Hapkido (1972)

Raymond Chow produced “Lady Kung-Fu,” a no-holds-barred martial arts action flick from the early 1970s directed by Feng Huang, and contains shades of nearly every Bruce Lee movie from that time. When I looked at it last night, I saw a number of interesting parallels between this flick and Bruce Lee’s “The Chinese Connection,” as both films were released in 1972. Most notable is that the plots bear some resemblance to one another and there is a strong sense of conflict between warring martial arts schools. Unlike “The Chinese Connection,” however, the enemy, the Japanese, are portrayed in a flagrant, one-sided, racist, and xenophobic light; they are sometimes referred to as “Japs” by the main Chinese characters (I know this film is set before World War II – I wonder, did such racial epithets exist before then?). But I’m getting off track. Angela Mao, Carter Wong, and Sammo Hung star as three Chinese gong-fu students studying martial arts in Korea under a famed exile (Hapkido Grandmaster Han Jae Ji). They take their Hapkido training (called “kung-fu” in the film) back to China and attempt to set up their own school, only to face opposition from the ruling Japanese occupational forces, who seek to promote their art of Judo (founded in 1882 by Dr. Jigoro Kano). That’s about all there is to the plot, and then we have the fights. During the opening credits, we’re treated to one incredible sequence with Wong drubbing a band of thugs. Next, there is a training sequence with Angela Mao. Then, Han Jae Ji himself demonstrates his unique Hapkido fighting art. In “Lady Kung-Fu,” there are a number of familiar faces from Chow-produced martial arts action flicks too. Mao is probably my favorite fighter, since she is mostly famous for her tragic portrayal of Bruce Lee’s sister in “Enter the Dragon” (1973).