Hong Kong film industry
Martial arts films (actions movies depicting fighting scenes with swords or unarmed martial arts) first originated in the early 20th century in Hong Kong, then a British colony with a highly liberal economy and culture and a developing film industry.
The first productions followed the wuxia style, representing mysticism and swordplay. This style was suppressed in the 1930s by pressure of the Chinese government, under pretext it promoted superstition and anarchy, and replaced by Kung Fu films that depicted more down-to-earth unarmed martial arts.
By the late 1940΄s, a second wave of wuxia films with highly acrobatic violence emerged, along with Kung Fu movies (many produced by Shaw Brothers Studios).
Martial arts films began to meet worldwide success in the early 70΄s with Bruce Lee, which was the first international superstar, and began since to be a part of the American film industry.
The Hong Kong film industry faced a decline in the 1990s due to a exodus of many figures to Hollywood.
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000), directed by Ang Lee, was the first martial art film to be awarded with Academy Awards (four Academy Awards, along with four BAFTAs and two Golden Globe Awards).
Bruce Lee (1940-1973)
Lee was a Chinese-American martial artist, writer and the founder of Jeet Kune Do, considered the most important martial artist of the 20th century and a cultural icon, responsible for the popularity of martial arts films.
Born in San Francisco (USA), Lee moved to Hong Kong (China) with his family while still a child, where he began studying Wing Chun with master Yip Man and dance (Cha-Cha style, with which he became local champion).
In 1959, he returned to the United States. Teaching King Fu to sustain himself, Lee entered the University of Washington in 1961, earning a degree in philosophy. After graduating, he opened in 1964 his first academy in Oakland, California.
Following his experiences with many unofficial challenges, Lee would later create a new style he called "Jeet Kune Do". While retaining the movements of Wing Chun, his style will gather techniques used in Kung Fu, Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing,and even some fencing techniques.
In 1966, Lee starred as Kato in the television series "The Green Hornet", which made more success in Hong Kong. Lee took advantage of the rise of its popularity in Hong Kong to return to the city in 1970 and began to make a series of martial arts movies (The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon) which would consecrate him internationally.
Lee performed his techniques so fast that it was not possible to capture his moves with traditional 24 frames per second film. It was necessary to film him at 32 frames per second, in order to slow down his scenes and allow the viewers to follow the movements.
Lee was considered for the role of Kwai Chang Caine, played at the end by David Carradine in the 'Kung Fu' television serie. It is asserted that Lee created the concept for the serie, which would be exploited by Warner Bros.
Adept of a rigorous fitness training, Lee was deeply more concerned to exercise the abdomen, as he considered it the basis of all movement and the protection for the ribs and vital organs.
Three books of him were published: Chinese Gung-Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self Defense (which he published himself) 1963 Tao of Jeet Kune Do (Published posthumously) 1973 Bruce Lee's Fighting Method (Published posthumously) 1978
In 1973, after experiencing a series of headaches, Bruce Lee died of cerebral edema caused by the ingestion of a pill.
His son Brandon Lee, also an actor and martial artist, died in a firearms accident while shooting his fifth film.
Chuck Norris (1940)
Carlos Ray "Chuck" Norris (born March 10 1940) is an American actor and film producer. Norris appeared in numerous action films, such as "Way of the Dragon" (1972), where he co-starred with Bruce Lee and was the main actor of the television series "Walker, Texas Ranger", aired from 1993 to 2001.
Norris served in the United States Air Force in 1958 and was sent to Osan Air Base in South Korea, where he studied Tang Soo Do. He also studied Karate Shinto-Ryu (and later Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). Discharged in 1962, he opened a chain of Karate schools. Norris would create his own martial art known as Chun Kuk Do.
In 1968, Norris became Karate champion in the welterweight category, a title he held for seven consecutive years. He is responsible for creating the newest League World Kickboxing, the WCL (World Combat League) and was the first Westerner to be given the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt Grand Master in Taekwondo.
Jackie Chan (1954)
Chan is a Hong Kong actor, martial artist, film director, producer, stuntman and singer, known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, use of improvised weapons(chairs, tables, lamps, strings) and innovative stunts. He is behind Bruce Lee the most famous martial actor from the Hong Kong film industry.
He studied Hapkido and various styles of Kung Fu, such as Drunken Fist, Wing Chun, Monkey style and Wushu.
Starting his career with supporting roles (including Bruce Lee movies), from the 1980s he began to occupy the prominent roles in almost every film he participated. Chang dispenses the use of stunt doubles.
Jet Li (1963)
Jet Li, stage name of Li Lian Jie, is also a famous Chinese actor. He trains Kung Fu since he was eight years old. Practicing Wushu since childhood, he won five times the title of China's national martial arts champion.
Jean-Claude Van Damme (1960)
Jean-Claude Camille Franηois Van Varenberg, better known as Jean-Claude Van Damme is a Belgian martial artist.
He started training Karate at the age of eleven. Van Damme achieved national success in Belgium as a martial artist and bodybuilder, earning the title of "Mr. Belgium". It is also a good dancer and studied Ballet for six years. At sixteen, he received his black belt and became European champion, winning the European Pro Karate Association, in the category middle weight.
His current style is Kickboxing, Karate Shotokan, Muay Thai and Taekwondo.
Steven Seagal (1952)
Seagal is an American actor, film producer, writer, director, martial artist, musician, sheriff and American activist. He is a black belt 7th Dan in Aikido, having studied this art in Japan. It was the first Westerner to open a martial arts academy in the country. In addition of being an Aikido master, Seagal has a black belt in other martial arts: Judo, Karate, Kendo and Hapkido.
Other current martial artists with their main styles: Donnie Yen (1963) (Kung Fu Wushu and Wing Chun) Cyril Raffaelli (1974) (Karate Shotokan, Wushu and Taekwondo WTF) John Foo (1982) (Kung Fu wushu) Dan Chupong (1981) (Muay Thai and Taekwondo) Tony JAA (1976) (Muay Boran, along with some Kung Fu styles) Michael Jay White (1967) (Karate Gojo Ryu and Shotokan, Tang soo Do and Taekwondo) Scott Adkins (1976) (Judo,Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing, Taekwondo)