Photo of the Day: Yuen Woo Ping Defines Comedic Kung Fu, Rides Train to Hollywood


This week’s photo theme is Unsung Heroes of Kung Fu — we’re shouting out lesser-known legends of kung fu cinema to expand your mind beyond Jackie, Jet, and Bruce.

Already in this series we’ve talked about directors and actors, now let’s turn the lens onto another instrumental figure — the choreographer.

Yuen was born in Guangzhou, and entered the film scene with a splash, landing his first director credit on Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow with Jackie Chan. The movie was a hit, and set the tone for Jackie to define his unique style of comedic kung fu. Yuen was the other half of that creative process, and the two recognized their chemistry. They quickly followed Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow with the hugely successful Drunken Master. Interesting fact about Drunken Master: it features the actor Yuen Siu-Tien as the beggar, who is actually Yuen Woo-Ping’s real life father, and an accomplished martial arts star himself.

Yuen’s Hollywood debut came unexpectedly, when the Wachowskis reached out to have him work on The Matrix. His dynamic, visual style of action storytelling kept him as a key figure in the international film scene, earning credits on The Matrix sequels, as well as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Kill Bill.

Also, I would be remiss to skip out on sharing this one-of-a-kind piece of Yuen Woo-Ping handiwork, during China’s first wave of hip hop curiosity, from 1985’s Mismatched Couples:

Yuen Woo-Ping is a kung fu choreographer, action director, and just a powerful film figure in his own right. Today we shout out Yuen, plus thank him for giving us the Jackie Chan we know and love.

Previously in this series:

Photo of the Day: Gordon Liu is a Tarantino Muse, Wu-Tang Clan Inspiration, and All-Around Badass

Photo of the Day: The Shaw Brothers and the Birth of Chinese Cinema

Adan Kohnhorst
Adan Kohnhorst is a Shanghai-based writer, producer, and multimedia artist, and the Associate Editor at RADII. His work has been featured in publications such as Maxim and the Chinese-language StreetVoice, and he’s an active member of the hip hop and DIY music scenes in Shanghai, NYC, and Dallas. He learned Mandarin in high school so he could train at the Shaolin Temple, but now just uses it to interview rappers. He blogs about China and Asia on Instagram: @this.is.adan