Historical Footage of Chinese Martial Arts

The YouTube Channel “Victorian & Edwardian Martial & Exercise Films” has some interesting old black and white film of Chinese martial arts performances. The channel “displays films and film segments that were created at the beginning of film making in the 19th Century through to the first half of the 20th century in relation to martial art and exercise.”

Film Release Date: 1936 Locations: Shantung & Nanking – China Description: These two pieces of martial art footage come from an amateur travelogue film that was shot by British writer Lady Dorothea Hosie, while researching her book Brave New China (1938). The footage showing the male practitioner teaching a form to a group of children was filmed in Shantung and the female practitioner’s form performance was filmed in Nanking.

“Film date: 1924 – 1927 These snippets of Chinese martial art footage were part of film footage shot by Sidney D. Gamble. Between 1924-1927, Sidney D. Gamble made three trips to Miao Feng Shan (Marvellous Peak Mountain), the site of a Daoist temple that was located on a hill about 25 miles northwest of Beijing.”

“Film Date: 13-06-1918 Location: Etaples area (France) – Western Front Description: These Chinese martial art kicking exercises were part of a show put on by the Chinese Labour Corps. This upload includes a wide angle take and a slow-motion wide angle take.”

“Film Release Date: 1938 Location: Beijing (Peking) – China Description: This rare early colour footage of Chinese martial arts was shot in Beijing (Peking), and is part of a 15-minute colour film that shows street scenes, Forbidden City, Summer and Winter palaces. The martial footage takes place in what is described in the film notes as “a drama school where children practice martial arts and dance routines.” The original title board for this piece film does say Drama School.”

Film release date: 1939. The actual footage may have been filmed a few years earlier. Location: Tai Miao- Beijing- China This upload includes a slow-motion take. Description: Description: This footage shows two martial arts practitioners performing sword forms at Tai Miao (Forbidden City). The footage is part of a film showing 1930s Beijing (Peking) that was shot by a British scholar studying in China. His camera captures the many aspects of 1930’s Peking: trams jostling with camels and motorcars, a herd of sheep by the Qianmen gate, lantern shops outside the Forbidden City and street markets where vendors peddle hot snacks and acrobats perform.
Original Title: “New Scientific Chinese Game” (out-takes) * Item Title: Fox Movietone News Story 23-235 Film Date: 03-08-1934 Location: Nanjing Shi (China) Description: Demonstrations of T’ai chi ch’uan, using a special apparatus, either a rod or a ball suspended within a frame. Invented by Chu Minyi, Chief Secretary of Wang Jingwei, President of Administrative Council. *Note: Film footage not used in the final cut of the film.

Film Date: 1909-1915 This small piece of footage is part of a larger collection of films shot in China by Benjamin Brodsky. Brodsky moved to China from San Francisco after the 1906 Earthquake and set up shop as a film exhibitor. In 1909, he branched into film production in Shanghai and Hong Kong. During this period while juggling his business interests, he filmed his travels. In 1915 Brodsky returned to San Francisco bringing with him 20,000 feet of film. From this footage came his 1915 film “A Trip Through China”. Versions of the film screened locally, and in Los Angeles the following year. When distribution went national in March 1917, the ten reels of film which made up the film were heralded as a “revelation.” As a “comprehensive” portrait of “every conceivable feature of Chinese life—her customs, fashions, and beliefs.

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