Profile of Leung Kar Yan

Name: Leung Kar Yan/Bryan Leung
Date of Birth: 20 January 1949
Birth Sign: Aquarius/Rat
Height: 174 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Country: China

Leung Kar Yan tribute on YouTube

Film History

After liking what he saw in Bruce Lee’s martial arts and director Chang Cheh’s films, Leung Kar Yan tried his hand at acting by visiting a film set at the Shaw Brothers Studios and asking for an audition. His good looks and acrobatic strength led him to a few supporting parts in the early 1970s, but it wasn’t until Sammo Hung discovered his amazing ability to mimic that he landed his first starring roles.

In 1978, Leung Kar Yan and Sammo Hung collaborated and starred in the brilliant kung fu movie Warriors Two. The name refers to the two martial artists in the movie. In it Leung plays Mr Tsan, an elderly doctor and master of Wing Chun. Leung could have easily convinced the audience that he was a Wing Chun master, and his impression of the wise and patient Mr Tsan is remarkable. The film is famous for its strict attention to real Wing Chun forms, which makes Leung’s mimicry of Wing Chun even more impressive.

After Warriors Two, Leung began to be offered larger roles. A great example of this is The Thundering Mantis (1979), where Leung plays a fishmonger who finds himself in trouble with the local gang. After defending a traveller and his grandson, the traveller offers to teach him “mantis style”. Leung brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘beserk’ in the final scene, where he witnesses the death of the grandson at the hands of the gang and kills them all. His wild, capering movements and impressive acrobatics see the film through to an astounding climax, one that will have any martial arts fanatic drooling!

During this time, Leung began to work with Sammo Hung more, producing a series of martial arts films that blend comedy and action together. Examples of these are Knockabout (1979), Enter the Fat Dragon (1978) and The Victim (1980). Leung claimed that The Victim’s final scene was the hardest he ever had to do, as most of the acrobatics and kung fu were not doubled. Luckily, Leung’s character in The Victim also becomes tired throughout the battle, so at least he didn’t have to act that part!

However, many claim that Leung Kar Yan’s best work is Legend of a Fighter (1982), by director Yuen Woo-Ping. The film tells the tale of Fok Yun Gap, who is considered by his father to be too weak to be taught the family’s famous kung fu, and is taught in secret by his Japanese tutor, who later demands a fight to the death in the final showdown. Leung Kar Yan plays Fok Yun Gap when he is older, and delivers a well-rounded and serious performance of a son striving for his father’s acceptance and recognition through his martial arts practice, carried on in secret…

As the obsession with martial arts movies wound down in the 1980s, Leung Kar Yan tried his hand at directing. Unfortunately with the film industry having less of an appetite for martial arts films as there was in the 1970s, his films were not as well received. Leung Kar Yan still acts to this day, but has focused on less serious roles than those of his early acting career.

Warriors Two trailer


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Training Background

  • One of Leung Kar Yan’s most interesting qualities as a martial arts actor is that he never received any martial arts training previous to starting his film career.
  • However, Leung was respected as an actor because of his uncanny ability to mimic any move shown to him by the action director.
  • He became so famous for it that, in some cases, he would actually be chosen over actors with martial arts backgrounds!

Influences

  • Bruce Lee. Leung Kar Yan idolised Bruce Lee and his movies, which inspired him to first get involved in the martial arts industry.
  • Chang Cheh, one of the Shaw Brothers Studio’s most famous film directors. Leung Kar Yan was first introduced to the martial arts world through Chang Cheh’s films and wanted to see how the films were made. He visited the studio and even asked Chang Cheh for a role in one of his movies. Luckily Chang Cheh was looking for actors, and Leung made his first cinematic break in Shaolin Martial Arts (1974).
  • Sammo Hung, who directed many of the films Leung Kar Yan starred in. Leung later went on to direct movies of his own.

Legend of a Fighter trailer


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Facts

  • Leung Kar Yan has characteristic hyper extendable fingers.
  • He is affectionately known as ‘Beardy’ because of the thick beard he has in many of his films.

Selected Filmography

YearTitle
1974Five Shaolin Masters
1974Shaolin Martial Arts
1978Enter the Fat Dragon
1978Warriors Two
1979Thundering Mantis
1979Knockabout
1979Odd Couple
1980The Victim
1981Dreadnaught
1982Legend of a Fighter
1982The Postman Strikes Back

Although Emily had spent a year learning Shotokan Karate as a teenager, she spent three months at a martial arts school in the Fujian province of China and discovered her passion for kung fu! She practiced White Crane style, returning for a full year to learn Yang and Sun style Tai Chi as well as Ba Gua and Xing Yi Fist, Bai Ji Fist and weapon forms. Emily spends her free time perfecting her Tai Chi and hopes to teach it one day. Her favourite Kung Fu movie is The Grandmaster, but she also loves Kung Fu Panda, and has seen it more times than she would like to admit!

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