The story starts off showing a master of the renowned Snake Style fighting and dying at the hands of a wandering Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy, a master of the Eagle Claw who has sworn to kill all masters of the Snake Style.
Then we meet Chien, an orphan regularly beaten upon and treated like a servant by the Kung Fu school that has adopted him. One day after a particular painful beating he sullenly walks along to find an old-man set upon by a gang of kung fu fighters. Jumping to his aid and through a series of kung fu hijinks the old man decides to teach Chien Snake Style and through Training from Hell leads him to his I Know Karate moment.
But the master of the Eagle Claw takes notice of his newfound abilities, and things won't end peacefully...
A definitive Kung Fu classic, here Jackie Chan first departed from the Bruceploitation characters he often portrayed into the comedic action roles he is now renowned for.
This film provides examples of:
- Bruce Lee Clone: Averted.
- Comforting Comforter: The Old Man does this for Chien, who is the whipping boy for the martial arts school where he's been raised.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Most of the fights the Eagle Claw Master takes part in have him taking his opponents apart, aside from the final battle.
- Groin Attack: "Finding the Snake", a move Chien uses on the Mantis School's master.
- Ironic Echo: When Chien Fu warns Master Hung about the Three Provinces Champion, Hung sternly orders Chien to "get back", probably thinking the well-meaning kid is still useless backup- once Chien starts demonstrating Snake Fist Style and kicking the Champion's ass, Hung steps forward to get a word in and Chien orders him to "get back".
- Old Master: The Old Man.
- Title Drop: At the end of the film. The Old Man suggests that he use it as a name for his new style of Kung Fu.
- Took a Level in Badass: Chien, after learning Snake Style, to the point that he can kick the ass of the guy who effortlessly took down the two masters of Chien's school at the same time. He levels up again after developing Cat's Claw, and combining it with his Snake Fist
- Beating the man who defeated the 2 stand-in masters at the school Chien lives at might not seem impressive, given how obviously and grossly incompetent they are- until you bear in mind that the man who beat them is the champion of a competition from 3 provinces, putting him as one of the best fighters around.
- Training from Hell: Pai Cheng-Tien (the Old Man) would know how best to train a student in Snake Fist Style. Even if the two are good friends, the Old Man refuses to pull his punches for someone he likes. Justified in that he knows that if Chien Fu should ever be discovered to have learned the style at all, or even be acquainted to someone who knows it, his life would be in mortal danger from practitioners of the Eagle Claw.