China have also produce great series that reflects this cultural tradition. Fortunately for the fans of this type of entertainment, those series are now available on tape and VCD.

Legend Of The Condor Heroes I, II and III starring: Felix Wong and Yung Mei Ling. This three part series was produced by TVB in 1983. They are a preque to one of my favourite TV series - Return of the Condor Heroes with Andy Lau, Ida Chan and Leung Kar Yan. A definite must see !
Duke Of Mount Deer starring: Andy Lau and Tony Leung Chiu Wai, produced in 1984 by TVB. Also remade as Duke Of Mount Deer 2000 starring: Dicky Cheung, Patrick Tam and Athena Chu in 2000.
Chor Lau Heung ( Part I and II). Starring: Richie Yen, Ruby Lin and Gigi Lai. This series was produced by TVB in 2000-2001 .

There are many series from China and Taiwan that I have not seen.


Television (West)

"As quickly as you can...snatch the pebble from my hand." [Caine tries and fails]
"When you can take the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave."

Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine) played the young grasshopper asking Master Kan (played by Philip Ah )

Martial arts are now found in the TV series of the West. The origin of martial arts influence can be traced to Bruce Lee. He displayed his fighting skills in episodes of the Green Hornet and Longstreet in the late 1960's. Howver, he was ahead of his time and none of his efforts resulted in a television using the martial arts. This was soon change with the warming of Sino-US relations in the 1970's, bring the interest of Chinese culture and chinese martial arts to the American public.

On October 14, 1972, Warner Brothers release the series "Kung Fu" featuring a Shaolin priest - Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine) and his journey through the old West. What was new to the American public was not only the fighting but the philosophy that was presented with each show. In each episode, Kwai Chang Caine recalls a memorable moment when his wise teachers, Master Kan (Philip Ahn) or Master Po (Keye Luke), taught him a lesson which provides an insight to his current problem. For many, this was a new experience and sparked an interest in Chinese Martial Arts and Chinese culture. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after 63 episodes,on March, 1975. The series was brought back as "Kung Fu - the Legend Continues" in 1993 and lasted for another 88 episodes (4 seasons) but the second series never approached the sentiments of the original series.

In April, 2004, Warner Brothers finally released the complete first season complete with two original behind the scene documentaries, fifteen complete digitally remastered episodes and the ninety minute pilot. For more information, check the official site of the DVD.

Other major television series that incorporates martial arts include

  • Kelly Hu starred in Martial law
    Hong Kong Phoey (1974) - this canine kung fu master only had 16 episodes.
  • The Master starring Lee Van Cleef (1984) - a ninja master doing the right thing
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle - TV series, comic books and movies - a fad involving fighting turtles.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger stars Chuck Norris as modern-day Texas Ranger, Cordell Walker. Always use his trade mark side kick.
  • Xena, Warrior Princess - taking advantage of some niffty fighting skills of the East - especially the dreaded death touch.
  • Martial Law - Sammo Hung directs and stars in this modern day police action drama. The series lasted for two seasons on CBS. There were some great action scenes produced by Sammo. This series also stars Kelly Hu - who is also featured in X-men 2.


[1] Fate's Journey: Hong Kong TV Series, Mimi [2003/03]
[2] SPCNET Reviews Reviews of TV series from TVB, ATV, Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea and Singapore. Message forum and stars galleries. [2003/03]
[3] "Kung Fu": TV Series Episode Guide contains quotations from & information on the classic TV series from the 1970s, Kung Fu, with David Carradine as Kwai Chang ry [2003/03]
[4] Martial Arts and: Warrior Princess: Questions and Answers , Donald Plunkett [2003/03]
[5] Martial Law guide at TV Tome [2003/03]
[6] Thanks Ken M. for information on Kung Fu season 1 DVD release [2004/04]

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Last update: 04/14/2004