Of course, we all know about Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. However, there was another great martial artist by the name of Sammo Hung. He’s the big guy that’s super light on his feet. He is the perfect example of the phrase “looks can be deceiving”. He was a big action star in the 70s and 80s in his own right. You may or may not remember, but he was the student sparring with Bruce Lee in the beginning of Enter the Dragon. He was large around the belly but he could sure move and strike with the best of the best!
Starting out as a child actor and stuntman in the 60s, he can now add choreographer, director, and producer to his list. Let’s take a look at some great moments from Sammo.
1. Shaolin Student
In this scene, we see Sammo getting worked up a bit in a little sparring match. Not only is Enter the Dragon a great introduction for Sammo, but you get a taste of Bruce Lee’s diversity in fighting moves, which is now commonly known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). You see the hip throw from Judo and you see a crucifix with a neck crank (popular in the UFC/MMA community).
2. Enter the Fat Man, Bruce Lee
This is a very interesting scene where you see a parody of what was going on action film wise in the 70s. This film was cleverly titled Enter the Fat Dragon.
One – there was a huge Bruce Lee exploitation after his death. A lot of directors sought out to find a Bruce Lee copycat. We see Sammo Hung playing a fat, comedic version of Bruce Lee.
Two – Blaxploitation. There were a lot of soul and funk based movies around the time that included Martial Arts in their brawl scenes. Before there was a Wesley Snipes or a Michael Jai White, Jim Kelly was the man. We see Lee Hoi San dressed in black-face as a character from a blaxploitation film.
3. Moves as Fast as Lightning
Brilliant scene! We see how incredible and limber of a fighter Sammo is in this insane scene with Donnie Yen. Donnie Yen is no slouch by any means. However, Sammo Hung really built up a reputation with his fighting choreography and set a high bar for other martial artists to follow. He could also compete with the more famous action stars due to his speed, power, stamina, and agility. He carried his weight (literally and figuratively) with grace. Here’s a great scene from Saat Po Long aka Sha Po Lang or Killzone.
4. Duking It Out with a Lady
This is an Eastern meets Western type film. While Golden Harvest was looking for a Bruce Lee type in California, they stumbled upon a young Cynthia Rothrock, an American martial artist. She signed a contract with Golden Harvest and this was one of her first films. Sammo and Rothrock kept it simple with a raw action sequence. It set a standard for what American martial arts films started looking like in the late 80s and 90s. Check out part of their fight in Golden Harvest’s Millionaire’s Express.
5. Sammo in Your Face Every Week
In Sept 1998, there was a weekly cop show called Martial Law on CBS. I remember watching this religiously as a teenager. I even watched it all over again when they aired the reruns on TNN (now called Spike TV). It was a great treat to see Sammo’s explosiveness and character every Saturday at prime time! I was also a fan of some of the cast such as Arsenio Hall and Kelly Hu. Although the show only lasted until May 2000, it made Sammo really popular in the American market for prime time action TV. It was a first that an East Asian actor had a hit show as the starring role. He even had a crossover spot on Walker, Texas Ranger. He was a special guest that was the perfect partner to Chuck Norris.
6. A moment in history
One of the best film series to come out in the past few years is Ip Man and Ip Man 2. If you haven’t done your history, you definitely need to do so before you watch these films. Ip Man was Bruce Lee’s sifu (teacher). He laid the foundation for Bruce Lee and others. This is sort of a fabrication on Ip Man’s life. It’s a very solid film and Donnie Yen clearly takes this role to heart and soul. You can tell he did his homework and brushed up on his fundamentals. Sammo is not only an action director but he does some incredible fighting of his own in Ip Man 2. Check out the short montage below:
As you can see, Sammo Hung has a very extensive catalog that only continues to grow. I cannot wait to see what’s next for the veteran action star and director.