In the movie Apocalypse Now towards the beginning where the protagonist is in his Vietnamese hotel/dorm there is a mental breakdown sequence. During this montage he is seen to be ingesting alcohol, muttering to himself and intermittently performing some kind of martial arts kata.

For those who haven't seen it, there is a short clip here.

It seems to be performed quite slowly and as far as distinguishing characteristics go, the hand/arm moves appear to be very restricted, virtually hugging the body and/or his head.


What is this style and what is the name of that specific form?

1 Answer 1


Martin Sheen was apparently drunk during the scene in question, for real. It was all improvised, and the bloody fist scene after he punches the mirror was not planned, but the director let the filming continue and kept it in the final production. His bio says he has no martial arts training.

It appears to be what you would get if you told someone who has no training in martial arts to act like they know stuff. Completely made up. It bears some resemblance to karate and tai chi. But that's what you would expect from someone who is badly mimicking what he's seen on TV and in movies. I would say his primary influence is "Kung Fu" the TV series starring David Carradine.

Hope that helps.

  • I had an uncanny feeling that could be the case, but I figured there might be something to it, say an obscure Vietnamese style. Very interesting, mixed feelings; on the one hand it make the scene really organic and authentic but on the other a bit of a let-down it doesn't come from something in reality. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 5:04

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