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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. Martial Arts of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Part Two)

    Martial Arts of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Part Two)

    Enjoy our entertainment blogger’s examination of the origins and evolution of the martial arts-inspired action in the seven Star Wars movies.
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  2. Martial Arts of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Part One)

    Martial Arts of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Part One)

    Any martial artist who watches the films of the Star Wars franchise will spot the references: Japanese swordsmanship, gi tops, chi energy in the form of the force, and so on. Find out where these components came from and how they all fit together.
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  3. Venture ‘Into the Badlands’ With Daniel Wu: Martial Artist Battles Bad Guys in a Dystopian Future!

    Venture ‘Into the Badlands’ With Daniel Wu: Martial Artist Battles Bad Guys in a Dystopian Future!

    Black Belt’s entertainment blogger takes a look at the new AMC series Into the Badlands, starring Daniel Wu. It’s Wu’s real-life martial arts skills that make this post-apocalyptic series a cut above the rest.
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  4. Donnie Yen Is Back and Ready to Portray the Wing Chun Legend in Ip Man 3

    Donnie Yen Is Back and Ready to Portray the Wing Chun Legend in Ip Man 3

    In the new film Ip Man 3, Black Belt Hall of Famer Donnie Yen returns to the silver screen — and to the role of the wing chun kung fu legend who taught Bruce Lee. Check out these six movie posters of the main characters!
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  5. The Truth Behind the Five Venoms of Chinese Martial Arts Cinema

    The Truth Behind the Five Venoms of Chinese Martial Arts Cinema

    Find out where the Five Venoms came from, how they evolved in subsequent fight films and why they ruled drive-ins and cable television in the 1970s and ’80s.
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  6. Fight Film Retrospective! When Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Became a Hit

    Fight Film Retrospective! When Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Became a Hit

    Revisit the Academy Award-winning martial arts movie that educated the West and changed history.
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  7. The Grandmaster: Why You Should See This Ip Man Biopic

    The Grandmaster: Why You Should See This Ip Man Biopic

    Western critics loved this film about Bruce Lee’s teacher even though most of them probably missed the numerous nods to the true martial arts lifestyle.
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  8. A Monumental Kung Fu Film Is Coming! Are You Ready for The Assassin?

    A Monumental Kung Fu Film Is Coming! Are You Ready for The Assassin?

    An acclaimed Taiwanese filmmaker has directed a different kind of martial arts movie, and it’s about to hit theaters. In the title role is Shu Qi, co-star of Jason Statham’s The Transporter.
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  9. 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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  10. 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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