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Martial Art Movies

The first martial arts film was made in Shanghai in 1905. Ding Jung Shan starred Beijing opera star Tan Xi-pei, and it gave birth to the first of China’s five martial arts cinema genres: wuxia pian. Loosely translated as “martial chivalrous-hero films,” wuxia movies are soaked in traditional tales and legends of superhuman swordsmen who fight with magical martial arts skills. These films influenced the Japanese chambara (sword fighting) films.

The second genre from China is the gongfu pian (kung fu films), which emerged in the late 1960s and were brought to prominence by Bruce Lee. These movies were filmed with characters who fought with more realistic skills. Because of the success of Jackie Chan’s kung fu films at Golden Harvest, rival studio Shaw Brothers tasked director Chang Cheh and fight director Liu Chia-liang to create the third genre of film. Guoshu pian (national art film) mixed kung fu film fights with the magic of wuxia.

In the early 1980s, Jackie Chan invented the fourth genre of film known as wuda pian (fight films using martial arts). In these films, he combined martial arts with dangerous stunts in contemporary settings. In fact, most martial arts films made today and around the world are influenced by Jackie Chan’s wuda vision.

In 1983, director Tsui Hark created the final genre known as Fant-Asia films. These revamped, stylized wuxia movies mixed frenetic over-the-top action mixed with far-out sight gags and gravity-defying wire-fu.

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  1. Too Busy Looking Good! In Memory of Jim Kelly

    Too Busy Looking Good! In Memory of Jim Kelly

    Black Belt’s entertainment writer recalls an interview he did with the famous fighter-turned-actor. Journey back in time as the martial arts icon talks about movies, racism and Bruce Lee!
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  2. 2 Martial Arts Film Stars Remembered: Enter the Dragon’s Shih Kien and Kung Fu’s David Carradine

    2 Martial Arts Film Stars Remembered: Enter the Dragon’s Shih Kien and Kung Fu’s David Carradine

    Like it or not, the public perception of the martial arts stems in large part from movies and television. Read how these two actors helped shape that view throughout their work.
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  3. Furious 7, Part 2: Evaluating the Martial Arts in the Hit Action Film

    Furious 7, Part 2: Evaluating the Martial Arts in the Hit Action Film

    Read the conclusion of our film critic’s examination of the martial arts in the latest installment in the Furious franchise.
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  4. Furious 7: Record-Breaking Action Movie Is Loaded With Martial Arts Talent!

    Furious 7: Record-Breaking Action Movie Is Loaded With Martial Arts Talent!

    The box-office numbers for Furious 7 indicate it’s not disappointing the public, but how does the latest film in the franchise stack up when it comes to action and martial arts?
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  5. Endangered Species! How to Save the Martial Arts Film Industry

    Endangered Species! How to Save the Martial Arts Film Industry

    In the old days, martial artists starred in martial arts movies that were released in theaters. Nowadays, actors are coaxed through mostly forgettable fight scenes. That need not be the case!
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  6. Kingsman: The Secret Service Features Fights That Would Make 007 Drool, Part 2

    Kingsman: The Secret Service Features Fights That Would Make 007 Drool, Part 2

    Black Belt’s resident reviewer delves into one fantastic fight that takes place in the Colin Firth feature film Kingsman: The Secret Service.
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  7. Kingsman Features Fights That Would Make 007 Drool

    Kingsman Features Fights That Would Make 007 Drool

    Black Belt’s film critic looks at Kingsman: The Secret Service and comes away impressed. That’s surprising, especially when you consider that the stars are not martial artists.
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  8. Keanu Reeves Learns Judo and Jujitsu for His New Movie John Wick

    Keanu Reeves Learns Judo and Jujitsu for His New Movie John Wick

    The four months Keanu Reeves spent learning martial arts pays off handsomely in “John Wick,” which features brutal fights that don’t rely on camera tricks or fancy editing.
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  9. Jupiter Ascending and the Decline of Martial Arts Movie Craftsmanship

    Jupiter Ascending and the Decline of Martial Arts Movie Craftsmanship

    With the talent behind it, Jupiter Ascending could have been another Matrix. However, its action scenes and fight sequences weren’t quite up to par.
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  10. Martial Arts of Middle Earth, or a Hobbit-Forming Way of Doing Fights

    Martial Arts of Middle Earth, or a Hobbit-Forming Way of Doing Fights

    Ever wonder how moviemakers fabricate fantastic fights in which hundreds or even thousands of people wage war with weapons? Prepare to be educated!
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