The latest installment in the #JohnWick franchise takes the martial arts action of the first film and brings it up quite a few notches.
Once again, Keanu Reeves is leaving a trail of dead bad guys in his wake as the gun-toting assassin, using a combination of grappling, striking, and military tactics to take out anyone who gets in his way.
The amazing fight sequences are a credit to Reeves' months of tough training behind the scenes, as well as the guidance of director Chad Stahelski, a veteran stuntman who's worked with Reeves on The Matrix and other action films. Stahelski is also known for his friendship with Bruce Lee's son Brandon Lee, doubling for the late actor following his death on the set of The Crow.
All around, everyone involved with John Wick: Chapter 2 took their action scenes seriously, and it definitely paid off.
Here’s a breakdown of the real martial arts behind John Wick: Chapter 2.
First and foremost, John Wick has, by far, the best grappling out of any action character that American cinema has ever produced.
Reeves trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with the likes of the legendary Rigan Machado and others, as well as Japanese Jiu Jitsu and judo. In a featurette video for the film, the director revealed that they combined these ground techniques with military tactical training for a style they called "gun fu."
"We take Japanese jiu-jitsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, tactical three gun [training], standing judo, and put it all together," Stahelski said. "Then we come up with what we call gun fu."
Reeves clearly put a lot of time into his training, as he's a beast with his BJJ skills in the new sequel. Wick can be seen using armbars, omoplatas, kimuras, and even pulls off a Fireman's carry on at least a dozen occasions.
Although all the assassins wear suits, Wick smartly uses the sleeves like gi grips to apply chokes and transitions. Interestingly, Reeves' character also frequently does a jump guard pull move that he uses to subdue his opponents before moving into an attack.
Overall, Reeves seems to have a great top game, able to pass guards with ease while keeping top control. His judo throws are on point too, particularly his Harai goshi toss.
Common, who plays a former friend turned foe of Wick, also deserves credit for his BJJ moves. His open guard is actually quite impressive.
While Wick's style is more based in shooting and grappling, he does engage in striking when the situation calls for it. The slickly dressed killer is a fan of effective techniques that would be considered dirty inside the Octagon, such as throat strikes and vicious knee attacks.
Aside from elbows and knees in the clinch, Wick surprisingly forgoes standard striking moves for open hand attacks. Although not common in places like the #UFC, open hand strikes are used frequently in traditional martial arts, such as the famed "karate chop," which can be a deadly blow if delivered to the right part of the neck. The open hand approach also allows Wick to more easily intercept strikes from his opponents, which he then counters with using a throw, submission, or strike of his own.
As far as kicking goes, Reeves' character isn't flashy with his feet, sticking to tried and true attacks like front kicks and roundhouse kicks, staples of any Muay Thai fighter's arsenal. Primarily, Wick tends to attack with his hands or ground technique, that is when he's not blowing people's heads off with firearms.
Except for the BJJ, Reeves probably spent most of his time getting his tactical training in order for John Wick: Chapter 2.
As you can see in the video below, the actor went into painstaking detail over the proper way to hold and shoot every piece of firearms he used in the action flick.
According to a video by Uproxx, Reeves and his team made sure to have Wick reload after the proper number of shots fired every time, used real world police and military tactics, and also adjusted his shooting stance to a "center axis relock" stance, which is more accommodating to close quarters combat than the traditional "Weaver" stance.
In addition to guns, Wick is a master with any weapon or vehicle, including knives, cars, and improvised attacks. We won't spoil it for you, but Reeves gets to pull off a pretty sweet and bloody move with a writing utensil that would even make the Joker squeamish.
All things considered, it's probably a good idea to just not mess with Wick (or his dog).