Martial Arts and John Wick: Chapter 4 (part 1)

2. February 2023

Today is 2nd February 2023. Let’s get ready to watch John Wick: Chapter 4!
Release date 24 March 2023. The countdown has begun. Only 50 days left!
Let’s find out some information about the martial arts world, which is a key element of the John Wick movies. Some excerpts from the book Keanu Reeves’ Art & Speed – from the Martial arts chapter -, which will bring us closer to understanding martial arts and the fight scenes in John Wick movies.


Martial arts

Keanu Reeves has got leading role in many films where martial skills are vital part of the story.
His first serious Kung-Fu training started in the preparing period for The Matrix sci-fi shooting. The three protagonists: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss, Laurence Fishburne had been training for four months under the leading of Yuen Wo-Ping, kung-fu and wire-stunt specialist, who has worked on many films and trained many stars.

Chad Stahelski, who is an American stuntman and film director, worked as Keanu’s stunt double in The Matrix first two sequels. And he was the martial arts stunt coordinator as well in the second and third movies.
Stahelski explained:
“It is very rare to have a guy who didn’t just take a few classes of judo or karate. There were no speciality martial art guys really back then, one or two top. It was all car guys or fall guys or horse guys. Very rare to find a martial art choreographer. And again for the audience martial art choreography or fighting choreography has very little to do with actual martial arts. You can be a world champion Jiu Jitsu guy and suck at choreography. You can be a great choreographer and literally get beat up by a 90-pound girl. There is really no correlation between them. They are two separate entities, one’s dance one’s combative.”
Keanu’s experiences helped him a lot later in John Wick sequels shooting.

Movie Kung-Fu

Keanu is a very athletic guy he’s a semi-pro hockey player. But other actors in The Matrix such as Carrie-Anne, Hugo and Laurence were not martial art guys in any way. Members of Hong Kong Kung-Fu team helped them under the lead of Yuen Wo-Ping, Chinese martial arts choreographer and director. Reeves’ personal trainer during The Matrix shooting was Tiger Hu Chen. He began as a martial arts teacher.
In 1997 he was invited to the United States to participate in The Matrix casting, under the direction of Yuen Woo-Ping.
Tiger told about Keanu’s training: “We did a lot of research watching old films starring legends such as Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan. Then I taught him some of my own stuff. From there he could combine the styles, he had seen in a ratio that suited him best.”

Martial arts, for the European people, usually are only a type of fighting. But it has much deeper goal: sure it’s about battle, but it’s also something more. Chinese martial arts are a number of fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. According to legend, Chinese martial arts originated during the semi-mythical Xia Dynasty more than 4,000 years ago. Due to the long history martial arts’ traditions include hundreds of different styles and various categories. And movie Kung-Fu focuses on movements (that can be taken from any of the aforementioned styles) to be presented in such a way that audiences will find visually spectacular. The fact that some of these techniques will never work in a real life situation is irrelevant.

John Wick  and Jiu-Jitsu

John Wick 1 movie  is a typical revenge film from start to the finish. John Wick also borrowed two tropes: ‘gun-fu’ and ‘car-fu’. “It really means just having some kind of multi-purpose with something,” Keanu explained. “So, something like hitting people with a car, that’s ‘car-fu’. If you’re doing ‘gun-fu’ it’s, like: ‘OK, I’ve got a pistol but now I’m also doing judo moves or going into jujitsu moves’. So it’s integrating one skill into something else at a high level of dexterity.”

To be continued …

Excerpts from the book:
The Matrix’Hero, Wins Over New Dimensions
© Yvette Kulik 2022  All rights reserved

Keanu Reeves' Art & Speed


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