The Michelle Yeohs and Angela Maos of film fame (well-deserved, I might add) use their martial training to great effect and are well-known for their celluloid exploits. But there are a few female fighters that have far more films under their black belts, yet whose names are not exactly household terms. Mostly they are known in the Asian film market and unknown to all except hard-core aficionados, which is a shame because their skills are awesome.
Herewith an ode to eight of these legendary ladies …
8. Polly Shang Kwan
Polly Shang Kwan Ling Fong holds Black Belts in Taekwondo, Judo and Karate and only began training after she joined the United Film Corporation in 1966. Dragon Inn, her first film, began her journey of kickassery and brought her to the attention of martial film fans throughout Asia. She made over 50 films during the ’60’s and ’70’s and is currently retired and living in California.
7. Angela Mao
Okay, so I lied – I included Angela Mao (Mao Lin Ying), but only because she’s so awesome! She trained in Chinese Opera and studied Hapkido, appeared as Bruce Lee’s little sister in Enter The Dragon and went on to feature in over 40 more films. She retired in 1982 to spend time with her family – her career was fairly short but oh, so impressive.
6. Judy Lee (Chia Ling)
A classmate of Angela Mao at the Beijing Opera school, Judy has over 60 films to her credit. She was given the name Lee to cash in on the Bruce Lee phenomenon – the studios wanted the public to believe she was actually his sister!
5. Kara Hui
Kara has appeared in over 100 films in her 30+ years of acting, and has won the Hong Kong Film Award’s “Best Actress Award” twice.
4. Joyce Godenzi
She’s Sammo Hung’s wife and has never formally studied martial arts!
3. Yukari Oshima
A practitioner of Goju-ryu starting in junior high school, Yukari is best known to Western audiences as Yomi in Riki-Oh. While living and acting in the Philippines in the ’90’s she used the name “Cynthia Luster”.
2. Thanh Van Ngo
This 33-year-old Vietnamese actress has only appeared in five films to date. She was one of the biggest surprises of Charlie Nguyen’s The Rebel, holding her own against Hollywood stuntman Johnny Nguyen.
1. Jeeja Yanin
The “female Tony Jaa”! This Thai actress specializes in Taekwondo (3rd Dan) and has only six films to date, but she bears close watching!