How Shang-Chi’s martial arts tell a story of love and balance


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is, at its core, a love story, and that story is told through the prism of martial arts.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, now in theaters.

Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings is a story filled with underlying themes of family, love, and understanding. While the lion’s share of those themes are dealt with throughout the film’s dialogue and overall plot, there is a hidden back-and-forth that focuses on balance and the way it plays out in the theme. of love. This underlying story is best expressed through the film’s main action form, martial arts.

This concept is first shown at the start of the film when Shang-ChiThe antagonist of, Wenwu (Tony Leung), meets a protector from Ta Lo village named Ying Li (Fala Chen). At first, the conqueror seeks to enter the secret kingdom by violence, inciting combat. Wenwu is a master of several forms of martial arts, but he is mainly shown using the rapid martial art of Wing Chun coupled with another art known as Hung Gar. The latter helps in conjunction with the power of his Ten Rings, which function like the iron bracelets typically used in Hung Gar. Wenwu’s rigid and aggressive closed-fist style ultimately falls short of Ying Li’s fluid and open Tai Chi form. Rather than focusing on strikes, she uses her natural skills and wind abilities. to dance around Wenwu, turning their fight into a kind of waltz.


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Their fight serves as a physical representation of yin and yang as it opens the door to love between them. Wenwu represents yin by its coldness and stillness, while Ying Li represents yang because of the heat and light surrounding it. However, both borrow qualities from each other, such as passivity and masculinity. As they fight, their shared energies represent the curved line where light meets darkness, and their love for each other completes the symbol, representing the two smaller circles. At first glance, parallels are easy to miss, but their powerful connection is felt all the more strongly as Shang-Chi is progressing.

After Ying Li’s death, Wenwu’s main goal is to free her soul from Ta Lo, as he believes the villagers are keeping her trapped there. While lying to her, her inflexible nature and ruthlessness in finding her shows that her love is never dead, but without her light to balance her, her dark nature has taken over. Ultimately, her son, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), must remind Wenwu of his love for his children while also facing his own struggles with light and dark.

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Shang-Chi was trained at a young age to be a killer. He adopted his father’s Wing Chun style and fought with similar efficiency. However, the big difference between them is that Shang-Chi doesn’t have the same cruelty as his father and fights to protect lives, not endanger them. Once Shang-Chi reaches Ta Lo, he is convinced that the only way to stop his father is to kill him. However, her aunt Nan (Michelle Yeoh) shows her a different path by teaching her her mother’s Tai Chi style. Using his rage constructively, he opens the door for his father to remember what’s important, and the two find a balance.

Wenwu offers Shang-Chi his rings in his final moments, showing that he has grown from the monster he was. What were once two separate entities creating yin and yang now flows through their son. He is the best and the worst of his mother and father, but rather than going one way or the other, he takes his own. Through martial arts, Shang-ChiAudiences can take this journey with him while showing how expert choreography can tell its own story in layers.

To see poetry in martial arts, watch Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in theaters now.

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