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.

It seems that every day we’re reminded of how time flies. I can't believe that this month marks the sixth year since the world lost two of its biggest martial arts film stars in two days. Interestingly, both will be remembered in part because of their connection to Bruce Lee. On June 3, 2009, veteran Hong Kong kung fu film star Shih Kien died from kidney failure at age 96. In the West, he was best-known for playing the inscrutable Han in Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon (1973) — specifically, for the battle in which he sliced and diced Lee using his prosthetic hand in the hall of mirrors. When Enter the Dragon came out, most of us had no idea that Shih had already starred in more than 400 films. In most of them, he played villains. It was the result of the typecasting that followed his very first movie role: He portrayed a Japanese spy in Flower in a Sea of Blood (1940). Shih’s skill set was diverse. Not only did he act — frequently starring opposite the famous Kwan Tak-hing in Kwan's early Huang Fei Hung films, among others — but he also served as an action director.


“Jim Kelly: Martial Artist and Co-Star of the Bruce Lee Movie Enter the Dragon — A Vintage Interview” catches a man on the cusp of Hollywood stardom! Download it here.

In a rare appearance as the hero, Shih starred in Tiger's Claw (1974). His hair-and-beard combination made him resemble Spock’s evil doppelganger in the Star Trek original series episode “Mirror, Mirror.” Shih’s scenes in Tiger's Claw remind viewers of his portrayal of Han — in large part because every time he fights in that film, we’re treated to the soundtrack from Enter the Dragon. Although his name is synonymous with cinematic villains, in real life Shih was a kind man with a heart devoted to eagle claw and choy lay fut kung fu. He had trained at Shanghai’s Ching Wu Athletic Association, the gym created by Huo Yuin Jia, the teacher of Bruce Lee's character in The Chinese Connection (1972).

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A day after Shih passed, American martial arts film and TV star David Carradine died from what’s best described as a judgment failure. He was 72. Carradine, of course, was renowned for his spot-on portrayal of Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine in the TV series Kung Fu (1972-1975). The role was supposedly created for Bruce Lee, but the studio decided that the series had a better chance of succeeding with Carradine as the lead. Kung Fu gave most Westerners their first exposure to the teachings of Shaolin. Even more important, it was a most positive introduction, one that showed time and again that a true martial artist trains not to fight and prefers to heal rather than hurt. The philosophy that Carradine’s character embodied and that the actor embraced in real life stood in stark contrast to what was depicted in the most popular kung fu films of that era. "From that perspective, it was important to show the true way of Shaolin and kung fu, so the show created a balance between the violent kung fu films and the peaceful calm of Caine," Carradine explained in an interview. "It was about the whole yin-yang balance." "When I worked with David on Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004), I made it a point that when we were on location together to pull him aside and tell him how much I admired Kung Fu,” said Gordon Liu Chia-hui, the most famous Shaolin-priest character actor in Asia. “That series was a very important part of people in the West's understanding of kung fu, and he played the role of what I think a Shaolin priest truly was." When my interview with Carradine was coming to a close, the actor waxed philosophical: “Each end is a new beginning." Tongue-in-cheek, I replied, "That's like a sumo wrestler — heavy, man." He smiled, we hugged … and I never saw him again. (Shih Kien Photos Courtesy of Warner Bros. / David Carradine Photos Courtesy of ABC) Go here to order Dr. Craig D. Reid’s book The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s: 500+ Films Loaded With Action, Weapons and Warriors.
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The UFC returned to American network television for the first time in more than two years Saturday on ABC while former featherweight champion Max Holloway returned to his winning ways following two straight losses, earning a unanimous decision over Calvin Kattar in Abu Dhabi. Holloway showed he still has plenty left as a fighter dominating Kattar from the opening bell of the main event with a mix of punches and low kicks.

It appeared as if the former champion might stop his opponent in the fourth round landing a series of vicious body blows followed by hard elbows to the head as a bloodied Kattar sagged against the fence. But Kattar somehow survived managing to keep himself upright through the fifth stanza as well, only to lose a lopsided decision. After dropping his title to Alexander Volkanovski and then losing a controversial rematch, Holloway may have put himself in position for one more crack at the championship following Saturday's impressive performance.

The Legendary Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame has never before been documented in a single location. Now, you can learn about all the icons that have achieved one of the greatest honors in all of martial arts.

Black Belt Magazine is proud to announce the NEW Member Profiles feature for the Hall of Fame. At the time of this article, the online records account for every inductee from the inaugural year of 1968 all the way through 1990 (upwards of 200 martial artists). The page will be updated continuously and will include every inductee through 2020 in the near future. For now, you can enjoy images and facts about the legendary members for each induction they received before 1991. Take advantage of this never-before-seen opportunity to learn about many of the martial artists who contributed to the lifestyle, culture, and community that every martial artist experiences today.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE BLACK BELT HALL OF FAME

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ONE Championship kicked off their 2021 campaign in Singapore on Friday, January 22, with ONE: Unbreakable.

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