Action star Donnie Yen initially started training in martial arts under the guidance of his mother, the renowned wushu coach Bow Sim Mark. As a teenager, his mother sent Donnie to train with the world-famous Beijing Wushu Team. His tournament-winning skills came to the attention of the legendary action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping and in 1984, Donnie made his feature film lead debut in “Drunken Tai Chi”.
Roles in films such as “Tiger Cage”, “Once Upon a Time in China II”, and “Iron Monkey” led to Donnie becoming one of the most popular action actors in the Hong Kong entertainment industry throughout the 1990’s.
His status grew not only as an actor but also as a fight choreographer in his own right. His films “Dragon Tiger Gate”, “SPL/Kill Zone”, “Flash Point” and “Ip Man” elevated him to becoming one of Asia’s biggest box office stars. With prominent roles in Vin Diesel’s “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, his growing worldwide popularity is assured.
Here we take a look at just ten of Donnie’s best fight scenes from his illustrious career! in descending order…
- “Ip Man 2” (2010) – Donnie Yen vs Darren Shahlavi
- “Tiger Cage 2” (1990) – Donnie Yen vs John Salvitti
- “Ip Man 3” (2015) – Donnie Yen vs Max Zhang Jin
- “Once Upon a Time in China 2” (1992) – Donnie Yen vs Jet Li
- “Hero” (2002) – Donnie Yen vs Jet Li
- “Iron Monkey” (1993) – Donnie Yen vs Shaolin Disciples
- “In the Line of Duty 4” (1989) – Donnie Yen vs Michael Woods
- “Ip Man” (2008) – 10 Man Fight
- “Sha Po Lang/Kill Zone” (2005) – Donnie Yen vs Jacky Wu Jing
- “Flash Point” (2007) – Donnie Yen vs Collin Chou
Choreographer Sammo Hung had his work cut out to equal or top his action direction in the first movie. For the sequel, Sammo himself featured as a martial arts master. His character’s fate gave Donnie Yen’s final fight with the villain Twister, played by British martial arts actor, Darren Shahlavi (RIP) an extra emotional edge.
John Salvitti made such a great impact with his screen fighting skills in his friend Donnie Yen’s “In the Line of Duty 4”, that he was invited back for more! Salvitti had originally turned down the opportunity to work on the first Tiger Cage movie, but Donnie must have been glad he said yes to this one! Their epic katana duel is one of the standout fights of the film!
For the third film in the series, the man who originally started Donnie Yen’s career on the big screen, Yuen Woo-ping took over the action-directing duties. Surely, he couldn’t equal what had gone before, right? Wrong! For the film’s finale between the two rival Wing Chun masters, we get to see the long, medium and close range applications of this effective fighting art through the stunning performances of the two stars, Donnie Yen and Max Zhang Jin.
The dream team of Donnie Yen and fellow action superstar Jet Li was first made a reality in “Once Upon a Time in China II”. Donnie sets the tone by using a wet cloth as a powerful and devastating weapon before launching into a breath-taking duel with Jet Li using bamboo cudgels. Two of the best in the business perform exquisite wushu techniques and postures with incredible speed and coordination!
Director Zhang Yimou secured the talents of not one but two wuxia movie masters when he put Donnie Yen and Jet Li together in “Hero”. Their wushu skills with the spear and straight sword have never looked more beautiful than in their wonderfully filmed duel here in the rain.
For this Chinese “Robin Hood” story, Donnie Yen played the real-life Hung Gar Master and father to Wong Fei-hung, Wong Kei-ying. Although the choreography uses a lot of wire-enhancement, there is no denying the magnificence of Donnie Yen’s fighting skills, especially his amazing kicking ability, exemplified in his showdown with the villainous, rogue Shaolin monks!
For the final iconic, Street Fighter-style rooftop battle in this movie Donnie Yen called on his friend and martial artist, Michael Woods. Hong Kong airport provides a dramatic backdrop as the muscle-bound Woods proves to be a formidable foe for Donnie in this spectacular and bruising fist fight!
In probably his defining role as an actor, Donnie played the young Wing Chun Master Ip Man. The first Ip Man movie has become a firm fan favourite spawning two successful sequels and even the possibility of a further movie. One of the most talked about scenes from the film is when Donnie wastes no time agreeing to fighting a group of black belt karatekas individually, but elects to take on all ten of them at once! The choreography is blisteringly fast and the pummelling outbursts brutal, using crisp Wing Chun techniques to brilliant effect!
One of the “next generation” of Asian action stars, Jacky Wu Jing proved to be a menacing and deadly foe for Donnie Yen in this cops and gangsters action thriller. Although Donnie also has a great standout fight with action veteran Sammo Hung, the incredible alley way fight using a baton and a long knife beats it for it’s incredible intensity, speed and razor-sharp choreography!
Donnie Yen took his choreography to a new level in “Flash Point”, setting a new benchmark for contemporary martial arts screen fighting. His end fight with Collin Chou was one of his best in recent years and features a sublime mix of traditional Chinese martial arts techniques, MMA-style takedowns, submission holds and ultra-cool, showy punching and kicking skills. The rhythm and pace of the fight are perfect and make this scene a joy to watch from beginning to end.