Lau Kar-leung, also known as Liu Chia-liang, was a Hong Kong-based Chinese actor, filmmaker, choreographer and martial artist. Lau is best known for the films he made in the 1970s and 1980s for the Shaw Brothers Studio. One of his most famous works is The 36th Chamber of Shaolin which starred Gordon Liu, as well as Drunken Master II which starred Jackie Chan.
Before becoming famous, Lau worked as an extra and choreographer on black and white Wong Fei-hung movies. He teamed up with fellow Wong Fei-hung choreographer Tong Gaai on the 1963 Hu Peng-directed wuxia film South Dragon, North Phoenix. Their collaboration would continue on until the mid-1970s. His first appearance in a film was in Brave Lad of Guangong (1950).
Lau began training students Hung Gar before the age of 5 and was already quite proficient in the style. Bruce Lee treated Lau as an elder uncle and asked him for advice in regards to his film career.
In the 1960s he became one of Shaw Brothers' main choreographers and had a strong working relationship with director Chang Cheh, working on many of Chang's films as a choreographer (often alongside Tong Gaai) including The One-Armed Swordsman, as well as other Shaw Brothers wuxia films, such as The Jade Bow. After a split with Chang on the set of Marco Polo, Lau evolved into a director during the sudden boom of martial arts films in the early 1970s. He occasionally did choreography work for non-Shaw films as well, such as Master of the Flying Guillotine.
After Shaw Brothers collapsed in the 1980s, Lau moved on and continued directing and choreographing films, among them Drunken Master II. However, the film's star Jackie Chan and director Lau clashed over the style of fighting, resulting in Lau leaving the set before the shooting of the final fight scene, which was then taken over by Chan. Most recently, Lau performed acting and choreography work for Tsui Hark's 2005 film Seven Swords.
Mark Houghton opened the Lau Family Hung Kuen school Lau Family Hung Gar academy in Hong Kong / Fanling with the support of his sifu, Lau. He gave his disciple the permission to spread the art of Lau Family Hung Kuen to chosen students. There are already branches in England, Philippines, and China.
Lau was the third child of Lau Cham (Lau Jaam, 劉湛), a martial arts master who studied Hung Gar under Lam Sai-wing, a student of Wong Fei-hung. He has a brother who makes a living in the film industry, actor/choreographer Lau Kar-wing, as does Gordon Liu, Lau's pupil and adopted godson to Lau's father, Lau Cham. His nephew Lau Kar-yung (son of his older sister)is also an actor, choreographer and director. Another nephew, Lau Wing-kin (Lau Kar-wing's son) is also an actor, and assisted Lau Kar-leung with action-directing Seven Swords.