Action is an easy concept to understand, and it holds the attention as long as it's on screen. One doesn't watch a action movie to grasp some deeper meaning ; the motive is enjoyment, not spiritual enlightenment. When this attitude is taken towards the martial arts films, "Hong Kong", as a place and culture became as a style, devoid of foreignness for the viewers. For people who know and follow this art, it's not just a defensive technique, it's a way of life which makes you a better and strong person. These films are one of the purest genre of action movies. This genre has inspired many boys and girls to take up martial arts as a hobby and making it a global phenomenon.
The BeginningThe first martial arts films out of China did not feature authentic martial arts. It involved artificial elements usually with supernatural abilities such as sword sorcerers, palm powers, and flying. Martial arts films discarded the more stage-driven elements of the earlier films and replacing them with authentic martial arts forms, weapons, and styles, also secured the role of the martial arts instructor as an invaluable member of the production team.
American ImpactMovies have always been an influence on American culture. Martial arts in particular have has an effect on American culture, which in turn has contributed greatly to how we view martial arts in general. Even the language are different, the ideas behind the films may be a lot more familiar than one might realize. The format relies less on literary devices and more on non-stop action.
The 1960's were the golden era of the Hong Kong studios , but distribution was limited to Asian countries. This all changed when Bruce Lee came onto the screen. He had something that others at the time didn't : a personality and charisma that translated well to the screen. Many of his contemporaries at the time were excellent martial artists, but they did not present a compelling persona outside of their skills. Not only did he present a realistic view of how martial arts are done , but defined a whole genre.
Martial Arts In JapanJapanese martial arts films are a direct contrast to the Hong Kong style. The Japanese samurai film brings not only sword fighting and action , but "philosophy, and complex states of mind. Because of the many underlying metaphors, such as falling cherry blossoms symbolizing the suddenness of death , may be instantly recognizable to Japanese audience, but are less than obvious to others. Therefore, it may be no surprise that the samurai film is set slightly more to the side in the public eye than the Hong Kong martial arts movies. That is not to say, however, that these films have not made an impact.
When martial arts were introduced to movies, they didn't just make people want to be superhuman and sign-up for classes ; they revolutionized the concept of fighting. For instance, until the 1970's fights were fought with the hands. If one used their feet , then they were considered a crybaby. Now, if one just started swinging they would look clumsy and lacking in skill (not including boxing). The full body is used to fight, and the victor uses theirs more efficiently.
For audiences, violence has always been a part of children film and television programming. Nowadays , with the inclusion of martial arts and a little comedy films such as Kung-Fu Panda , showcase actual fighting to younger viewers. Another example is the movie Karate-Kid. A classic tale of the underdog rising above his enemies.
In today's movies, we see some of our favorite actors being given pre-production training in martial arts and the type of choreography that you would only ever have seen used with someone like Jackie Chan or Jet Li in the past. But movies now rely so much on special effects and very little martial artists. That's what the movies are missing these days. Though there are few hopeful movies like 'Ip Man.'
Mega trendsetters like Matrix series has directly contributed to the entire video game industry, because of martial arts. All of this would not have been possible , if a few people in the begining, had not given the world , a taste of how martial arts can really be. Finally, I'd like to conclude with a quote from Bruce Lee:
"The martial arts are ultimately self-knowledge. A punch or a kick is not to knock the hell out of the guy in front, but to knock the hell out of your ego, your fear, or your hang-ups."