Choreography 101: Flips Hurt the Fight


by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

I don’t know when this trend started, but every movie now has characters who know Parkour.  As Captain America and the Transformers have demonstrated, somehow Parkour is very easy to learn.  It CAN be used effectively, and I’m here to tell everyone how to use this dangerous tool.

People doing aerials: I’m all for that.  Over the last year, I’ve been learning more acrobatics to increase my falling dynamic.  But, sometimes Parkour is used so much that it stops becoming special.  When you give away the kitchen sink in the first scene, the character’s maneuvers become less special.  A good example is Captain America in The Winter Soldier.  We see what he is capable in the first ten minutes of the fight, so there are no surprises in the rest of the film.  Every time I watch Police Story 2, I’m blown away by the showdown in the park.  Jackie Chan is fast, but this might be some of his fastest choreography.  When Chan uses the pipe, he is quick.  I would have loved to see more diversity instead of the occasional flip.  If you want to talk about realistic, then let’s discuss Parkour’s biggest problem.

            -Watch closely, these are TRAINED warriors

How many times have you seen someone flip, and their opponent just watches them?  Why doesn’t the opponent just kick the flipper in the face?  It’s such a boneheaded choreography mistake that upsets me not only as a martial artist, but also as an action fan.  I want to be in the universe, but if you keep having choreography errors where one just watches the other guy do something cool, then I’m going to lose interest.  “Daredevil” the show is guilty of what I just described.  The fight scene between Nobu the ninja and Daredevil was a fight between two great martial artists.  Yet the fight suffers at the hands of Parkour.  Several times Daredevil throws a corkscrew kick or a “high risk” move, and the NINJA just stands and takes it.  Now, I know if you can get the move off then the speed of the flip is fast, but the ninja’s reflexes should be too.  It would have been great to see Daredevil paying for doing these childish moves on him.  Instead, they both do childish moves!

Flipping makes no sense when someone is critically injured.  Unless you are a superhuman, “Daredevil” the show is about an ordinary human (with insane athleticism).  So how is a man, whose body is downright shredded, able to still do kip ups and handsprings?  He is bleeding a lot, AND he is injured in vital areas, which should prevent him from moving that way.  In the final fight of Romeo Must Die, Jet Li’s fists are burnt.  Then, the villain peels flesh from his hands.  Li is not able to use his hands for most the fight, and he has to protect his hands.  This told a story.  Daredevil didn’t do any of that.  The fight scene could have showed Daredevil understanding that his battles have to be shorter.  Otherwise, his injuries will catch up to him one day.

The concept of involving gymnastics in a fight scene is exciting.  Jackie Chan used them for falls and Tony Jaa used them to showcase his skills.  Which one is right?  Both are; they just have to be used in the right way.  I think fight scenes fall flat when they try to be flashy.  When you are just showing moves on the screen that don’t mean anything and do not advance the story, then this is how you lose your audience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s