In this installment of our series on the greatest kung fu movies ever made, we consider the samurai genre.
The characteristics of the samurai ethic include courage, loyalty, and honor. The greatest samurai movies not only illustrate these virtues, but present them in a novel, unexpected, and ultimately enlightening way.
Before the days of the strip-mall Kung Fu Dojo, some martial artists earned a living by performing in travelling circus shows. These artists demonstrated seemingly miraculous feats to entertain their audience, and attributed them to esoteric qigong training.
Truthfully, these “vagabond skills” are mostly cheap parlor tricks. In this video clip, Wing Chun instructor Leung Ting demonstrates the (relatively) safe and easy way to break bricks with your bare hands, and slice yourself with sharp blades.
One of the gentlemen in my practice group alerted me to this video clip. Henry Wang, an expert in the Cheng Man-ching style of Taiji, repeatedly bounces a puncher away through his own punch. Not only that, but he is sitting on a table, with his feet off the ground, while he does it!
In this excerpt from the intriguing documentary Mind, Body and Kick-Ass Moves, a Japanese martial arts expert uses the power of his kiai to ring a heavy temple bell.
These three movies examine the relevance of martial arts to everyday life. Even though they are all comedies, they may change your perspective on the value and meaning of kung fu.
Shaolin Soccer [IMDB]
Stephen Chow’s classic film shows the secret applications of Shaolin wushu: baking, tree trimming, and parallel parking.
In this video clip from the documentary Abbot Hai Teng of Shaolin, the 70-year-old Shaolin monk demonstrates his famous “One Finger Chan” posture.
I was recently reading wujimon’s Taijiquan blog, and was a little surprised to find Top 5 Martial Arts Movies in his list of most popular posts.
Surely, I thought, such lowbrow pursuits are beneath the true “internal martial artist”? But it seems I was wrong; a fortuitous circumstance, because I know more about kung fu movies than John Hodgman knows about hoboes.
The old Kung Fu master touched his assailant, with no apparent effect. Days later, the assailant died a sudden and mysterious death. He was a victim of the legendary dim mak, the touch of death.
Dim mak is a popular discussion topic among martial arts enthusiasts. Some instructors claim to have the skill, or believe that it was used to kill Bruce Lee. Others insist that dim mak instructors are frauds and the skill itself is a complete fantasy. Is there any evidence to support the existence of dim mak? Could it possibly work?
This video clip from Ripley’s Believe It or Not showcases the qigong skills of master Zhou Ting-Jue.
In the first portion of the video, Zhou raises the temperature of a damp paper towel (containing a sheet of foil) above 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Steam rises from the towel.
In the new martial arts documentary Fight Science, computerized sensors are used to objectively measure the speed, power and balance of various martial artists.
Among the findings:
- The boxer punches with 1000 pounds of force;
- The wushu practitioner moves faster than a snake;
- Damage from a Muay Thai knee is comparable to a 35MPH car crash.
These data points illustrate that martial arts practice results in a stronger, faster body. However in my opinion, they capture neither the most significant benefits of practice, nor the most interesting esoteric skills.