With the release of Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear just around the corner we’ve been venturing further into Ninja-territory with a great interview with none other than the film’s fight choreographer Tim Man, who plays Myat, henchman to the evil drugs cartel boss, Goro. (In case you missed it, see our interview with action actor and martial artist Jawed El Berni who plays the character Lucas in Ninja II.)
Now here’s an adept martial artist, stuntman and actor that is well versed in the more extreme art of “tricking”. Modest and unassuming, Tim Man has yet wowed people around the world with his energetic, captivating and creative style, kicking combinations and incredible all-round gymnastic and acrobatic agility. Nailing move after move, he delivers awesome manoeuvres with speed, precision and a finesse bordering on fantasy, making it appear effortless in the process! From having worked on movies such as Ong Bak II, with the likes of Tony Jaa, to Mortal Kombat Legacy, Kill ‘Em All, Bangkok Adrenalin, Street fighter – Legend of Chun Li and so much more, we felt it was time to pull a few moves of our own and get the lowdown on the ‘human spring’ who seems as comfortable in the air as most people do on the ground! Now, here is Tim Man…
Hi Tim, wonderful to talk with you!
Hi Raj, thanks, same here!
So, as usual, if we could get a little about your background: When were you born? Where are you from originally?
I was born on the 22nd of November, 1979. My father is from Hong Kong, my mother is Swedish. I was born in the city of Malmo in the south of Sweden.
What is your height and weight?
I’m 1.65m / 5’4″ tall and weigh 65-70kg / 10-11st
How did you first get started in the martial arts? How old were you?
I started at six years old. I trained in judo and jujitsu at the time because there weren’t really any other classes as such.
I had always watched my dad’s Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies. At eight years old I learned Viet Vo Dao from a Vietnamese teacher called Tha Truong Duong that had come to Sweden. I learned his family style called Binh Dinh which is really a mix of karate and wu-shu but perhaps not quite as fluid, his family style includes the healing and medicine arts. Anyhow, I think all martial arts are really the same just with slight variations according to culture. The family style I learned was very much weapons and kicks based. I used to do 500 kicks for each leg in daily training! He was also a taekwondo instructor so I learned that from him at the same time. So basically I trained really hard from since I was a kid and haven’t stopped until now! I also went to Korea to train in taekwondo (I’m a 2nd Dan) and I did some wu-shu and boxing.
Who was your inspiration to get into extreme tricking and stunts to this level, it’s quite specialised isn’t it?
Well, actually, it was a website called Bilang.com which started in 1999, they put some tricking videos samplers there and I kept on watching them and I started to emulate the moves that I saw like butterfly twists and aerials I practiced them myself and with friends.
How did you originally become involved in making martial arts films?
I always did martial arts shows, travelled around Scandinavia doing our performances, and one day someone from TV asked if I wouldn’t mind being in a musical in the background doing some of my moves. Once there I met a stunt co-ordinator who suggested I do stunts. I worked under him as an apprentice and stayed with him for 18 months working full time. In Sweden however, you see, they don’t do martial arts movies, the stuff I wanted to do! When I saw the movie Ong Bak I was determined to go to Thailand and work with Tony Jaa on Ong Bak 2! I didn’t know anything about Thailand. I met John Foo over there (he had a fight scene with Jaa in Tom Yum Goong) we recognised each other from our videos posted on Bilang, so that was cool! You know, everyone wanted to be in Ong Bak 2 and wanted to work with Tony Jaa! Everyone was training together, they were fun times.
How was it working with Tony Jaa?
He was really nice to everyone when shooting, though a little stressed at that time. There was Tony was going through the castings and he said to me, “lets practice”! I’ve got to say he really was kicking hard as hell, he kicks hard! He has these big bones and when you see him in person it’s physically amazing what he can do with the high somersaults and so on.
So, how did you get involved in Ninja II?
I received an email after I was recommended to director Isaac Florentine then I went out to Thailand.
What did you have to bring to the choreography for Ninja II then?
I spoke with Isaac about the fighting style wanted, it was to be a style influenced by Japanese martial arts, not so strict and open for a mix between various styles, hard hitting, dynamic and brutal. The result brought back that 80’s style feeling, so that’s what I designed.
For Ninja II, you’re the fight choreographer and also fight against Scott Adkins’ character Casey Bowman, do you have a preference for one role over the other?
Well, I just had a small part, but my fight with Scott in Ninja II was brutal!
Describe your experience working with:
He’s great guy, easy to work with, super talented, just show him a move once or twice and he’s got it down! He has a lot of experience in movies, That was my first time working with him and I hope to work with him again! We just talked about everything from martial arts to his role in The Expendables working with Sylvester Stallone. Really, he’s a down to earth guy and he treats everyone as equals.
He has got to be the most humble actor ever! He’s always so polite and is always grateful for everything. He’s an experienced action actor too that was the great thing about Ninja II, everyone knows martial arts AND screen fighting.
A sheer joy! He’s the best, action director ever! He knows everything – Usually you end-up arguing with a Western director, but with Isaac, he was very clear about what we were going to do. Our thinking was exactly on the same wavelength so we could really understand each other well!
The challenge was more the creative aspect of the fight scenes which I designed together with a small, tight but great team consisting of Brahim, Phet and Arm. We’ve been working together so much that when it’s time to shoot on set, we hardly even need to speak with each other, sometimes I just need to give a look, our synergy is that good.
What one interesting, or funny situation happened on the set of the making of Ninja II?
Funny thing, all the cast had pads to protect them when fighting or taking a fall, in the last fight against Scott, I had a tight t-shirt and fairly tight pants, so there wasn’t really anywhere for me to put any protective plates –I guess people don’t think I need protecting because I’m the guy telling everyone else what to do! It was a tough workout, but worth it in the end.
What was your favourite fight scene in the film?
I’d say the showdown between Scott and Kane, the bar scene was also really good.
As well as Ninja II and Ong Bak 2 you’ve also done work as a stuntman, on “Raging Phoenix”, “Bangkok Adrenaline”, and “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”. What sort of person is ideally suited for stunt work?
Well, first, you really need to be hardworking and on top of your game. Be the best you can be! There are so many good performers out there that it might be hard getting into the industry. You have to bring something unique. You need to have courage, just go where the opportunities are, you’ve got nothing to lose!
Who else in the field would you look forward to work with?
I’d love to work with Donnie Yen, Yuen Woo-ping, JJ Perry and Sammo Hung.
What are your all time favourite top ten martial arts movies?
Tough question! Well, I love all Bruce Lee’s movies, but I’ll say: Enter The Dragon, The Big Boss, Drunken Master, SPL, Ip Man, Flash Point, Ong Bak, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Tai Chi Master and Bloodsport.
What kind of training do you do these days?
I train a lot, right now. Three times a day, about six hours in all. In the morning I practice kicking, do some martial-arts based stunt-training, choreography flips, and trying new moves. I also do strength training, and attend some kind of martial arts class more now revolving around submission wrestling with a mix of Brazilian jujitsu. Not that I’m training to enter the MMA cage, but to improve my skills. I like it when I can mix up all varieties together with grappling and rolling around on the floor too. So ground combat as well as the usual upright version.
Do you do weight training too?
Yes, in the gym, old school style, working on my legs, and well, everything really.
What’s been the most demanding piece of choreography that you’ve put to film so far?
Well, one take on Ninja, where Scott’s character, Casey, enters the dojo: everyone had to move in a certain way, as there were quite a few people on camera. It was one take only, and in those long shots everyone had to be ready, each person had to be doing something instead of looking like they’re waiting for the camera!
Aren’t all the possible movements that can be done by a human body exhausted by now?
Well, you see you can bring more to any move! You can try it slightly differently, with a grab here or a twist or a spin there. You can always be creative playing with and putting new combinations together. If you can do three kicks in the air before landing, well, how about five and spinning in the air?
What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had, how did you work around it?
It would have to be the broken ankle I sustained on Raging Phoenix. I was out for two months, the doctor said I’d probably not walk again. I did a lot of strengthening exercises, in the end I didn’t even need surgery, I got back on form pretty quickly.
What’s the best way to recuperate after a strenuous, physically challenging day for you?
Watch movies, spend time with family, just relax. I have a two year old daughter, keeps me busy…
What achievement are you particularly proud about so far?
I’m proud of the movies I’ve done and of Ninja II because there were only four of us in the stunt team, normally it’s a bigger team.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Hopefully action directing.
What advice would you give to aspiring martial art filmmakers?
I’d say study and watch all the Hong Kong movies the old movies, be aware of the camera angles and when doing fight scenes don’t rush it. It takes a lot of time, take the time to get prepared, have your plans and your training room to work it all out.
What’s one geeky thing about you that not many people know?
(Laughs) I’m all geeky!
Hard rock, Metallica, Iron Maiden, a mix of stuff.
What do you tell yourself when you need an injection boost of motivation?
Just do it!
What are your three main values what kind of warrior code do you live by?
- Be humble
- Be open minded
What special message do you have for Kung-fu Kingdom readers and your fans following you around the world?
Believe in yourself, always keep an open mind and when opportunity comes just take it and don’t think too much.
What warrior-wisdom quote would you really like to share right now?
Be like water my friend…
What’s the best way for readers to find out more about you?
Visit my website: www.mastunts.com
How has your first interview with Kung-fu Kingdom (KFK) for you?
Really interesting actually, you went into some new things I wasn’t asked about before so it’s been great talking with you.
Well, Tim, we’d like to thank you very much for taking the time out to speak with us and share these riveting insights from the stunt world, we really appreciate it! We wish you the very best of luck with Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear. I’m sure there are countless many waiting to see the role you played fighting Scott Adkins as well as seeing the rest of the exciting fight scenes you’ve put together for the movie. Surely they’ll be on the edge of their seats, literally!
Thanks a lot Raj.
Thanks Tim, keep in touch.
Check out a couple of Tim’s fantastic videos here: