On-Air Highlights

Black Kung Fu Experience

Written by Fred Vigeant, Director of Programming and Promotions for TV and Radio | Feb 14, 2013 8:34 AM

This action-packed documentary chronicles kung fu’s black pioneers and heroes, exploring the intersection of African-American and Asian cultures. The film traces the rise of the black kung fu experience in the 1960’s and 70s, and then reconnects with the contemporary martial arts scene in Washington D.C, Los Angeles, The Virgin Islands, Jamaica and Hong Kong. The themes of the film underscore the Chinese and African-American experiences as they evolve differently yet converge in unexpected ways, and how they challenge political and social persecution – as diverse as the Qing government’s oppressive rule in China and entrenched American racism – with the unique vehicle of kung fu.


In The Black Kung Fu Experience we meet a group of African-American pioneers who became respected masters in a world dominated by Chinese and white men. Four revered black masters and their journeys form the core of our story. Each is unique, yet each journey adds to the collective story of transformation. The film takes the viewer on a fast-paced cultural and emotional journey, and ultimately lets them fully understand how kungfu was – and still is – a unique crucible of the black experience. Finally, we learn that kungfu is frequently less about flash and style, kicks and punches, than it is about community, identity and bridges.

We take a brief journey back to the 1970s watching Van Clief star in the Hong Kong film series The Black Dragon. We understand how a tiger can crunch bones, and encounter a surprise guest appearance of a giant snake. We learn about a beautiful, indigenous African American martial art called the “Shackle Form” that alludes to the time of slavery. We see how Chinese broadsword technique can be transformed into gleaming machetes hacking into tropical jungle. We follow two girls as they compete nervously for the first time in a big national tournament. And finally, we travel to exotic locales of Jamaica, St. Thomas and Hong Kong to explore both the deeper roots and the growing branches of kungfu, simultaneously tracing history and making it.

Watch the Black Kung Fu Experience on witf TV February 21 at 8:00pm.

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