Up until the mid to late 70s, exposure to marital arts onscreen was generally through bada** films starring the legendary Bruce Lee or terribly dubbed Hong Kong flicks on the boob tube. But by the ‘80s, movie stars like the one and onlyChuck Norris as well as bodybuilding champion Jean-Claude Van Damme brought different forms to the big screen.
This paved the way for Asian stars like the famedJackie Chan and Jet Li to make a splash in the ‘90s and beyond.
These days, martial art cinema is a major staple of our streaming diet. Between the intense hand-to-hand combat, the heartwarming storylines, and watching bullies fly through the air from a single kick - it’s easy to see why we love fighting movies so much.
And despite what many non-martial-arts-movie fans believe, these beloved action-packed films are far more diverse than screams and flying kicks. These flicks can span every possible genre and employ a myriad of unbelievable techniques involving wires and camera rigs as well as months and months of practice.
You see, when we watch a good martial arts film, we’re not just watching the first take -- we’re actually witnessing something as choreographed as Beyoncé doin’ her thang on stage when she performs. Everything has to go right, and where if something super small goes wrong, things could get very, well…ugly.
Basically, what we’re trying to say here is that we love a good martial arts movie because we can really see the passion, dedication, and hard work that goes into every take.
SO, to show our love for martial art cinema and all its glory, we put together this post to tell you about some of the most legendary self-defense training dojos --movie style.
To be clear, a dojo has nothing to do with Mojo Jojo, arch-nemesis of Townsville’s three lab-made superpowered sisters, but it is a place where fighting takes place.
And to answer your question (we know you’re thinking it) -- no, it’s not the kind of fighting that involves lasers and explosions commonly seen in the popular cartoon. And certainly not pillows (pillow fight, anyone?). You see, a dojo is a martial arts training center. It’s where aspiring students work really hard to learn and eventually master martial arts.
That said, while the word does refer to a practice area, dojo is actually made up of twoJapanese kanji(a system of symbols that represent words or ideas) that shed light on a greater purpose for karate.
It’s the term “DO” that forms the first character in dojo (obvi), which can be translated as way, path, or road - essentially a route to get where you want to go. In the case of karate, we want to head towards a stronger version of ourselves and a better understanding of the world around us. We also look for a deeper connection to the way of nature and/or the ideal way to live our lives.
Then, we have the second word, “JO,” which simply meansplace. So, if we put it all together, dojo means “way place,” referring to a special area where we seek understanding by practicing our chosen art.
Got it? OK, great! Moving on.
Now that we’re all on the same page and understand exactly what a dojo is, let’s talk about a few of the best self-defense training dojos ever seen on the big screen, shall we?
Not including Bruce Lee on this list would be silly. While a lot of fans might argue thatFist of Fury orThe Chinese Connection should be the choice, we just can’tnotchooseWay Of The Dragon.
Is it the greatest story that’s ever been told? No. But does it feature Bruce Lee destroying a bunch of thugs? Yes. And is Chuck Norris in it? You betcha. Need we say more?
Seeing as Bruce Lee was trained by the legendaryIP Man, you know his dojos’ gotta be good!
Not every dojo in cinematic history is for pumped fighters who are hardcore to the max. Although we aren’t opposed to some total tough cookies who know how torock a yellow jumpsuit (which can be seriously hard to pull off).
Some karate-lovers are morelovable goofball thandeadly weapon. But hey, loving karate is for everyone. So, ifJohnny Karate wants to sing songs about friendship and the importance of being yourself, we are absolutely here for it.
Like we said, karate is for everyone. Maybe the real treasure is the friendships we built along the way? Totally. But we also dig beating the bad guy with the help of the untraditional dojo ofMr. Miyagi’s Car Detailing. When is this dojo taking in new students? Because we want in.
Another unconventional dojo that we would definitely at least audit a class isRex Kwon Do. Is this dojo about fighting fairly? Mmmm, probably not. But do we want to see that brave bandana fashion moment in person? Heck yes. Road trip to Idaho, anyone?
OK, so maybe this one is not a real dojo, but we still think it’s pretty great to think about. In a hilarious episode of what was hands-down the best sitcom of all time, featuring a group of friends, our favorite awkward nerd tells his pals that self-defense is essentially useless withoutUnagi, a state of total awareness.
Why is this so funny, you ask? Well, for many reasons, but probably more so due to the fact that “Unagi” actually refers to a type ofsushi and has nothing to do with karate…
While the mistake caused our beloved nerd quite a bit of ridicule (rightfully, so), fans of the show did what they do best and made a meme out of it. Which then led us to create this totally awesomeUnagi Dojo tee. You’re welcome.
Here atFamous In Real Life, we believe life’s way too short to wear boring clothes. That’s why we make awesomely unique apparel with character.