Profile of John Liu

Name: John Liu/Liu Chung-Liang
Date of Birth: 20th May 1944
Birth Sign: Taurus/Chinese Year of the Monkey
Country: Taiwan

Training Background

Initially learning kung fu from his grandfather, John Liu became a student of “Flash Legs” Tan Tao Liang, learning the art of taekwondo. Liu later developed his own martial arts system, Zen Kwan Do, allegedly based on Lau Gar kung fu and taekwondo techniques. John Liu is best known for his flexibility and kicking. His trademark moves includes his devastating axe kick, leg holding, and his flying sidekick.

John Liu vs. Roger Paschy in Zen Kwun Do Strikes in Paris


Born in Taiwan in 1944 John Liu Chung-Liang ranks alongside Hwang Jang Lee, Tan Tao Liang and Casanova Wong, as one of the “super kickers” of 1970’s kung fu films.

As a child he learned Chinese martial arts from his grandfather. After living in Hong Kong for a few years, Liu and his mother returned to Taiwan in the 1960s. It was in Taiwan that John Liu first met Tan Tao Liang who was teaching taekwondo at a University. Master Tan taught Liu in exchange for him doing chores such as cooking and laundry. Feeling Liu lacked flexibility, so Tan put him through a rigorous training regime that eventually gave Liu his incredible kicking skills.

A YouTube tribute to the old school kung fu kickers Tan Tao Liang, Sun Chien, John Liu, Casanova Wong and Hwang Jang Lee.

Film Career

In 1972, with Bruce Lee’s films revitalising martial arts cinema, John Liu’s skills earned him a small role in the Taiwanese film “The Great Boxer”. Further film parts in the films “Los Kalatrava Contra el Imperio del Karate” and “The Invincible Kung Fu Trio” brought him to the attention of director and producer Ng-See Yuen. Casting Liu alongside Hwang Jang Lee in 1976’s “Secret Rivals”, the film was a breakout hit for Asian action films featuring “super kickers” such as John Liu, Don Wong Tao and Hwang Jang Lee. Ng-See Yuen would later go on to produce Jackie Chan’s landmark “kung fu comedies” “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” and “Drunken Master”.

The success of “Secret Rivals” saw Liu re-teamed with Hwang Jang Lee for “Secret Rivals II” and “Snuff Bottle Connection”. Liu’s good looks, charismatic persona, and incredible flexibility helped propel him to fame.

In 1981, Liu set up his own production company, eventually settling in Paris with his wife Marion Blank and daughter Natasha, where he successfully established his Zen Kwan Do school. Turning writer, director and producer, Liu starred in “Zen Kwan Do Strikes In Paris”, with his wife having an executive producer credit, and his young daughter even making a cameo appearance.

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After several box-office flops, Liu retired from films in 1982 and concentrated on growing his Zen Kwan Do association across Europe.

Although in his fifties, Liu came out of retirement to play a villain in 1998’s “Trinity Goes East”, and demonstrated that he had lost none of his panache when it came to the fights.

His most recent film appearance was in an Italian comedy film “Any Reason Not to Marry?” in 2006.

Did you know?

  • John Liu’s mother introduced him to Tan Tao Liang.
  • Tan Tao Liang thought John Liu’s flexibility was so poor, he made him do the splits by resting each foot on two piles of bricks!
  • According to Tan Tao Liang, it took John Liu two years of excruciating stretching to achieve the splits.
  • Liu came up with the name of his art “Zen Kwan Do” from kung fu Master Liu Zen and taekwondo.
  • In 1967, Liu became an IKU karate champion.
  • In 1976, Liu took part in an exhibition bout against karate legend Chuck Norris. The bout was decided by who got the loudest cheers for the best fighter from the audience. Legend has it that Liu won!
  • John Liu’s current whereabouts are unknown, although his Zen Kwan Do association is still popular in France and across Europe.

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2006Any Reason Not to Marry?Street vendor
1998Trinity Goes EastPaschy
1982Dragon BloodLui
1982In the Claws of the CIA / Sha Shou YingJohn Liu & James Liu
1981Secret Rivals 3Northern Kick
1981Struggle Through DeathKang
1981The New South Hand Blows, North Kick Blows Northern Kick Shao
1981Zen Kwan Do Strikes ParisChung-Liang Liu
1979The Dragon, the Hero
1979Kung-Fu CommandosTing Kan Sher
1979Kung fu AceKao Che
1979Death Duel of Kung FuChung-Liang Liu
1978Renegade MonkChu Fei Lin
1978Blade of Fury
1977Wu Tang Magic Kick / Shen TuiMar Tien-Liang
1977Snuff Bottle Connection
1977The Invincible ArmourChow Lu Fung
1977Secret Rivals 2Shao Yi-Fei
1977The Instant Kung Fu ManFu Sing
1976The Secret Rivals: Enter the Silver FoxShao Yi-Fei
1974The Invincible Kung Fu TrioLu A-Cai
1974Los Kalatrava Contra el Imperio del KarateMaestro de k‡rate
1972The Great Boxer
Glen Stanway

Influenced by the movies of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, Glen began training in martial arts and gymnastics in 1995. He made his first of many visits to Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 to learn Chin Woo kung fu under the supervision of Master Teng Wie Yoo. Glen is the author of "The Art of Coaching" and "Fearless The Story of Chin Woo Kung Fu", and runs a kung fu & kickboxing school in Hertfordshire, England.

  1. In the movie “Invincible Armour”, what is the name of that music that plays when John Liu’s character (Chow Lui Fong) starts to fight Hwang Jang Lee in the closing fight scene? The music is like his hero music.


  3. Yes he is, he resides in Vietnam with his wife and daughter…….unfortunately, the rigorous stretching through training and execution, of those amazing kicks, took its toll. He recently had to undergo operations on both legs, and is currently recuperating.

  4. He is awesome, great legwork! Does anyone have an update on Kim Chung Pak? Only appeared in a few movies, but, another super kicker! Thanks

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