By Chris Davis | 31 October 2018
The year was 1978, and a young Jackie Chan was taking the Hong Kong box office by storm. His hit movie Drunken Master, featuring his own fight choreography, opened the doors to a new genre of Kung Fu that featured physicality in a decidedly comedic fashion.
Chan insisted on the new direction for Drunken Master.
Unprecedented, the young star was given almost complete control over the choreography in Drunken Master. The result was pure movie gold.
In the movie, Chan plays a Zui Quan (drunken fist) expert who drank himself into a stupor.
His drunkenness combined with skill and comedic talent made scenes that resembled an episode of The Three Stooges, rather than any Western-released martial arts flick.
The Idea that Sparked an Industry
The genre caught on, spawning dozens of films in Chinese through the Hong Kong market.
But, it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Chan made any kind of name for himself in the US. It took Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction in 1994 for Chan to become a household name and Drunken Fist to reach popularity in Hollywood.
Rumble in the Bronx, Chan's fifth English-language dubbed release became his first hit in the US. From there, he began turning up in various movies, sometimes 4-5 films per year.
It is quite essential to note Chan doesn’t portray a stand-up comedian in his life outside of movies. He describes himself in interviews as a serious person. Chan is a devoted philanthropist to conservation, animal welfare, and disaster relief. In 2015, he was named Singapore's first anti-drug ambassador.
Before his American crossover and after, Chan is one of the most talented actors in the world. It would take weeks to view all his movie and appearances.
A Unique Blend of Precision and Fun
From a martial arts training perspective, Chan’s style is new, invigorating, and decidedly sneaky. As comical as it is, it provides a glimpse into what it takes to train and protect yourself in today’s world.
We can’t just fight it out as Chan did in his earlier movies. As we see the progression from a Bruce Li stuntman/student to independent martial artist, we can glean insights that will aid our own discovery of the arts.