The Best of Kung Fu Cinema: Fight Choreography

I was recently reading wujimon’s Taijiquan blog, and was a little surprised to find Top 5 Martial Arts Movies in his list of most popular posts.

Surely, I thought, such lowbrow pursuits are beneath the true “internal martial artist”? But it seems I was wrong; a fortuitous circumstance, because I know more about kung fu movies than John Hodgman knows about hoboes.

My only problem is that I cannot narrow my favorites list down to 5, or even 10 movies. Therefore, I plan to make a series of short “best of” posts, each addressing a specific aspect of the genre.

More Fighting, Less Flying

I enjoy a good wuxia fantasy flick as much as anyone: floating over rooftops, dueling with magic swords, etc. But sometimes, I prefer something a bit more down-to-earth. Regular punches and kicks are exciting too, when they are executed well.

Here are my top picks featuring (relatively) realistic fight scenes, with a minimum of CGI and wire-work.

Ong-Bak – The Thai Warrior [IMDB]
Starring Tony Jaa
The break-out hit from the star of The Protector, a.k.a. Tom Yum Goong.

Ong Bak – Fight Club

Sha Po Lang (a.k.a. Kill Zone) [IMDB]
Starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung and Wu Jing

Alley fight scene from Sha Po Lang

Fist of Legend [IMDB]
Starring Jet Li

Fist of Legend: Jing Wu men vs. Karate dojo

What are your favorite “reality-based” kung fu movies?


  1. Really supurb…nice web….At least i have learned the new art dim mak. Good luck

  2. Ong Bak is not a kung fu movie ,nor it depicts kung fu. The martial art shown is Muay Thai.

  3. Well, if you want to get technical…Ong Bak is still a “kung fu” movie. 🙂

  4. I didn’t get what you meant ? Can you explain me ? I have seen teh film many times. There may be similar techniques, but what Tony Ja doing is Muay Thai,and few techniques from Muay Boran.

  5. Muay Thai is noy kung fu maan !! Ofcourse ,in actual meaning kung fu means “an epertise in any skill. It is not a name of any martial art” ,in that sense you are correct . But here I guess you listed the chinese martial arts movies .. Muay Thai is a martial form of Thailand ,you may already know that I guess. .. Its completely a different martial art that has nothing to do with kung fu.. ( if you consider teh similarities, many striking martial arts in the world has similarities..)

  6. Freinds….What Tony Ja shows is a mixture of Kung Fu + Muay thai + arkour + Gymnastics. This is what Tony Jaa all about. Iam saying this because I have done Muay Thai Training. Iam in a practice of Kung fu from 2.5 years. Also iam practicing Parkour stunts.

  7. The Donnie Yen vs Wu Jing scene is NOT realistic… it’s cinematic fantasy. Does it look cool? Yes absolutely, but not realistic.

    Firstly, a single hit from a telescoping baton is enough to fracture a bone or cause serious injury… let alone the hundreds that guy took. Secondly, a guy with a knife like that up against someone wielding a baton would not hold the knife in a reverse grip. The reason is obvious, it reduces reach advantage and changes it into a reach disadvantage. The knife would be held in the hammer grip by someone with even a modicum of real experience.

    Third, I would very much like to see anyone trade blows like that and be able to parry nearly every single one. It’s totally impossible.

    Also, unless they each had a death-wish or no human sense of self-preservation whatsoever, neither of them would have charged each other like that in a real duel. The person who recklessly charges an armed and skilled opponent will probably die in the process.

    It’s a fun fight scene to watch yes, but definitely not realistic.

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