It seems that Wing Chun is gaining a high-profile due to a number of recent films, this is not only great for those of us already studying the art, but hopefully it will help to bring in new members and also help raise the status of Wing Chun on the Martial Arts forums, and get more press.
The biggest contributor is the film ‘Ip Man’ featuring Donnie Yen which has received widespread acclaim in the press, and was nominated for 12 Hong Kong Film awards; receiving awards for ‘Best Film’ and ‘Best Action Choreography’. Produced by Raymond Wong and choreographed by Sammo Hung, this film gives an account of Ip Man’s life before he moved to Hong Kong. Though not quite factually correct it gives an excellent portrayal of a Kung-Fu master, and is perhaps the most realistic Kung-Fu movie in years.
Another film featuring Wing Chun in the cinemas now is ‘Sherlock Holmes’, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr. Seeing Wing Chun used in the fight scenes took me by surprise, but can be explained by the fact that the Film’s star has been studying Wing Chun for years with Sifu Eric Oram, an instructor under William Cheung, and can be viewed on ‘You Tube’ singing the praises of Wing Chun, and the effect it has had on his life.
The fictional character ‘ Sherlock Holmes’ used a real martial art called ‘Bartitsu’ which was a 19th century hybrid or ‘mixed martial art’ created by Edward Barton-Wright, an English engineer.
This system was billed as the gentleman’s art of Self Defence, and combined Cane Fighting, Boxing, Savate, Wrestling and Jiujitsu. Interestingly enough the background that fuelled the origin of Bartitsu is echoed today in the media fed panic about Street Violence and a fascination with Asian Arts and fitness. It is worth noting that ‘Pugilism’ or Boxing at this time employed a vertical fist as in Wing Chun, as well as the emphasis on protecting the ‘centreline’.
Robert Downey Jr. used his Wing Chun to replace the Boxing, and the film also incorporates swordplay and elements of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which Guy Ritchie practices, creating a contemporary take on the ‘Bartitsu’ system, yet still with a Victorian flavour. This blend of arts was created to cover the different fighting ranges, just as we address the different ranges with kicks, punches, elbows, take-downs and anti-grappling. The fight scenes are excellently done, and cleverly portray the clinical execution and impact of the blows that Holmes plans. Besides the fight scenes, the film is good on many levels and is well worth seeing.
Last on the list is ‘Bangkok Dangerous’ with Nicolas Cage playing a hitman. In the movie Cage can be seen doing Chi-Sau Wing Chun training, try ‘You Tube’ for clips. I haven’t seen the film, and unfortunately reviews are not favourable. Still it is another example of mainstream films and Hollywood actors taking to Wing Chun.