Hwang Jang Lee

Although Hwang Jang Lee is Korean by birth he was actually born in a small village on the outskirts of Osaka in Japan on December 21, 1944. Hwang studied Taekwondo and boxing from an early age against his parents will and during the seventies acted as martial arts coach to Korean troops stationed in Vietnam.

During his tour of duty as a martial arts instructor in Vietnam a South Vietnamese knife expert challenged him. The challenge was over 30 seconds later. Hwang was the clear winner the opponent laid dead killed by a well-executed round kick to the head.

In 1976, he was approached in Korea by producer and director Ng See Yuen to play the villainous Silver Fox in “Secret Rivals” along with Wang Tao and John Liu this film is a classic it was the first Bootmaster movie meaning that instead of virtually all punching it was all kicking instead. The film was a surprise hit and the final fight is amazing with all three leads giving their all. Hwang instantly became hot property. The combination between Hwang Jang Lee, John Liu and Wang Tao led to a sequel The Secret Rivals 2 and the stunning Snuff Bottle Connection kungfu classic all made at Seasonal Films.

He relocated to Taiwan and in 1978 he appeared in the ground-breaking movies “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” and “Drunken Master I”, directed by legendary choreographer Yuen Woo Ping and also starring Jackie Chan and Simon Yuen (Yuen Siu Tien). The film rejuvenated Hong Kong cinema’s somewhat stagnant kung fu genre and proved a huge box-office success with Drunken Master taking in over 8 million hk dollars which was a lot of money at that time for a kungfu movie, it smashed all box office records even the ones set by Bruce Lee. A story goes that he accidentally broke one of Jackie’s front teeth while filming “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow”.

Numerous lead performances as thugs and heavies followed most notably in Dance of the drunk mantis (1979) (the real followup to the first Drunken Master movie with Yuen Shun Yi taking Jackie Chan’s place in the movie with all other cast members remaining on the set. He then starred in the amazing Hell’s wind staff (1979) where Hwang got to show of his stunning skill when it comes to staff fighting.

Hwang’s directorial debut came with “Hitman in the Hand of Buddah” in which he for one of only 3 times stars as the good guy. It was received well although it was nowhere near the excellent performance he had shown in Drunken Master I and Snake in the eagle’s shadow. What’s sad is that Hwang Jang Lee only shows his maximum potential in only a few movies mainly the ones he made at Seasonal Films.

He also made movies with Sammo Hung in “Where’s Officer Tuba” and “Millionares Express” and naturally he played the bad guy. The last movie Hwang Jang Lee made was Street Warriors (Magnificent Warrior) in 1990. Hwang Jang Lee has now retired from the film industry. He lives in South Korea where he has been running both Golf Tee Company and a bodyguard company.

But his legacy still lives on. The instant Hwang Jang Lee shows up on the screen you know it’s going to be a good fight. He is often credited as Huong Cheng-Li or Wong Cheng Lee in some movies. Hwang is probably the most awesome kicker ever, with his patented tripple jump kick and bicycle kick.

Hwang Jang Lee also did a taekwondo instruction film directed and produced by NG See Yuen and Roy Horan and called “The art of high impact kicking”, where Hwang demonstrates over 200 kicks. Starting with the eight elementary kicks, which when multiplied with the spinning motion of the body form the 16 basic kicks, Hwang then progresses onto forward and rear leg attacks, advancing and retreating motions and the four primary footwork patterns; stepping, sliding, skipping and jumping.

For the first time Hwang reveals the little-known concepts of anatomical physics essential for the generation of speed and power, building an in-depth picture of the combinations useful in actual combat situations. Entertaining as well as innovative and informative, “The Art of High-Impact Kicking” is an eye-opener for those who always thought powerful martial arts scenes were all down to wire work and fancy camera angles.