And also after I filmed the Mountain Dew
commercials, my left ankle and knee also
had some problems. So right now Im
doing the Master Step for one hour every
other day. On Mondays, for example,
Ill do one hour, and then Ill
not do the Master Step on Tuesday.
Ill come back in and do it again on
Wednesday, take Thursday off, and then do
it again on Friday and take Saturday
offand so on.
At what level do you set the Master Step
at? Is it at an intense level?
JC: No, at a
normal level. I cant go too low or
too high because of the ankle and the
knee. I try to keep it as flat as
possible. Even sometimes when I
dont have access to a Master Step I
will walk on the streetbut on a
flat surface. The best is the grass
because it is soft and absorbs the impact
better. Ill do this for one hour.
Do you do any weight training?
Yes, usually after working out on the
Master Step, Ill do some light
weight training. I use very simple
movements like dumbbell laterals,
dumbbell flyes, bench pressthat
type of thing. I dont use heavy
kind of weight would you use, for
example, on the bench press
JC: Id use about 45
kilos on each side.
And for how many repetitions?
JC: Twenty or
thirtydone at a very quick
IKF: How many sets of
each exercise would you perform?
I average around four sets per exercise.
Do you work out training different body
parts on different areas?
No, I just work out depending on how I
feel like it, because we have very good
basic training, so we really dont
need to train different body parts on a
schedule. When youre on a set, when
we are fighting, there is already a lot
of movement. We just cannot get too big
especially on our shoulders and arms,
Your shoulders and arms are very well
developed for someone who doesnt do
a lot of specialized weight training for
them. Is this muscle development a result
of your martial arts training?
Yeah, I think when I was younger.
Yeah, gymnastics is very good for
strength and when you do things like
flips and hanging upside down, it helps
you also with your coordination.
You have a very good sense of body
awareness. By that I mean, gymnastics
have a great sense of balance and
coordination. Is that something you can
train for, or is it simply a genetic
No, you can definitely train for
it. The most important thing is
when you are young. When I was
six and a half or seven years
old, at that time we had a very
good basic training. It
didnt matter how we
feltpush-ups, knee bends,
and so on. The basic training is
very important. After all those
years, it becomes very natural.
Its actually very hard to
tell you how I train, because I
just "know" what to do.
When I lose my balance, you just
know how to get it back. So, this
way, when I do a stunt, I do get
hurt sometimesbut less than
some other people.
Because of your conditioning.
IKF: I should
probably make a note of what weight
training exercises you do. You mentioned
that you do bench presses, dumbbell
laterals for your shoulders, dumbbells
for your chest. Do you do any weight
training for your legs?
No, just kicking. I do kicking and
How do you train in this fashion? How
many days would you perform punching and
Every other day. Every other day is hard
training, like, really kicking and
punching hard. Some other days its
like fooling around(begins to punch
at the air) boom! boom! boom! boom!
boom!, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick. Just
depending upon how we feel on any given
day. Some days we just lay down, we just
dont want to do it. Some other
days, we are really kicking and punching
hard for three minutes every round, then
take 30 seconds rest, then another three
minutes of punching, followed by another
30 seconds rest, followed by another
three minutes. You just keep on
punchingboom! boom! boom! boom!
boom!until your three minutes are
up, no matter how slow or tired you get.
You just finish up for three minutes,
then you rest another 30 seconds.
|IKF: So do
you mix it up (i.e., three
minutes of punching, 30 seconds
rest, three minutes of kicking,
30 seconds rest, and so on in
this fashion, or do you do
combine punching and kicking for
three-minute intervals followed
by 30 seconds rest?
its punch firstpunch, punch,
punch, then kick, kick, kick, then
And are the punches and kicks of any type
random combinations and techniques), or
do you practice only certain kicks and
punches for training purposes?
No, they are of any type. Because we
already have a solid basic training, the
most important thing is to keep flexible
and to keep the movements fluid.
So what do you train your kicks
onan airshield, a heavy bag?
A bag. I use a standing bag.
How long would all of this take to
complete all your three-minute intervals
of punching and kicking?
Yeah, more than a half-hour.
This would also be excellent
cardiovascular exercise, too,
wouldnt it? After all, it
gets your heart beating faster,
youre metabolism would
IKF: Let me also ask
you this: you say you used to
runnow you step or walk, and you do
your punching and kicking for
cardiovascular fitness; you lift weights
for strength fitness, but what do you do
for flexibility? Do you stretch?
When were on the set, we just put
our leg up on something and stretch. Even
when were talking, or having a
conversation with my boys, everybody puts
their leg up on a table, on a
chairwe just put it up and stretch
during conversations and breaks in
Do you find any difference now in warming
up, now that youre older than you
were when you first started in the
Yes. Before, a long time ago, I
didnt need to warm up, Id
just do it. But Ive found out that
its very easy to twist my shoulder,
hip, knee, and "aaagh!" Now,
before I do a scene, all my boys make
sure that all of us stretch, stretch,
stretch. So now I stretch everything
before I shoot a scene involving kicking
In movies such as Rumble in the Bronx,
where your physique is shown, do you have
to engage in any different type of
training, more specifically, bodybuilding
or physique training to acquire such a
muscular appearance. Or is this the kind
of condition you are in all the time?
No, I didnt need any
specialized training. Thats
pretty much the condition
Im in almost all the time.
Sometimes when I finish one
movie, Ill travel around
and, after one or two months off,
I always think to myself,
"Im getting fat,
Im getting fat, Im
getting fat." Always in my
mind. So then I know that
Ive got to start training
IKF: How long can you
go before you feel you "have"
to work out again?
After about two weeks or a monthat
the mostI feel that Ive got
How about your diet? What do you eat to
keep so lean?
I really dont have a special
dietI eat everything. Of course,
Im watching not to eat things that
are too oily. Mostly I eat vegetables and
once or twice a week Ill eat ice
cream, but mostly I just stop myself from
eating too much junk food.
You mentioned that sometimes you feel as
though you are getting fat, but you must
have a tremendous metabolism. Have you
always been fairly muscular due to your
years of training in gymnastics and
I think so, yes. And also because I enjoy
being I active. I would rather walk than
take the elevator. I dont want to
take the escalator. If I can exercise,
Ill do it. If there is an
opportunity for exercise, Ill take
it. For example, if I can walk up three
flights of stairs, Ill walk up
three flights of stairs, rather than
taking an elevator. In life, Ive
found that most people these days are
very lazy. Like, they will get in the
elevator, then in their car. Then, after
car, they get on the escalator, then sit
down in the restaurant, then get back in
their car for an hours drive home,
then when they get home they sit on their
sofa, take hold of remote control, then,
within a half-hour, they fall asleep.
With such a lifestyle its very easy
to get fat. So mostly I make sure that I
take the time to just walk, walk, walk,
Do you have an exercise machine
in your house?
I do. Right now, yes.
Do you bring anything with you to
help you keep in shape when you
JC: I just
bring two pieces of exercise equipment
with mewherever I go around the
world: a barbell set and a bench press.
Thats all. Wherever I go, they
break it down and pack it up. Like when I
was recently filming in South Africa,
they put it together in my room. I always
have two rooms that interconnect when I
travel, and one of those rooms is for
exercising. I dont really use
dumbbells and weights that much, however.
Mostly in these empty rooms I use them
for practicing my punching and kicking.
Punching, kicking, and jumpingthese
are more important than the dumbbells and
Do you consider yourself an expert in all
facets of the martial arts?
Right now, because Im not training
as intensively in the martial arts as I
did before, I wouldnt call myself a
"martial arts expert." Before,
I could say that I was a martial arts
expert because I was actively training in
everything: I learned southern style,
northern style, hapkido,
judoeverything. But after I started
doing movies, I just mixed everything.
Now if you asked me, "Jackie, do the
bai-mei," I already have forgotten
the routine! I only remember a part of it
because I have mixed in so many martial
arts into my training over the years for
the movies. Right now I would consider
myself an expert in "martial arts in
What are your thoughts on the martial
arts you see performed in the movies
these days by other actors?
Right now, in the movies, they dont
really utilize martial arts anymore. Not
classical martial arts, anyway. Its
action, actionits more than
simply fighting these days. Its
more like boxing. Even the kicking is
different. And also, right now too many
people are kicking in the movies. So I
dont want to kick. I want to make
myself special. Van Damme is kicking,
everybody is kickingthats the
big thing, apparently. So I want to make
my movies different, so Im not
kicking so much. I do more difficult
things like jumping on the sofa and going
up to the roof. I do so many different
things, like punching with a bicycle, or
I flip kick with a motorcycle. I want to
use some other thing, not just standing
thereboom! High kicklike
In your fight scenes, one thing I
do notice is that you make your
fight scenes practical. Like, if
there is something on a table
that you can use to help you get
out of a jam, then you
incorporate it into your fight
scenerather than the
typical North American method of
simply "putting up your
dukes" and delivering a
toward the camera,
and then cutting the scene to show a
close-up of an adversary taking the punch
on the jaw. I think this is important
because, while you still perform
incredible feats of skill and martial
arts mastery, you remain believable to
the audience. Is this something that
youve deliberately intended to
infuse into your fight scenes, or is it
something that just happened to evolve
JC: I just dont
know. I went to the video store the other
day to look at something and I was
shocked at how many
"biographies" there are on me!
(laughs) Theres too many
biographies on me. But seeing the boxes
and, later, looking at my older movies,
like, the ones I did 25 or 30 years ago,
its almost like looking at a
different person. I was almost pure
classical kung-fu in my moves, doing
techniques from different martial art
styles. There would be no use of, for
example, chairs in my fight scenes or
other props, just hand-to-hand fighting
in a very traditional manner.
How do you go about setting up your fight
sequences? Whats the most difficult
aspect of your choreography?
For a stunt coordinator to choreograph
all the fighting scenes, the most
difficult thing is the initiation of the
fight between two peoplehow do you
land the first punch? Thats very
difficult. Then you think about what are
the reasons why the character is going to
fight? What are his motivations for
throwing that first punch? Then, when you
start that first punch and kicking, it
becomes very easy in terms of what camera
angles to use, and things like that. When
do the combatants separate, catch their
breath, and then resume fightingand
then, what are the strikes or kicks that
would be suitable for them at this
juncture of the fight? Many things have
to be considered when choreographing a
fight scene, besides simply a string of
techniques because we are not, like, say,
two gentlemen fighting (adopts a John L.
Sullivan pose) where its (adopts a
polite expression): "Okay, now we
will fight." Thats not how
fights take place in these days.
Its more like, "You kill my
sister, Ill kill your
father!"(Jumps up and delivers
several lightning-fast strikes) Aaaagh!
As the fighter, you would have to think
about going there ahead of time to fight
this person and once there, you would
look for somethinganythingto
get it going.
saw a table, you probably would kick it
toward your opponent, because then it
might hit him and hurt him, or, at the
very least, it would distract his
attention so that you could close the gap
between the two of you with a
techniqueboom! (throws a backfist
at an imaginary opponent). You make some
move, or think about "how can I make
that first contact?" Thats
important. You must put both the thought
process and emotion of the character into
the fight sequence, particularly at the
initiation of the fight. So this is the
way that I choreograph my fight scenes.
Its a mixture of things. Its
not like, "Okay, I dont like
you. You dont like me. So now
well go outside and have a fight.
Come on. Now, are you ready? (puts up his
hands in a fighting posture). Now I am
ready."Boom! boom! boom!
(simulates punches being thrown, then
steps back into his fighting stance once
more) Now, lets do it again."
Thats a different kind of thing.
The way I
choreograph fight scenes was actually a
big help to me in becoming a good
director, because when I teach people
fighting, I am also teaching them the
emotions and motivation behind their
actions, like, why I am kicking the
table, why Im doing this, why
Im doing that. So later on, my
martial art changed from martial art to
action. Right now, its the 20th
century, almost the 21st century; how can
you justify fighting in this way? No,
its ridiculous. Getting into
classical, traditional kung-fu stances
and gentleman-style techniques is okay
for comedy (throws a series of wild man
punches and then quickly attempts to
adopt a classical kung-fu stance to make
it look like the previous punches were
part of his style and not simply wild
swinging.) Its not like before,
though. Im the one who really wants
to change these types of things and make
the fight choreography more up to date
and modern. You see this in not only
martial art, but with dancing, with the
rhythm and everything.
You must notice a huge difference
between your approach and that of
your American counterparts in the
A lot of American movies feature
fighting that is, really,
old-time martial art (assumes
several classical and theatrical
fighting stances and techniques).
And thats wrong. Now there
is an audience for this type of
fighting, but its small.
Only a small amount of people
make up that type of audience.
Most audiences like to see the
real thing, not the old
traditional thing. They like the
natural thingthe way
fighting really isnatural
IKF: You mentioned
that when you kick the table, for
example, toward the opponent to initiate
a fight, it brings a lot of emotion into
your fight scenes, whereas Jean-Claude
Van Damme, for example, seems to prefer
using orthodox martial arts kicking which
many filmgoers find unbelievable.
I think every action starnot only
Van Dammelike Stallone, Chuck
Norris, whatever, are good fighters and
martial artists. Or if not good fighters,
at least good actors. The only reason
that Jackie Chan has become special is
because they dont know how to
choreograph, they only know how to fight.
And when they make an action movie, maybe
their director is not a martial artist,
he is only the director. Which means that
when they fight, everythings wrong.
So this way, when the action in the movie
comes up, it doesnt make sense
sometimes. It doesnt look as good
as a Jackie Chan movie. Why? Because when
I direct all the fighting scenes,
Im directing myself. And, most
importantly, I use my own stuntmen. Even
if I were making a movie where you were
the director, when it came time to film
the fight scene, you would go away and I
would direct it. So this way, it makes my
action movie more exciting than some
other peoples. This doesnt
mean that I am better than Van
Dammeno, because Van Damme is good.
But because of the situation, the people
here in America have to listen to one
person tell them how to fight, and then
if the actor wants to do this type of
kick, but his stuntman doesnt know
how to do the proper reaction, and the
cameraman who is a good photographer, but
is unfamiliar with how to ideally film
action scenes and the director is more
drama oriented than action, all of these
things combine to make the action scene
not work. When you look at Jackie
Chans action, it works. Why?
Because I use my own cameraman, my own
lighting man, my own stuntman, Im
the director, Im the stunt
coordinatorIm the actor! So I
What do you look for when you select your
I train them.
You train them yourself?
Yeah. Like, a lot of people like him
(points to a young protégé), when he
was with me he was just a young kid, but
hes not in my group yet. He just
hangs the pads, sets up the safety
things, and does those kinds of things
until I think hes ready to join my
group. Once I think hes good
enough, then Ill bring him on my
team. They know that if they keep at it,
then one day they will have the chance to
fight with me (on screen), which is so
exciting to them. I mean, nobody else can
fight with me in Asia. No matter how good
the stuntmen they are just standing way
in the back. If you are the actor here,
and Im talking to you, as soon as
it is time to
out. As soon as the fight begins you are
out, they replace you with a stuntman,
they change his hair to look like yours.
stuntmen fight with me because
when you fight with meno
matter how good you
with each other. So, when you
kick or punch toward me,
Ill be pulling away too
soon or maybe Ill be
worrying about getting hit and,
believe me, Ive been hit
too much already. Ive been
hurt so many times from people
who were not my stuntmen; my nose
has been broken three times
because I trust people;
my tooth is gone because you
cannot control your technique as well as
it needs to be. Im not saying that
I still dont make mistakes, my own
stuntmen have hurt me, too, but
thats okayI trust
themand thats an accident. If
you hurt me or fight with me, then
Im scared (that an accident could
happen). But with my stuntmen, the
chances of my getting injured are greatly
reduced. We can go full out(throws
punches and kicks) bam! bam! bam! bam!
bam!we know each others
rhythm and timing!
you find in America a very talented
Caucasian stuntman, like you or, like
anyone, to fight with me, it will be the
worst-looking Jackie Chan fight scene of
all time. Why? Because when you go to
kick me, Ill be already flinching
and turning away from you. If the scene
calls for you to hit me across the back
with a stick, Im already covering
up and trying to get away from you
because Im really scared that you
are going to hit me. But my stuntmen can
hit me right across the back with a
clubboom!and you can actually
see it touch my shirt, and Ill stay
there and take it because I know that
hell pull it just enough to prevent
me from getting hurt. Thats what we
want in fight choreography. So that is
why I always bring my stuntmen with me
wherever I go. We have that timing
together. Like, in Rumble in the Bronx,
when they were throwing bottles at
meboom! boom! boom!I trust
them and tell them, "Come on, now,
hit me right here on the arm with
it," and they will. But if you throw
the bottle, Id rather be ten miles
away because if I stand there, I might
move because were not used to each
otheror you might not throw it
where Im expecting itand
Ill get hurt. So this is quite
different from some of the other action
stars who might use one set of stuntmen
for one film, and then a second set of
stuntmen for another filmhow can
you create realistic looking scenes this
way? You must fully trust the people you
are working with, and you have to know
each other, anticipate each other and
know each others rhythm and timing.
This is essential. You could put two good
fighters together in a fight scene, but
that doesnt necessarily mean it
will be entertaining to watch in a movie.
In the movies, its different
fighting than what you would see, say, in
a martial arts tournament or a boxing
match. There, its bam! bam! bam!
And thats a good fight to watch,
too, theyre really fighting and
its exciting. But in a movie,
its all rhythm, and that requires a
different type of fighting. And even in
the action stars films, the actor
doesnt want to get hurt, and says
"Dont hurt my nose, dont
hit my face"theyre
already scared! And that comes across in
their films and really compromises their
ability to fully express their
characters personality or intention
in their fighting scenes.
You have truly elevated stunt
coordination and fight
choreography into an art form.
You have really infused an
element of soul or honesty into
your action sequences that keeps
your characters scenes very
JC: Yes, well I like
action, but I hate violence. Thats
why in my movies you dont find a
lot of violence. If you say, "Your
movies are violent," Ill
respond: "Its good violence; I
didnt show the blood from the nose,
there was no swearing" no, I never
have any of this kind of dialogue. Also,
I never have gunfights where there is
blood comes pouring out of a guys
mouth, his nose, and so forth. So that is
why when I design fighting scenes,
its more like an art, like dancing,
rhythm. Like a tap dance,
Is there a difference in the type of
people that go to see your films, and the
ones who go to see those made by other
action stars in Hong Kong?
One of my movies has been released right
now in Asia and I just got the press
reviews from Hong Kong. When they go to
the theater to see my film, they are not
surrounded by the young kids in the
yellow hats with the earrings through
their noses. These type of kids go to see
the Triad-produced films. They want to
see the Triad movies. But everybody can
bring their children to a Jackie Chan
movie, everybody feels comfortable
bringing their children to a Jackie Chan
movie. When Im fighting on screen,
all the children are smiling and
laughing. The children are smiling and
the big people are excited, saying
"Oh, yeah! Look at that!"
Thats my audience, and thats
the only audience I want.
That would explain the difference between
"violence" and "art."
The honesty and purity comes across the
screen in what you do. I want to ask you,
given your upbringing in the Peking Opera
and its very tough regimen, and the fact
that you personally put your life on the
line in many of your stunts to give your
audience 100 percent of your best in each
and every film you make, when you see a
lot of the North American stuntmen who
complain about doing stunts that are
quite minor in comparison, does it upset
you? Does it cause you to think
"These guys dont know what
hard work is?"
(emphatic) No. I think differently. I
really learned my action, my punch
a lot of my punches in the movies
I really learned from American stuntmen.
From the beginning. Before, in the old
days of the Hong Kong film industry, we
were all fighting in a classical
style(performs a series of
classical blocks and strikes) tung, tung,
tung, tung, suddenly a movie came to Hong
Kong to shoot in Hong Kong called, The
Sand Pebbles and it used a lot of Hong
Kong stuntmen. They taught us how to do
the reactions to a punch. It was a movie
about a boat and a gunfight, and they
used some Hong Kong actors. It was an
How long ago was this?
Oh, this would have been 35 or 39 years
ago. The American stuntmen had to teach
the Hong Kong stuntmen how to react
properly to movie punches, and how to
throw the punches. We learned how to do
our reactions and our action from the
And now it has come full circle as the
Americans are looking to Hong Kong to
learn new ways to do stunts.
All those years ago we learned that
muchreaction and punch. After that,
we continued to create more things.
However, in all of the years since then
the American moviemakers have been
concentrating more on computer graphics
and these kind of things, staying away
from what we were working on developing
because of union things and insurance
considerations.Later on, they went more
for big stunts, parachutes, crashing
cars, motorcycle jumps, and in those kind
of things America is the best. We cannot
do those kind of thingsparachuting,
motorcycle jumpingbecause we
dont have that kind of room in Hong
Kong. Even if you had a motorcycle,
theres nowhere to jump!
Where? Theres no space! So we
developed the smaller things, like,
kicking and punching. For 50 years,
almost non-stop, weve been working
on improving our fighting action every
day. Especially me. So, its like
going to school every day, how many
things every day can I create? Many
things. Look at American movieshow
many things are created by computers? And
they are the best at this. So now, we
learn from America the special effects,
and America learns from us the punching
and kicking, the small things.
Do you think that a lot of American stunt
coordinators copy a lot from your movies?
I believe right now that there are a lot
of American stunt coordinators who watch
my movies. I can tell when my movie is
released in Asia, they are already
looking at it. After that, they are
releasing copies of my stunts and action
sequences in their own films before mine
are released in America.
What do you think of that? When you see
stuff that youve created in your
own mind and worked out with great effort
and meticulous detail on the screen, then
ripped off by your American counterparts
with absolutely no credit given to you?
(smiles) Im happy.
Yeah, because I first learned
from American stuntmen. After
that I created my own things.
After I create my own things,
somehow the technology comes up.
I look at the videos of Buster
Keaton and I think,
"Wow!" I find out that
Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd,
we have the samenot the
talentbut the same kind of
idea for making movies. Then I
find out that I have the same
kind of talent.
IKF: But doesnt
it upset you when you see, for example,
Sylvester Stallone and Kurt
Russells film, Tango & Cash,
ripping off your bus stop crash sequence?
But thats like your
paintingsomething that you created!
That doesnt upset you?
No, because I respect Stallone, I like
him. Hes my hero. Also, Spielberg
is my hero. When I look at
Spielbergs Indiana Jones Part II, I
see that he totally copied my bicycle
sequence from Project AI used a
bicycle, he used a
motorcycleIm so happy that
even the biggest director has learned
something from me! That makes me happy.
But I have also learned from other
movies. I just create my own things. I
think in the world of movies, everybody
Youve always been original,
however. And even when you were starting
out and becoming famous, I remember you
saying that "Bruce Lee did it this
way, so Im going to do it the
opposite way"like yin and
yangbut you always did your own
Well, I always wanted to do something
that was different from all the other
movies. Thats what makes what I do
special. Look at, right now, American
movieseverything is a big
explosion. "My explosion is going to
be bigger than your explosion," type
of thing. When I did explosions, that was
ten years ago! Police Story Part II dealt
with everything about explosions. The
whole movie, you can find out, the
explosions were hitting my body, in my
eyes, in my head, then from the small
explosions to, at the end, the big
after that, I stopped doing it. In Police
Story Part I, I did everything with
breaking glassglass, glass,
glassthe whole movie was breaking
glass things. Then, with The Miracle, I
played with some other things. Then, I
find out that in America, during these
same two years, everything was
explosions. Then I tell myself, "My
movie is not going to use any more big
explosions." Small explosions and
more difficult action scenes. So
thats what made me and my movies
different from Hollywood movies. So
Im always watching some other movie
and then doing something different as a
result of having seen it. Thats
what makes mine special.
part 2, coming soon, Jackie delves more
deeply into his love of martial arts, his
philosophy on life, the tense political
situation in Hong Kong and whether he
considers himself a success).
to Jackie Chan interview part II