One Armed Swordsman is a Shaw Brothers classic from 1967 (also remade as The Blade / Dao) about a swordsman who has, believe it or not, one arm! Of course, he didn’t always have one one arm, he did start of with two…
The movie starts back during the childhood of the one armed swordsman, now a two armed child named Fang Kang. The Golden Sword school is attacked by Bandits, and Fang Cheng (father of Kang) is fighting to protect the master of the school, Qi Ru Feng – who is unconscious.
Having defended Qu Ru Feng, Cheng loses his life, and requests during his final moments that Kang be taken as Qi Ru Feng’s student. Owing Cheng is life, Qu Ru Feng accepts and Kang becomes a member of the school.
Kang has grown up and is an extremely talented swordsman, but the other students dislike and bully him. After a run in, the two students and Master Qu Ru Feng’s (rather pushy and spoiled rotten) daughter, challenge him outside the walls at night. Kang, not wanting to cause drama, has decided to leave the school and is forced to fight all 3 on his way out.
Kang easily defeats both student’s and his master’s daughter, who is upset by her defeat. She sobs on the ground while Kang tries to comfort her, until she lashes out in anger and chops off Kang’s right arm. Kang runs before eventually passing out and is taken in by a young woman named Xiao Man.
After recovering somewhat (he’s still missing an arm!), he slowly learns that he must continue to train, so he changes his tactics and style after studying a book with left handed fighting techniques. Kang then gets caught up in a bit of a clan war which involves the murder of his former master. Naturally, he does what he can to protect his former master – which leads to lots of sword fights!
A Real Character Driven Story!
This movie does a top job of looking at the struggles Kang faced as a person, and his change of character.
Kang is a skilled warrior, confident in his abilities and staunch, only taking orders from those he respects – his master. Upon losing his arm, Kang is faced with his new reality, and labels himself a cripple – useless and unable to fight. His personal struggles and triumphs are shown as he begins to feel better about himself, only to be unable to defend Xiao Man when being attacked by thugs from out of town.
During this period, Kang comes to appreciate the finer things in life, and he begins to develop feelings for the Xiao Man. Xiao Man slowly convinces him that violence only leads to more violence, and the two decide to leave to together to lead simple innocent lives.
But Kang is an honorable man, when he hears of the danger his master and friends will be facing he does his best to help them. Even when being faced by his master’s daughter – a young, wealthy and attractive woman he speaks of this new appreciation and how he wants to be with Xiao Man.
This change of his life goals and outlook really make Kang an interesting character to watch. But what’s more interesting is the martial arts side of the story.
The Martial Arts
The fights scenes were very 60’s – plenty of fake looking techniques that just don’t compare to modern day on screen fights. But they are pioneering fight scenes, as they focused on technical martial arts as opposed to spending too much time on clan wars and ridiculous themes.
The Golden Sword School trains in a sword style which favors the right hand, so master Qu Ru Feng’s enemies study the style and develop tactics and weapons to disarm and kill them. But it just so happens that the Golden Sword school as a weapon unbeknownst to them – the One Armed Swordsman!
Kang’s technique is different and very interesting to watch. Because he studies the left handed movements of an old kung fu style (having no right arm), he has a new completely different approach which make him a dangerous man. As he slowly tries to fight with his full sword, he learns that it’s too big to swing with his left hand and opts for a smaller sword – his father’s broken sword.
This approach of pitting different technical styles against each other wasn’t done much before this movie in Hong Kong – making this movie a pioneer in more realistic action. Done reasonably well and backed up with a top story.
If you love the classics – you’ll love this movie!
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
The One-Armed Swordsman on DVD
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
The One Armed Swordsmen [DVD]
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
The One Armed Swordsman on DVD