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Films have been focused on martial arts for a long time, and who can blame them? With talented men and women who are able to perform the fight scenes and directors who have the vision to make their stories come to life, these films can transport viewers to places far away while reminding us what the human body is capable of.
Though few of us will ever be Tony Jaa or Bruce Lee, here are five movies that every martial artist should watch. These movies are fun and full of action and some great fights.
Kickboxing movies can be a lot of fun. In 1995, Savate was released. Savate is very similar to many Westerns, but it has a disillusioned soldier who ends up fighting for the underdog using kickboxing, plus a cast that includes Oliver Gruner, James Brolin, and Michael Palance, Savate is worth a watch.
In 2003, Tony Jaa starred in Ong-Bak, a film that uses Thai kickboxing. It not only has action and great stunts but looks gritty and real. Tony Jaa did his own stunts and he trained for four years in Muay Boran, the form of martial arts that came before Muay Thai, to get ready for his role.
Kung Fu and Bruce Lee
Once Upon a Time in China was released in 1991 and stars Jet Li as Wong Fei Hung, a legendary Chinese hero who fights to defend China from other nations that are taking advantage of it. He fights the colonizers with the weapons at hand. As a student of kung fu, his skills are the weapon he possesses, but can he succeed against the imperial powers in China? A fun movie, some have given it credit for reminding us all how awesome kung fu could be.
Enter the Dragon, released in 1973 and starring Bruce Lee, is another movie that every martial artist should see. Not only was Bruce Lee a master in kung fu, judo, and karate, he was graceful and poised. While it is not on every best martial arts movie list, it is on most of them. Gritty and violent, the movie is just like a movie focused on a martial arts tournament with spies and a crime lord should be. Plus, Enter the Dragon showcases the incredible talent of Bruce Lee.
1999’s The Matrix borrows quite a bit from martial arts movies of the 1970s and 1980s. Star Keanu Reeves trained with Woo-Ping Yuen, a fight choreographer who had worked with Jackie Chan. Because Reeves’ character had different martial arts styles downloaded into his brain – jiu-jitsu, savate, kung fu, kempo, and tae kwon do – Reeves had to be trained, to some extent, in each of these styles. Despite this, the fighting style of the movie was still unique because of the setting and characters. This makes The Matrix a fun movie to watch for any martial artist.
Watching the masters at work, or seeing the work that masters have put into training and choreographing a fight can be a learning experience. Knowing the work that goes into these scenes can help a martial artist appreciate them even more.