The old master role is a staple of the kungfu movie genre. This wise sensei or sifu embodies the qualities of wisdom, experience and restraint, tempering the young hero’s reckless energy and guiding them in their fight against injustice.
Some of the actors portraying old-school masters were trained only in movie-fu—the art of looking good on camera—but others were accomplished martial artists and opera performers in their own right. Those in the latter category executed difficult fight choreography with speed and grace; like fine wines, they grow more impressive with age.
Here are some of my favorite old movie masters:
Kwan Tak-Hing [IMDB]
During his long and distinguished career, Kwan played the Hung Gar master Wong Fei-Hung in over 70 different films.
Notable work includes:
Scene from Magnificent Butcher, starring Sammo Hung and Kwan Tak-Hing
Directed by Yuen Woo-Ping
Yuen Wah [IMDB]
Yuen Wah studied at the same Beijing Opera school that produced stars Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. His movies include:
Yasuaki Kurata [IMDB]
Kurata is often cast as the sympathetic Japanese character in Chinese martial arts films. He holds black belts in the arts of karate, judo and aikido, and has appeared in:
- Fist of Legend
- Heroes of the East
- Legend of a Fighter
Legend of a Fighter original trailer
with Yasuaki Kurata, and Leung Kar-Yan as Huo Yuanjia
Who are your favorite old masters?