The origins of martial arts date back more than 6,000 years, and throughout all that time they have become closely associated with Asian culture and lots of mysticism, which can be traced with the hyperbole depicted in martial arts films.
At some point after World War II, chanbara samurai movies produced in Japan (which traditionally dealt with culture and history) introduced fantastical themes; this development quickly spread to Chinese kung-fu films, which turned out to be more even humorous and outlandish. With this in mind, it can be safely assumed that ninja orangutans jumping out of trees and ambushing samurai is pure fiction. What is really surprising, however, is to learn that the themes below are actually tied to martial arts facts:
Drunken Kung Fu
The classic and humorous “Drunken Master” film starring Jackie Chan has some grounding in reality. Kung fu is an ancient martial art that has many Taoist influences; one of them being the application of forms to fighting stances and routines. In the 7th century, a kung fu practitioner and religious leader observed the way inebriated men could remain on their feet even though the rest of their bodies fell victim to gravity. Eventually, eight “drunken” fighting stances emerged.
A few martial arts films feature a hero whose limited range of motion is not a problem when delivering a powerful punch. In reality, breaking boards with only a few inches of striking distance was something that legendary Chinese American actor perfected in his lifetime. Burmese boxers often train in delivering straight and short punches that they can use to quickly get away from rivals. Needless to say, mastering this type of hand strike requires extensive practice and dedication.
Although underground fighting rings in Asia are looked down upon by martial arts purists, the unfortunate reality is that they do exist; they are usually organized by crime lords, and they mostly serve gambling purposes. In the 1988 film “Bloodsport,” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, one such tournament was depicted as the “Kumite,” which is actually the part of the karate discipline that deals with grappling. Underground fighting events flourished in Asia after World War II, and this development coincided with American and Asian organized crime rings working together. A Canadian martial arts instructor won a Kumite in the mid-1970s, and he had to fight several opponents in a row with one-minute breaks in between.