Posts Tagged ‘donnie yen’

Cung Le Interview Discusses Rematch Fight with Scott Smith and Fighting Donnie Yen

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
Cung Le

Cung Le

May 6, 2010.
Cung Le Interview by

Last Thursday I had the privilege and honor to chat with former US Wushu Team member, former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, and current actor/action star CUNG LE.

Cung is an amazing martial artist, but he has also excelled above and beyond in other areas as well. In business – he started his own martial arts school and brand (USH!). In martial arts – he was a medalist at the world wushu championships, he won the middleweight champion title in strikeforce, and he has won countless tournaments in various styles of martial arts. In entertainment – he has worked with action star Donnie Yen and is going to be in the upcoming Hollywood film “Tekken”.

To see Cung in action check out this highlight reel.

Cung has been an inspiration in the chinese martial arts community in more ways than one. To top it off he has helped promote Asian Americans in a positive light AND he is an EXTREMELY humble guy. For a guy that could throw you upside down on top of your head, he carries himself in a very calm and respectable manner – as you would expect of a disciplined martial artist.

Now to the interview! He was in town in LA to promote his recent movie “Bodyguards and Assassins“. This is a movie that was released in Asia, but it was playing at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival. I interviewed him for the Pacific Rim Video Channel. In our interview he talks about what it was like working with Donnie Yen, his thoughts on wushu/sanshou in MMA, and his strategy on his rematch with opponent Scott Smith scheduled to fight June 26, 2010!

Without further ado, here is the interview.

For the martial artists, what are your thoughts on his upcoming fight with Scott Smith and do you guys think its possible to juggle a competitive martial arts career with filming and making movies?

Also thoughts on Cung Le and the UFC? Dana White has mentioned that he would like to see Cung in the UFC. Anyways, just food for thought. Feel free to leave comments.

To check out more about Cung, the man, check out!

This video interview was brought to you in part by Pac Rim Video and

Wushu Martial Arts Daughter – Chris Yen

Friday, March 13th, 2009

A Chinatown martial-arts prodigy, she fought her fate. Now she’s home.

By S.I. Rosenbaum / Globe Correspondent

Chris Yen Femal Martial Artist

Chris Yen Female Martial Artist

In Chris Yen’s earliest memory, she’s playing on the floor of her mother’s martial arts school in Chinatown.

In addition to his director, producer, and stunt director credits,

Donnie Yen has appeared in more than 40 films and TV shows, including:“Shanghai Knights” (2003), “Hero” (2002), “Blade II” (2002), “Highlander: Endgame” (2000), and “Iron Monkey ” (1993).

Chris Yen has appeared in:

“The Last Warrior” (2009), “Give ‘em Hell, Malone” (2009), “Rockville, CA” (2009) TV series, “A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy” (2008) “Adventures of Johnny Tao” (2007), “Black Rose Academy” (2004), and “Dragon Against Vampire” (1985).

The floor is sealed concrete, and painted with the Yin-Yang. Her mother, Bow Sim Mark, is teaching the meaning of the symbol to her students. Yen is about 4 years old.

The yin and the yang are opposites – hard and soft, black and white – but they’re not separate. They need each other to form that circle, Yen’s mother explained to her students. They need each other to create that balance.

As an adult, Yen’s path has taken her far from Boston. Now in her 30s (she declines to give her exact age), she’s an actress, writer, and kung fu artist in her own right, with a new movie coming out.

Yet a few weeks ago, she found herself back where she started: in her mother’s school, sitting across from Mark. She felt – not nervous, she said later, but cautious. Her mother was so private. How could Yen ask what she wanted to know?

Yen grew up in two worlds, and she felt she didn’t fit in either.

One world was Newton, where she lived and went to school. Her classmates spoke English and called her Chris. They couldn’t fathom her life, with its long hours of martial-arts training – they had never heard of wushu, the martial art in which her mother was a sifu, or master.

The other world was Boston’s Chinatown, where her mother taught martial arts. There, Yen was surrounded by American-born Chinese kids like herself. They spoke Cantonese, and they called her by her Chinese name, Chi Ching. They all knew who she was: Sifu Mark’s daughter, special and different.

Mark started training Yen in the martial art of wushu, a gymnastic form of kung fu, when she was just a toddler. By the time she was 6, Yen was helping her mother teach class, crisply correcting adult students four times her age.

Chris Yen Wushu Pose

Chris Yen Wushu Pose

“I was really strict,” Yen remembered. “I was a tough cookie.”

She was also lonely.

Yen had an older brother, Donnie, but he went to study wushu in China when he was 16 and Yen was 6. He became a famous kung fu movie star. Yen watched him on the big screen – a stranger, larger than life, a cinema idol.

Yen was poised to follow in his footsteps. At 10, she traveled to China; performing together, she and her mother were a sensation. “The Sweat of Ten Years Has Watered a New Blossom of Wushu,” a local newspaper wrote. Yen was known for her flying double back kick; she would leap into the air and arch her back so that both feet were pointing straight up toward the sky.

Around this time, Mark remembers her daughter writing her a letter, saying she wanted to quit wushu training. Yen has no memory of this. But the feeling grew in her as she got older.

In high school, she began to neglect her training. She stopped spending time in her mother’s school, and she stopped performing demonstrations with her mother.

“I struggled a lot, trying to fit in,” she said. “I was a very lost teenager.”

Mark remembers that period, too.

“She had other friends,” and she stopped practicing wushu, Mark recalled. “Of course I don’t happy. We talk a lot, but she doesn’t want.”

Mark, who is about 65 (her exact age is uncertain even to her daughter, clouded by differing reckonings of age here and in China), is a small woman with precise, graceful movements and a quiet intensity. She studied wushu for more than 20 years in the city of Canton, now called Guangzhou, before coming to the United States and founding her studio in Boston. She was one of the first female sifus of her generation.

She didn’t talk to her daughter much about her past, or her childhood in communist China. But Yen knew that her mother had expectations of her.

“She wanted me to carry on the legacy of her school, of what she’s built,” Yen said.

Yen wasn’t sure what she wanted, but she knew it was something else. She tried out clothes and boys. She tried out volleyball. She even tried other forms of martial arts, though she didn’t mention this to her mother.

“At first, it definitely felt like I was going behind her back and doing something totally wrong . . . to study with other people,” Yen said.

Mark didn’t say much about Yen’s experiments. She knew that ultimately she had little control over her daughter.

“I don’t have any choice, but I pull her come back,” Mark recalls about her daughter’s quiet rebellion. “She still a good girl, but I don’t like for her to go this way.”

Yen attended Boston College, and when she graduated in 1999, she left Boston to travel. She was living in Singapore in 2001 when she got a call from her brother, Donnie.

He’d acted in a film, years before, that had just opened in US theaters under the auspices of Quentin Tarantino, a longtime fan of Hong Kong action cinema. The film was called “Iron Monkey,” and Americans loved it. Tarantino wanted Donnie to come to the United States, and Donnie needed an assistant.

“He made me quit my job and come help him out,” Yen recalls. “For a few years I was living out of my suitcase.”

For the first time, the siblings got to know each other. Yen traveled with her brother to press events and movie shoots, flying to Los Angeles, Prague, Japan, Hong Kong. At Cannes, she met a director who was looking for a young woman with kung fu skills to play a part in a movie.

Yen agreed. It would just be for fun. She’d had a bit role in a movie once as a child, but she didn’t really know much about acting.

She fell in love with it.

In front of the camera, Yen found, she didn’t choose between being Chris from Newton or being Chi Ching from Chinatown.

She could be someone else entirely.

“It was another form, another outlet for expression other than martial arts,” she said. “You have these opportunities to play different sides of you.”

She began to study acting as seriously as she had studied wushu as a child. She got small parts in small movies, then bigger parts in bigger movies. Her latest film, “Give ‘em Hell, Malone,” will screen at the Cannes Film Festival. It co-stars Ving Rhames and is directed by Russell Mulcahy, who made “Highlander.”

She’s also working behind the scenes, as a writer/producer. One of the projects she’s working on is about a woman with split personalities: bubble-tea clerk by day, vigilante by night. Another one is about a girl named Chris who grew up in her mother’s school in Chinatown.

And there is one more story she wants to tell: not her own, but her mother’s.

Things have changed between them. No longer teacher and student, Yen said, they have become free to be mother and daughter.

Mark, too, feels that things are different. “Now is better than before,” she said. “She think I’m a good mother.”

Yen can’t carry on her mother’s legacy as a sifu, but she wants to preserve it in her own way. “It’s a very important quest of mine,” she said. “I need to write my mother’s story. . . . I feel like it’s my responsibility.” She is thinking about producing a documentary about Sifu Mark. Or possibly, someday, a feature film.

So when Yen came home to Boston for Chinese New Year last month, she found herself sitting across from her mother in the chilly school. Sifu Mark had never really talked about her past. Now, Yen asked her mother to tell her the story from the very beginning.

“Mom,” she asked, “where were you born?”

Ip Man Movie – Bruce Lee’s Master

Monday, January 5th, 2009

So the movie Ip Man has been released. What do you guys think?

The movie talks about wing chun grandmaster Ip Man played by Donnie Yen. Ip Man was an instructor and teacher to Bruce Lee.

Here are a few trailers from Ip Man.

Enjoy these teasers and trailers for the Ip Man wu shu (chinese martial arts) movie. By the way, the action director is Sammo Hung so I am sure you will like the action! If you have seen the movie, let me know what your thoughts are.

The Art of Kicking: Best Wushu Kung Fu Kicks

Monday, November 24th, 2008

The Art of Kicking Part 2: Kickers of the New Wave

The Art of Kicking Part 2: Kickers of the New Wave

During the early 1980’s, martial arts films began to wane away from its period settings and settle down into the modern day world. Classic kung fu kickers like Hwang Jang-Lee and Casanova Wong continued to make films and settle pretty well. Other kickers like Tan Tao-Liang and Sun Chien would somewhat retire and comeback to the modern day era but not hold up the success they achieved during their heydays.

Nevertheless, a new generation of superkickers began to emerge in the midst of the New Wave genre. A select few got their starts in classic kung fu films but showed more prominence during this era while there are newcomers, who connected with the right mentors, and showcased their accurate kicking skills to good use.

Getting his start as a stuntman and bit-part actor in classic kung fu films, Yuen Biao began to showcase some of his best kicking ability in his lead role debut, KNOCKABOUT (1979), a classic kung fu film that co-starred and was directed by Yuen’s former schoolmate, Sammo Hung.

Yuen Biao was born Hsia Ling-Jun on July 7, 1957 in Taiwan. Emigrating to Hong Kong, Hsia was enrolled in the famous Peking Opera school run by Sifu Yu Jim-Yuen. Hsia proved to be a natural when another one of the school’s students, Yuen Lau (later to be known as Jackie Chan), showed him how to execute a somersault. The rest, as they say, is history.

The wiry natural would pull off some frenetic kicking in TWINKLE TWINKLE LUCKY STARS (1985). In a warehouse fight against veteran Philip Ko, Yuen flips off a crate, follows it with a tornado kick and ends it with a picture perfect side kick connecting to Ko’s face. Following it up with ABOVE THE LAW (1986), Yuen’s kicking and acrobatics came to full effect as he has memorable on-screen brawls with Americans Cynthia Rothrock and Peter Cunningham, while in the climatic battle against Melvin Wong, Yuen pulls off a jaw-dropping tornado kick that shows how much Yuen twists his body to execute it.

Yuen had memorable on-screen teamups with his two elder classmates, Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. Their teamups in PROJECT A (1983), WHEELS ON MEALS (1984), the LUCKY STARS series (1983-85), and DRAGONS FOREVER (1987) all were hits at the Hong Kong box office. Despite the films’ success, Yuen somehow felt overshadowed by his elder brothers and broke out on his own in the late 1980’s.

When Yuen’s career hit a standstill in the mid-1990’s, he relegated to making two films in the Philippines, TOUGH BEAUTY AND THE SLOPPY SLOP (1995) and THE HUNTED HUNTER (1997). Yuen would go on to settle in Canada with wife DiDi Phang and their children. In 2002, Yuen made a comeback in the Hong Kong-Japanese co-production NO PROBLEM 2, starring Japanese comedian Takashi Okamura. Since then, Yuen splits his time between Canada and Hong Kong, continuing in films such as ENTER THE PHOENIX (2004) and ROBIN-B-HOOD (2006).
Another superkicker who rose to prominence in the New Wave era yet got his start in classic kung fu films in Taiwanese-born Dick Wei. Wei studied tae kwon do at a young age and competed in tournaments in Taiwan. He would go on to enlist in the Taiwanese Army, where he was near the rank of Captain and even taught tae kwon do to his fellow soldiers. After his tour of duty, Wei opened up his own dojang in Taipei.

In 1977, he was discovered by legendary Shaw Brothers director Chang Cheh, and after appearing in a Taiwanese kung fu film ASSIGNMENT, Dick left for Hong Kong where he starred as a member of the Green Dragon gang in CHINATOWN KID. In his short film time, Wei got to display his impressive kicking skills in a training scene. Wei would perhaps be best known in this era for his role of the Posion Clan Master in THE FIVE VENOMS. It is Wei who tells Chiang Sheng about the legendary Venoms before succumbing to a fatal illness.

After appearing in more films for Chang Cheh, Wei left the Shaw Brothers and headed for their top rival, Golden Harvest. Wei became a member of the Hung Ga Ban, the stunt team led by one of Golden Harvest’s most prolific directors and actors, Sammo Hung. He made his Golden Harvest debut as Mr. Suen in THE PRODIGAL SON (1981), yet made a huge impact when he was cast as the lead villain in Jackie Chan’s PROJECT A (1983).

After Grandmaster Hwang In-Shik left the film industry in 1983, Dick Wei was one of Chan’s top on-screen rivals. Under the direction of Sammo Hung, Wei was able to unleash some impressive kicking skills against Chan in films like MY LUCKY STARS (1985), HEART OF DRAGON (1985), TWINKLE TWINKLE LUCKY STARS (1986), and DRAGONS FOREVER (1987). However, shortly after leaving Sammo Hung’s stunt team, Wei relegated to more lesser fare in villainous roles, with the exception of a lethal henchman role in PROJECT S (1993), the spin-off of Jackie Chan’s POLICE STORY III: SUPER COP (1992). Wei had a short yet sweet fight against Fan Siu-Wong in the film. Returning to Taiwan in the late 1990’s, Wei made his final film in 2001, THE DIED BODY.

While Yuen and Wei got their starts in classic kung fu films, a new generation of superkickers were about to emerge and one of its pioneers was a young man who has something in common with legendary folk hero Fong Sai-Yuk. He trained in the martial arts from his mother. His name is Donnie Yen.

Donnie Yen was born on July 27, 1963 in Canton, China. His father, Klyster Yen, is an editor for a Chinese newspaper, Sing Tao. His mother, Bow Sim Mark, is a respected wushu and tai chi master. At the age of 11, Yen and his family relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, where Madame Bow opened up a martial arts school and Donnie, who began his training at the age of four, continued to train under his mother at her school. It was here where Donnie met two fellows who would become two of most trusted confidants in the film industry: John Salvitti and Michael Woods, names who would be synonomous with the Hong Kong film industry as villain actors.

In 1983, while on a trip to Beijing, China to study contemporary wushu, Yen was discovered by Yuen Woo-Ping, the man behind Jackie Chan’s first two successful films, SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW and DRUNKEN MASTER (both 1978). Yuen was looking for a new face to take the lead in his film DRUNKEN TAI CHI. Yen never intended to become a martial arts film star, but got his first role at the age of 19. The film was a modest hit, despite the fact it was made at the end of the first cycle of period kung fu films. The two collaborated on a modern day breakdancing/kickboxing film, MISMATCHED COUPLES (1985), that flopped when it was first released, but hailed today as one of Yen’s most underrated films.

Yen broke through in 1988 with TIGER CAGE, the first installment of a modern-day action trilogy directed by Yuen Woo-Ping. Yen, who had a supporting role in the film, has an exhilirating fight scene against Michael Woods and Stephen Berwick before getting killed off by the film’s villain, Simon Yam. Yen would play another character in TIGER CAGE 2 (1990), where he pulled off one of his most impressive kicking performances to date when he uses his legs to take on Michael Woods, who has Yen’s hands chained together.

Yen continued to work in Hong Kong and has worked alongside some of Hong Kong cinema’s best talents, from taking on Jet Li in ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA II (1990) to teaming up with Michelle Yeoh in WING CHUN (1994) to name a few. Yen would also be active in television, starring as legendary folk hero Hung Hei-Kwoon in THE KUNG FU MASTER and as Chen Zhen, the role made famous by Bruce Lee, in the television series version of FIST OF FURY for Asia Television Limited.

In 1996, Yen formed his own production company, Bullet Films. Yen would star, produce, write, and direct LEGEND OF THE WOLF (1996), a tale about an ex-assassin who finds his true love and must deal with his past the only way he knows how. A blistering fight pitting Yen against a legion of bandits becomes the highlight of the film as Yen unleashes his super kicking skills to a tee as well as wielding a hatchet against the bandits. Yen would follow it up with two more films under the Bullet banner, BALLISTIC KISS (1998) and SHANGHAI AFFAIRS (1998).

In late 1999, Hollywood came calling as Yen geared up to make his Hollywood debut. Yen would play Jin Ke, a Chinese Immortal in HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME (2000), opposite Adrian Paul. In the film, Yen only has one fight scene, where he takes on Paul’s Duncan MacLeod in a weapons duel, followed by brief hand-to-hand combat where Yen does very minimal kicking. The fight scene, compared to the rest of the film’s action, was the best in the film as Yen choreographed that particular fight sequence.

Yen would work between Hong Kong and Hollywood. Some of his work in Hollywood includes BLADE II (2002), where he co-starred as a vampire and served as the martial arts choreographer opposite Wesley Snipes and SHANGHAI KNIGHTS (2003), where he fought Hong Kong legend Jackie Chan.

2005 proved to be the year of the Yen. Growing tired of the overused wirework that had plagued Hong Kong cinema, Yen decided to go back to basics and minimize wirework and add the element of mixed martial arts in his fight choreography. S.P.L. (2005) was the first film to employ Yen’s new style of fight choreography. Yen took on the likes of the returning Wu Jing and then the legendary Sammo Hung with his new style. The new choreography earned Yen the Award for Best Fight Choreography at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2006. Yen continues success to this day as he plays Ip Man, the real life wing chun teacher of Bruce Lee, in a biopic directed by recent collaborator Wilson Yip.

Another superkicker who made quite an impact during the New Wave era is a Taiwanese-born martial artist named Chou Hsiao-Long. Perhaps you know him as Ngai Sing, or you may know him today as Collin Chou as he has taken on Asia and Hollywood and shows no sign of slowing down.

Born the eighth of twelve siblings on August 11, 1967, Collin Chou trained in various styles of martial arts from four different masters in primarily animal styles such as mantis and tiger claw. At the age of twelve, while studying tae kwon do, Chou got his start as a stuntman in Taiwanese martial arts films, usually doubling the female actors due to his size and height at the time. However, as he grew older, Chou continued to work as a stuntman until he was discovered in 1987.

Chou made his lead role debut in the Taiwanese film PROMISING YOUNG BOY, a film about a young tae kwon do fighter. Chou’s nemesis in the film was another Taiwanese tae kwon do expert and movie star, Alexander Lo. The film was produced by Wu Ma and Sammo Hung. Chou would then take the next two years and enlist in the Taiwanese Army. After serving his tour of duty, he met up with Sammo Hung again in Hong Kong. This time, Chou would become a member of Sammo Hung’s stunt team, the Hung Ga Ban. It was here where Chou began to use the stage name of Ngai Sing.

During the 1990’s, Chou appeared in many films, showcasing his impressive kicking skills. Some of his best kicking can be seen in LICENSE TO STEAL (1990), where he has a brief fight against Yuen Biao and a nicely shot fight against fellow superkicker Tsui Jing-Yat; THE BODYGUARD FROM BEIJING (1994), where he takes on Jet Li in the final reel; and THE RED WOLF (1995), where he faces off against Kenny Ho.

In 1997, Chou announced that he was no longer using the stage name of “Ngai Sing” and was reverting back to his birth name of Chou Hsiao-Lung and using the English name of “Collin Chou”. That same year, he married model/actress Wanda Yung and continued to work in Hong Kong films from THE DEATH GAMES (1999) to NO PROBLEM 2 (2002).

In 2003, Hollywood got their first taste of Chou when Jet Li turned down the role of Seraph in the two back-to-back sequels to THE MATRIX, THE MATRIX RELOADED and THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS (both 2003). Chou took the role and with his experience in Hong Kong, was able to not only handle the fight scenes well but showcase his acting skills as well. Today, Chou splits his time between Hollywood and Asia, recently appearing in THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM (2008) as the lead villain opposite Jet Li and Jackie Chan.

During the new wave, two superkickers emerged who got their starts not by training in Opera schools or learning for the passion of the art. These two got their starts in the world of professional kickboxing. These two proved to be true sportsmen in the ring before becoming two of the most feared kickers of the New Wave Era. They are none other than Billy Chau and Ken Low.

Billy Chau, or Billy Chow (as most film fans know him by), was the Hong Kong Muay Thai Champion from 1981 to 1984 as well as the World Kickboxing Association Light Heavyweight Champion in 1983 while his fellow kickboxing counterpart Ken Lo began training in Muay Thai kickboxing at the age of fifteen after his family fled the battlegrounds of Cambodia and headed to Thailand. After moving to Hong Kong, Ken became a champion in the ring, but only competed in seven matches before retiring.

Both men got their starts in film from two of the Hong Kong legends. Chau was discovered by Sammo Hung and got his start as a member of the Hung Ga Ban, Sammo’s stunt team. After appearing in three lesser known films, Chow got his first taste with Sammo in EASTERN CONDORS (1987), where he played Yuen Wah’s number one henchman who uses Muay Thai to face off against Yuen Biao and Sammo. Chow would give Sammo one of his best on-screen duels in PEDICAB DRIVER (1989) and even got to face Jackie Chan in MIRACLES (1989) as the lead fighter of a rope factory.

After retiring from kickboxing, Ken Low was working as a doorman at a local club when he met Jackie Chan. Chan was impressed by Ken’s kickboxing skills and offered him a spot on his stunt team, the Sing Ga Ban, or Jackie Chan Stuntman Association. Ken took the spot and made his debut in NAUGHTY BOYS (1986), which Chan produced. Ken appeared in many of Chan’s films in small roles but it was 1994’s DRUNKEN MASTER II that put Low on the map as his final fight against Chan showcased Ken’s impressive kicking skills to the max.

What many Hong Kong film fans will know is that Chau and Low put their kickboxing skills to use in the 1991 film KICKBOXER’S TEARS, starring Moon Lee. The opening fight of the film is a kickboxing match between both Chau and Low. From the looks of things, it looks as if both fighters’ put their real-life skills into the heart of the match. Low’s character ends up killed by Chau, and as a result, Moon Lee seeks revenge.

While Ken Low continues to appear in many films today, Billy Chau has decided to take a break from films and concentrate on working as a kickboxing coach. However, Chau does make the occasional film appearance. Low has appeared recently in Steven Seagal’s INTO THE SUN (2005), where he speaks English for the first time as well as FATAL MOVE (2008). Chau runs Billy’s Gym in Hong Kong and Canada. He had trained UFC Champion Michael McDonald as well as the cast of the film STAR RUNNER (2003), including Vanness Wu, Andy On, and Shaun Tam.

In 1992, a young Korean fighter emerged after starring in some films in his home country. Discovered by Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-Leung, this young martial artist made a huge impact in an otherwise obscure film. The film is OPERATION SCORPIO and the fighter in mind is Kim Won-Jin.

Kim began training in his country’s national martial art of tae kwon do at the age of eight. He would study wushu and other Chinese martial arts while acheiving his 5th-degree black belt in tae kwon do. He would use everything he learned to create his own form of screen fighting. Beginning as a stuntman in Korea, Kim would work there for ten years before starring as the lead role in three films. This was all before he made an impact on Hong Kong in OPERATION SCORPIO.

In the 1992 Hong Kong film, Kim plays Sonny, the son of local pimp Mr. Wang, played by Ku Feng. His opening sequence alone is worth the price of admission as Kim uses minimal wirework and shows off some incredible flexibility when it comes to his legs. He even poses as a scorpion, hence the name of the film and its alternate title THE SCORPION KING (not to be confused with the 2002 Hollywood action film). Despite Kim’s presence, the film didn’t do extremely well at the box office. Kim would go on to play villains in two more Hong Kong films, WOMEN ON THE RUN and HERO BEYOND THE BOUNDARY OF TIME before returning to Korea to take a well needed break.

In 2000, Kim returned to Hong Kong when he appeared as the “waiter assassin” in CHINA STRIKE FORCE. Kim still showcased his impressive kicking skills against lead star Aaron Kwok in only one fight scene before getting killed off by none other than American rap star/actor Coolio. Kim would go on to work between Korea and Hong Kong, working as an action choreographer in Korea in films like MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER and ROMANTIC KILLERS, and taking on Yuen Biao in NO PROBLEM 2 in 2002. While Kim works mainly as an action choreographer today in Korea, he is perhaps best known for his role in OPERATION SCORPIO.

These are the top superkickers in the New Wave era as they showcased their powerful leg techniques in front of the screens. Whereas Hwang Jang-Lee and Tan Tao-Liang led the classic kung fu era in superkicking, these men are the tops when it comes to kicking in the New Wave era of Hong Kong cinema.

Donnie Yen interview on ‘Sha Po Lang’ SPL Movie

Friday, November 14th, 2008

SHA PO LANG or SPL, released on DVD as KILL ZONE by Dragon Dynasty here in the US, is one of the most talked-about kung fu movies of recent years. Donnie Yen’s choreography and his fight scenes with Wu Jing and Sammo Hung garnered enthusiastic praise from critics and fans alike. In the last entry of my series “Red Fists,” which traced the influence of left wing filmmakers on the development of kung fu cinema, I pointed out that both Yen and Wu underwent years of training in wushu, the contemporary competition version of kung fu that flowered in China after the founding of the People’s Republic. Although SPL cannot be considered a wushu film, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that the art is the foundation of both men’s careers. For all you SPL fans out there, here’s a re-posting of the interview with Yen that I did on the film’s release.

Left: Donnie Yen. Right: Jacky Wu Jing.

SHA PO LANG is one of the most talked-about films of 2005, and the hard hitting police actioner marks a return to the glory days of Hong Kong film. SPL action director and star Donnie Yen talks with from Hong Kong, where he is editing DRAGON TIGER GATE, his latest film.

KFC: Rumor says that the alley fight scene in SPL was improvised on camera. Is that true?

DY: I don’t know why there’s a rumor that the the whole scene was improvised. It’s very simple. Most of my films, all of my action scenes, whether I’m the director or action director, I have full control and I create all the choreography, from shooting to editing. Even in other films, I do my own choreography – that’s a known practice in the industry. I specifically create the look of the action. For the alley scene, I looked at Wu Jing’s earlier films and I saw he was a wushu stylist. SPL is a modern day film, so we had to work with his wushu movement. I have a strong background in wushu too, so I’d ask him to do certain movements so he wouldn’t look too much like wushu. My objective in the alley scene was to bring a long shot, realistic quality to it. Some of the shots were choreographed, but others were improvised on the set. I’d say, “I want you to attack, then I’ll come at you, and I want you to react.” That’s how it came about. I’d be saying, “Come to me.” But you couldn’t see my lips moving. Then in the editing, I made it even more realistic.

KFC: How long did it take to rehearse and shoot the alley fight?

DY: We shot the scene in basically five days. I choreographed it with my assistants, and then I said to Wu Jing, “If you look like too much of a traditional martial artist, it’s not going to work. So we’re taking out your signature type of moves.”

KFC: It looked very dangerous for both of you.

DY: It wasn’t that difficult. Obviously, I have the experience. I was dictating the rhythm – if he comes in too close, I step back. In the beginning he was holding back a little, but I had full confidence that I could dodge his movement. I was actually talking to him as we shot it.

KFC: Your character uses a baton against Wu Jing’s knife. What made you chose that weapon?

DY: Well, for a combination of reasons. Obviously we didn’t want to use a gun but it’s quite difficult to avoid guns in a cop movie. But a baton, that’s something a policeman uses. I knew it would be hard to use. I thought both weapons would be hard to show, to use visually, because they’re small. A lot of action directors will use short shots and close-ups to show small weapons, but I wanted to show the whole body movement instead of little pieces of it.

KFC: You stated previously that you shot a 40 second long take in the fight, but it looks like that got cut in the editing.

DY: Yeah, unfortunately.

KFC: Will we ever get to see the uncut footage, maybe on the US DVD?

DY: I don’t think so.

KFC: You used some terrific grappling techniques in the fight with Sammo Hung.

DY: That’s very difficult to shoot. It can turn into watching a UFC fight. If you shoot it too realistically, it doesn’t look right. You have to be a little cinematic.

KFC: There were a couple of amazing leg grapples, one when he’s spinning you around and you take control and throw him, and another when you jump kick him and turn it into a head lock and throw him.

DY: I just wanted to have a little fun with it.

KFC: Was it tough to film the nightclub scene? How long did it take?

DY: Nine days. We didn’t have the set to ourselves. It was a real nightclub and we only had it from 2 AM until noon. We had to be really careful not to mess it up. And Sammo’s knees were hurting!

KFC: His acting was really terrific in SPL!

DY: Yeah, I tried to keep the camera on his face, to capture his character on camera.

KFC: You’ve worked with SPL director Wilson Yip again on DRAGON TIGER GATE. Are you happy with the work you’ve done on that film?

DY: The action in DRAGON TIGER GATE will be groundbreaking! I haven’t seen any movies that were able to combine martial arts with comics in the right way. Other films didn’t highlight the action. DRAGON TIGER GATE is the closest thing to real comic book action. But it also has to be realistic. If it isn’t realistic, you don’t get drawn into that world.

KFC: Are you going to work on the recently announced SEVEN SWORDS sequel?

DY: Of course they’ve asked me. But right now I’m working on SPL 2. It’s going to be Wilson and me, and all the same production people. It’s going to be about cops in Macao, sort of like TRAINING DAY in Macao, and it will have a bigger budget than SPL. (Note: This project eventually turned into FLASH POINT (2007).) I’m talking to Mandarin Films about some projects now. After SEVEN SWORDS 2 and SPL 2 and maybe DRAGON TIGER GATE 2, we’re talking about adapting a Japanese comic book.

KFC: Will you be making a another traditional kung fu movie any time soon?

DY: I’m a little tired of traditional martial arts. I’m going to stay with contemporary style for a while. If I do a traditional martial arts film, it will emphasize character and drama, like SEVEN SWORDS. But first, I’m going to attempt to break new ground with contemporary action.


What are your thoughts or opinions for any upcoming Donnie Yen movies?