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Best Training Scenes of Film: Part 1: Preparing for the big fight with Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Team Korea

May 15, 2015

80s action movies were great for training montages!  As a child, I was raised on this.  This is what I pictured in my head when I started lifting weights as a teenager in the 90s.  Van Damme doing jump spin kicks and splits, Stallone with the shiniest muscles ever seen on film, and Schwarzenegger pushing a big heavy thing that evidently developed all of his muscles in Conan.  Admittedly Van Damme was my favorite.  I wish all of his movies had training montages.  But sadly there were none in Cyborg (1989), Hard Target (1993), The Quest (1996), Time Cop (1994) and many others.  However, Van Damme training scenes remain embedded in my soul even to this day.  Today I’ll share some of my favorite moments from Van Damme, Stallone and Team Korea.

Kickboxer (1989) was basically one giant training scene with a few fights mixed in there.  Drunk dance fighting.  Bamboo kicking.  Coconut-dropping ab training.  Grocery combat.  Rope and Pulley stretching torture.  Under water katas.  Sunset katas.

Crappy quality, but good scene coverage.

Better quality, but slightly less scene coverage.

And, of course, THIS was critical to his training…drunk dance fighting.

What I love about the Kickboxer training scenes is that we see him go from beginner (but in damn good shape) to good to crazy.  He never comes off as perfect, but humble and slow-gaining–even though in the movie his training comes along really quite fast.  He ekes out his final match as a winner…but he earned it with some crazy eyes!


 So in this movie we see JCVD develop from a pretty boy gym rat, drunk dancing with some nice Thai women in a bar…


 To a hardened, trained fighter with broken glass on his cloth hand wraps…


To a bloodied, batshit crazy, blood-lusted warrior, blindly blocking Tong Po’s double ridgehand attack from behind.

Bloodsport (1988), a more classic, adult-version of the Karate Kid (1984) training montage complete with what I can only describe as Bondage Stretching Torture Training.


Training montage.

He gets his butt kicked a lot, he serves his shidoshi blind-folded, he meditates, there are breathing and conditioning scenes…old school shit like that.  I dig it.


 Again we see some major changes in JCVD’s demeanor.  He starts out as this arrogant pretty boy who wins a girl from a goon with a sleight of hand coin trick…


 Then we find him with shiny muscles, fighting dudes from around the world with basically no rules in the Kumite…


 Again, we find him batshit crazy and now “really” blind because Chong Li threw some powdered drug in his eyes that somehow no one saw happen…


And finally he taunts a clearly already KO’d Chong Li into saying the equivalent of “mercy.”  Poor Chong Li probably thought JCVD was gonna’ break his neck!

Rocky IV (1985), best montage ever complete with Russian ox-yoke work, support beam pull-ups (not sure why, but that seems tougher than regular pull-ups).  Then there were the alternating scenes with Drago’s (Dolph Lundgren) training, in which he showed us that treadmill running on an incline can be super intense, but not as intense as the PSI levels of his punch!

Initially this looks horribly mismatched…there might be a 75 pound disparity between these fighters’ weights.  Drago’s head looks like it’s the size of Rocky’s torso!


Rocky Balboa (2006), if I had only two words to say about this movie to try to get you psyched to see it: TRAINING SPEECH…or perhaps “HURTIN’ BOMBS.”  That trainer knew his shit and gave an aging Rocky the brass tacks–that’s he’s strong as an ox but has the joints of a crumbling ancient Greek temple of Ares.  We go most of the movie with no idea what kind of shape Sly was in for this movie.  So when he took off his robe before the fight I was like HOLY SHIT, Sly is huger than ever!  I guess the speech worked. LOL

31 years later Rocky got the same trainer–actually it’s the same guy from all the Rocky films.  Listen to this guy give a brutally realistic pre-training speech and “let’s start buildin’ some hurtin’ bombs!”

2006 Rocky Balboa 059

Meet Rocky.  He’s in his 60s now.


Best of the Best (1989), Team Korea’s national Tae Kwon Do team karate-chopping tree trunks while shirtless in the snow!  Team Korea (and their team champion Dae Han) serves as “Team Villain” in this movie, and this training scene serves to make them seem quite formidable.  Not just that, but after Team America (including Eric Roberts before he became type-cast the perpetual bad guy) saw their brick-breaking training video, they knew shit just got real.

Watch how Team Korea gets ready for the big fight.


Just doing some jumping incline push-ups down some stairs.  Standard stuff, right?


Just chopping trees with our bare hands, shirtless in the snow.  No biggie.  Just a standard drill.

These Koreans are NUTS!

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