Two Self-Taught Martial Artists Are Taking Over Hollywood

0 Posted by - May 3, 2022 - Film, Martial Artist
Andy Le as Death Dealer in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Source: Marvel

Once upon a time, Andy and Brian Le were two martial arts obsessed kids teaching themselves cool moves that they picked up from YouTube and old Kung Fu movies.

Now the brother are two of the most in-demand martial artists on both sides of the camera. They’ve provided stunt work and fight choreography for TV shows like Into The Badlands and movies like the brand new Everything Everywhere All At Once. They also perform in the latter. And Brian was featured in a little something called Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

What might be the coolest of all, though, is that they’re getting to work with some of the Kung Fu stars who taught them everything they know. And their virtual senseis have nothing but good things to say about their work.

Let’s take a look at how two self-taught martial arts geeks became the biggest thing in action movies.

Andy and Brian Le: The Early Years

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to just change the world,” Andy Le told Jumpcut in 2021. “I always got bullied a lot in school, got picked on. And my parents would always put on kung fu movies. When you watch kung fu movies, you watch Bruce Lee kicking 20 guys, [Jackie Chan] fighting 10 guys at once — it does something to you, it makes you feel a sense of empowerment, you know? I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be just like the heroes that I saw on screen. Like how they changed me. I wanted to use the same platform: do martial arts films, inspire people and change the world.”

When Andy and Brian were growing up, they didn’t have a lot of options in terms of formal martial arts training. In a recent interview with EW, Andy recalls taking some lessons in his childhood, but his parents couldn’t afford much more than that. What they did have, though, was access to the internet. And limitless enthusiasm for taking what they were seeing and adapting it to their own training. 

The Benefits of Self-Taught Martial Arts

“With the internet nowadays, you’ve got resources to learn pretty much anything you want. We would literally play kung fu movies back in slow motion and try to copy their movements, shot-for-shot, frame-for-frame, angle-for-angle. That’s exactly how we learned for the most part,” Andy told EW.

According to his interview with Jumpcut, Andy estimates that 90% of what they’ve learned is self-taught. And he believes it’s given them a unique advantage in their work. “I think being able to condition yourself to train and teach yourself is you build an eye to pick up things. So when we got into doing martial arts action, it was easier for us to watch Jackie Chan’s fight choreography and pick up exactly what he’s doing. I think that, in a way, self-taught is kind of a blessing. And it did help us a lot.”

The Breakthrough 

In 2011, Andy and Brian Le formed a martial arts, stunt, and film crew with their friend Daniel Mah. In a nod to their inspiration, they named it after a Shaw Brothers film: Martial Club.

The trio applied their DIY ethic to performing and shooting martial arts content. “We all share this genuine passion for martial arts. One day, we decided to pick up a camera, we started learning to act, to fight, to shoot, edit our own fight scenes, and make martial arts short stories, put it up on YouTube, and, kind of use that as a stepping stone, as a platform to show the world who we are, the martial arts journey, and what we’re really made of,” Andy said in Jumpcut.

As they started gaining an audience, they started to take the project more seriously. And they started to dream bigger. Soon enough, Hollywood started calling. 

Brian landed a gig as Nick Frost’s stunt double on Into The Badlands. Andy landed the role of Death Dealer in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Along with their teammate D.Y. Sao, Brian and Andy also trained with Simu Liu to help him prepare for the film. 

Their latest effort, Everything Everywhere All at Once, is currently thrilling audiences and critics all over the world.

Working With Legends

The brothers’ current success has also given them multiple opportunities to work with the very people they studied as children. On both Shang-Chi and Everything Everywhere All at Once, they’ve worked with Michelle Yeoh.

“I never get starstruck, ever, but when I saw Michelle Yeoh, I got star-struck,” Brian told EW. “Because, growing up on all the Hong Kong action films and classics, Andy and I have seen every single Michelle Yeoh movie there is in the world to see. She’s basically our kung fu heroine. She’s one of the stars that we’ve looked up to since we were kids. So that was quite an experience.”

They were also invited to work with Jackie Chan on a commercial when a member of the legend’s stunt team discovered their work on YouTube. “I came up with a general structure for Jackie, but a lot of the choreography that I was coming up with was stuff that I [learned] from him,” Andy said of the experience. “I showed it back to him, and he just did it and did it better. I told him, ‘This is your stuff.’ He’s like, ‘Yes, from 40 years ago.'”

Chan went on to call him “next generation” before they parted ways.

Warrior Spirit

Throughout their rise, the Le brothers have remained humble and open to new experiences. Clearly cool moves weren’t the only thing they learned from their self-guided martial arts journey. 

“I believe that dreams do come true. From my family coming from nothing, to being here. I think it’s a testament to show that like if you have a dream, you have the heart, and you really believe in something, you go for it. 110%. In martial arts, I call this the Warrior Spirit,” Andy said in Jumpcut. 

“With years of training, you get to a point where you’re physically tired, and physically you’ve given up but your mind doesn’t. That’s the Warrior Spirit. This is the type of energy you need to channel while pursuing your dream, into anything that you believe in. Of course, there’s going to be people who are going to doubt you, there are people who are going to try to put you down. Ignore that, ignore them. This is your life, this is your dream. There’s no way that you can’t reach it. I’m working to be the living proof, that my journey can inspire everyone else, many others to pursue what they want. And succeed.”