Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Martial Arts

Donnie Yen vs Bruce Lee

A Warrior’s Dream is a 3D animated short film with photorealistic visual style. The story is about a martial artist’s combat with his imaginary opponent. The martial artist finally realized that the mightiest opponent is himself. The film ends with Bruce Lee’s calligraphy “Walk On”. Thus the director wishes Donnie Yen can walk on as a martial artist like Bruce Lee, the idol of Donnie Yen himself.


Birth of the Dragon – Bruce Lee Biopic

Bruce Lee_Birth of the Dragon_BannerQED International and Groundswell Productions have joined forces for Birth of the Dragon, which will focus on Bruce Lee’s career-defining 1965 no-holdsbarred TKO battle with kung fu master Wong Jack Man.

According to Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce Lee’s wife, Lee’s teaching of Chinese martial arts to Caucasians made him unpopular with Chinese martial artists in San Francisco. Wong contested the notion that Lee was fighting for the right to teach Caucasians as not all of his students were Chinese. Wong stated that he requested a public fight with Lee after Lee had issued an open challenge during a demonstration at a Chinatown theater in which he claimed to be able to defeat any martial artist in San Francisco. Wong stated it was after a mutual acquaintance delivered a note from Lee inviting him to fight that he showed up at Lee’s school to challenge him. Martial artist David Chin reportedly wrote the original challenge, while Wong asked Chin to let him sign it.

According to author Norman Borine, Wong tried to delay the match and asked for restrictions on techniques such as hitting the face, kicking the groin, and eye jabs, and that the two fought no holds barred after Lee turned down the request.

The details of the fight vary depending on the account. Individuals known to have witnessed the match included Cadwell, James Lee (an associate of Bruce Lee, no relation) and William Chen, a teacher of T’ai chi ch’uan. According to Bruce, Linda, and James Lee, the fight lasted 3 minutes with a decisive victory for Bruce.

Lee gave a description, without naming Wong explicitly, in an interview with Black Belt: 

“I’d gotten into a fight in San Francisco with a Kung-Fu cat, and after a brief encounter the son-of-a-bitch started to run. I chased him and, like a fool, kept punching him behind his head and back. Soon my fists began to swell from hitting his hard head. Right then I realized Wing Chun was not too practical and began to alter my way of fighting.” 

Cadwell recounted the scene in her book Bruce Lee: The Man Only  I Knew:

“The two came out, bowed formally and then began to fight. Wong adopted a classic stance whereas Bruce, who at the time was still using his Wing Chun style, produced a series of straight punches. “Within a minute, Wong’s men were trying to stop the fight as Bruce began to warm to his task. James Lee warned them to let the fight continue. A minute later, with Bruce continuing the attack in earnest, Wong began to back pedal as fast as he could. For an instant, indeed, the scrap threatened to degenerate into a farce as Wong actually turned and ran. But Bruce pounced on him like a springing leopard and brought him to the floor where he began pounding him into a state of demoralization. “Is that enough?” shouted Bruce, “That’s enough!” pleaded his adversary. Bruce demanded a second reply to his question to make sure that he understood this was the end of the fight.”

This is in contrast to Wong and William Chen’s account of the fight as they state the fight lasted an unusually long 20–25 minutes. Allegedly, Wong was unsatisfied with Lee’s account of the match and published his own version in the Chinese Pacific Weekly, a Chinese language newspaper in San Francisco. The article, which was featured on the front page, included a detailed description of the fight from Wong’s perspective and concluded with an invitation to Bruce Lee for a public match if Lee found his version to be unacceptable. Lee never made a public response to the article. Wong later expressed regret over fighting Lee, attributing it to arrogance, both on the part of Lee and himself.

Written by Oscar nominees Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele, who worked on Oliver Stone’s Nixon and Michael Mann’s Ali, the film focuses on the aforementioned Oakland fight that launched Lee to martial arts stardom, which happened against the backdrop of the Hong Kong Triads’ criminal control of San Francisco’s Chinatown. The film will also detail a team-up between the two legends to take on the Triads. The fight with Jack Man was the last official one of Lee’s career before he headed into acting, competition and building his martial arts philosophy. “We’re excited to retell the fantastic origin story of the world’s most famous martial arts icon, which in the hands of Christopher and Stephen, lends itself to an action thriller we’re sure will enthrall movie fans around the world,” QED’s Bill Block said in a statement. The film will be produced by Block, Groundswell Productions CEO Michael London, Wilkinson and Rivele, and executive produced by Groundswell’s Kelly Mullen.


Ip Man 葉問

Yip Man, also spelled as Ip Man, and also known as Yip Kai-Man, was a Chinese martial artist. He had several students who later became martial arts teachers in their own right, including Bruce Lee.

Yip was born to Yip Oi-dor and Ng Shui, and was the third of four children. He grew up in a wealthy family in Foshan, Guangdong, and received a traditional Chinese education. 

Yip started learning Wing Chun from Chan Wah-shun when he was 13. Since Chan was 70 at the time, Yip was Chan’s last student. Due to his teacher’s age, Yip learned most of his skills and techniques from Chan’s second oldest disciple: Ng Chung-sok. Chan died three years after Yip’s training started and one of his dying wishes was to have Ng continue teaching Yip.

At the age of 15, Yip moved to Hong Kong with help from his relative Leung Fut-ting. One year later, he attended school at St. Stephen’s College, a secondary school for wealthy families and foreigners living in Hong Kong. During Yip’s time at St. Stephen’s, he saw a foreign police officer beating a woman and Yip intervened. The officer attempted to attack Yip, but Yip struck him down and ran to school with his classmate. Yip’s classmate later told an older man who lived in his apartment block. The man met with Yip and asked what martial art Yip practiced. The man told Yip that his forms were “not too great”. The man challenged Yip’s Wing Chun against the man in chi sao (a form of training that involves controlled attack and defence). Yip saw this as an opportunity to prove that his abilities were good, but was defeated by the man after a few strikes. Yip’s opponent revealed himself to be Leung Bik, Chan Wah-shun’s senior and son of Chan’s teacher, Leung Jan. After that encounter, Yip continued learning from Leung Bik.

Yip returned to Foshan when he was 24 and became a policeman. He taught Wing Chun to several of his subordinates, friends and relatives, but did not officially run a martial arts school. Yip went to live with Kwok Fu during the Second Sino-Japanese War and only returned to Foshan after the war, where he continued his career as a police officer. Yip left Foshan for Hong Kong in 1949 after the Chinese Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China on the Chinese mainland. Yip was an officer of the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party), the Communists’ rival in the Chinese Civil War.

Initially, Yip Man’s teaching business was poor because Yip’s students typically stayed for only a couple of months. He moved his school twice: first to Castle Peak Road in Sham Shui Po and then to Lee Tat Street in Yau Ma Tei. By then, some of his students had attained proficiency in Wing Chun and they were able to start their own schools. Some of his students and descendants sparred with other martial artists to compare their skills and their victories helped to increase Yip’s reputation. In 1967, Yip and some of his students established the Ving Tsun Athletic Association.

Yip died on 2 December 1972, from throat cancer. Yip’s legacy is the global practice of Wing Chun with his most notable student being the legendary Bruce Lee (李小龍). Yip also left behind a written history of Wing Chun. Many artifacts of his life are on display in the “Yip Man Tong” museum in the Foshan Ancestral Temple grounds.

Ip Man, a film loosely based on the life of Yip Man starring Donnie Yen as the martial artist, was released in cinemas in 2008. The film takes a number of liberties with Yip’s life, often for dramatic effect. The film focuses on Yip’s life during the 1930’s to the 1940’s during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The sequel Ip Man 2 focuses on Yip’s beginnings in Hong Kong and his disciples—including Bruce Lee.

Another film based on Yip Man’s biography called The Legend is Born – Ip Man was released in June 2010. Herman Yau directed the film and it starred Dennis To as Yip Man. Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmasters, a film starring Tony Leung as Yip Man, is scheduled to be released in December 2012.

Amid a surge of Yip Man-related film projects in production, Donnie Yen told the Chinese media in March 2010 that after Ip Man 2, he will no longer play the Wing Chun master any more. He stated, “I would never ever touch any films related to Ip Man. This will be my final film on the subject. Whenever something becomes a success, everyone would jump on the bandwagon, this is very frightening. Did you know how many Ip Man films are in production? Under such condition, we would not progress, it’d only lead to over-saturation of the subject matter.”


Jet Li 李连杰

Li Lianjie (born April 26, 1963), better known by his stage name Jet Li, is a film actor, film producer, Chinese martial artist, wushu champion, and international star who was born in Beijing.

Li was eight when his talent for wushu was noticed at a summer course at school, and he began his practice there. After three years of intensive training with Wu Bin, Li won his first national championship for the Beijing Wushu Team. He went on to win fifteen gold medals and one silver medal in Chinese wushu championships, where, despite his young age, he competed against adults. 

After retiring from Wushu at age 19, he went on to win great acclaim in China as an actor making his debut with the film Shaolin Temple (1982). Li acquired his screen name in 1982 in the Philippines when a publicity company thought his real name was too hard to pronounce. They likened his career to an aircraft, which likewise “takes-off” as quickly, so they placed the name Jet Li on the movie posters. Soon everybody was calling him by this new name, which was also based on the nickname, “Jet,” given to him as a young student, due to his speed and grace when training with the Beijing Wushu team.

He went on to star in many critically acclaimed martial arts epic films, The Shaolin Temple series (1, 2 and 3), which are considered to be the films which sparked the rebirth of the real Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, China; most notably the Once Upon A Time in China series, in which he portrayed folk hero Wong Fei-hung, and Fist of Legend (Chinese title: Jing Wu Ying Xiong), a remake of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury.

Li’s first role in a Hollywood film was as a villain in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), but his first Hollywood film leading role was in Romeo Must Die (2000). He has gone on to star in many Hollywood action films, including Kiss of the Dragon and Unleashed. In 2002, the epic period martial arts epic film Hero was released in the Chinese market. This film was both a commercial and critical success and became the highest-grossing motion picture in Chinese film history at the time. In 2006, when the martial arts epic Fearless, was released worldwide, Li said that although he will continue to make martial arts films, Fearless is his last wushu epic. In Fearless, he played Huo Yuanjia, the real-life founder of Chin Woo Athletic Association, who reportedly defeated foreign boxers and Japanese martial artists in publicized events at a time when China’s power was seen as eroding. Together with the film Fist of Legend, Li has portrayed both Chen Jun, the student and avenger of Huo Yuanjia (aka Fok Yun Gap), as well as Huo Yuanjia himself.

He co-starred in The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) with the legendary Jackie Chan, as the title character villain in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) opposite Brendan Fraser and The Expendables (2010) with Sylvester Stallone. Li will appear in the sequel later this year, The Expendables 2.


Chuck Norris

Carlos Ray “Chuck” Norris (born March 10, 1940) is an American martial artist and actor. After serving in the United States Air Force, he began his rise to fame as a martial artist and has since founded his own school, Chun Kuk Do. As a result of his “tough guy” image, an Internet phenomenon began in 2005 known as Chuck Norris facts, ascribing various implausible or even impossible feats to Norris.

Norris was born in Ryan, Oklahoma. He is the son of Wilma (née Scarberry) and Ray Norris, who was a mechanic, bus driver, and truck driver. Norris has said that he has Irish and Cherokee Native American ancestry. Norris was named after Carlos Berry, his father’s minister.

He joined the U. S. Air Force as an Air Policeman (AP) in 1958 and was sent to Osan Air Base, South Korea. It was there that Norris acquired the nickname Chuck and began his training in Tang Soo Do (tangsudo), an interest that led to black belts in that art and the founding of the Chun Kuk Do (“Universal Way”) form. He created the education associations “United Fighting Arts Federation” and “Kick Start” (formerly “Kick Drugs Out of America”), a middle school and high school–based program intended to give at-risk children a focus point in life through the martial arts. When he returned to the United States, he continued to act as an AP at March Air Force Base, California. Norris was discharged in August 1962. He worked for the Northrop Corporation and opened a chain of karate schools including a storefront school in his then-hometown of Torrance on Hawthorne Boulevard. Norris’ official website lists celebrity clients at the schools; among them Steve McQueen, Bob Barker, Priscilla Presley , Donny and Marie Osmond.

Norris was defeated in his first two tournaments,however by 1967. In early 1968, Norris suffered the tenth and last loss of his career, losing an upset decision to Louis Delgado. On November 24, 1968, he avenged his defeat to Delgado and by doing so won the Professional Middleweight Karate champion title, which he held for six consecutive years. In 1969, he won Karate’s triple crown for the most tournament wins of the year, and the Fighter of the Year award by Black Belt Magazine. Chuck Norris retired with a karate record of 183–10–2.

In 1969, Norris made his acting debut in the Dean Martin film ‘The Wrecking Crew’. At a martial arts demonstration in Long Beach, Norris met the soon-to-be famous martial artist Bruce Lee. In 1972 he acted as Lee’s nemesis in the movie ‘Way of the Dragon’ (titled Return of the Dragon in its U.S. distribution), which is widely credited with launching him toward stardom. In Asia, Norris is still known primarily for this role.

Norris’ first starring role was 1977’s ‘Breaker! Breaker!’, and subsequent films such as ‘Good guys Wear Black’ (1978), ‘The Octagon’ (1980), ‘An Eye for an Eye’ (1981), ‘Forced Vengeance’ (1982) and ‘Lone Wolf McQuade’ (1983) proved his increasing box office bankability. In 1984, Norris starred in ‘Missing in Action’, the first of a series of prisoner of war rescue fantasies themed around the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue that were produced by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, released under their Cannon Films banner. Contrary to reports, Norris publicly said he was never offered the part of the Sensei of the Cobra Kai dojo in the film ‘The Karate Kid’.

Over the next four years, Norris became Cannon’s most prominent star, appearing in eight films, including ‘Code of Silence’, ‘Invasion USA’ (both 1985), ‘The Delta Force’ (1986) and sequels to that and Missing in Action. Many of the aforementioned films were produced by Chuck Norris’s brother Aaron, as were several episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger.

He next played the starring role in the television series ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’, from 1993 to 2001. Norris is a devout Christian and politically conservative. He has written several books on Christianity and donated to a number of Republican candidates and causes. In 2007 and 2008, he campaigned for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who was running for the Republican nomination for President in 2008. Norris also writes a column for the conservative website WorldNetDaily. He has agreed to feature in ‘The Expendables 2’.


Raymond Chow

Raymond+Chow+5th+Asian+Film+AwardsRaymond Chow Man-Wai (born January 1, 1929) is a Hong kong film producer, and presenter who was responsible for successfully launching martial arts and Hong Kong cinema onto the international stage. As the founder of Golden Harvest, he would produce some of the biggest stars to ever grace the screen including Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Ricky Tam and countless others.

He went to study abroad at the Shanghai St. John’s University, and graduated with a B. A. in journalism in 1949. In 1951 he joined the Voice of America office in Hong Kong. He also studied martial arts under master Lam Sai-wing. 

Chow was the head of publicity and the production chief of Shaw Brothers between 1958 and 1970. He leased Cathay’s studio and contracted its exhibition chain of 104 cinema theatres in Southeast Asia. At the time Cathay was a predominant force in the Asian film industry.

When Cathay wanted to end the company’s association in Hong Kong, Chow left Shaw Brothers to establish Golden Harvest in 1970. Under Chow’s leadership, Golden Harvest would become the cornerstone for Hong Kong cinema leading HK box office sales for two decades from the 1970s to 1980s. Golden Harvest contracted with independent producers and gave talent more generous pay and greater creative freedom. Some filmmakers and actors from Shaws defected. But what really put the company on the map was a 1971 deal with soon-to-be martial arts superstar Bruce Lee, after he had turned down the low-paying, standard contract offered him by the Shaws.

They produced the Bruce Lee starring massive hits of ‘The Big Boss’ (1970), ‘Fist of Fury’ (1971) and ‘Way of the Dragon (1972). In 1973, Golden Harvest entered into a pioneering co-production with Hollywood for the English-language Lee film ‘Enter the Dragon’ (龍爭虎鬥), a worldwide hit made with the Warner Brothers studio. Bruce Lee’s final film ‘Game of Death’ was released in 1978, 5 years after his death.

Golden Harvest supplanted Shaw Brothers as Hong Kong’s dominant studio by the end of the ’70s and retained that position into the ’90s. Its greatest asset for years was that from the 1980s until very recently, it produced almost all of the films of Jackie Chan, Asia’s top box office star. Golden Harvest has also produced a number of films for Jet Li and Donnie Yen. 

Golden Harvest’s activity has declined in recent years. In 2003, they withdrew from film-making to concentrate on film financing, distribution and cinema management in Hong Kong and in Mainland China. In 2007, Raymond Chow sold the company to Chinese businessman Wu Kebo, who owns the China-based Orange Sky Entertainment Group. In early 2009, Golden Harvest merged with Orange Sky and was renamed Orange Sky Golden Harvest (橙天嘉禾娛樂集團有限公司). In 2009, Golden Harvest announced their relaunch and previewed a new trailer set for movies in 2010.


13 Assassins ****

In 1844 Japan, a sadistic young Shogun, Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira is in line to ascend to the Shogunate where he will become second in command. The swearing in ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Akashi domain. Determined to stop him before he arrives at his destination is master Shogun Samurai Shinzaemon Shimada. He enlists the help of 11 Samurai and they head to the town of Ochlai where they plan to ambush Naritsugu and his army of 70 men. On their journey they get lost in the jungle and enlist the help of a local hunter as their guide and the 13th Assassin of the title.

As they prepare the small town of Ochlai for the ambush, they learn that although Naritsugu has delayed his journey, his arrival is imminent, and he now is now travelling with a 200 strong army. Massively outnumbered, the 13 would be assassins must battle against the odds to complete their suicide mission…

Takashi Miike, the controversial cult director behind ‘Audition’ and ‘Ichi the Killer’ has made one of his more accessible movies. That’s not to say that 13 Assassins doesn’t have some disturbing scenes and a lot of violence, it has those in abundance, however it is also a very traditional story about loyalty and honour. These principles are displayed by the contrasting beliefs of the two high ranked Samurai in the film. Our hero, Shinzaemon favours the belief that the Samurai are protectors of justice for the people of Japan, and his direct opponent and rival Hanbei, Lord Naritsugu’s number one, believes that a Samurai’s duty lies in complete and total servitude to their master.

Having said that, the main reason most will watch this film is for the action, and it delivers, the final battle sequence alone runs for almost 50 non-stop minutes! It is incredibly well choreographed and beautifully shot.

There are a few disturbing moments, this is a Takashi Miike film after all. They involve the cruelty of Naritsugu and are perhaps a little too extreme for this type of film; the first involves him shooting an entire family at close range with arrows and most disturbingly, we see the results of a girl he tortured by chopping off her arms, legs and cutting out her tongue. Miike makes Naritsugu so despicable that he’s almost a caricature of a bad guy.

The film will draw comparisons to Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ however although a good movie and worth the effort, it’s not in the same class.

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Any good: 4 out of 5 stars