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Social Distancing binge list: Five martial arts shows on Netflix

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Take your mind off all the craziness with some harmless distraction in the form of martial arts mayhem

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Netflix Premiere Spenser Confidential
Lewis Tan, Netflix’s go to martial arts man
Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Netflix

These are strange times, friends. As the world takes a turn for the stressful and anxiety-producing, it is wise to reflect on what is most important... And to take some nice, long breaks from that reflection with a lot of violence.

To that end, Netflix has a multitude of options for you. Here are a handful to get you started.

1. Into the Badlands - Let’s kick things off with a post-apocalyptic dystopia, as that feels appropriate. Set 500 years after the decimation of civilization, this AMC produced fight-fest offers excellent martial arts choreography. Star of the show, Daniel Wu, has practiced wushu since he was a young boy, and did almost all of the stunt work himself. It isn’t surprising that Into the Badlands offers up such strong action—fight choreographer Huan-Chiu Ku is also responsible for Kill Bill (2003) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). The show features a strong cast, including action veteran Lewis Tan. With three seasons totaling 32 episodes, Into the Badlands is good for at least two and a half days of entertainment.

2. Wu Assassins - Legendary actor, stunt man, and fight choreographer, Iku Uwais stars in this martial arts drama with a supernatural twist. Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Wu Assassins follows a simple cook who, after an encounter with a mystical spirit, is granted magical powers so that he may take on a quest. He must recover similar powers from five criminals threatening to use them to destroy the world. In addition to Uwais, the show stars real life karate champion Katheryn Winnick and, just like Into the Badlands, martial arts veteran Lewis Tan. With only one season totaling ten episodes, Wu Assassins will keep you occupied for about a day.

3. Iron Fist - You need to turn that brain all the way off? Marvel’s got you. Firstly, yes, Lewis Tan is also in Iron Fist. Can’t make a Netflix martial arts series without the guy—them’s the rules. Finn Jones stars as Danny Rand/Iron Fist, the billionaire Buddhist monk who has been presumed dead for fifteen years. He returns to New York City to reclaim the family company, but when nefarious villains spur him to use his magical Iron Fist powers, he must choose between being a superhero and saving his family’s legacy. If it feels a little weird that a Buddhist monk is a white guy named Danny Rand, it should be noted that the original Iron Fist comic, back in 1972, was inspired by Kung Fu, starring David Carradine. Kung Fu, in turn, was stolen from Bruce Lee when he pitched Warrior to Kung Fu’s producers. Iron Fist has two seasons totaling 23 episodes, a solid two days of distraction.

4. Warrior - The treatment from Bruce Lee that spawned Kung Fu (1972), and therefore Iron Fist and innumerable other martial arts film and TV shows, has come to Netflix in something close to its original form. Produced in association with Bruce Lee Enterprises and Lee’s daughter Shannon, Warrior is set in Chinatown during the Tong Wars and stars Andrew Koji as Ah Sahm. While Warrior leans heavily on Bruce Lee’s original notes and treatment, the show creators also utilized Enter the Dragon as inspiration, naming several characters after actors in that film. They also drew from history, including the character of Ah Toy, who was the first Chinese madam of a brothel in San Francisco. With only one season and ten episodes, Warrior will get you through one day of lockdown.

5. The Legend of Bruce Lee - The epic biography produced by China Central TV in 2008, the series has continued to gain viewership over time. In China, the first fourteen episodes set a record for viewership. Covering the course of Lee’s life from high school to his death, the show stars Danny Chan as Lee and American actress Michelle Lang as Lee’s wife, Linda Lee Cadwell. The show features several actors famous for their martial arts skills, including Michael Jai White and Ray Park. This bad boy offers up 50 episodes at 45 minutes each.