Fans of Mortal Kombat will fondly remember the warrior Liu Kang for his valiant efforts in protecting Earthrealm alongside his peers. In contrast to the boatsful Johnny Cage, the serious Sonya Blade, and the dutiful Jax Briggs, Liu Kang sets himself apart with his discipline and integrity. However, his penchant for kindness doesn’t make him a pushover, either.
Essentially, players love Liu Kang for his fairly balanced kit that relies on swift but hard punches and kicks. Additionally, his signature Dragon Fire and Flying Dragon Kick always amused both players and enemies alike. However, Liu Kang has more than his kit and his iconic look to offer fans. What else should players know about this Shaolin Monk?
10 A Martial Arts, Military Inspiration
Franchise character designer and co-creator John Tobias originally intended the Mortal Kombat protagonist to bear the name Minamoto Yoshitsune. This name seems to originate from Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a military commander who also became one of Japan’s most celebrated samurai in the Feudal Era. Unfortunately, the name didn’t seem to resonate with the rest of the team.
Additionally, instead of being a samurai, this protagonist would be a traditional monk instead – bald and sporting a robe. Moreover, Tobias will get the name Liu Kang from martial artist and martial arts film director Gordon Liu. At the time, Gordon Liu’s film The 36th Chamber of Shaolin became popular to martial arts fans at the time.
9 The Bruce Lee Connection
After the design team opted out of the traditional monk design of the original Yoshitsune, Liu Kang’s design started to resemble Bruce Lee. This included Bruce Lee’s iconic topless look and his sleek aesthetic. In fact, even Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon inspired Liu Kang’s backstory. Additionally, Liu Kang also replicates some of Bruce Lee’s mannerisms, such as making noises while making swift strikes.
In turn, Liu Kang holds the title of the second character in a fighting game based on Bruce Lee. The first character to hold this distinction is Kim Dragon (World Heroes).
8 Not Shaving Helped With The Design
Tobias wanted Liu Kang to look like a traditional monk, but actor Ho-Sung Pak refused to shave his head for the role. It seems this refusal not only forced the team to reshape Liu Kang’s design. In the first game, Liu Kang would have short hair and only wear black pants and white shoes. However, his subsequent appearances would feature his signature red headband, red stripes, and studded wrist guards. This establishes Liu Kang’s unique look compared to the likes of the shinobi Scorpion.
In fact, despite design alterations throughout the games, Liu Kang’s “red stripes” look would remain predominant throughout his looks. Other additions to his attires in games included a red tank top (MK 4), hooked chains (Deception, Armageddon), and even a vest on a white shirt (MK 11).
7 Shaolin Monk No More, But Retains Shaolin Beliefs
Fans of Liu Kang would note his beliefs towards discipline, honor, and respect – however, he would not hesitate to kill when necessary. Interestingly, such isn’t the case in the first game. In the original Mortal Kombat, Liu Kang retains the Shaolin’s beliefs regarding murder and killing despite not being a part of them anymore. As such, Liu Kang’s Fatalities in the first game didn’t explicitly showed him committing murder.
However, Liu Kang would start receiving more brutal Fatalities beginning in Mortal Kombat 2. It’s around this time that Liu Kang will have a more obvious “renegade Shaolin” getup. Interestingly, Liu Kang will try his best to retain his outlook towards good throughout the rest of the series.
6 Unique Abilities Through Transformations
Interestingly, Liu Kang has become one of Mortal Kombat‘s most strongest characters not simply because of his origins alone. In fact, it’s his experience that helped him tap into various new abilities. Originally, Bo’ Rai Cho honed Liu Kang’s skills to help him attain incredible martial arts, acrobatic skills, and agility. Additionally, his attachment to the element of fire allowed Liu Kang to shoot fireballs, transform himself into a Chinese dragon, and even breathe fire.
Liu Kang eventually uses the Dualist martial art, letting him tap into healing Yin and damaging Yang abilities. As a Revenant, Liu Kang used Shinnok’s mysticism to strengthen himself by absorbing the soul of his living counterpart. It’s thanks to these abilities that Kronika herself saw Liu Kang as a threat. This situation led her to manipulate the timeline to ensure Raiden and Liu Kang always fought one another.
5 Darker Characterization A Welcome Change
Despite his status as the franchise’s main protagonist, Liu Kang proves that even he possesses the potential to turn evil. When Liu Kang died in Deception, his rise as a vengeful zombie became a welcome change to the franchise. This “shock” that permeated across the fanbase rejuvenated interested in the series. Interestingly, Liu Kang’s “darker” status remained with him for almost two decades since his zombification in Deception and destruction alongside other warriors in Armageddon.
Meanwhile, the living Liu Kang in MK 2011‘s “past timeline” develops an anger-driven mindset when their version of Raiden tries to “change” the past, as per the message of Armageddon Raiden. Additionally, Raiden accidentally kills Liu Kang here. Moreover, his Revenant Form in MKX shows him as vengeful and self-centered. Meanwhile, his living counterpart in the game had a jaded perspective in life.
4 A Dragon Connection
Fans of Mortal Kombat lore would remember the Dragon King Onaga as the original king of Outworld before Shao Kahn’s took his throne. In fact, Onaga had so much power that the combined powers of Raiden, Shang Tsung, and Quan Chi couldn’t hold a candle against his abilities.
Additionally, some fans speculate that Liu Kang and Onaga might even have a connection. After all, Liu Kang possesses a dragon transformation ability. Interestingly, the Elder God Cetrion also implies this as she mentions that both Liu Kang and Onaga possessed the same flames.
3 Fit To Restart The Generation
After Armageddon aimed to “end” the older generation of Mortal Kombat games, subsequent games beginning MK 2011 slowly redefined the franchise. In turn, the lore took a turn towards in-universe retcons when Armageddon Raiden’s message to the past tried to change the course of MK‘s original timeline in MK 2011. Additionally, the 2010s turned NetherRealm’s focus on unique IPs. These included the dawn of the MKvDCU title and even the eventual popularity of the Injustice franchise.
However, it’s Liu Kang’s actions in MK 11 that will lead to both his redemption and a proper “restart” of the games. In MK 11, Lord Raiden infuses Revenant Liu Kang with his powers to stop the two of them from fighting. This fusion led to the creation of Fire God Liu Kang, who then defeats Kronika the Time Titaness. In turn, Fire God Liu Kang becomes the deity responsible for restoring the timeline anew.
2 The Captain Marvel Of Mortal Kombat
Interestingly, Liu Kang and his other Mortal Kombat companions had to fight the DC Universe’s strongest heroes and villains in MKvsDCU. In this game, whereas Raiden faces Superman, Liu Kang meets his match in Captain Marvel. Additionally, in Liu Kang’s ending, Raiden uses his own lightning abilities to endow Liu Kang powers of various gods. In this ending, Liu Kang has to scream “Mortal Kombat” to tap into the powers of Raiden, Fujin, and Argus.
As such, Liu Kang effectively becomes the Captain Marvel of the Mortal Kombat universe. Interestingly, Liu Kang’s “ascension” to godhood in MKvDCU foreshadowed his canonical godhood transformation in MK 11.
1 Considered As Members Of Multiple Species
Since Mortal Kombat includes members of various realms, it makes sense for a lot of its characters to come from different species. These include Edenians like Kitana, Shokan like Goro, or even Gods like Raiden. However, very few characters held the privilege of belonging to multiple species.
Liu Kang started as a Human and becomes an Undead upon his death. He also becomes a Revenant, and eventually a God. His membership in multiple species ties with Sub-Zero, who also started as a Human but becomes a Revenant and a Cyborg. He also becomes classified as a God in his Armageddon ending.