UPDATE: Felicity Jones showed off some of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story martial arts skills detailed in the post below in a just-for-fun face-off with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show during her Nov. 30 guest spot on the show. To top it all off, Fallon showed a clip from the movie spotlighting the actress in action as Jyn Erso, taking out stormtroopers armed with artillery far heavier than the toy store arsenal the late-night host brought to the fight. Watch the Yahoo Movies Superfan take on the late-night bit above, and the full segment, including the clip from Rogue One, below.
ORIGINAL POST: While training for her role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (in theaters Dec. 16), Felicity Jones discovered an unexpected passion for martial arts. To play Jyn Erso, the criminal turned rebel leader who plots to steal the Empire’s Death Star plans, Jones trained in wushu, a martial arts style that Jyn emulates in fights.
“She has this short stick, and then she grabs onto it and she just hits,” Jones told the New York Times of her character’s combat style. “I can feel it now; I absolutely love doing it. I have to be careful not to do it on my friends or on my boyfriend or on my family.”
The word wushu may be unfamiliar to some Star Wars fans, but the fighting style is not. The term is traditionally interchangeable with kung-fu, but wushu in this case refers to the modern competitive practice of Chinese martial arts. Several styles of wushu involve using weapons, both long (like a staff) and short (like a broadsword). This is likely what Jones studied in her Rogue One training. And it’s also how another recent Star Wars heroine got herself battle-ready.
In preparing for last year’s The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, hit the gym with Liang Yang, whom she described on Instagram as a “wushu fricking master.” (Yang was a stunt coordinator on the film and also played a featured Stormtrooper.) In the video below, she does a routine with what appears to be a practice lightsaber.
Watch a video of Daisy Ridley in training for Rogue One:
Some of Ridley’s trickier battle sequences in The Force Awakens were performed by stunt double Chloe Bruce, a martial artist who takes her wushu staff skills seriously. See the video below.
Chloe Bruce, the stunt double for Rey in The Force Awakens, shows off her skills:
Going further back into Star Wars history, Darth Maul’s double-lightsaber skills in 1999’s The Phantom Menace were influenced by the wushu training of actor Ray Park. This is somewhat of a departure from the earliest Star Wars lightsaber fights, which were inspired by Japanese, rather than Chinese, sword-fighting techniques (reminiscent of the Kurosawa samurai films that director George Lucas loves).
In terms of her own Star Wars combat scenes, Jones said wushu was the right choice because the filmmakers didn’t want her to be “balletic and majestic.”
“It’s all quite short, sharp movements. We wanted it to feel authentic and a little bit dirty,” Jones said.
While Jones was a newbie at the art of wushu, one of her Rogue One co-stars is an expert. Donnie Yen, a champion of multiple world wushu tournaments, plays the blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe.
Watch Felicity Jones talk about the new female heroines of Star Wars: