Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
These days Martial Arts and action movies go hand-in-hand. It's almost assumed that if you're watching an action movie, you're going to encounter some form of Martial Arts choreography. But often, the purity of the form is set aside to bring more flash and excitement for the silver screen.
Which is why it is so surprising that the blockbuster movies, Sherlock Holmes, Iron Man and Iron Man 2 featured the intricate styling of Wing Chun.
Unlike some of the other "flashier" styles, Wing Chun emphasizes a close-range combat technique. That means: no leaping from halfway across the room doing a flying kick; no arms extending out and waving in a million directions, no major body movements that dance the combatant around. Most of Wing Chun is fought up close, when the combatants are within arm's length apart. Kicks don't often rise above the waist. And most movements are deceptively subtle such as the infamous one-inch punch.
But somehow, Robert Downey Jr and Sifu Eric Oram made it work for the silver screen and have kindled a new interest in the style. In order to prepare for these action movies and transform himself from a romantic comedic actor to action, Robert Downey Jr actually took the time to learn Wing Chun from Sifu Eric Oram. According to an article from Inside Kung-Fu Magazine, Sifu didn't expect Downey to survive the training. At the end, however, Downey kept coming back no matter what was thrown at him. In fact, Downey attributes his ability to overcome the many drug additions he had to Wing Chun.
Sifu Eric Oram began training in Martial Arts at the age of 11 and started Wing Chun at the age of 14 after being inspired by Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. He is one of the few students directly under Grandmaster William Cheung, who taught Bruce Lee and is a direct student of the legendary Ip Man.
While Martial Arts isn't so keenly tied into the theme of Iron Man, the converse can be said for Sherlock Holmes. For all intents and purposes, Iron Man is more about the suit and his ability to fire laser beams from his hands. There is a bit of actual combat in the original Iron Man comics but it was more akin to wrestling than Martial Arts.
Sherlock Holmes, on the other hand, was described to be a master of Bartitsu, a mixed form of fighting that existed back in the early 1900's and included ko-ryu jiu-jitsu. The strength of his fighting and the power of Wing Chun are best exemplified during the two main fighting scenes, the opening scene against the night watch and when Holmes blows off some steam in the fighting ring. All the attacks are tight to the body and often attacking at the same time or soon after the opponent attacks.
The way the style was captured helped to propel Wing Chun from just one of many arts pieced together for movie magic to have a place on its own.