Why Bloodsport is the Best Martial Art Film of All Time

Image courtesy of HBOMax.com. Bloodsport is available to stream on HBOMax.com. This martial art movie stars Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Image courtesy of HBOMax.com. Bloodsport is available to stream on HBOMax.com. This martial art movie stars Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Blake Darmante, Broadcast Editor

Some of the greatest martial arts movies of all time were released in the 1980s. There was “Police Story” with Jackie Chan, “The Karate Kid” with Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita (Mr. Miyagi), and “The Octagon” with Chuck Norris, but none of those hits come close to the masterpiece that is “Bloodsport” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. “Bloodsport” delivers all the elements of a great martial arts film, there is a solid story, training montages, and plenty of action. 

 Released in 1988, “Bloodsport” is allegedly based on the true life events of Marine Frank Dux. The movie begins with  the backstory of Dux, who was trained in ninjutsu as a teenager by Senzo Tanaka. Years after his training Dux joined the military to partake in a number of missions in Southeast Asia.  With the Marines, Dux was under strict orders to stay on base and report to his head officers; however, his ties with Tanaka conflicted with those orders. The Tanaka family had a history of competing in the Kumite, an underground full contact tournament run by the Chinese Triad in which only the most elite fighters are invited, and they requested that Dux defend their honor. Disobeying his officers, Dux left base to go to Hong Kong where he would fight in the Kumite and win multiple times. The storyline is absolutely solid from start to finish because it feels personal, detailed, and well rounded. 

Another aspect of “Bloodsport” that makes it so good, and it’s one of the most memorable parts of any martial arts film to me, is the training montage. At the very beginning of the movie, there is a sequence with Dux and Tanaka where they are training in the ways of ancient ninjutsu. Some of the old methods entail Dux being tied to a tree and forcibly stretched, having to fight blindfolded, and learning pressure point strikes. All the montage stunts are real and while some methods are embellished, there are some used to this day. The montage sets the tone of the fighting for viewers and just like the iconic crane kick in “The Karate Kid,” the montage in “Bloodsport” includes some very important foreshadowing in terms of martial techniques. 

Among the reasons that make “Bloodsport” so great, the fight choreography is one of my strongest reasons. Making use of Van Damme’s background in taekwondo and kickboxing the choreography is fast paced and primarily kick orientated. This gives the film a realism in the movements which sells the brutality of the attacks. Another unique aspect of the fighting is that styles from all over the globe are used, from traditional capoeira, to chinese boxing, the variety makes for an ever interesting movie experience. Watching the movie, every movement feels intentional and not overdone, which is something other films of the genre can often do poorly. 

If you are looking to get into martial arts films or if you are a fan of the action/martial arts genre I would strongly recommend that you take time to watch “Bloodsport.” It’s unexpectedly heartfelt and authentic while also being extremely brutal, which gives the audience an original mixture of joy and adrenaline.


Here is the trailer on IMDB for “Bloodsport.”