If you’re a fan of Thai martial arts films and the awesome, insane, crazy stunts that go with them the face of Kazu Patrick Tang is probably one you’ve seen many times; this martial artist, stuntman, and ‘tricker’ possesses a diverse array of skills. From his humble origins in Paris, Kazu went straight into chasing his dream of using his developing martial arts skills on the big screen and has never looked back.
To date, he’s played parts in everything from “District B13” to “Unleashed” to “Ong Bak 2”, “Bangkok Adrenalin, “Raging Phoenix”, “Vengeance of an Assassin”, “Dragonwolf” as well as working on the higher quality action scenes demanded by the ever burgeoning Bollywood movie industry. He’s also worked alongside such luminaries of the martial arts film world as David Belle, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai (RIP), Dan Chupong, Jeeja Yanin, and Scott Adkins along the way. Check out his showreel here.
Today, we’re fortunate to have Kazu sit down with us and share his eye-opening journey in martial arts, his knowledge, experience and insights of action filmmaking including his training and much more. Let’s check in with him as he cordially imparts some cool, earnest stories from his colourful life and career so far…
Well, it’s great to connect with you Kazu and welcome to Kung Fu Kingdom. Thank you for taking some time out to share with us!
Thank you Raj!
Did you take a look around the site and what do you think of the name Kung Fu Kingdom (KFK)?
Yes, I did, and the content is great and easy to surf. I think it’s also a good, simple and easy name to remember -reminds me of “The King of Fighters” video game!
Thank you! OK now let’s kick off with some basics.
When and where were you born?
I was born on 30th January 1979 in Paris, France
What is your height and weight?
I am 1.71m tall (5′ 6″) and weigh 69kg (11st).
So, tell us how you first got into the martial arts, how old were you?
I was 16 years old so I started very late. When I was young I was very weak and always crying, one day, I told my parents I want to do martial arts to get stronger.
Good reason! What was the first main style you trained in and what different arts have you studied?
I started out with Taekwondo so that’s my main style. I discovered that I learned very fast, then I started martial arts tricking as well as learning a lot of different martial arts through my work and friends. Actually this year I’m learning Shinkyokushinkai Karate and will start MMA.
Nice to get a broad grounding. So, which 5 people would you credit as having most influenced you in the martial arts, who do you consider your heroes or inspirational figures?
The one I credit most is my Taekwondo teacher, Jean Roland, he was a champion and I admired him a lot. The heroes who inspire me are Jackie Chan, Tony Jaa, Jet Li, Jon Valera and Steve Terada.
A solid list there! So what made you get involved in the movie industry and how did you first get started?
I had an audition for the biggest show at Disneyland in Paris as an artist at the Tarzan Show. At the time I could do only Taekwondo and a back somersault, so this is where everything started. I learned all my basic acrobatics there, then after one year of the show, my friend Jerome Gaspard took got me to audition for the famous French movie “Le Boulet”. (I was only a beginner in the industry, but I was with the Cascade Demo Team for a while and I learned a lot of things about stunts and filming which helped me understand a lot, fast!)
Tarzan eh? Sounds like fun! One of your first stunt roles was in the French action-packed film “District B13”. How did you get involved, what was your experience while making it and can you tell us something interesting that occurred while on set?
On “District B13”, I was one of the Yamakasi stunt doubles for a few scenes. I had the chance to work with David Belle. Ten years later we met up again for a big project with me as stunt coordinator on a web series called “Brutal”.
Right after “Le Boulet” I had this audition for “Unleashed” which I passed. I was so excited; my first action role with one of my idols: Jet Li! Though I was only a thug fighting Jet, I will always remember sitting next to him in the makeup room, I couldn’t speak English, but we looked at each other and he would smile at me. I was so impressed to see the stunt coordinator Yuen Woo-ping and his team working on set -they’re so professional. I was very quiet but observed the way they work and shoot as I’m always interested to learn more about filming, lighting etc.
So, working with Jet Li was just really amazing. I just marvelled at how he never rehearsed those fight sequences in a workshop or gym, but rather on set just before filming, I was so surprised that he could instantly remember everything! Tiger Chen was his stand in, and I found out from him that Jet does it that way so that he has a good, natural fight without anticipating the moves. Later on I met him again on a French TV Show
Nice insights! You later appeared alongside Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin in the films “Ong Bak 2” and “Raging Phoenix”. What was it like working with Tony and Jeeja, any memorable experiences?
Working in Thailand is different than in Europe, the action looks better and more realistic. Working with Tony Jaa was a great experience as he’s very professional and a martial arts expert. In “Raging Phoenix” Jeeja is so cute and adorable as well as being a great martial artist too My most memorable experience was actually having the chance to work with the great Master Panna Rittikrai, (RIP) he was the one who believed in me and took me to Thailand.
We felt that Master Panna had so much more in store, and we’ll come back to him in a moment! A notable role you had was in Jackie Chan’s “Chinese Zodiac“. Tell us how it was making this movie and working with Jackie, any interesting stories that come to mind?
This time it was part luck and decision, actually I was working on a big Bollywood film “Housefull 2” doing workshops etc., somehow something happened and I couldn’t go to India, I was so angry. Then I decided to get a flight ticket to China to see my good friend Alaa Oumouzoume (one of the TRIX team) who recently landed a great part. Once in China, I went straightaway to the studio where Jackie and Alaa were shooting, and stayed there all day, then Jackie came up to me and shook my hand as we got introduced. Every day I was on set amazed by Jackie Chan, he was doing everything; directing, acting, coordinating etc. Anyway, just watching him work was already huge good luck!
Jackie noticed that I was very interested in what was going on. After a week, he took us to his restaurant, and we had a great family dinner, and he related a few stories while seated in his lounge.
Suddenly he turned to me, whilst asking his assistant stunt coordinator in Chinese if I’m any good at fighting. “Yes” he said, then Jackie said “OK take him for the next pirate scene” and Voila! Jackie gave an opportunity to someone like me who was willing to take on the challenge!
That’s a neat story, you’ve got kung fu karma! You later fought against Scott Adkins in Isaac Florentine’s “Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear“. Can you tell us a little about the experience of making this film with Scott and Isaac?
This movie gathered such good people together, Scott is amazing with incredible skills, yet very gentle and Isaac an outstanding director, the action director was Tim Man who’s a good friend, so I was entirely confident that my fight looked great. Isaac from his experience knows how to shoot quickly and to deadlines.
Excellent. As we touched on above, you were also privileged to make several movies with acclaimed Thai action filmmaker Master Panna Rittikrai, specifically “Bangkok Knockout” and his final film, “Vengeance of an Assassin”. What was it like working on these films under the direction of the legendary Master Rittikrai? What special insights would you like to share about Master Rittikrai’s stunts, techniques or about the man himself?
We made these Thai movies like a family with our all heart under the genius of Master Panna Rittikrai who designed the action. Panna had that ability to create new action scenes for every movie and always had great practice workshops before the shoot which ultimately helped make the action look amazing. I was close to him and “Ong Bak” director (Prachya Pinkaew) who brought me to Thailand and always believed in me. Master Panna was a humble man and very clever, he was Thailand’s Jackie Chan and he’ll always be in my heart.
Total respect! So, what kind of training was involved in preparing for these Thai movies; were you asked to do any complex or difficult physical moves, if so what?
For those films I had been training hard and finding new moves whilst combining Panna’s style. On “Bangkok Knockout” I was called in as an additional character after the script was rewritten because Panna believed in me and there was a great, yet dangerous truck scene to shoot. I was confident in their high level of professionalism and that they knew what they were doing. In “Vengeance of an Assassin”, some scenes got cut somehow (maybe due to budget) but I like my short scene, it looks very smooth!
They certainly design some incredible stuff. What’s your favourite fight scene (featuring yourself) in any of your movies?
I’d say, “Dragonwolf” where, in a factory I fought 3 guys and this Russian and I designed those fights.
Cool. Who do you most admire in the martial arts movies?
Jackie Chan; he’s the most talented man in the world that I know; humble, respectful, just being himself.
Which martial artists/actors would you most like to work with?
Actually it was Jackie! and I had the chance to meet and work with him however we always have to keep dreaming beyond! I’d like to work with any artist who has something special to share.
What are your top 10 kung-fu movies?
Cool list! Let’s talk training now if we may. What is a typical workout for you; is it mostly martial arts and flexibility training, do you also combine weights with that?
I combine everything, I like to learn new moves and new exercises that increase my capabilities, I do a little weight training to keep my size, but mostly it’s bodyweight/street-style workouts?
Indeed, keeping it real-world. So, what are your favourite exercises and what specific or special training techniques work for you? Are there a couple pieces of gym/exercise or training equipment that you absolutely love using and would recommend to others?
My favourite exercises are pull ups and push ups combined with street workout techniques. For equipment, boxing gloves and a pull up bar. I really enjoy boxing as it keeps my body in good shape the drills keep my memory sharp.
Nice! What’s the most daring stunt you’ve ever done?
Being under a truck going at 70km while fighting in “Bangkok Knockout”!
Yikes, very Thai! What was your most serious injury and how did you work around it?
I’ve only had one serious injury; my right hand got stabbed all the way through during the movie “Dragonwolf”. I had 13 stitches and half of the movie still to go. I just had to deal with it but it was more mental than physical. Fortunately, my hand recovered 100%, no damage at all just one scar.
It’s that good kung fu karma again. What do you like to do to recover from a very strenuous period of physical activity? What do you recommend for those leading a very physically demanding lifestyle?
I recommend to go on holiday after for a long period of shooting, relaxing the body, swimming, sleeping, also eating healthy food that keeps the body in shape.
Agreed! What kind of healthy foods do you consume?
I follow a very specific diet when I start a project for example; no carbs after 6pm, only chicken, eggs, broccoli, and no soft/soda drinks.
And which foods do you find help you to remain at your most energetic, what’s the best fuel for your workouts?
For me the best foods are bananas, eggs, chicken, salads (eg. broccoli, rocket leaves), and to drink; water or coconut water.
Do you take supplements, what do you recommend?
I do take whey protein before my workout and every morning I take Vitamin C, Omega 3 and calcium
Makes sense. Could you talk us through a typical day in the life of Kazu Patrick Tang?
At 6am I go to the gym then have breakfast. Up until lunch I like to do some test shoots or editing on my camera. After lunch I’ll go to some kind of workshop, whether for fun or for some future project like a short film or a feature movie. Then it’s back home to have dinner with my sweet wife.
Happy days! What’s one geeky thing that people don’t really know about you?
I love cameras! I’m mad about cameras and love to learn about them, how to direct and how to find the best way to shoot action. I love shooting video souvenirs, as I think it’s the best way to capture your memories.
An obsession Jackie also shares! What are some of your other hobbies?
I like to play football, swim, roller skate, practice filming, editing, and playing video games.
Any kind really and I especially love Michael Jackson music.
Favourite movies? (not martial arts)
Most of Leonardo DiCaprio’s (eg.“The Departed”, “Inception”) and Tom Hank’s movies (eg.“Castaway”, “Big”, “Terminal”).
If you could be a superhero, who would you be and what superpower would you most like to possess?
Goku! The superpower would be flying, most of my dreams are about flying, being as free as a bird!
What in life do you really:
- a) like?
I like being with my family.
- b) dislike?
I hate those people who are killing each other.
What would you say is your proudest accomplishment so far?
That I am succeeding in fulfilling my dreams.
What are you really keen to accomplish in the next 5 years?
To direct my own action films.
What advice would you give to martial artists who aspire to use their skills on film and television?
This is a great thing to do, gather all the knowledge you can and add your own style to it.
What special message would you like to share with Kung-fu Kingdom readers and your fans around the world?
Do what you love doing the most in life to the best of your ability and from your heart and you’ll succeed. Be yourself!
If people would like to find out more about you where’s the best place to go?
Thank you Kazu for your kind participation in this interview. We hope it gives our readers a glimpse into the life of Kazu Patrick Tang. We wish you all the very best for your upcoming Thai-inspired action videos and projects. Keep up the great work and keep in touch!
Thank you for your patience, I’m not that great at interviews so I appreciate it very much!
Note: If you get a chance, check out Kazu’s new Thai action movie, “Monkey Twins” which is releasing on 25th February 2016. Here’s a neat little shout out from Kazu with one of the best stunt coordinators in Thailand, Pee Top Phumatfon Wiraphon, with Ao Sumret Muangput and Kazu Patrick Tang who incidentally plays a baddie (again) in this one!
In addition, stay tuned for more coming soon as Kazu also features in “Hard Target 2” with action superstar Scott Adkins!