The latest installment of the John Wick franchise is currently in theaters, and it has proven to be another promising thrilling, action-packed adventure, just like the previous three films.
Interestingly, the films have featured impressive martial arts styles, providing a diverse and exciting viewing experience. The franchise’s popularity largely rests on the intricate and elaborate action scenes directed by seasoned stunt vets Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.
Their innovative use of gun-fu, a unique combination of marksmanship and classic martial arts techniques, draws inspiration from iconic action films like Equilibrium, The Matrix, and the works of John Woo. This style influenced subsequent John Wick films and inspired movies such as Atomic Blonde and Nobody.
To bring the fight scenes to life, the franchise has enlisted the expertise of actual martial artists, including Tiger Chen, Mark Dacascos, and Roger Yuan, who have choreographed fights and portrayed characters like Baba Yaga. John Wick: Chapter 4 will also feature martial arts experts Donnie Yen, Marko Zaror, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Scott Adkins, promising even more impressive fight sequences.
Every Martial Arts Featured in John Wick Films
Gun Fu is a form of martial arts highlighted in the John Wick franchise, which has gained popularity among audiences for its combination of marksmanship and classic martial arts techniques. While Western films like The Matrix, Equilibrium, John Wick, and Kick-Ass brought gun fu to the mainstream. However, they originated in Hong Kong cinema during the 1980s. Films such as A Better Tomorrow and The Killer, directed by John Woo and featuring Chow Yun Fat, were:
- Pioneers of the genre.
- Incorporating unique camera angles.
- Dynamic action sequences.
- Stylish choreography is the foundation for gun-fu and John Wick’s fighting style.
Judo is one of the martial arts featured in the John Wick franchise, and the character of John is its primary user. Developed by Kano Jigoro, judo is renowned for its throwing techniques. John is a talented judoka and frequently employs judo rolls to surprise his adversaries throughout the series.
In combat, John often combines his judo skills with throws or gunfire to momentarily disable his opponents before delivering a final blow. In John Wick 3, Halle Berry’s character, Sofia, also uses a similar approach to fighting as John, incorporating judo moves with firearms in the battle scene set in Morocco.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is also prominent in the John Wick franchise, and Keanu Reeves trained extensively in this martial art for his role. BJJ is a form of mixed martial arts that focuses on grappling, ground fighting, chokes, and joint manipulations.
John is also skilled in BJJ, and in the first film, his opponent Ms. Perkins (played by Adrianne Palicki), uses it as her primary fighting style. BJJ practitioners often use their gi to execute chokes, and Perkins even uses her leather jacket to choke John in their fight scene.
John Wick encounters several adversaries throughout the franchise who are skilled in taekwondo, a martial art strongly emphasizing kicking techniques. For instance, in the first film, John faces Kirill, portrayed by Daniel Bernhardt, who displays excellent proficiency in taekwondo with his fast and forceful kicks during their fight at the nightclub.
Karate has several distinct styles, such as Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, and Kyokushin (which John Wick 4 actor Hiroyuki Sanada practices frequently). Karate emphasizes strikes and kicks and gained fame in the West, mainly due to Master Keisuke Miyagi in the Karate Kid franchise. John uses karate-influenced kicks and punches, in addition to his throwing techniques, while fighting his adversaries, many of whom are also karate practitioners.
Kung fu is a martial art with many different subsets and is considered the cradle of many other martial arts throughout Asia. The Shaolin temple in China is famous for its many various forms of kung fu and is regarded as the birthplace of this martial art, with a history dating back a millennium and a half.
In the John Wick franchise, kung fu is prominently featured in John Wick 3 when John faces a gang of assassins in New York’s Chinatown, including one played by Tiger Chen, who has worked with Keanu Reeves on previous films. Donnie Yen’s role in John Wick 4 will also showcase kung fu.
Sambo is a Russian martial art that has been incorporated into John Wick’s fighting style. This mixed martial art was first developed in the 1920s by Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oschepkov and drew from multiple fighting techniques, including judo. Sambo emphasizes throwing techniques, which is why it is closely related to judo.
Given John Wick’s background in Eastern Europe, it’s not surprising that he has extensive training in sambo and other martial arts. In one scene from John Wick 3, John meets The Director (Angelica Huston), and a group of Romani students are seen training in sambo. This inclusion of sambo in the movie showcases its global appeal and explains the highly aggressive and dynamic wrestling moves in John Wick’s fighting style.
Silat is a Southeast Asian martial art with numerous schools and subsets named after their regions of origin, such as Malaysian Silat Melayu and Indonesian Pecak Silat. The success of The Raid films, particularly Iko Uwais’ The Raid – Redemption, helped popularize silat globally.
The John Wick franchise’s martial arts fights, known for their creativity and eclecticism, are crucial to its popularity. The series showcases a wide range of martial arts forms, making it one of the best action film series in the world. Cecep Arif Rahman and Yayan Ruhian, two stars from The Raid, appear in John Wick 3 as Shinobi students of Zero, demonstrating their proficiency in silat and using the karambit knife in their fight against John.
The fighting style of Kali or Escrima is originally from the Philippines and involves sticks and knives. This style played a significant role in the fighting style of John Wick. It was also one of the fighting styles studied by Bruce Lee.
John’s skills in knife-fighting are deadly, as are his opponents’ skills in the franchise, such as Cassian in John Wick 2, played by Common. According to fight choreographer Jonathan Eusebio, John’s knife-fighting skills are based on Kali/Escrima, which also extends to his ability to take down opponents with a pencil, a legendary feat associated with Baba Jaga.
Shoot wrestling is a style of live-fight choreography that originated in Japanese pro wrestling. It was developed to add a sense of mixed martial arts authenticity to choreographed pro-wrestling fights. This style blends several martial arts techniques to create a unique approach. In addition to the strong wrestling style, the picking style has gained popularity in the West due to the cross-promotions of WWE and New Japan Pro Wrestling. According to Jonathan Eusebio, John Wick’s martial arts choreographer, Keanu Reeves was trained in shoot wrestling to prepare for the role.
Ninjutsu has been a popular martial art in entertainment for 50 years, from classic ninja films to the Naruto franchise. In John Wick 3, the franchise incorporated a more comprehensive range of martial arts, including ninjutsu, with John’s Shinobi enemies led by Zero.
The ninja of feudal Japan employed stealth, espionage techniques, and weapons, which Zero’s students used to surprise John in the climactic battle. Contemporary schools like the Japanese Bujinkan Association and American ninjutsu teacher Stephen K. Hayes’ To-Shin Do teach modernized forms of ninjutsu.
Aikido is a martial art renowned for its throwing techniques, which involve redirecting the momentum of an opponent’s attack to utilize their energy against them. In John Wick 3, John faces multiple opponents, and the film emphasizes this aspect of aikido.
To achieve this effect, the choreography of the fight scenes was designed to incorporate more elements of aikido into John’s fighting style. As Eusebio noted, when John is in motion, he frequently uses rolls to knock down his enemies and redirect the force of their attacks away from himself, enabling him to engage the next adversary immediately.
via – screenrant