The advent of modern tools of communication like the internet and social media has opened up a world of possibilities for independent filmmakers, and Jino Kang is certainly among them. A teacher and exponent of the Korean martial art of Hapkido, he’s made his mark in recent days with such action packed, low-budget martial arts thrillers as “Blade Warrior” and “Fist 2 Fist”, and excelled in the arenas of both acting and directing – in addition to integrating Hapkido and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu into a dynamic fighting style for the street and the silver screen!
Today, Jino sits down with KFK to chat about his life as a martial artist, and his career as an independent filmmaker, along with sharing some behind-the-scenes info on his newest film, “Weapon of Choice”!
Hi Jino and welcome to Kung Fu Kingdom, thanks so much for taking some time out to share with us. It’s great to connect with you and we hope you’re keeping well?
Yes, thank you very much! My pleasure.
Have you taken a look at our site, what do you think of the name Kung Fu Kingdom (KFK)?
Yes, I have. I think it’s great. Your site is very comprehensive in that it covers books, films, games, interviews with real fighters and action stars and much more.
Thanks, we do try! Now let’s kick off with some basics, like when and where were you born?
I was born in Incheon, South Korea in 1961.
What is your height and weight?
I’m 5’9” (1.75m) and fluctuate between 160-170lbs (73-77kg). My film shoot weight is 145-155lbs (66-70kg).
Thank you! So, how did you first get into the martial arts? How old were you?
My father was a master in Hapkido. He had a Hapkido school in Incheon, South Korea. I was four years-old when I started Hapkido and haven’t looked back.
What was the first main style you trained in and what different arts have you studied and trained?
Hapkido: 7th Dan. Taekwondo: Black Belt. Kyokushin-Kai Karate: Black Belt. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu: Black Belt. Judo and Eskrima (working on these now).
Wow, that’s a lot of training under your several belts! So, who would you credit as having most influenced you in the martial arts and who would you consider your heroes or inspirational figures in martial arts, a top 5 perhaps?
My father Myung S. Kang is at the top. Also, Master Don Buck who taught me Kyokushin kai, and Master Charles Gracie for his vast knowledge of ground fighting. My other hero favorites in order are: Toshiro Mifune, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Bill Wallace and Chuck Norris.
Excellent choices! So, how did you first get started in making independent martial arts films?
When I won the part of Josh, FBI agent for Leo Fong and Ron Marchini’s production called “Weapon of Choice” (same title as my last film), by winning a tournament in the eighties. I saw the process of filmmaking then I decided to start my own film so I enrolled at the College of Marin (California) which had a great film department. I learned all my production chops there and out came my first movie, “Blade Warrior.”
On that note, what interesting stories can you share about the making of “Blade Warrior”?
This was my personal film, my student film – but it got picked up right away by the now defunct Phaedra Films. It took us four years to shoot it in 16mm and another two years to edit. One year on Steenbeck flatbed cutting and gluing the work prints for editing on film then everything transferred to Betacam for digital editing on NT workstation. Yeah it was a torture but in the end, it was done and distributed!
What persistence! Later, you directed and starred in the film “Fist 2 Fist”. What interesting stories can you share about making this film?
Yeah, so this was an interesting time in my life. My Hapkido school had taken off and it was doing very well and with it came with a pool of talents. Kurt Nangle a co-producer and DP and Christine Lam a Line Producer were my students and we started to collaborate on my next film. I was researching on a cage fight theme at the time and was heavily involved with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and I met Charles Gracie. Luckily, he was only in the next town over in Daly City. I started taking lessons and wrote the script incorporating BJJ into my Hapkido and it turned out well. I also met legends, like Gene “Judo” LeBell and Eddie “Twister” Bravo as well as Charles and incorporated them into the film. F2F was shot on weekends for over a year (which I’ll never do again) and another year for post-production and an additional year for marketing and the film festival circuit. We won “Best Action Martial Arts Feature” at the Action On Film Festival 2010. “Fist 2 Fist” went everywhere, Blockbusters, RedBox, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes. A huge success.
Glad to hear “Fist 2 Fist” turned out well! Your latest film is the sequel to “Fist 2 Fist”, “Weapon of Choice”. What can you share about how the film came about and the experience of making it?
I wanted “Weapon of Choice” to be about an anti-hero trying to live a normal life but because of his dark past, trouble comes back to haunt him and pulls him back to the underworld. I didn’t want another martial arts film but more of an action film with martial arts in it.
That’s definitely a way to keep it fresh! You also served as fight choreographer for the short film “Love Hurts” in 2014. What can you share with us about making this film?
This was starred by Kenny Leu who played Rio in “Fist 2 Fist” and he asked for help with the choreography for the short. I came on board after meeting with Albert Lopez who was very passionate about his film. I believe “Love Hurts” went on to win several awards in film festivals and gave Kenny Leu a vehicle to star in the film.
Superb. What other projects do you have coming up after the release of “Weapon of Choice”?
Gosh, there are so many, working on finishing a “Secret of Hapkido” book and instructional Hapkido book. Also, working on “Blade Fury”, a true sequel to “Weapon of Choice” and working with two other writers, Christine Lam and Eric Gustafson on a TV spec pilot, “Wages of Sin”.
All sounds great, we definitely look forward to seeing all of that in the future! Who do you most admire in the martial arts movies? Mind giving us your brief views on: Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Mark Dacascos, Scott Adkins, Tony Jaa, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung?
Of course, these guys are my heroes. Bruce Lee shocked and inspired the world with his prowess of martial arts films and Jackie Chan showed his funny and death defying stunts to all audiences. Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Mark Dacascos and Donnie Yen are living legends and continue to be inventive in their films. Tony Jaa and Scott Adkins are climbing to A list action stars and are already superstars in my book.
Definitely! So, what are your top 3 favourite martial arts movie fight scenes?
“The Chinese Connection” (aka “Fist of Fury”) with Bruce Lee when he enters the dojo and makes them eat their words, and opening scene of “Enter the Dragon” with Bruce Lee and Sammo Hung. I was mesmerized as a kid watching these great films. I’m going in deep with this one – don’t know if you’ll remember the “Lone Wolf and Cub” series, “Sword of Vengeance”. They were bloody good times with shocking violence and wild choreography.
Excellent choices! So, which other martial artists/actors would you absolutely love to work with?
Everyone you mentioned.
Why not cast the net wide! Moving ahead now to training, how much time do you dedicate to training per day/week?
Too much if you ask me! Hapkido two days per week, BJJ two days per week, Eskrima one day per week, weight lifting every week. Running or stairs two days per week, yoga once or twice per week.
Is it mostly martial arts and flexibility training? How important is weight training for you?
I stretch every day and aim for a minimum of twice per day; once in the morning and before and after any training. I have been weight lifting since 17, now I’m 56 and I’ll continue to do it until I die. However, sometimes I hate to do it but I force myself because I know I’m going to feel great afterwards. I used to lift two times per week for each body part but now I just do it once per week to maintain. My endurance isn’t like when I was twenty years old where I could spar for three hours straight – I can accept that, but my strength remains strong and consistent.
Well, on that topic, what’s your favourite exercise and what special training techniques do you find brings out the best in you? Pleases share a tip with our readers!
My favorite exercise is the isometric kick even though it is difficult to perform. First, I make sure my body is warm then I do some light ballistic stretching then two sets of each kick holding for 10 slow kicks. Side kick, Round kick, Hook kick in that order, slowly holding and locking out the knee at maximum head height. If you’re starting out for first time it’s absolute murder but you’ll get used to it as your hips and legs get conditioned. I’ve been doing this all my life.
I can just imagine these, challenging but oh so rewarding! Say, what’s the most daring stunt you’ve ever done?
Nothing too daring. A flying arm bar in “Fist 2 Fist” fighting ‘Speed’. I believe I separated my shoulder doing it numerous times.
Those shoulders again! On that note, what was your most serious injury and how did you work around it?
I had plenty of injuries but nothing serious, but I did have two blown out knees, a few broken bones, wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries. Some required surgeries and some just therapies. Nothing bad during filming, mostly from sparring in Hapkido or BJJ.
So, what do you like to do to de-stress from a particularly strenuous period of physical activity?
Hot tub for twenty minutes and a light stretch. Massage therapy once per week. Yoga once or twice per week.
Definitely effective! So, what are a couple of methods or techniques you use to develop flexibility?
I do both static and ballistic stretching. Ballistic is best when I’m performing or sparring and static seems best when I’m cooling down. But stretching everyday is the key to flexibility.
Certainly is. So, would you say you’ve been influenced much by Eastern philosophy which often provides the infrastructure for success in martial arts?
Martial arts in general are heavily influenced by Eastern philosophy so yes, it is integrated in your mind, body and spirit. There’s no way to train and not be influenced providing that you have a learned teacher.
Moving ahead to nutrition, what kind of diet do you follow?
It’s heavy in protein most of the time with low carbs and fats included. You can’t do it all the time so one day per week, I eat anything but am strict the rest of the time.
Which foods do you find work best for you to keep your energy levels high whilst providing good fuel for your workouts?
For having the energy needed to do heavy work, I eat complex carbs like slow cooking oatmeal, brown rice (medium glycemic) and whole wheat pasta with chicken and fish. Steak or burger once per week and lots of salads and greens.
Do you take supplements, what do you recommend?
Really, I don’t. I get my nutrition from real foods. The only supplement that I take is fish oil and that’s it. Protein drinks and bars are fine too.
Interesting…Okay, looking ahead now to fun and leisure, what’s one geeky thing about you that people don’t really know?
I play the guitar, mostly the blues and rock, sometimes pop for fun.
Nice! And if you could be a superhero, who would you be and what superpower would you most like to possess?
A cool question! I’m thinking The Flash for speed. In sparring sessions, I believe speed is king.
He’s certainly the best for speed! What are some of your other hobbies outside of martial arts?
I paint Chinese brush painting on paper or iPad. I scuba or free dive in the ocean.
I have a wide variety in taste. I listen to Rock/Grunge/Metal when I’m working out. When I write, I listen to Jazz, Blues and Classical. Pop, when I’m with my daughter.
Favourite movies? (non-martial arts)
I love all Hitchcock films, and all Kurosawa films. I also love Korean crime dramas; the characters are so despicable.
Great filmmakers there! So, what in life do you really:
a) Like? Life is a gift and it’s too short in my opinion. Live your dream and work hard towards it. It will happen, but don’t forget to appreciate every day’s joy with your loved ones.
b) Dislike? Injustice that goes on every day. Terrorists, bullies and thieves. Unfortunately, they’re part of our lives. Stay vigilant.
So, what would you say is your proudest accomplishment so far?
My daughter of course. I can’t believe this amazing child is ours, she is incredible and the best thing in my life.
Awesome! So, what are you really keen to accomplish in the next 5 years?
I would like to finish all my current projects and I would like to have a production company that can produce and sustain quality martial arts films – a medium-studio so to speak.
Sounds like a plan! So, can you tell us a couple of warrior-wisdom quotes that have shaped and molded you up to this point into who you are today?
Accept death and you’ll be afraid of nothing. I can die today and be happy. I’m all right with it. Fear is what holds people back, fear of failure, fear of rejection, whatever. So, live your life to the fullest every day. If you fail today, tomorrow is another day. See?
Enlightening words! So, what special message would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom readers and your fans around the world?
Support indie films by buying and watching little films. You’ll be satisfied when you find little treasures that’s hidden in the film gluttony. Pay for the film with your own money. Little guys get ripped off by shady distributors all the time and when someone else rips it and pirates it, you’re hurting the little films and makers.
Definitely! Well, as we prepare to sign off, where’s the best place to go for people to find out more about you?
I’m pretty easy to find: JinoKang.com
Well thank you Jino, it’s been a real pleasure having you, a sterling, genuine martial artist with us here at KFK, we hope this interview gives our readers a glimpse into the real, interesting life of Jino Kang. We wish you all the very best for your upcoming action movies and other projects. Keep up the fine work and please keep in touch!
You guys are awesome, keep up the good work and appreciate the interview!