Ever since martial arts films were created, there’s always been the wise master passing on his knowledge to a younger student. Some masters took on the role willingly while others required quite a bit of convincing. The upcoming release for Kickboxer: Vengeance provided me with the perfect opportunity to look back at some of the best examples of this dynamic and how it works so well.
Drunken Master (Wong Fei-Hung and Beggar So)
For me, this one will always be a classic. While Jackie took the Wong Fei-Hung character to new territory in the film, it’s the iconic training sequences and Yuen Siu-tien’s portrayal of the tricky beggar that made the film really click. Add in some excellent back and forth dialogue during the final fight and you’ll see exactly why these two get along so well.
The Karate Kid (Daniel and Mr. Miyagi)
As soon as you read the title to this article, I’m sure you thought about this movie, and for good reason. Mr. Miyagi was such a quirky and unique character that you can’t help but love him. He might seem like a grumpy old man when Daniel first meets him and his teaching methods are pretty unorthodox, but he’s actually providing Daniel with some of the most meaningful lessons about martial arts. Even though Daniel is eager to become a martial arts master, he’s the perfect vessel for the ideals and techniques that Miyagi wants to instill in future generations.
Mad Monkey Kung Fu ( Monkey and Master Chen)
There have been a lot of crazy masters and styles in martial arts films over the years, but Mad Monkey Kung Fu has a certain charm that makes it memorable even after all these years. From the intense training sequences to the deep layer of characterization for both Master Chen and Monkey, everything helped you understand what was being formed from this relationship.
The Forbidden Kingdom ( Jason with Lu Yan and the Silent Monk)
What’s better than having one master? Having two of them, of course! While the premise of the film didn’t resonate with everyone, Jason Tripitikas really did live out the dream when he was taken under the wing of both the drunken beggar Lu Yan as well as the Monkey King himself. The masters may not have always seen eye to eye, but they instilled their wisdom and skill through a variety of training techniques that helped Jason become a warrior by the end of the film.
Kickboxer (Kurt Sloan and Xian Chow)
Of course, the whole reason why this idea came to life was because of the fact that Kickboxer: Vengeance is coming out this Friday. While it still hasn’t been determined whether or not this remake will have the same student/master relation that the original had, very few movies could replicate. The training sequences were second to none as we watched Sloan struggle through some of the most brutal challenges anyone has been forced to face. Of course, it’s not just about the physical training. Kurt Sloan goes through a spiritual journey as well to become the warrior at the end of the film and Chow is the one who helped him reach that point.
So there you have it! This is my list for the top 5 student/master combinations in cinema today. Of course, it was tremendously difficult to narrow such a huge category down to just 5 and everyone has their favorites as well. Did your favorite combo make the list? If not, let me know in the comments below!