How do you prepare to finish a legend like Ip Man? How do you train to participate in a film that the franchise’s Ip Man himself, Donnie Yen, said “may very well go down in history as one of the greatest Kung Fu or perhaps even action movies of all time?”
If you’re Ip Man 4: The Finale co-star Scott Adkins, you draw on your extensive background in multiple martial arts while remaining open to new styles and philosophies. Adkins, who plays the film’s main villain, Barton Geddes, already had a solid background in martial arts training and Kung Fu films. But this role was special to him, both because of his co-star and because of the franchise
“I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve worked with all the greats, all the guys I grew up idolizing as a teenager, and Donnie Yen was the last one,” Adkins told the South China Morning Post in a recent interview. “In my mind, this is the greatest modern-day kung-fu franchise. Ip Man is the new Wong Fei Hung.”
Let’s take a look at Adkins’s martial arts history, how he prepared for the challenge of the recently released Ip Man 4: The Finale, and what he learned from the experience.
What martial arts background does Scott Adkins have?
Adkins started training when he was ten years old. “I did judo because my dad and brother practiced it,” he told Kung Fu Kingdom in January, 2014.
“Eventually, they stopped and I continued and I never stopped. After that I got into Taekwondo for many years as I’ve always been very flexible with my legs. Since I was a fan of martial arts films from the start and I was interested in doing the flashy kicks, I had a natural affinity for Taekwondo with that high kicking style.”
In addition to his Judo and Taekwondo training, Adkins has also taken lessons in Capoeira, Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee is a hero of his), and Kung Fu. He has both trained in and taught Kickboxing.
Adkins’s work as an actor has always been closely related to his martial arts training. In fact, he did much of his early work in Hong Kong. Including a role in Black Mask 2, which is where he first worked with Ip Man 4’s legendary action choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping.
How did Scott Adkins become involved in Ip Man 4?
Adkins and Yen already knew each other thanks to a mutual friendship with England-born and Hong Kong-based producer/actor Mike Leeder, and the two have been keen to work together for quite some time. They were just waiting for the right project. When it came time for Yen and crew to find their Barton Geddes, everything fell into place.
“When Ip Man 4 came about and my character was needed, Donnie went to the production and said ‘Let’s get Scott Adkins’ which was great to hear so Yeah! It was as easy as that,” Adkins said in a recent interview with Action Flix.
How did Scott Adkins prepare for Ip Man 4?
In a sense, Adkins has preparing for this role for his whole life. Only someone with his martial arts background and his Kung Fu film background could have been up to the task of going toe to toe with Donnie Yen with no rehearsals.
“We didn’t rehearse the fight ahead of time with any choreography which was different and you turn up that day and they show you with a little rehearsal and then you do it with Donnie Yen himself and you better be on your toes and ready because you know he will be,” Adkins explained to Action Flix. “I’ve been doing this for many years and I know what needs to be done. You have to be able to remember complex choreography very quickly and be able to replicate it at a high speed and that’s the job really.”
What style of martial arts does Scott Adkins use in Ip Man 4?
Originally, Barton Geddes was supposed to be more of a Karate fighter. When Adkins came on board, he started to envision the character as someone who might have a Karate background, but would also have other martial arts influences, including amateur wrestling and boxing.
“I didn’t want to constantly be pulling off Karate poses,” he admitted to Showbiz Cheat Sheet.
It wasn’t his own lack of a Karate background that concerned Adkins. He was able to see enough similarities between his Taekdwondo training and Karate to allow him to successfully execute the required moves. But he thought a hybrid style would provide a better foil for his co-star. “When you’re fighting Donnie Yen with the Wing Chun, it’s very quick straight punches and Karate is very wide and precise. So to capture the timing, if I want to block punch number three, because I’m trying to block punch number one, just hoping you got there in time.”
What did Scott Adkins learn from making Ip Man 4?
Adkins was already a Kung Fu film veteran when he joined the Ip Man 4 cast. But martial arts is all about lifelong learning. “I kind of knew how things run on Hong Kong movies anyway, because that was where I started out. And everything I learned during that time, I’ve carried through all the movies that I’ve done, especially in shooting fight scenes, which I’ve always done the way the Hong Kong guys do it,” he recently told Kung Fu Kingdom. “But there’s always more to learn, so I really tried to take as much as I could from Yuen Woo-ping and Donnie Yen.”
Adkins elaborated on this experience for the South China Morning Post. “I came into this like a student. Out of respect for Yuen Woo-ping and everything he’s done, when he says ‘do something’, I’m going to do it.
“I said to Donnie early on that I want to learn as much as I can. Obviously he speaks great English, and would take me aside and say, ‘This is why we’re doing this, and you should do that, and here’s why.’ I was very grateful.”