The 1955 John Sturges film Bad Day at Black Rock was the first film that featured martial arts techniques in fighting in Hollywood, where actor Spencer Tracy showcased his karate chops on the unsuspecting, but a rabid intoxicated guy at the bar.
However, before this film was made there have been almost half a dozen other martial arts films created in China and Japan. Among them include:
- Orochi (a silent movie in Japan 1925)
- The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple (a Chinese original silent film serial directed by Zhang Shichuan 1928)
- Sanshiro Sugata (Japan 1943 and its sequel released in 1945)
- The True Story of Wong Fei Hung (China 1949)
- Dragon Inn (China 1966)
By the 1970s Bruce Lee started to appear in Hollywood films and propped up the martial arts genre. His films like The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and Game of Death launched his acting career, but we now know that Lee was more than just an actor and he was the first real street fighter who can beat every black belter and the sensei in a dojo.
Jackie Chan later fills in the gap of a martial arts symbol that Lee left when he passed away in 1973, and Chan’s first movie Drunken Master proved to be a box office success and continued fanning the flames of the genre up until the 1990s.
Note: Jackie Chan was one of Bruce Lee’s stuntman before he became an action star himself.
Death and Rebirth of the Martial Arts Genre in Hollywood
By the 1980s actors like Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Brandon Lee, Jet Li, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao kept the genre alive for another decade or so. However, people started protesting how these types of movies got more violent over the years that parents became concerned about how it would affect their children.
The stories of this type of movie genre also got static and boring that people didn’t find it interesting anymore. There was a sort of intellectual revolution that went on during the 1990s and majority of the American audience – even fans of the genre – felt disenchanted seeing these movies.
They wanted something that would satisfy their intellect, something that would stimulate their thinking and so the action adventure, fantasy, sci-fi and suspense/thriller genre became popular at that time.
When talented movie producers, screenwriters, and directors took another shot at the martial arts genre Wesley Snipes, Gary Daniels, Mark Dacascos, and Jason Statham popularized it again with films such as Blade, The Transporter and Drive which became box office hits.
Some superheroes from the Marvel and DC universes also exhibit martial arts techniques in their fighting styles like Batman and DareDevil; however, they’ve been classified into their own superhero genre.
Krav Maga in Hollywood Films
New producers, directors, and writers came to Hollywood in the early 2000s had fresh ideas for the martial arts genre and made films such as The Bourne Identity which stars Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper and Brian Cox, as well as Enough that also had Jennifer Lopez in it.
Both movies as well as Jason Statham’s Transporter were released in 2002, had great reviews, box office sales and all of them highlighted the Krav Maga art of self-defense for the first time in cinemas.
It captivated moviegoers once again, because not only were these films well-paced when it comes to action sequences, but they also had great storylines. They were no longer similar to the 80s and 90s style of martial arts movies that had revenge central to their themes.
The stakes were raised and more complexity was added to the stories plus they also had good character development, which made people care about them even though they were not 10th dan black belts in Jiu-Jitsu or Karate in real life.
Also, the martial arts technique used by the characters was realistic with no meditation, or harnessing of chi, or some spiritual purpose to the art, but just the practical “do whatever you can to survive” kind of kung fu.
Those things tend to undermine the characters and dehumanize them in the film, because they are considered fantastical and unrealistic. Krav Maga in these movies is grounded in reality! It’s what you would do if faced with the same choices as the characters in these movies had done and people can relate to that.
Krav Maga in the New James Bond Movies
Daniel Craig’s James Bond is by far stronger, faster and smarter when it comes to his fighting skills and we’ve seen enough of his moves in the Bond series to put him way above all the previous Bonds in the franchise.
Want to know how he got tough? Well, it turns out that Craig had received training from Krav Maga experts in order to make his action sequences believable to the audience.
Four movies on and Craig’s Bond is as formidable as ever and the James Bond franchise has become more and more profitable thanks to new ideas incorporated into the films.
Liam Neeson Trained with Krav Maga Experts for the Taken Trilogy
Back in 2008 when the first Taken movie debuted Liam Neeson was already 56 years old and most people had no idea what the movie would be like, until he started punching, kicking and breaking people’s bones around with his Krav Maga.
The fans were so impressed with both the films and Neeson for his commitment to the film, which proved that old is never outdated and should not be underestimated. The movie franchise ended with Taken 3; however, Neeson has taken on similar roles in future films afterwards.
Nevertheless, people are still “taken” by the movie Taken!
The Equalizer 1 and 2 Fight Scenes are Choreographed by Krav Maga Experts
Academy Award winner Denzel Washington normally does not want to get stereotyped in his movie career, which is why you’ve never heard of him consider a role for a superhero movie. The guy is a solo act and is clearly in a class of his own, but when he took on the lead role for the film The Equalizer he became the very thing that he was concerned about – a superhero.
Washington revealed in an interview with AskMen that he trained with the US Navy Seals. These guys use Krav Maga and other martial arts for their training that’s why they are the best in the world!
As seen in Equalizer 1 and 2 Robert McCall’s fighting skills showcase the Krav Maga techniques from blocks and immediately follow up counters to weapons disarming to using the environment to his advantage all of those are clearly Krav Maga signature moves.
Collateral Starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx
Professional contract killer Vincent (Tom Cruise) held taxi cab driver Max (Jamie Foxx) to scratch some people off of his list of targets, and then murder Max at the end of his mission to make it look like Max did it.
Although considered a one-off film Cruise’s performance including the change of his looks gained a lot of praise from fans and critics alike. His sharp-witted and excellent martial artist character was developed under good training in Krav Maga.
Hillary Swank Became a Boxing Champ in Million Dollar Baby
This critically acclaimed sports-drama film from 2004 left a lot of people heartbroken after leaving the cinemas with what could have been Maggie Fitzgerald’s (Swank) greatest boxing career, but a spinal cord injury ended that just 1 match short from the championship bout.
The film garnered 19 awards which also solidified Clint Eastwood’s directorial prowess for starring in as well as directing the movie. Although Swank’s role featured her as a boxer she also trained in Krav Maga in order to become the believable contender that Maggie was in the movie.
If you’re a Krav Maga expert, you can actually see some Krav Maga tactics in her moves all throughout her fights in the film.
Leonardo DiCaprio Turned from Gunrunner to Hero in Blood Diamond
Leonardo DiCaprio has always been a solo actor capitalizing on his great looks and amazing talent in acting, which is probably why we’ve never seen him in a superhero movie or any other B-movies before.
If you’ve seen his movies after Titanic, then you would agree with me that they are all gold and he’s already got an Oscar best actor award to prove it. But the reason why he was able to portray his role as a gunrunner and smuggler so effectively in the Sierra Leone Civil War was because of his training in Krav Maga.
The Debt that Stars Helen Miren and Jessica Chastain also Trained in Krav Maga for their Role
Since this movie is about an Israeli Mossad agent, it’s a no-brainer that Krav Maga would be involved in the training of the actors, and it is.
The story of this film revolves around a young Mossad agent Rachel Singer (Chastain) whose mission was to capture Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel, who experimented on the Jews that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands during WWII.
Almost all of the actors including Jessica Chastain, Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas trained in Krav Maga in order to fulfill their roles as Mossad agents. The movie has a great storyline and believable action sequences to match it.