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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.

1. Wuxia - the Chinese Martial Arts Fiction
2. Comics, Theatre, Television (Asia, West)
3. Bruce Lee and Heroic Cinema

A. Hong Kong Movies Pre-1970's
B. Bruce Lee and Heroic Cinema
C. Jacky Chan, Jet Li and many others
D. Martial Arts in Hollywood
and around the world
   

Martial Arts in Hollywood

H ollywood is is great to identify trends and capture the public's imagination. Before the arrival of martial arts, fighting in Hollywood movies was generally limited too fist fights and bar brawls. When the Amerian public became aware of karate and judo and dubbed martial arts movies became available in the West, Hollywood movies became aware of the value of martial arts as entertainment. Choreography fighting was inorporated in some "B" action movies but such fighting was still considered to be too violent for mainstream prodution. In 1974, Bruce Lee exploded on to the scene - introducing the audience to a new type of action. From then on, martial arts will become a vital component in any action genre. More importantly, western film makers slowly explore the Wuxia genre and applied it to Western films. Examples of martial arts movies or movies featuring great fighting include:

  • Billy Jack (1971) First movie show casing Hapikido.
  • Black Belt Jones (1974) and a series of Blaxploitation movies that combines karate with Black culture
  • Good Guys Wear Black (1978). Chuck Norris continue in the entertainment industry with series of movies show casing his trade mark side kick (Octagon, Lone Wolf McQuade, 1983)
  • The Karate Kid (1984)
  • Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon (1985) A fun movie about Bruce and the Shogun of Harem!
  • Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) - the story of a "dead" policemen, Remo Williams, trained to become a top secret government agent by a mysterious oriental master, Chiun.
  • American Ninja (1985) starring Michael Dudikoff. This movie reinforced the ninja craze at that time.
  • Big Trouble in Little China (1986) A cult classic that captures many elements of the Wuxia genre but this was generally unappreciated by the general audience.
  • Bloodspot (1988) started the career of Jean-Claude Van Damme (the muscle from Brussel). Twenty movies later, he is still in the action movie business.
  • Above the Law (1988). The first movie by Steven Seagal introduces the world to the techniques of combat aikido. Seventeen movies later, he is still battling his oponents with his aikido techniques.
  • Best of the Best (1989) Sport Tae Kwon Do makes its big screen debute.
  • Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991),the strong showing of Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) launched his film career. Followed by Rapid Fire (1992). Sadly, he died during the shooting of the Crow ( 1994).
  • Iron & Silk (1990) described the experienced of Mark Salzman and his encouters in China. With Qing Ching Fu playing a key part.
  • Perfect Weapon, The (1991) Jeff Speakman tries out his American Kempo.
  • Passenger 57 (1992) Wesley Snipes shows his stuff. A preview to the fighting in Blade (1998)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) Kristy Swanson fights the good fight against things that goes bump in the night.
  • Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993) - Jason Scott Lee does a creditable job playing Bruce.
  • Pulp fiction (1994) and Leon (1994) not wuxia as such but great action movies.
  • Crying Freeman (1995) with Mark Dacascos. Very under rated movie.
  • Mortal Combat (1995) A popular video games made in to a movie.
  • Long Kiss Goodnight, The (1996) not a wuxia movie but a great action movie.
  • Tekken: The Motion Picture (1997) Another video game inspired movie.
  • Ronin (1998)
  • Rush Hour (1988) Jackie Chan's first mega Hollywood hit. The final
  • Replacement Killers, The (1998) Chow Yun Fat come to Hollywood.
  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
  • Matrix, The (1999)
  • Gladiator (2000)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) won the Oscar for the best foreign movie that year.
  • Shanghai Noon (2000)
  • Romeo Must Die (2000)
  • Bourne Identity, The (2002)

    Some of the the memorable movies in more detail include:

Karate Kid
Pretty silly but captures some of the essence of traditional martial arts training. There are lots of memorable quotes:
"First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel San, not mine." Mr. Kesuke Miyagi (Pat Morita)
A note: well known karate teacher, Fumio Demura, performed most of the fighting for Pat Morita.
The Last Dragon
Produed by Barry Gordon and Motown. This movie is a cult classic starring Tiamat as Bruce LeRoy battling Sho'nuff, the Shogun of Harlem. The movie never reached critical mass with the main stream audience.
The Matrix
The Wachowski Brothers took full advantage of the expertise to Yuen Wo Ping and brought Wuxia elements to the North American audience. Produced on a budget of $63 million, it will eventually grossed over $171 million. For the students of Wuxia cinema, the fighting exhibits Yuen Wo Ping's trademarks as seen in his movies such as Once Upon a Time in China (1991) and the Iron Monkey (1996). How good is he? Well, he made Keanu Reeves into a kungfu fighter :-)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Classic Wuxia finally reached the main stream North American audience. Ang Lee made a visually great movie on a budget of $15 million and created a monster hit grossing $128 million in the US. The movie was film in Chinese but it did not seem to be an obstacle to North American movie goers.

Martial arts fighting has become an integral part of Hollywood. With higher production value, Hollywood movies easlily surpass movies produce elsewhere. However, Wuxia genre still remains to be a culural phenomenia for main stream movies.

   

Martial Arts Cinema around the World

Martial arts tradition in movies can also be found in many other countries. Japan has a long tradition producing Samurai movies (Chambara eiga) and other martial arts based movies. Korea is also producing such movies. Explosure to those movies provide another cultural perspective to the influence of martial arts cinema.

Representative movies from other countries include

  • Sugata Sanshiro (1943), Zoku Sugata Sanshiro (1945) and Sugata Sanshiro (1965). Judo movies.
  • Shichinin no samurai (1954) Seven Samurai (1954)
  • Nemuri Kyoshiro (1956) Full moon swordsman series.
  • Kakushi toride no san akunin (1958) Hidden Fortress, The
  • Yojimbo (1961) ... aka Bodyguard, The (1961)
  • Shinobi no mono (1962) Ninja, a Band of Assasins. A ninja series.
  • Zatoichi (1963). The tales of the blind swordsman, a 27 movie series and then made into a TV series.
  • Dai-bosatsu tge (1966) Sword of Doom.
  • Kozure kami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru (1972). The story of a Ronin (i.e. a masterless samurai) who wanders the countryside of Japan with his small child, having various adventures. Adapted from a comic book, also known as the "Baby cart in Hell" or "Lone Wolf and Kid" series.
  • Gekitotsu! Satsujin ken (1974) THe Street fighter, show casing the talents of Sonny Chiba.
  • Kagemusha (The Shadow Warrior) (1980)
  • Ran (1985)
  • Hong kil dong (1986). Historical drama is based on Korea's Robin Hood hero produced by North Korea.
  • Eunhaengnamoo chimdae (1996) Korean movie.
  • Bichunmoo (2000) Korean movie.
  • Musa (2001) A Korean period movie with Zhang ziiyi as the Princess Bu-yong
  • Onmyoji (2001)
   

References

[1] Internet Movie Database, One of the best moie database sites[2003/03]
[2] The Last Dragon Movie Site News about the movie and the star Tiamat. [2003/03]
[3] Karate Kid Movie Site A fan site devoted to the movie.[2003/03]

 
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