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The Financial Express

How Jackie Chan shaped the perception of martial arts in our minds

| Updated: January 20, 2022 16:54:19


How Jackie Chan shaped the perception of martial arts in our minds

Jackie Chan, the name evokes the image of a lean, stout Chinese man jumping, punching and kicking the bad guys relentlessly with his breathtaking Kung Fu skills. 

Hardly anyone can be found who had not tried to imitate his signature moves, or thought of becoming a hardened kung fu master who fights off all evildoers and saves the day. 

He has created his career from zero and taken it to new heights by joining his extraordinary martial art talents with his charming personality and has acquired a reputation as one of the finest entertainers the world has ever seen. 

His films have been an escape or somewhat guilty pleasure for millions of viewers, who dived into the imaginary world of Kung Fu and wholesome comedy to forget all complexities of life. 

In fact, Jackie Chan has been the most influential Asian actor in Hollywood, albeit Bruce Lee. From Hong Kong to Los Angeles, the martial arts icon has left his lasting mark in the hearts of cinephiles. 

Jackie Chan has been consistently churning out campy, hilarious, and refreshing films for us for over 50 years and he has remained strong in his game so far. 

However, it can be hard for anyone to believe that his debut name was Sing Lung, which means ‘Become the Dragon’ in Chinese, as Bruce Lee was called the Little Dragon, and the director wanted Jackie to succeed the deceased Bruce Lee. 

Fortunately, Jackie was not used to Lee’s fighting method and the idea of making him the second Bruce Lee was shelved. 

The Cantonese film industry has been well known for its blend of martial arts and humor, however, the journey would not have been completed without Jackie Chan. 

Jackie was the one who first realised the comparative advantage the Hong Kong artists had and utilised it to the fullest. 

From a technical point of view, Jackie Chan’s films, which in turn influenced all Cantonese films, portray the impact of action scenes more realistic by using sand and water sprinkling out of the actors’ bodies. This is only one such example of the simple yet impactful artistry Jackie Chan has introduced to the world of films. 

Before Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee was the great martial artist of the silver screens. The suave man with an amazing screen presence and unprecedented boldness swept everyone off their feet. 

However, his films had one important flaw - the action scenes felt staged. The antagonists would circle around the protagonist and the infallible hero would overpower everyone in a duel or set-piece battle. 

Undoubtedly the scenes never failed to dazzle the viewers, the viewers would look at the godlike hero with awe. However astounding the feeling was, it nevertheless missed a crucial part - the element of disbelief. 

Jackie Chan looked at the dilemma and reinvented the genre with unusual fight scenes and slapstick humour. He took the Kung Fu out in the streets, at parks, at the shopping malls, at restaurants, at mountaintops, at dreamy fantasy worlds and where not. 

The world had never seen kung fu done with brooms or kitchen utensils, or the main characters fighting with chopsticks or getting drunk to become more powerful. 

With the subtle mix of classic silent-era Hollywood comedy and the signature buffoonery, the man has made himself look child-like silly while sweeping the floor with his foes. 

The meteorite rise of Bruce Lee had started the trend of hardened martial artist actors, but only Jackie Chan could stand atop the world, as no one else could look as innocent as a promiscuous delinquent and composed as a Buddist monk at the same time. 

Jackie Chan has become the international sweetheart with his simple, cheerful and lovable aura, and as far as martial art film goes, he is the uncrowned king of the realm. 

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