June 9, 2016-
Tae Kwon Do Life Magazine recently had the opportunity to screen a DVD copy of the 1973 Golden Harvest film, When Taekwondo Strikes. This Raymond Chow action movie was most notable because it was the only film of taekwondo Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee. While the project is a low budget, formula, action film in the Raymond Chow genre of films, it is also more than that. When Taekwondo Strikes is worth a viewing by students of taekwondo.
While the film is not abundant with taekwondo philosophy or technique, it does tell a story that most American taekwondo students are unfamiliar with. That story is set in the backdrop of the Japanese occupation of Korea during World War II and the Korean resistance to that occupation. This tale of modern oppression is, simultaneously, a tale of how embedded in the fabric of the Korean culture taekwondo is. Rhee plays the leader of the underground resistance who is, of course, a taekwondo Grandmaster. Rhee is forced to reveal his identity, and risk death, in order to attempt to save the life of an imprisoned Catholic Priest.
The film’s sparse dialogue is subtitled but the action is plentiful as Rhee is joined by an All Star cast of Asian action stars, including Angela Mao, Carter Wong, Sammo Hung, and many more fighters/actors. While many styles of martial arts are evident, the presence of Rhee and Anne Winton, Rhee’s star pupil off the movie screen, remind us that this is, theoretically, a taekwondo action film.
As a snapshot of modern Korean history and a look at the role of Taekwondo in personal defense and the defense of a culture I do recommend this film.