Kung Fu Movies


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Kung Fu movies

Kung Fu movies are part of a subgenre of martial arts films. They areset in the modern period of futuristic martial arts. Kung Fu has itsorigins in China, which before being modernized, was popularly knownas Wuxia (Greene, 2014). This film genre is an importantcreation of Hong Kong Cinema. The main difference between Kung Fu andWoxia is that the former has less swordplay, instead, usedmore armed combat. It however found its way to the West, where itwas embraced in Hollywood as one of them most loved action filmgenres. The genre was first played on screen in the 1930s in a filmknown as The Adventures of Fong Sai-Yuk (Kato, 2012). Thefirst directors choreographed the fights to become more realistic onscreen. The genre reached its heights in the 1970s and overtook someof the most famous genres of the time. Today, Kung Fu has reachedinternational audiences across the world. The genre is mainlyproduced Hong Kong, mainland china japan, and India. This paper looksat the genre as produced in these countries, contrasts and comparesthem.

Characteristicsof Kung Fu movies in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Japan, and India

The Hong Kong Kung Fu films combine action, mainly as codified byHollywood, and Chinese storytelling. This is interwoven with esthetictraditions, which combine to create a distinctive form that has awide transcultural appeal. However, over the last few years, the HongKong Kung Fu movies have been greatly influenced by American andEuropean action styles. In the early years, the Hong Kong Kung Fumovies drew heavily upon the wuxia fighting style (Fu &ampDesser, 2000). This style emphasized mysticism and swordplay. Withpolitical intervention, the style was suppressed in the 1930s. Themodern Hong Kong Kung Fu films are characterized by the move ofmale-oriented action films. Some producers, however, insist on usingfemale stars to attract the female audience. Additionally, the HongKong Kung Fu movies use romance and musicals to make the productionsmore interesting. The Hong Kong Kung Fu movies have also built theiridentity with heavy likeness to Hollywood action movies.

In china, motion pictures were introduced towards the end of the 19thcentury. However, it was not until the 1930s that the country’simportant films were first produced (Kato, 2012). Most of themainland china Kung Fu movie are mandarin based. Most of the Kung Fumovies from mainland china were based on storylines about familiesand their struggles. Additionally, the Chinese Kung Fu movies drawattention from the audience through emotional appeal, such as Springin a Small Town, a film about family struggles (Fu &amp Desser,2000). The Chinese Kung Fu movies also used traditional methods ofstorytelling such as socialist-relist perspective. However, this wasreplaced with freer unorthodox approaches to filmmaking, such asusing of criminals and heroes with admirable strengths andcharacters. Into the modern ages, the Kung Fu movie producers ofmainland china later resorted to extremely low budget production,however, using digital equipment to add value. The modern Kung Fumovies from mainland china use more international-based Chineselanguage cinema, which is made possible by fusion of people,resources, and expertise from various regions to produce successfulfilms.

It can be argued that Kung Fu is a guest style in the Japanese actionfilm industry. Japan’s action films decipher the ideological aspectof samurai warriors and fighting style (Shuk-tong, 2009). Japaneseaction films’ fighting style draw heavily upon use of weapons,especially the dreaded samurai sword fights. Little un-armed combatis used in the Japanese films. However, there are some specializedfree hand fighting styles that are used. The Japanese Kung Fu actionfilms are also more violent and graphic, which is the reason most ofthem come with viewer discretions. The Japanese movies’ speedy andeconomized annihilation of a number of assailants attacking the mainstars is the core of the country’s Kung Fu films, which createsappeal and intrigue amongst the audiences. Additionally, JapaneseKung Fu films use modern technology to renovate the image of Samurai,giving the country’s producers and directors a unique touch infilm-making.

Just like Japan, Kung Fu is a guest style in India action film genre.The Indian films are characterized by strong storytelling, heavilypunctuated by song and dance (Shuk-tong, 2009). In the modern Kung FuLike productions, the directors are becoming more comfortable inmixing visual martial arts and creating an amalgam of cinematicexpression. The films also produced with the aim of maintaining thehuge fan base and increasing the cinematic appeal of Bollywoodproductions, both in terms of visual entertainment and commercialviability. The Indian action themed Kung Fu movies are also designedto mainly attract the young moviegoers, who are enthusiasticresponders to universal thematic messages. An Example is the upcoming“Kung Fu Yoga”, which is to use Jackie Chan as the main star(Press Trust of India, 2014) Just like Hong Kong and Japan, thesefilms are getting to be influenced more and more by the Westernaction style. For instance, there is heavy use of contemporary fightweapons such as guns and modernize weapons, which, however, do nottake away the taste of traditional Kung Fu fighting.


One of the main differences in Kung Fu movies produced in China andHong Kong is the former are produced in Mandarin dialect while thelatter are produced in Cantonese dialect (Fu &amp Desser, 2000). TheMandarin productions have over time overshadowed the Cantonese genre.However, it was the Chinese martial arts film producers that broughtthe skills and technical know-how to the Hong Kong film industry,which was more of second-rate. Another major difference between thetwo is that the Chinese Hong Kong films rely more on storytelling andmythical figures, while the Hong Kong productions rely heavily onaction fighting and special effects to attract the audience’attention (Kato, 2012). Additionally, the Hong Kong Kung Fu moviesare more modernistic and futuristic while the Chinese films are morehistorical and politically instigated. The Chinese Kung Fu moviesalso take little time to produce, as they do not invest heavily onbudget and production.

Unlikea number of other countries, the Japanese film industry enjoys littleto no government support (Shuk-tong, 2009). This means that the KungFu movies, which sometimes need a lot of funding to produce, have tobe financed by individual production houses. As such, the films aresometimes developed with the support of Western filmmakers. However,the Indian, Chinese and Hong Kong productions are funded by theirlocal financiers, the main reason why most of them are low budgetproductions. Another major difference is logistics and productionthe Hong Kong Kung Fu films derive a number of action and screenplayelements from Hollywood, such as genre parameters. An example is the“thrill-a-second”, which is a philosophy of fast-paced editing inbetween the action cuts. On the other hand, the Chinese Kung Fuproductions continue deriving from traditional drama and art, whichdisregards the Western standards of realism.

TheCantonese-Mandarin dialect difference is also a major contrastingissue in the Kung Fu movies’ production. The Mandarin dialect filmbegan in the 1970s in a seemingly second-to-none position (Greene,2014). However, over time, it virtually vanished in the face ofMandarin studios and Cantonese television. The latter took over thegeneral population’s hearts in the late 1980s. The return of theCantonese Kung Fu films took center stage with uprising Kung Fuaction stars like Jet Li and Jackie Chan (Fu &amp Desser, 2000).These films were made with special dedication to the youthfulaudience, which changed the taste of traditional Kung Fustory-telling to modern action-packed storyboards. Thus, the HongKong Kung Fu films were of greater technical polish and more advancedvisual style than the Chinese themed Kung Fu movies. It was thisperiod that the Hong Kong Film industry’s major hits portrayedup-to-date special effects technology, which are the main differencebetween the past Kung Fu movies and the modern ones.

TheJapanese and Indian Kung Fu action movies also are distinct in theirown way, despite the fact that their differences are not as major asthose of Mainland China and Hong Kong. India’s Kung Fu drawsheavily upon the Indian cultural filmmaking style, which has manysongs and dances in between the movie (Kato, 2012). Additionally, theIndian producers play more with color and editing, followed by deepscreenplay, instead of investing in fights and weapons. The JapaneseKung Fu style movies are dependent on the Japanese Samuraistorytelling technique, which is setting up the story in differentparts of the country, and obscene fight scenes, which are as intenseas they are violent.

Accountfor the differences

Oneof the major distinctions of the paradigms of Kung Fu films in thediscussed countries is the element of storytelling and action. InChina, the start of martial arts is attributed to the cultural needfor aiding hunters and protecting against the enemies (Greene, 2014).Along with these, stories of the strongest martial artists (myths)emerged, with the intention of motivating the young warriors tofollow suit. As such, the Chinese Kung Fu films draw heavily uponstorytelling. Despite the fact that they are action packed, theproducers and directors rely on deep stories which develop graduallyas the film’s theme unfolds. Similarly, the Japanese culture has aninfluence on their Kung Fu action films. The Japanese Kung Fufilmmakers develop their stories on the basis of the Japanese Samurai(). The Samurai, well known for violence and ruthlessness inattack, characterized the Japanese action genre.

India’sculture also has an influence on their Kung Fu action films. Thecountry’s art directors have a tendency of using music and dance tospice up their productions. As such, the country’s Kung Fu filmsare characterized by singing and dancing (Ganti, 2012). Additionally,the Kung Fu action films are filled with romance and passion, whichmakes them different from those from other regions. Culturally, HongKong is a modernized form of traditional Mainland China customs. Assuch, their Kung Fu films are different from the others on the basisof cultural blending with the Western form. Hong Kong’s youthculture also has many aspects of Western pop culture, and they arehuge fans of Hong Kong-Hollywood themed films such as The Matrix.As such, their cultural blending influences their directors toproduce such films.

Theinfluence of politics has proven to be a potent force in the Kung Fufilm industry. One of the most politically influenced film industriesin the world is the Mainland China film industry (Fu &amp Desser,2000). This has led to the question of “Chinese Identity’ in thecountry’s Kung Fu productions. Many scenes from the Mainland ChinaKung Fu films render the world of martial arts through an interwoveninterplay of national and internationals politics. More specifically,mainland china Kung Fu productions present an analysis of the systemof colonial oppression in which the colonialists ripped the Chineseof their property and benefits, leading to the rise of martial artsheroes who delivered the people from mystery. In Japan, theoutpouring of Kung Fu Samurai movies into the Asian market happenedagainst the background of the country’s postwar economic expansion,which was facilitated by political influence (Shuk-tong, 2009). Assuch, most of the Japanese King Fu movies lack the essence ofpolitical incorrectness, in other words, the producers avoid issueswhich would be considered politically wrong. This is why the filmsuse less political figures and concentrate more on heroic Samuraifigures.

Asearlier identified, the quality of the Kung Fu films varies greatlybetween the discussed countries. It has been observed that theeconomic positions of a country determines the amount of investmentinto its film industry (Fu &amp Desser, 2000). Following the WW2,the economy of Japan was almost paralyzed. As such, most of thecountry’s investments went into rebuilding the country, and sectorssuch as entertainments became lesser priorities. As such, most of theKung Fu movies produced in those periods were of low quality. At thesame time, the strengthening economic and political ties between HongKong and Mainland China meant that their productions were of higherqualities as compared to the rest of Asian countries. In India, Ganti(2012) says that the government’s positive policies regarding theentertainment industry have helped the filmmakers to come up withsome of Asia’s most appreciated films.


Kung Fu movies are absolutely a hallmark of Asia’s entertainmentindustry. Tracing its roots back to a Chinese fight style, the stylefound its way into the motion picture industry in the wake of the20th century. In Hong Kong, Mainland China, Japan andIndia, the films have unique characteristics, which are influenced byfactors such as culture, traditions, politics, power and the generalaudience. There is no particular culture or tradition which is moresuperior to the other. However, the Chinese traditions have a greaterinfluence on the genre than the rest of the countries that have beendiscussed. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that politics,economics and power have a great influence on the quality andquantity of Kung Fu movies produced in the four countries. The futureof the Kung Fu movies depends on industrial factors such as theaudience, technology, evolution of production concepts and perhapsmost importantly, global reception and acceptance of the genre.


Fu, P. &amp Desser, D. (2000). The cinema if Hong Kong: History,arts, identity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Ganti, T. (2012). Producing Bollywood: Inside the contemporaryHindi film industry. London, UK: Duke University Press.

Greene, N. (2014). From Fu Manchu to Kung Fu Panda: Images ofChina in American Film. Hong Kong Universy Press.

Kato, M. T. (2012).&nbspFromkung fu to hip hop: globalization, revolution, and popular culture.SUNY Press.

Press Trust of India. (2014). India, China join hands to produce‘Kung Fu Yoga’. India Express. 22 October 2014. Retrieved on23 March 2015 from:http://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/entertainment-others/kungfu-yoga-an-india-china-joint-production/

Shuk-tong. (2009). Japanese and Hong Kong film industries:Understanding the origins of East Asian film networks. New York,NY: Routledge.