How to fight like Iron Man
Eric Oram is the man who taught Robert Downey Jr to kick ass as Tony Stark - but, he says, wing chun’s about more than just violence
Eric Oram on training Robert Downey Jr in wing chun...
I’ve spent years 12 training Robert in wing chun. It really took on a life of its own with Sherlock Holmes – a lot of actors are proud of training for four, five months in martial arts to prepare for a role, but he’d been training for six years to get to that point. There was a bit of concern that we’d leave the audience behind, and we went round and round until we got to the solution of Robert visualising the fight scenes before they happened in real time.
On how practice makes perfect...
Robert’s character has a wing chun dummy in both Sherlock and Iron Man 3. It’s a particularly useful tool because a key concept of wing chun is that we use two arms to attack and defend simultaneously. When you hit a heavy bag, you’re just hitting but on the dummy you can practise attack and defence simultaneously. There’s also an element of conditioning to it – traditionally those dummies are made of teak.
On controlling your emotions...
Wing chun challenges you physically and emotionally. You’re building reflexes, but also teaches you to anchor yourself to the present moment. In normal life, it’s too easy to project into the future or dwell on the past, but you can’t do that when someone’s trying to rip your head off. Wing chun teaches you to get all those aspects of yourself in tune to manage yourself under adversity. It’s all about focus.
On the missing Iron Man vs Ultron fight scene...
The scene that I spent most time on with Robert didn’t actually make it into the final cut of the second Avengers film. There was a fight scene between Iron Man and Ultron that had aspects of wing chun to it. We always look at what’s in the story that’s being told, though, so Robert’s practice runs through the film. I’m really happy with the result.
Watch an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip from the set of Avengers: Age of Ultron in Seoul, South Korea.
Get the Coach Newsletter
Sign up for workout ideas, training advice, reviews of the latest gear and more.
From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.