Perfect 10 Top 10 Ten Martial Arts Movie Fight Scenes
Don’t get me started on martial arts fight scenes. This topic is so near and dear to my heart. I think it was age 7 when I began my continuous the hunt for old broom handles to convert into nunchakus to mimic Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon and Game of Death (note that back then it was not a felony to possess nunchaku in California like it is now. Oh, how times have changed).
Anyway, this first list is based purely on “kick ass” fight scenes…the bully getting his due, the little David beating the Goliath, and etc.
In my selections, cinematography was not considered. Martial arts skills were considered, choreography was considered, but mostly I chose those fights that were most inspirational, technically accurate, or classic in their own right.
Enjoy. Counting down from 10 to 1, here are the Top 10 Best Kick Ass Martial Arts Fight Scenes:
Road House – A good old fashioned “tiger claw”
Patrick Swayze is the white knight bouncer set to help stop a corrupt businessman from doing his evils. The final fight scene between Patrick and his arch nemesis is marginal martial arts. But it includes something that no other major movie has included…the tiger claw. The "tiger claw" is a now outdated karate move where the fingers are formed into a small claw that is intended to remove a person’s throat. Patrick Swayze actually uses this technique in Road House. Classic.
On Deadly Ground – Playground games
What makes the fight scenes in this movie, like most of his movies, is that he uses true aikido. Few to no punches to the face. (In another post, I’ll be writing about why you never want to punch someone in the face if you are in a true fight or need to protect yourself). Moreover, I listed this one because of the use of a punch to the stomach to conclude the fight; very unique and very legit.
Corn Ball Alert: Be sure and stop it at 4 minutes when he says “What does it take to change the essence of a man?" This is where he starts his monologue....if I did a top 10 corniest monologues in a movie, this would be #1.
American Ninja -- A good old fashioned karate fight
It’s a B movie, so the production value, while not a criterion as I mentioned in my intro comments, had me rank it low on the list. But I would have been negligent without a Scott Adkins fight; and this, in my opinion, is the best Scott Adkins fight scene. He has such incredible talent. When you watch it, if nothing else, just appreciate his movements and skill.
Kung Fu Hustle--Sleepy guy fight
Simply put, he beats them in his sleep. You have to appreciate Chinese theater to appreciate this fight. It’s very unique. Keep in mind that Kung Fu Hustle is a martial arts satire, so if this scene seems a little humorous, that’s intentional. Just watch it and let me know if you agree in its awesomeness. Start paying attention at 1 minute into this clip.
Rocky -- aka Rocky I aka the original Rocky movie
Filmed back when boxing was 15 rounds (Until 1927 it was "fight to a knock out," then in 1983 after Duk Koo Kim died, WBC went to 12 rounds and the other bodies soon followed), not the wimpy 12 rounds of today, is just simply great. Maybe there is some suspension of disbelief that is required, but you can’t argue with:
Beginning of 15th round (not 12th like nowadays): Apollo: "Your going down! Rocky:"No, now way."
The sequence where Rocky switches from orthodox (right-handed) to southpaw (left being his true strong hand). When Mick yells “NOW!!! NOW!!!” your heart has to skip a beat.
The race against the final bell...when Rocky gets up and weak legs it around the ring, Apollo slides down into defeat, and that classic Rocky soundtrack kicks in, I jump out of my seat every time.
Then there’s the movie ending “YO, ADRIAN, I DID IT!!” at the conclusion! Goose bumps all around.
Jack Reacher – “Remember you wanted this”
This was a very well-choroegraphed fight. Using esoteric martial arts techniques, indicating some thought was put into it. Only one punch thrown in the whole fight, and that was an incidental punch to the stomach. Nice use of elbows, kicks to the groin, and chops. But, the highlight is before the fight even starts. Reacher's assessment of the odds “It’s 5 to 1” says the bad guy “It’s 3 to 1” replies Reacher. You’ll have to watch it to see how Reacher comes to this conclusion (but note that it's the real deal in conflict doctrine; I just used it as a teaching point to my black belts last night.)
IP Man -- 10 karate vs. 1 kung fu
IP Man has become a contemporary classic. A very well produced movie set in the 1930s during the Japanese invasion of china. This 10 (occupying Japanese soldiers in full karate uniforms) vs 1 (Donnie Yen) fight is one of the best I’ve seen. Very high energy, excellent martial arts techniques throughout. Was it kick ass? Well, let the 13 punches that Ip Man executes to conclude the fight answer that question.
Ong Bak – One kick and done.
Long before Jason Bourne’s one punch fight, Tony Jaa’s one-kick knock out in a fight he was forced into is an honorable #1 and an easy #3. The power he puts into the kick and the legitimate height that he achieves with the kick makes it that much more credible. I always get a kick (no pun intended) out of how the guy who bet on Ong Bak celebrates.
Game of Death -- Bruce Lee vs. Kareem Abdul Jabar
This #2 position is interchangeable with my #1 choice. Both are amazing. 5’7” Bruce vs. 7’2” Kareem…need I say more? Knowing the background that Bruce trained Kareem in the 60’s makes this scene that much more special. The fight really speaks for itself…a little humor, a little philosophy, not just actors (Bruce was martial arts first, Kareem was basketball), and just a very creative kick ass fight scene.
Way of the Dragon -- Bruce and Chuck fight in the Roman Coliseum
The ultimate Kung Fu vs Karate fight. It was what original MMA was supposed to prove; which style is best. Well, in this scene kung fu wins out handily. The Roman Coliseum as the backdrop is without equal. The gladiator tie is obvious but appropriate and in 1973, not yet cliché. The detail in this fight is to me what makes it so amazing:
The cat scream synching with Bruce Lee’s scream to start the fight
Bruce pulling out Chuck’s chest hair
3/4th way through the fight, when Chuck is well on his way to losing, starts bouncing like Bruce
Broken leg, broken arm, Chuck, playing the consummate fighter, just would not give up.