kung fu movies

The Black Belt Hall of Famer tournament champ who became an international film star talks about choosing a school, competing in tournaments, finding a role model and never giving up.

“I was nervous as anything," Cynthia Rothrock said of her first tournament, after which she started to laugh. "I was an orange belt competing against black belts in forms. I was doing the most basic forms, and they were so advanced."

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Ever wonder how moviemakers fabricate fantastic fights in which hundreds or even thousands of people wage war with weapons? Prepare to be educated!

Back in the 1970s, most female stars of Chinese cinema didn’t practice the martial arts. A few clever kung fu instructors — professionals who would later be credited as fight choreographers — came to a realization: Large group fights that demanded impeccable timing from all the participants looked better if the main actress had trained in traditional Chinese dance. That ensured that she knew how to spin with speed, balance and coordination. A technique based on that observation was used during the filming of the 45-minute mega-melee in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The main difference was, with modern CGI technology and advanced motion-capture stages, such a cinematic clash was easier to pull off — and it didn’t require as much precision timing. In Chinese films, the dance-capable actress would learn a sequence of exaggerated moves that included spins, sword slashes, and throwing her hands and feet every which way. Often, she wouldn’t even worry about looking in the direction of her slash, kick or punch. Next, she’d spend a few minutes practicing the sequence without stuntmen. When it was time to shoot, she’d execute her moves the same way she’d just practiced, and it was up to the stuntmen to get close enough to her to sell the sword slashes and kicks by leaping backward at just the right time, often with a half flip effected just before they landed on their back. Thus, the pressure to sell the scene fell squarely on the stuntmen’s shoulders. In Hobbit 3, the climactic battle that involved the Orcs, Dwarves, Elves and Men — all of whom were fighting for control of the treasure that had been protected by Smaug the dragon — resulted from the talents of a single group of 12 stuntmen. They simultaneously performed choreographed routines that were digitally multiplied to look like thousands of troops waging war. “We had a rule that we weren’t allowed to go more than two or three shots of anonymous people fighting without cutting back to our principal characters,” said Peter Jackson, who produced all three Hobbit films, as well as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. “Otherwise, the audience just ends up with battle fatigue.” In Hobbit 3, the principal character actors and their stunt doubles were instructed by movement choreographer Terry Notary to deliver each fighting technique with exaggerated motion. The opponents were all trained stuntmen who were dressed in motion-capture attire, and that meant two things: One, with the help of postproduction digital technology, those stuntmen could become any creature in the final film. Two, they could wear protective padding while filming the fights, and that enabled the stuntmen to get close enough to their flailing opponents to sell the scenes even though not all the main actors knew how to fight like a martial artist. Of course, when an actor did know how to deliver a technique on the set, it resulted in a superior scene — just like in those Chinese kung fu movies. Hobbit 3 benefited even more from modern technology. It used a “virtual camera” that could change framing, timing, camera angle, lens choice and camera movement, as well as fly through the 3D landscape to add motion to the fights. It turned out to be a great way to make a simple sword slash look like an epic event without sacrificing safety. 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. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Special two-day martial arts movie marathon on specialty cable network will feature a tribute broadcast of Enter the Dragon and films such as Challenge of the Masters, The Deadly Breaking Sword and others!

Tune in to the El Rey Network for its 48-hour "Way of the Turkey" Thanksgiving Kung Fu Marathon, starting Thursday, November 27, 2014, at 6 a.m. (EST). For those who don't know, the El Rey Network is a new 24-hour English-language network founded by maverick filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, jointly owned by Rodriguez and FactoryMade Ventures with a minority stake held by Univision Networks & Studios Inc. Curated by Rodriguez and his artistic collective, the network seeks to "unite the most culturally diverse generation in history through fearless, badass and original content that awakens the renegade in everyone." The network's action-packed content is anchored by original signature dramas, feature films and grindhouse pieces as well as cult-classic action, horror and science-fiction films. Watch the El Rey Network trailer here ... ... and check out general information about its kung fu films here. According to the El Rey Network press release for this Thanksgiving marathon, its lineup will include a special tribute airing of Enter the Dragon on November 27, 2014, at 10:12 a.m. to coincide with the day and time of Bruce Lee's birth. The airing also will celebrate what would have been Bruce Lee's 74th birthday.

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Mark Jacobs takes a closer look into why Chinese martial arts are popular in the African-American community.

When I attended a screening of the documentary The Black Kungfu Experience at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image last year, I noticed the film pointed out something that many have observed over the years: There appears to have developed a social intersection of African-American and Chinese culture that finds its crossroads right in the middle of the kung fu world. How to explain such a juxtaposition of two disparate cultures? Noted New York kung fu practitioner and former BET reality-TV star Novell Bell, aka The Black Taoist, offered this insight: “Brothers just love kung fu. It’s the rhythm.” Potential stereotyping aside, there seems to be a level of agreement about the nature of kung fu movements from other prominent African-American practitioners. Legendary martial artist Ron Van Clief, who’s featured in The Black Kungfu Experience, is better-known to film fans as “The Black Dragon.” Drawing from his extensive experience in both Japanese and Chinese arts, Ron Van Clief opined that the harder Japanese styles are “ugly” compared to Chinese arts, which simply flow better.

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Kung fu movie fans might think they know everything about this popular genre, but would they know which kung fu movie had the longest fight scene in the history of films? Or which kung fu movie star had to bite the head off a live lizard? Probably not. But Dr. Craig D. Reid — author of The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s— can tell you. He knows everything about kung fu cinema and martial arts movies. Reid is one of America's most respected martial arts film historians and critics. In 1979, he became the first regular Caucasian and American stuntman in Chinese kung fu movies and kung fu TV soap operas in Taiwan. Since then, he has accrued credits as a screenwriter, fight choreographer, kung fu scholar, TV personality, and university and guest martial arts lecturer. On January 20, he'll be sharing his martial arts movie expertise with the Pacific Asia Museum's Active Cultures series. Active Cultures is a series of events that pairs engaging speakers in a dynamic, conversational program, which includes a Q-and-A with the audience. "I saw my first kung fu film at the V Drive-In in Vestal, New York," Reid says. "In an instant, I wanted to live and learn and watch every kung fu film ever made." In fact, when compiling the material for his book, Reid relived these transformative times by watching more than 500 kung fu films from that era. The reviews in the book include extensive knowledge of martial arts history, cinema and fight choreography. Reid will discuss how influential the films of the 1970s were in martial arts cinema, how they brought major breakthroughs in fight choreography and filmmaking, and how they built national identity and pride. He will also cover the rise of the genre's most influential actors/directors and the creation of a worldwide following.

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