Huo Yuanjia is the subject of a fictitious plot in Jet Li’s 2006 film Fearless, and two scenes that were cut from the final cut significantly improve his character arc.
Two significant deleted scenes from Jet Li’s 2006 martial arts film Fearless can be found in the director’s cut. Fearless, a Jet Li-starring martial arts film directed by Ronny Yu, depicts the story of Huo Yuanjia, a well-known practitioner of Mizongyi kung fu and the founder of the Chin Woo Athletic Association.
Despite the fact that Huo’s life is mostly fabricated in Fearless, Li was acclaimed for his portrayal of the kung fu teacher, calling it his “fantastic final portrayal of a real-life Chinese kung fu legend.”
The film is lengthened by about 35 minutes in Yu’s director’s cut, which also includes two crucial scenes that deepen Huo’s knowledge of life and the purpose of martial arts. The first occurs in the present day at the beginning of the movie, when Michelle Yeoh, who plays Ms. Yang in Everything Everywhere All At Once, argues to the Olympic committee that modern Wushu should be included as an Olympic sport.
The literal translation of Wushu from Mandarin Chinese is “The way to avert conflict,” which Yang uses to support her claim. This clearly relates to Huo’s journey in the film, as he discovers that mastering martial arts is ultimately about mastering oneself, not winning over opponents.
Fearless shows Huo early on as a man determined to prove the might of the Huo family fist and its superiority over all other martial arts. However, this ends in tragedy for him and his family, sending Huo to a depressed exile in a distant village. This leads into the second deleted scene, in which a child from his village steals an ox from another.
Rather than allow the child to be punished, Huo intervenes and agrees to absorb a beating from a Tony Jaa-level Muay Thai fighter from the village (played by real-life Muay Thai champion Somluck Kamsing). Huo also agrees not to fight back, and will endure the punishment until an incense stick burns out, but he has another strategy for the situation.
Without fighting his opponent directly, Huo instead deflects and redirects the strikes of his enemy. After getting his opponent off balance, he even manages to stop his head from striking the stone ground. Huo and his enemy then bow to each other with the two villages at peace, showing that Huo has become a completely different man.
Once fighting for glory and the thrill of victory, Huo comes to see the real value of the study of martial arts lies in improving one’s mind, body, and spirit to their fullest potential. While he returns home an avid competitor and still quite formidable fighter, he’s freed himself of the mindset he once had that all who stand in his way must be destroyed. A completely new man, Huo’s new mission is to show the world the power of martial arts isn’t in the violence he once relished in, but in the person he and others can build themselves into.
Jet Li has spent a great deal of his career playing historical Chinese heroes like Wong Fei-hung and Fong Sai-yuk. Although Fearless was greatly fictionalized, Li’s portrayal of Huo Yuanjia brought a very pure distillation of the meaning of all forms of martial arts to his last performance as a major Chinese folk hero. The two deleted scenes of the Fearless director’s cut only add to the importance of the message.