A lot of old school female kung fu stars did most of their action scenes, but I can’t say that they weren’t doubled during some of the more difficult stunt scenes, just like the men were.
Look towards Angela Mao as someone who really shined during her action scenes. I definitely recommend both “Hapkido” and “Broken Oath.” They’re both fantastic. You won’t see any major acrobatic scenes or death defying leaps but if you want to see a woman kick the fuck out of a bunch of blokes then you’re in for a treat.
Michelle Yeoh always chose to do her own stunts. I’m not sure if she did in “Magnificent Warriors” but it’s worth checking out. She did do all her own stunts in “Police Story 3” though…including a motorcycle jump onto a moving train.
Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima…and Kara Hui, actually…are amazing martial arts talents, but many of their big stunts are done by obvious doubles so I can’t really recommend many of theirs. Although, if you just want to see real woman pulling off amazing fight scenes, do seek out their films.
Jeeja Yanin is another one. She did all her own stunts in “Chocolate” and, if you watch the end credits, you’ll see just how badly she fucked herself up.
Two years ago, I was in a self-defense competition. I’m a black belt, and this was a black belt contest, held in front of students and other instructors. Self defense competitions require that we demonstrate defenses against scenarios such as multiple attackers, broken bottles, knives, and so on. It’s fun to see how other styles and arts deal with attacks, and when instructors are competing, there can be quite a bit of showmanship and teaching mixed in with the actual competition. That day, all other competitors were men, and they performed some wonderful techniques with finishing moves that ended in strangulation, broken bones, or a playful kick in the pants.
When it came to my turn, however, I thought of where and how a woman would be attacked. in a multiple attack scenario, I disabled my attackers - quick and hard, to ensure they would stay down - then stopped. But instead of a finishing flourish, I stepped back and reached for my cell phone.
I reminded the audience that when two men attack a woman, their objective is usually different from when they attack a man. I do not want a female student to risk additional harm by prolonging a street fight any longer than necessary. She should free herself, find a safe, public place, then call the police. Forget machismo - for a woman attacked, it is victory enough not to be killed.
The first requirement of living well is living.
In her words:
I had been head judo instructor at UCLA and the coach of the Cornell judo team. But after I transitioned, I had nowhere to practice. My old dojo would not have me, and I was no longer in school. Over two decades of judo knowledge basically rotted inside of me for seven years. Because a group of queer martial artists had decided to form their own school, I finally was able to practice my art. Thanks to these gender outlaws and their positive, creative action, I finally had a place to be queer, to be a woman, to be trans, but most of all, feel a mat under my feet and my belt around my waist. It felt like I was flying.
Aoki goes onto connect her experience as a martial artist with her place in activism. Her nonviolent responses to what feels like required subversion and aggressive protests. She describes how martial arts affects her perception of living well and helping others to do the same.