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Cowboy Bebop has a new live action series and we compare the original anime martial arts with the live action martial arts of the Netflix adaptation. The Cowboy Bebop Characters are portrayed as martial arts experts including John Cho who recently learned...

The Martial Arts of Cowboy Bebop Characters

Cowboy Bebop was originally an Anime made by Shinichiro Watanabe which aired on TV Tokyo in 1998.

This Anime has been a Cult Classic for many years, and fans yearned for more content since the show only produced one season.

Funimation had partnered with Adult Swim to Air Cowboy Bebop on Cartoon Network which built lifelong fans out of North America's Youth.

The Martial Arts in both the Original Anime & the Netflix Series are No Less than Awesome and Inspiring.

Who Are the Cowboy Bebop Characters?

Cowboy Bebop Original Anime Poster
Cowboy Bebop Original Anime Poster

Before discussing what martial arts each character does, let's introduce our cast.

  1. Spike Spiegel (John Cho)
  2. Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir)
  3. Fay Valentine (Daniella Pineda)
  4. Edward (Eden Perkins)
  5. Ein (Someone's Dog)
  6. Vicious )Alex Hassell)
  7. Julia (Elena Satine)

Who Choreographed the Fight Scenes in Cowboy Bebop?

Fight Choreographer  Matt Trotter and Stunt Coordinator Allan Poppleton worked with the Actors and their Stunt Doubles to create the fight scenes in the Live Action Cowboy Bebop.

What Styles of Martial Arts Do the Cowboy Bebop Characters Do?

This is not a straight forward answer, instead we will look at the Anime, The Actors, The Stunt Coordinators and the Stunt Doubles to determine the true style depicted in the production of Cowboy Bebop.

The majority of the Martial Arts Stunts are done by either Main Character "Spike Spiegel" or Villian "Vicious".

Spike Spiegle's Martial Arts Style

John Cho Martial Arts

Spike Spiegle is played by John Cho. John Cho's background in Martial Arts is officially Wing Chun but he says he hasn't always practiced in an NPR Interview on Cowboy Bebop:

I also avoided learning martial arts because I said, I'm not going to do that. I wish I hadn't, actually, because it was - it's been so fulfilling for me. I wish I hadn't avoided it, but I came to it late in life.

In another interview on Cowboy Bebop with GQ, John Cho explains in detail his intense training to prepare for the Martial Arts of Cowboy Bebop Live Action.

In boot camp, it was very rigorous — they were actually getting us into shape. Not “filling out the costume” shape. We went from punching and kicking and tumbling and weapons work, and we would also do weight lifting and stuff. It was a combination of just about every physical discipline I could think of. I would say it was like going to college for killing someone.

John Cho Officially Announces Cowboy Bebop's Spike Spiegel Style is Wing Chun in this Wired Interview:

The most difficult sequence for me was the wooden dummy sequence in episode one, partially because, we couldn't really hide with a stunt man in that. It's Wing Chun and he's practicing his punches and blocks on a dummy, a martial arts dummy, which it's just like a, it looks like a tree trunk with, with wooden branches sticking out and they're meant to be arms and legs.

John Cho mentioned that he had to study several different disciplines of stage combat in order to mimic the martial arts expertise of Spike Spiegel, who is a master of Weapons and Firearms in addition to Hand to Hand Combat in an interview about Cowboy Bebop with Cosmopolitan.

"I learned like Taekwondo and boxing, to tumbling and Wing Chun and Kung Fu."

John Cho literally transformed his body for this role, dedicating every waking moment to training and remaining in character on a remote location in New Zealand for months.

He became Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter from Mars with a love for combat.

The Anime featured Spike Spiegel who was modeled after Bruce Lee and officially utilized Jeet Kun Do, the style invented by Bruce Lee which was adapted from Wing Chun Kung fu.

Cho had prepared for months and shortly into production had a freak accident that tore his ACL and sent him into rehab for 6 months post surgery he reports in this Vulture Interview about Cowboy Bebop.

To this who criticize John's age or lack of kick techniques in the live action series, take note that this man suffered through the pain to create an amazing piece of art that is Cowboy Bebop.

Jason Li, Cho's stunt double does Kung fu and works as a big stunt double for some of Hollywood and Hong Kong's Biggest stars.

Mark Trotter the Stunt Coordinator for Cowboy Bebop Characters is a master in Taekwondo and has been doing it for 28 years. He's also the 2017 ITF World Champion and hails from New Zealand where filming took place.

Overall Spike Spiegel ported by John Cho does mainly Wing Chun Kung fu mixed with Tae Kwon Do.

Vicious' Martial Arts Style

Vicious, played by Alex Hassell, trained in the same camp as John Cho under scrutiny of combat experts Mark Trotter and Allan Poppleton.

Alex tells it all in an interview about his role in Cowboy Bebop with The Observer.

"That was really important to me, to do as much of the fighting as I could. Firstly, because it’s really, really good fun, and to get to work with that amazing stunt team, a lot of whom are world-class martial artists as well as stunt people. But also for the character. The violence, and using that sword, is such an important part of that character and such an important part of his life and how he sees himself. For me to believe myself as the character, it was paramount for me to understand how to use the sword. I loved it."

Alex Hassell uses a katana in many scenes and is no stranger to the sword. Hassell trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company and is an expert at stage combat.

Alex Hassell courtesy of ABC
Alex Hassell courtesy of ABC

About the Author:

Colton Woodard is a 7th Degree Black Belt and Karate enthusiast.

His passions are teaching martial arts, blogging and eating ramen.

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