View Full Version : choreography of kung-fu movies

04-16-2002, 08:53 AM
If you had the chance to direct a kung-fu movie, how would you like the fight scenes to be choreographed? Yuen Woo Ping style (wire harness/trampoline/blurring sped techniques), Jackie Chan style (crazy stunt sequences/lots of "tricky kung-fu moves", old school (little more on the staccato side, but using classic techniques, or Bruce Lee's more kickboxing-like style?

Personally, I prefer the old school combined with the kickboxing- like style these days...one of my all time faves is Bruce Li (aka Ho Tsung Tao). My brain has been numbed by all the gimmicky over the top stuff that I used to love. But i don't know if that has acceptance in the action movie world anymore.


04-16-2002, 09:43 AM
First, I will mention what I think of the top kung-fu movie choreographers.

Yuen Woo-ping used to create awesome fight scenes. Compare his (and his family's Yuen Action Group) older works (such as Shaolin Drunkard, Drunken Tai Chi, Drunken Master, Magnificent Butcher, and countless others), to the modern works (such as Charlie's Angels, The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Wing Chun, etc.).

Yuen Woo-Ping's creativity seems to have diminished a lot since the old days. He always used over-the-top choreography, but he's gotten away from the "how did they think of that?" types of choreography, to a style that seems to give the impression he's run out of ideas, or is working with talent not up to the creativity of years past. Whereas before there would be complex martial arts skills and bizarre gadgets, now it's just a few over-simplified techniques (mostly high kicks) mixed with flying around. Can't think of what to do next? Just have them fly around and do a couple of kicks.

Liu Chia-liang (Lau Kar-Leung) had the best "traditional-type" choreography. But for the general Western audiences, they may fail to understand or appreciate a Chinese-style of movie fights, such as different kung fu styles. Liu was the best and first at showing extremely small and subtle hand movements and making it work in cinema, also traditional weapons fights.

In the 70's and early '80s, Sammo Hung was maybe the best at combining the old-style and modern-style in one film. Also the best at putting emotion into his choreography, and having something funny happen in the middle of a serious scene. His later work ('90s on), like Yuen Woo-Ping's, seems far below his "golden period."

Yuen Kuei (Corey Yuen) makes slick fight scenes. His fights tend to start and proceed dramatically, but they also tend to fizzle out at the end. He is really high-kick crazy in his choreography, and usually does not emphasize traditional styles (but showed a bit more in The One).

Jackie Chan's creativity has dropped way off. After Drunken Master II (actually choreographed mostly by Liu Chia-Liang), his fights are limited. Pretty much the same few kicks, a few punches, combined with flips, stunts, and mugging for the camera. A far cry from The Young Master and Fearless Hyena.

If I had an American movie I would want choreographed? Probably a combination of Sammo Hung and Yuen Woo-Ping, but have them go back to their creative roots, when they were at their best. They could make it entertaining with good skills, but still accepted by Western audiences. (though I personally prefer the old-school traditional kung fu films).

04-16-2002, 12:34 PM
I agree with you jimbo...As with all artists once they become more popular or main streams it semms they lack in there original quality!

04-17-2002, 04:43 AM
that's an interesting question guys :)

Personally, i liked the mid-late 80's era Jackie Chan style (like Police Story 2, Project A etc...). Lots of action, when ppl were actually doing things! Instead of now when they just jump around and fly about :D I guess the choreography has to reflect the target audience though, as it's the main selling point of action movies.

case in point: blade 2. I was expecting another *CTHD* style action movie, but was pleasantly surprised :) Althought the cinematography could have been better (imho) during the action, it basically kicked @ss! But Charlies Angels on the other hand had more pointless, unrealistic flying/jumping in it than CTHD!

I guess we have to remember, these guys are getting older now, so maybe can't do what they once did? Then they have to embrace new ideas and even technology. Personally, i like the way Jackie uses his surroundings and plays comedy in his fights. I also like the way Donnie Yen just kicks ass! Samo Hung is also cool (Pedicab Driver and Encounters of the Spooky Kind)...But how many ppl from the general public would want to see a late 70's style 'snake' vs. 'crane' fist fight? Most wouldn't understand why it was so special!

I guess there's a lot of different 'styles' out there for ppl to choose from :)


04-19-2002, 08:44 PM
Well, it's a very subjective call. I don't think it's really a case of "realistic" or not, as most of us who study CMA know that truly realistic fights wouldn't necessarily look that great on the screen. Personally, I don't like wires, and I don't like speeded-up film. On the other hand, I love trampoline work and acrobatics--it's exaggerarated, but it looks very natural and cool to me. I just got done watching Dirty Ho, and man, that final fight scene is just some of the most incredibly intricate choreography I've ever seen---I would have to say Liu Chia Liang's style does it for me. I love the slo-mo somersaults and aerobatic stuff from Chang Cheh and the Venoms, too. I get kind of tired of Jackie's style--he never seems to vary it very much---plus I prefer the period pieces.

And, even though I think he's a total idiot in real life--I must say I think a lot of Steven Segal's fight scenes really look great. It seems like most of the Shaw stuff is external KF, whereas Segal's Aikido seems a little closer to the Taiji I study.

I made a low-budget KF movie with some friends a couple years ago, and I choreographed the fights scenes. Let me tell you, doing that will give you a GREAT deal of respect for the art form---it ain't that easy. The first day we filmed, we had trouble making a slap across the face look convincing :).You have to plan out every tiny move, and the camera angle for every shot---and if you're working with non-martial artists, it's much harder.

04-20-2002, 08:07 AM
i too have done some 'choreography' before, and it is very hard. especially with ppl who haven't trained and have no concept of distance and/or timing etc. Angles and things also need to be well planned...

For me, i prefer the 'incidental' fighting which uses the surroundings real well. Couple that with the old style long takes and intricate sequences and you've got yourself a winner imo :)

david :)