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The Joy of Sticks

Lucy Liu on how to beat people up in style

Author Chris Wright Photography Everett Collection (Liu)

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Lucy Liu is a woman of varied talents: actor, painter, accordion player, and practitioner of kali-eskrima-silat, the Filipino martial art that involves twirling knives and sticks in a menacing yet graceful manner (which explains how she avoided taking Uma Thurman’s eye out in Kill Bill). Here, Liu—who this month reprises her role as Viper in Kung Fu Panda 3—shares a few stick-twirly insights.

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Formalized violence: “You work with weapons, but kali-eskrima-silat is all about movement: the twist of the arm, elbows, shoulders, these fluid hand gestures. You learn how to coordinate yourself—or you learn how uncoordinated you are.”

Stylized violence: “When you’re grappling in the real world, you’re not trying to look exotic. That’s what’s great about film: It’s choreographed. It makes fighting look glamorous. Then you have the beautiful costumes. It’s fun.”

Best fight sequence ever: “One thing I remember growing up was watching Drunken Master with Jackie Chan. I was amazed at how beautiful it was, the way he mixed drama and comedy in this continuous, elegant sequence. He took it to another level.”

What to do if you are attacked without a stick close to hand: “Anything can be used as a weapon—like keys. Or, you know, you can run.”

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