Tuesday, April 25, 2006
My Favorite Recent Kung Fu Movie
My favorite kung fu movie in recent years has to be The One Starring Jet Li, Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham, and Carla Gugino. I know a lot of people probably feel that the movie is a bit lackluster, and a bit rushed. And I'd say that I pretty much agree with you. I would have loved it if the pacing in the movie were more like a television series with teh same production values, but that's not very likely in the States any time soon. (Although, a quick aside, I bought Cindy a copy of the BBC Series Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and crew last week. It's as good as you'd imagine.)
The reason I'm fond of The One is the final fight scene between good Jet Li and Evil Jet Li. I get the sense that in some ways, the whole movie was just an excuse to get to this scene. Now in terms of story structure, the scene itself is what you'd expect: Bad Jet Li is winning until good Jet Li remembers what his grandfather taught him and he commences to trashing the bad guy. But there's much more going on, although it takes some understanding of kung fu.
Here I go. Kung fu isn't a single discipline, in fact the phrase when translated back from the Chinese, simply means, "hard work." Kung fu as a martial art is used to describe a vast array of schools and distinct styles. I have personally studied some of these styles, and I was left with an interest in what is known as the Three Sisters: Tai Chi Chuan, Xinyi Chuan, and Bagua Zhang.
When people think of Tai Chi, they think of old people moving slowly in the park. However, it's a martial art that is over a thousand years old, the defining principle of which is the absorbtion and redirection of kinetic energy.
Xinyi Chuan was invented around 500 years ago as a specific answer to Tai Chi. How does Xinyi defeat Tai Chi? By delivering a series of strikes so powerful that the human body cannot absorb the energy. The strikes are so powerful and fast that a Tai Chi practitioner's body is broken if they try to absorb the kinetic energy from a Xinyi punch. Xinyi does this by focusing all the force of a blow into the point of contact.
So, much more recently, (150 years by the last account I checked) Bagua Zhang was invented to overcome Xinyi. A Xinyi punch can pulverize bone when it makes contact, which is exactly how Bagua practitioners got around Xinyi. Xinyi moves down a line, and along that line, the blows delivered are irresistible. However, if the person being attacked moves to the side, sidesteps the punch/kick, then not only do they avoid getting hurt, but they are in a perfect position to strike the Xinyi practitioner. While Xinyi is the fastest of the Three Sisters, and Bagua is the slowest, bagua only has to move a few inches to the side to avoid a Xinyi attack. Then, with all their energy and focus directed at attacking on the body line, the Xinyi practitioner is completely vulnerable on the sides, which is where the Bagua practitioner attacks.
Of course, when a Tai Chi practitioner and a Bagua practitioner face off, the Tai Chi practitioner mops the floor with the Bagua guy. That's why these three are so often taught as an inter-related system. It's like rock-paper-scissors, but with kung-fu. (Note: I would feel irresponsible if I did not mention that our hypothetical practitioners are all masters of their respective arts. With two masters of comparable level, fighting each using one of the aforementioned styles, the results will shake out as described. A beginning Xinyi practitioner attacking a Tai Chi master gets what he/she deserves.)
So, back to The One. The big final fight between Evil Jet Li and Good Jet Li features Xinyi versus Bagua. After Good Jet Li is almost trounced, he gets back up and begins to walk the circle. (Another phrase describing Bagua. It is practiced by following an imaginary circle on the ground.) From there on out, Bad Jet Li cannot touch our Good Guy. I totally geeked out when I saw this. Totally.
I had never seen the two styles in action against each other before. It was and is beautiful. Tasty, tasty accuracy. Mm.
PS: The time spans I've listed here in relation to each style are from memory, and are not guaranteed to be accurate. But you can easily research them online if you are interested in more information.
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I liked the one two.
But your comments are a bit of a fantasy. Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua are all individual martial arts. They don't work like rock paper scissors.
To truly learn any of these arts requres putting your ass on the line against grapplers, MMA guys and Thai boxers. Anything less and you'll never blossom and grow into the art like you might. Without full contact fight against expert fighters, all this is a fantasy.
Taiji versus Bagua is simply man versus man. One will not defeat the other. They each have an arsenal of fighting movements, and more importantly, they both train the mind for fighting. They train the mind differently and each have advantages.
These skills can only grow if you fight full contact a lot. Against good fighters, not your joe blow guys. You need to test your mind body and soul to the extreme or else internal martial arts is simply a joke.
Find out how your Xing Yi works against Thai Boxing. At first you may lose. This is good, keep researching. Any fight is a chance to test your mind. Can you stay awake, fully present and alive within yourself? Or does the fear and emotion overwhelm you? It will at first but over time you will have tons of new ideas about training. Fight to improve your forms, not the other way around.
At the core internal mA require medtiation as their foundation skill. Without the mind strength, the techniques will not work, you will have better results with External styles that train the mind indirectly, through repetition and getting beatup until you learn. IMA means you train the mind DIRECTLY, day to day, specifically. Its a hard path but can be very enjoyable.
Without full contact fighting against expert sport fighters IMA will never truly reach it's potential.
Good luck in your training.