Musical Talents of Famous Martial Arts Actors

I just realized that some of the famous martial arts actors have a musical talent under their sleeves. This post popped in my mind while I was listening to High Upon High by Jackie Chan during my weekly workout. I’ve seen some videos of an interview or an event where they perform something beyond their combat skills. I’m impressed with what these guys can do. Just take a look at what each actor has to offer.

Jackie Chan

You probably know this already, but I’ll include it here anyway. Aside from doing stunts, Jackie is also good in singing. He recorded tracks for his movies, including Drunken Master 2 and Armour of God. He also sang the Chinese version of I’ll Make a Man Out of You for the Disney movie Mulan. back when he was a child, he had vocal lessons at the Peking Opera School. He has released over 20 albums from which he sang in different languages like Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Japanese, and Taiwanese.

David Carradine

Known by the older audiences (nope, far older than me) as Kwai Chang Caine in the TV series Kung Fu and known by the younger audiences as Bill from Kill Bill, David Carradine can also play the guitar and flute. He can actually make flutes out of bamboo, and you can see him playing one of them in the mentioned movie. As a guitarist, he was a member of the band called Soul Dogs. They play in small venues and charity events.

Donnie Yen

Donnie Yen’s hand-speed is top-notch as you can see in his movies like Ip Man and Flashpoint, so it’s not surprising that he can utilize such skill for playing the piano. Donnie actually belongs to a family of musicians. Her mother was a soprano and a martial arts teacher while his father is a violinist, so he was taught to play different instruments at a very young age. You can actually see him playing the piano in his movie Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. He plays classical music like what you’ll see in this video…

Tony Jaa

This is the most surprising part for me. I had no clue that Tony Jaa can actually rap. This wasn’t explicitly mentioned in any of his online profiles. Probably he’s doing it for fun, but I still find it cool. I mean, how many actors can you name as a spit artist and martial artist rolled into one? Here’s a video interview where he showed this hidden talent. He’s rapping in Thai language.

It’s good to learn new skills. Like these martial arts actors, I hope you get inspired to learn something new too, even beyond the field of music. Find it, and show the world the talented person that you are. (~^_^)~

Martial Art Techiniques: Movie vs. Real-Life

My fascination with Martial Art Movies motivated me to read and study more about martial arts itself. Movies were created for entertainment, so it’s not surprising that they tend to make the moves more flashy or exaggerated at some point, and I have nothing against that. That is actually the reason why I enjoy watching it over UFC or other actual fighting tournaments (though there are spectacular moments like when Silva broke his leg during his recent UFC match or Cro-cop’s signature left high kick). I enjoy the uniqueness and the technicalities of a well-thought fight choreography and how they timed each move to utilize a few seconds of fight as opposed to real-life combats that last longer but lesser things happen. So how do the filmed special moves fair with their real-life counterparts? Here are some of the examples.

1) Roundhouse Kick

One of the most-used moves (if not the most-used move) in action movies. Some filmmakers who can’t offer a properly choreographed scene resolve to roundhouse kicks repeated in different camera angles just to force some spectacle to it. Well, the move doesn’t get old if used right. The most exaggerated portrayal of the said kick is when the enemy throws himself/herself  in mid-air, sometimes with a bonus twirl which is fun to look at. However, real roundhouse kicks will just involve some head-shaking and then knock the person cold. It’s totally dangerous nonetheless, but no flying bodies. Watch this video to take a closer look.

2) Knee Kick

More popular in muay thai and MMA themed movies, the knee kick looks devastating both in movies and in real life. The actual move can be equivalent to hitting the chest with a sledgehammer, using the strength from your lower body to create an upward force. An informative video explains how the move builds its strength to deliver a deadly blow. Well, the best way to compare this technique to its real-life counterpart is to use the same actor Tony Jaa for an actual demonstration. See how fast he delivered his knee kick in the video below.

3) Hook Punch

At some point, I thought I should’ve made this the first item for this blog entry due to its simplicity, but then this move is so commonly used in any action movie, it created a film stereotype that humans can survive several minutes of fistfights or significant number of punches before finally getting knocked-out cold. Though it’s not that usual for the actors to deliver the proper hook punch, it’s a type of attack that forces you to use your entire body-weight, which is a lot stronger compared to quicker techniques like a jab or a 45-degree kick. So how many hook punches can a trained boxer survive before his/her lights go out? Well…

4) One-inch Punch

The move that was popularized by the martial arts legend Bruce Lee (no, you shouldn’t need any link about him). This was featured in a scene from the reboot movie of The Green Hornet starring Jay Chou as Kato. The original series starred Bruce Lee himself. It’s needless to say, the scene pays homage to the move that showed Lee’s martial arts superiority. Well maybe not strong enough to blast a guy through a window, but it’s strong enough to knock someone off his feet. You don’t believe me? Here’s a proof for you. No scripts. No camera tricks. No BS. Just pure power.

I really intend to include more moves to this post, but reference images and videos for the other items are just hard to find >_<. For the purists who say the things that action stars do on film are impractical in actual combat, all I can say is it wasn’t made for that in the first place. It’s for entertainment, so calm down, shut up, and enjoy the movie. As for the real martial art, it’s not just for self-defense. It’s a cliche, but it also teaches discipline. Aggression is not always the key to victory. As Mr. Han from Karate Kid once said, the best fights are the ones we avoid. (~^_^)~

My Top 5 Not-So-Mainstream Martial Arts Action Stars

Ever since I was a kid, I was really amused with all the classic Kung-fu movies. Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Bruce Lee play a significant part of my childhood. With Jackie Chan now finished with his last major action movie (though he will still film more action movies without the stunts and starring roles), I felt a little sad knowing that I won’t see anymore of his death-defying-stunts and totally unique humor imbued in his well choreographed action sequences.  However, there are a lot of other Martial Arts action stars who have a great potential to follow the footsteps of this legend or even surpass him. With this, I give you my own top 5 not-so-mainstream martial arts action stars.

Some Rules First

First of all, no Steven Seagal, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Van Damme, Chuck Norris, or Bruce Lee. These men have already reached a reputation of epic proportions. I prefer those who starred in more than one action movie, except if his or her performance is really that exceptional. It’s also a big plus for me if the star doubles as the director, stuntman,  and/or fight choreographer.

The Runner-Ups

Before proceeding with the top 5, I would like to include some other action stars who are worth mentioning.

Lateef Crowder – A capoeira practitioner, this guy’s unique and fascinating art had contributed a lot in the movies that he’s in. My personal favorite is his fight with Tony Jaa in The Protector. He also starred in Tekken as Eddy Gordo, the only appropriate cast that I’ve seen in this disappointing movie.

Mark Dacascos – A very agile martial artist in my opinion, hiss fight sequences are fairly fast and well choreographed. I’ve only seen a few of his movies, but most of them have been impressive. My favorite movie is Cradle 2 The Grave where he played as the villain and fought one-on-one with Jet Li.

Wu Jing – Based on my observation, this guy has very good footwork. His fight sequences may include some noticeable ropework, but it was not obtrusive if you look at the entire choreography of his fight scenes. My only rant is that some of his movies have a depressing story. I just didn’t like it. Anyway, my favorite fight scene is in SPL, where he had a one-on-one match with Donnie Yen. This fight is totally awesome.

Now for the Top 5…

5) Scott Adkins

I first saw this guy in the movie Undisputed 2. He’s actually the antagonist in this movie, but his moves were a lot more awesome than Michael Jai White. Good thing he became the main character in Undisputed 3 which showcased what this bad-ass is really capable of. He already worked with a lot of famous action stars, including Jean-Claude Van Damme (Assassination Game), Jackie Chan (The Medallion), and Jet Li (Unleashed). He’s also the stunt double for Deadpool in X-men Origins: Wolverine. Just take a look at this film montage to see how good he is (*_*)

4) Iko Uwais

First time I watched The Raid, I was astonished on how good the Indonesian production had pulled this off. The movie had breathtaking fight scenes and excellent cinematography. More than that, the main actor, Iko Uwais also displayed a superb performance during the action scenes. Now I know the potential of the martial art Pencak Silat  when it comes to action movies, thanks to him. Before watching the said movie, I suggest checking out Merantau first. The movie has good action sequences too, but I like the other movie better. Here’s the trailer for The Raid.

3) JeeJa Yanin

Her first movie, Chocolate, was a hit in Thailand and for a good reason. The interesting plot and Jeeja’s amazing combat skills really captured the attention of the action movie fans. She also does her own stunts, and I’m telling you, her stunts are no joke at all. Just see this trailer to see what I mean. You can also catch her in the Thai-Korean movie The Kick, a good mix of Taekwondo and Muay Thai action. Highly recommended.

2) Donnie Yen

To be honest, I’m not sure if this guy is still qualified in the not-so-mainstream category. In my opinion, he’s noticeably more popular compared to the other entries in this list. In any case, he’s well known for his portrayal of Ip Manthe mentor of the late Bruce Lee. He did justice to the powerful art of Wing Chun thanks to his incredible hand speed. However, I think his best performance as an action star is seen in Flash Point. He was trained in MMA style of fighting just for this movie, and he did very well.  I never thought that I would see a UFC-like fight scene in a fast-paced manner. I commend his flexibility to use different martial arts, from Shaolin Kung-Fu to Kickboxing. He even used Jeet-Kune-Do as seen in the trailer below. Other than that, he also collaborated with some of the famous action stars like Jackie Chan (Shanghai Knights), Jet Li (Once Upon a Time in China), and Sammo Hung (SPL). For this entry, I’ll leave you with a trailer for Legend of The Fist, a continuation of the Fist Of Fury series popularized by Bruce Lee.

1) Tony Jaa

Combat skills? A certified muay-thai pro. Stunts? How about sliding under a stopping car or jumping in the middle of a circular barbed wire? I think this guy is the action star who may come close (if not equal) to Jackie Chan’s capabilities. He can do totally complex fighting scenes, specially in dealing with huge number of goons. He can perform parkour sequences like jumping on walls, swiftly passing through tight spaces, and even backflip to break lampposts. He’s popular for his starring roles for the Ong-Bak series with part 2 as my favorite series since he combined different martial arts to create a magnificent montage of fight scenes. By the way, he is a Jackie Chan fanatic himself, that he even included a scene in his movie, encountering a Jackie Chan look-alike in an airport. This movie will have a sequel which will also star Jeeja Yanin.  Just thinking about what these two can do is giving me goose bumps. I’m having a hard time which movie trailer to show here since all of his movies are really top-notch, so instead, I’m giving you a video of his live demonstration for the promotion of Ong-Bak. You’ll be amazed specially on the last part.

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