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Posts Tagged ‘Martial Arts’

The following are my brief reviews of four documentaries I watched on Netflix…
Requiem for the American Dream  (2016)   —  movie / documentary review
This documentary is (more or less) a seminar about the consolidation of wealth in the hands of the few (1%) and the subsequent use of wealth to control the government and thereby use the government to increase their wealth.  The documentary presents the views of Noam Chomsky, an MIT emeritus professor who made his fame in the study of linguistics and philosophy.  Chomsky is a long-time “leftist”, but not in the traditional sense of Communist or Socialist, and more in terms of being pro-democracy, that is supporting the rule of the governed as opposed to the rule of the elite.  More specifically, the people should control the governmental (government and regulations) business environment, not the business’s (or the mega-wealthy).  I didn’t find much which was really new in this documentary, but then I have considered Chomsky’s positions previously and have long agreed with him.  If I have any problems with this film it’s that it is presented in a “relatively” dry (“academic”) format.  So, while I agree with Chomsky, the American public doesn’t seem to mind government of the elite, by the elite and for the elite – hence, the election of Donald Trump.  Final recommendation: highly recommended, particularly if you are angry about the state of the country and / or worried about your job / career and place in our economic class system.
Sneakerheadz  (2015)   —  movie / documentary review
A short (just over an hour long documentary) summary / description of people who obsessively purchase sports shoes.  I agree with one of the commentators – a young lady – who says (in effect): “If you grow up poor and wanting things, like name-brand shoes and clothes, when you grow up and have enough money to buy them, you do.  To excess…“)   As I watched, I recognized myself and realize that except constrained by money, I could / would otherwise fall into this “addition”.  Beyond the simple ego-boost of being able to get something you previously could not afford, there is an underlying message of people seeking a place in society by creating an image of themselves which they can project out to others.  Interestingly, it seems this message is learned at an early age and then becomes the goal of their (the Sneakerheadz) life.  There is also a strong message about societal values and the ability of marketing to influence those values.  Not an original idea, but I still found it interesting to hear it stated so openly in documentary about shoe collectors.  Final recommendation: highly recommended.
A Drummer’s Dream  (2010)  —  movie / documentary review
What happens when you take some of the greatest drummers in the world, put them in an isolated Canadian farmland with a bunch of kids and all the drum kits and money the drummers can bring together?  It seems you get smiles, effervescent passion and irresistible personality. Starring drummers: Nasyr Abdul Al-Khabyyr, Dennis Chambers, Kenwood Dennard, Horacio “El-Negro” Hernadez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Mike Mangini and Raul Rekow, the documentary captures you with Rock, jazz, Latin fusion, and soul, but mostly it is about the drummers and their joy in playing…  And, did I mention smiles!  These musicians are driven by the beats of their hearts – full of love and joy of life.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!  I found myself tapping my hands and feet for days after watching this.  Fortunately, my attention deficit disorder prevents me from becoming obsessive (in this way) or I’d still be drumming and trying to find / share their joy.  Come for the percussion, stay for the smiles…!
The Real Miyagi  (2015)    —  movie / documentary review
Back in the 1960’s, a young Japanese man came to America with little but an expertise in Martial Arts.  He subsequently went on to become an internationally recognized Martial Arts instructor and stunt back-up actor.  That man is Fumio Demura.  If you have seen any of the first four “Karate Kid” movies, you’ve seen sensei Demura in action (probably without realizing it). Pat Morita’s iconic sensei (Mr. Miyagi) in ‘The Karate Kid’ was based on sensei Fumio Demura and Demura was Morita’s stunt double in the action sequences.  I don’t mean based on Demura’s actual life, as Mr. Miyagi was a fictional Japanese-American character who fought in World War II.  Rather, Mr. Miyagi is based on the idea of a man perfecting (improving) himself using art – in Miyagi’s case it is Karate and Bonsai trees.  The documentary traces sensei Demura’s life and offers multiple tributes from his students which offer insight into the man behind the title “sensei”.  Final recommendation: strong if you have only a casual interest in Martial Arts, highly if you have a personal interest in Martial Arts or in historic Martial Artists.
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On This Day In:
2015 Just Like All The Others
2014 In My Own Vanity
2013 Filled With Words
2012 Lectio Auget Existentiae Meae
2011 Lied Lately?
2010 Born To Work At Faux News
Lost Again (Uh, Make That Still)
Qui Genus Humanum Ingenio Superavit
They’re Back… (Part 1)

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Empty your mind, be formless.  Shapeless, like water.  If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.  You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle.  You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.  Now, water can flow or it can crash.  Be water, my friend.
  ―  Bruce Lee
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On This Day In:
2015 Amazing Or Full Of Wonder?
2014 Are You Confused?
2013 But The Odds Are Against It
2012 Far Better Off With Books
2011 Timid And Fainthearted

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Last night I was in the mood to watch some martial arts so I logged into Netflix to view “Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior” starring Japanom Yeerum, better known internationally as Tony Jaa, in the lead role of Ting.  Ting is a villager studying to be a monk – which I guess means learning to be a martial artist.  When the village idol is stolen, Ting goes to recover the religious artifact from a big-city gang.  Blah, blah, blah…  lots of fights and chase sequences, bad acting and little plot.  I believe I have seen the movie before, several years ago, but I didn’t remember it until very late in, so it’s possible I’ve only seen the fight sequences on YouTube.
This movie is a showcase for the martial art of Muey Thai.  As near as I can tell without a great deal of background in the art – it is very similar to the stronger forms of Gung Fu and Karate with a lot of close contact elbow and knee strikes.  The movie doesn’t have very much of a plot – like I said, just enough to string the action sequences together.  The key, of course, is whether or not the action is worth the price of admittance.  It is.  Jaa has tremendous screen presence and is an incredible athlete.  It is difficult to believe the sequences are done without wire (like most Chinese gung-fu movies), but they are not.  It’s just a shame Jaa isn’t given more of a chance to actually “act”.
As for the fighting itself, a purist will complain the human body can’t survive the pounding meted out in the movie and, of course, they are correct.  But let’s not forget, this is just a movie…  And that doesn’t make it any less entertaining to watch.
Final recommendation: see this for the action (martial and acrobatic) only – it’s terrific.  The acting is terrible and the plot is predictably poor, but you’re not viewing this for Oscar performances.  There are a few “bad / swear” words in the movie and there is obviously a lot of fight violence so this is not appropriate for young viewers (under 13).  Strong recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2014 Actually
2013 Unfortunate Evolutionary Accidents
2012 Tense (Past, Present And Future)
2011 What Is Your Preference?

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Thomas Robert “Tom” Laughlin (August 10, 1931 – December 12, 2013)
Before Steven Seagal (all three word title movies), before John Rambo (“Rambo” series), before John McClane (“Die Hard” series), before Paul Kersey (“Death Wish” series), before Kwai Chang Caine (“Kung Fu” TV series) – there was Billy Jack in “Born Losers” (1967).  Tom Laughlin brought to the big screen the start of the modern vigilante movie genre with the character of Billy Jack.  It seems strange how a little martial arts on the big screen, mixed with some social awareness and righteous indignation can affect people’s lives.
As a twelve year old kid I remember thinking, “Wow, I’ve got to learn how to do that!”  What I was looking at was Hapkido – a Korean form of Karate (open hand fighting).  Ten years later, I found a Hapkido dojo in Germany and studied it for almost a year during my off hours (I was in the Army).  That was set aside once I returned to civilian life…  Until I found Judo, while I was in college.  I took that for a semester, too.  When I moved to England in the ’90’s, a friend from work (who was a black belt in judo) said he’d love to get me on a mat and asked if I was interested in going to a dojo to learn Aikido.  My friend (Dave) and I found a local dojo and began our lessons.  We continued on with that for about two years.  It was great having someone who was a lifelong martial artist as a co-student because he could explain things in much greater detail than I could ever have gotten (except in one-on-one personal lessons).  For his side, he got someone who was bigger and heavier who he could throw around for a couple of hours twice a week.  We both moved on and I stumbled on to a Philippine “combat” style of Aikido while I was in Saudi Arabia which I tried for another year.  And then finally, once back home in America, I was back to traditional Aikido at a local dojo for several years (until I developed AFib and went on blood thinners).
Practicing martial arts, of course, lead me to read about martial arts, which in turn lead to me reading about martial philosophy and then philosophy in general.
Did I ever “become” a martial artist?  No.  Did I ever learn how to do that?  Not hardly.  I never took it seriously enough to be more than what I was – a novice and a bit of a dojo sampler.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes, very much.  Did it affect me?  Yes!  And for at least some small part of that, I have to thank Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin).
Beyond the enjoyment of playing Aikido itself, I learned timing, balance, grace, philosophy, and I gained a certain amount of inner peace.  For all of which, I will always be extremely grateful.
R.I.P. Tom
Signed,
KMAB (A Fan)
[Please also go check out the song lyrics to “One Tin Soldier – (The Legend of Billy Jack)” on my poems page.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 All Aboard
2011 Sail On, Sailor

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Yesterday I suffered another bad bout with my kidney stones.  I took advantage of the time off to finish the book: “American Shaolin“, by Matthew Polly (2007©).  This is a story about a young man who drops out of college to travel to the middle of China to spend two years learning about Kung-Fu.  Because he has been raised as a “nerdy” romantic from the mid-west (Kansas), it’s not good enough to just study Kung-Fu in America, he has to go all the way to the Shaolin temple.
The book is more about coming of age and Chinese culture than it is about martial arts.  Kung-Fu is really just the vehicle to carry us through the author’s voyage / passage into adulthood.  The story is a very fast read even though it’s over 350 pages.  Basically, I read it in one full day and one half day.
As per usual, I came upon the motivation to read this book quite by serendipity.  I found the book at Half-Price Books for $2 a couple of months ago, so I picked it up thinking I’ll add it to my martial arts library and maybe get around to reading it eventually.   Well, it turns out one of the blogs I follow has an interview with the author discussing learning – basically, the rule of 10,000.  Since I knew I had the book on my shelf, I thought this is the universe’s way of telling me to read it.  So, “eventually” came sooner than I expected.
If you are at all interested in Chinese culture, you should read this book.  It is a gold mine – a treasure trove.  For example, the Chinese begin bargaining with a cigarette.  It is usually offered by the seller and depending on how quickly you take it (if at all) and how you take it (with humility) and what type you ask for (American – expensive; Chinese – cheaper), you set the tone for the entire negotiation.  This is the kind of real world experience you can only get by spending a fair amount of time living with and reflecting on a particular culture.
There is not much in the book about fighting or Kung-Fu, but that’s okay.  Many times the best books about a culture have nothing to do with the vehicle for examining the culture and everything to do with the view as you travel.  In other words, it is the Chinese people who make this a entertaining and fascinating book.  Not the martial art.  Highly recommended!!
Oh, incidentally, the “rule of 10,000” is that you must practice something 10,000 times before you can become proficient at it.  From there, you can begin to achieve mastery.
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