[ENTERTAINMENT]How to Die on Command - in the Movies

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[ENTERTAINMENT]How to Die on Command - in the Movies

From the legendary Bruce Lee to "Charlie's Angels," martial arts have long been an object of attraction for the worldwide movie industry. Nine out of ten who have seen Bruce Lee perform his amazing martial arts tricks must have dreamed of being able to duplicate his feats. But it requires years of training to learn to fly in the sky so effortlessly.

For Lee Young-su, an expert martial arts fighter, it took nearly 30 years to master these tricks. Mr. Lee, 42, is a martial arts director whose speciality is making the battle scenes in historical TV dramas look real. These days, he directs fights for television's most popular drama, "Taejo Wanggun," aired every Saturday and Sunday evening. Currently, the drama is watched by 50 percent of the population.

"If you want to be a martial artist, you should be strong and sturdy in both body and mind. If not, you will get injured, or even killed, in an instant," said Mr. Lee.

Mr. Lee started to study martial arts when he was 10, learning taekwondo and another Korean martial art, hapgido. From then on, he got hooked on movies featuring Bruce Lee, and dreamed of being like his hero. His dreams began to come true in 1981 when he turned 21. His fight skills and interest in acting led him to a job in which he could draw on both - appearances in a series of stunt roles in TV shows.

His stunt credentials were soon topped up by several minor roles, and in 1996, he was promoted to director of martial arts scenes.

As director, he has a reputation for a quick temper and harsh words. Mr. Lee said in his defense, "Everybody thinks I am a brutal person. That kind of reputation is not pleasant, but I have to be harsh to protect my troupe from the possible dangers of their minds straying. That's why I always yell and curse at those who are not paying attention."

It cannot be easy to direct combat scenes featuring 200 stunt men. Also, Mr. Lee's stature as a martial arts director means he arranges and decides every detail of the scene. "I have to decide whether to test the characters with a burning log or arrows on fire," Mr. Lee added.

Despite his notoriety, he came across in an interview as a congenial character. "My heart hurts when my troupe members are injured," he said. "Actually, despite their blood and sweat, these stunt men don't get fair treatment." He believes that their low pay is a consequence of their lack of recognition and respect.

If you're still dreaming of being another Bruce Lee, here's how: Wannabes must go through a basic training program, consisting of riding horses and learning self-defense for at least six months. Mr. Lee said, "To learn how to get beaten is more difficult, and thus more important, than to know how to beat." After you acquire these special skills, it takes another six months to learn how to finish off your opponent.

Mr. Lee's next dream? To establish a martial arts school.

by Woo Sang-gyun

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