Jackie Chan, an actor, martial artist, director, producer, singer and stuntman, is well-known for his martial art films. In most of his films, he participates in multiple fight scenes. This leaves many people wondering if he is acting or if he can actually fight.
Though Jackie Chan is a celebrated actor, he is also a trained fighter. Jackie Chan choreographs and performs all his stunts, including fighting, on his own. He knows five different types of martial art styles and has a black belt, meaning he is an expert, in Hapkido.
Continue reading to find out more about how Jackie Chan learned to fight.
The Peking Opera School
Jackie Chan was originally born as Chan Kong-Sang in 1954 in Hong Kong, but was later given the nickname “Jackie Chan”. He started his martial arts career when he was only six years old at the China Drama Academy, a boarding school in Hong Kong.
In the school, children developed martial arts, acrobatics, tumbling, music and dance skills to perform theatre shows. Children were enrolled for 10 years to teach them these skills in the hopes that they would find success in Chinese theatre and movies.
Jackie Chan says this about attending the school: “It was really arduous, we hardly had enough to eat, enough clothes to keep warm, training was extremely tiring, and Master could cane us anytime!” Students were meant to wake up at five in the morning to exercise, then spend up to 18 hours a day doing different types of training and could be beaten close to death if they did not comply.
When Chan was there, he was ‘adopted’ by the master, Master Yu, so he had to endure twice the amount of training and his punishment was twice as hard. Chan says he does not regret this though and is actually grateful to the school and Master Yu.
It was at this school that Chan started his martial arts training, focusing on Hapkido, a Korean martial art that teaches self-defense and uses traditional weapons. He went on to become a black belt, meaning he is now an expert in Hapkido.
Jackie Chan also received training for Karate (a striking martial art that originated in the Ryukyu Kingdom), Judo (a modern, Olympic martial art that originated in Japan), Taekwondo (a competitive martial art focusing on kicking that originated in South Korea) and Jeet Kune Do (a martial art created by Bruce Lee derived from Kung Fu).
Thus, with all this training, Jackie Chan does not just act in his fight scenes. He can actually fight.
Fighting in Film
One of Jackie Chan’s first, credited roles in a martial arts movie was New Fist of Fury (1967). As Bruce Lee was popular at the time, director Lo Wei wanted Chan to mimic the same fighting style. Chan was unable to because it was not his fighting style, so the movie did not do well.
His next big film was Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) where Chan was able to choreograph the fight scenes himself to exemplify his style of fighting. As there were no movies out at the time with the same style, the film did really well and made Chan famous.
Chan has said that to do stunts in his film, he does not like to get too muscular as he wants to be agile and light to perform his stunts better. His background in gymnastics and acrobatics from the Peking Opera School help him to remain strong, yet agile.
He will also film his choreographed fight scenes multiple times, sometimes hundreds of times to ensure they are perfect. It is clear that he is not only acting when he is fighting and performing stunts, but he is a skilled and passionate fighter.