In New York Magazine, Kyle Buchanan laments the decline of the modern action movie:
…Actors often brag about how much Krav Maga or karate or capoeira they had to learn for their roles, but to judge from the onscreen world of modern action movies, that kind of skill set is hardly rare: A built-in understanding of martial arts is instilled in everyone, be they hero, villain, or mere henchman. (Fortunately, heroes always get to fight off bad guys who somehow know the exact same form of martial arts they do.) Too often, it seems like movies grind to a halt for obligatory hand-to-hand combat with low stakes and little invention, as though the screenwriter typed, “A fight breaks out,” and the director left it up to the second unit and fight coordinator to fill three minutes.
With little in the way of stakes, a sameness in presentation, and no blood or bruises, martial arts have turned action scenes into dance scenes…Gone are the days when a fight might involve a gun, a makeshift weapon, or a hit that actually hurts.
Mr. Buchanan misremembers the history of violence in cinema.
This article is intended as a companion piece to The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers series. It will provide additional information on the martial arts themes that frequently appear in The LXD.
What styles of martial arts are performed on The LXD?
In Episode 2, AntiGravity Heroes, Jimmy and Justin perform a dazzling set with elements of parkour, XMA, and modern wushu. Although the term wushu technically refers to Chinese martial arts in general, the term is most commonly applied these days to theatrical renditions of the arts, tuned for artistic performance rather than for direct combat application.
This I Believe is an international project engaging people in writing and sharing essays that describe their core values. More than 90,000 of these essays, written by people from all walks of life, are archived on their website.
Naturally, some essayists shared their beliefs on, and experience with martial arts. Here are a few of their stories.
Life Is A Spiritual Struggle by Joseph Laycock (Brighton, Massachusetts)
Over the din of boxing gloves pounding against leather bags, I struggle to hear this Brazilian explain yet another way to choke someone unconscious. This is a martial arts gym. Most of the regulars are amateur fighters with dreams of going professional. When they’re not here, some of them work as firefighters or bouncers. I’m definitely the only schoolteacher in the room.
My students take interest in my training. Sometimes I’ll enter the classroom with bruises or a slight limp from the gym. In world history, I’ll discuss the cultural significance of the fighting styles I study. In Thai kickboxing, the eight striking weapons — fists, shins, elbows and knees — represent the eight-fold path of the Buddha. Brazilian jujitsu has more improvisation than Japanese martial arts, which reflects different cultural attitudes towards tradition.
Every class asks me the same questions, “Have you ever beat anyone up?” And, “Why are you a teacher instead of a professional fighter?” When I tell them the truth — that I have never been in a fight and have no aspirations to go professional — I get a range of reactions from disappointment to accusations of cowardice.
“So why do you do it,” they always ask.
I believe that life is a spiritual struggle. My battle is not against another fighter but against the unjust and apathetic system that is attacking my students… [continued]
The inaugural Crossing The Pond Martial Expo was held last weekend in West Seattle. This seminar brought together six well-known and highly skilled instructors of martial arts and self-defense from across the United States and United Kingdom.
Over the weekend, two one-hour workshops were held by instructors Al Peasland, Nicholas Yang, Kris Wilder, Rory Miller, Marc “Animal” MacYoung, and Iain “Tuna Fish Pizza” Abernethy.
Approximately thirty-five people were in attendance. Among the students, at least one third appeared to be black belts and/or instructors themselves.
Participants were open-minded, polite, and patient–especially with this author, who hadn’t done any Karate training since elementary school. Egoism, inappropriate competition, and input from self-declared “assistant instructors” was minimal. This is a credit to the affable seminar host, Kris Wilder, and the other teachers as well, who together set the right tone for the event.
“They lie amongst us, preparing for battle, waiting to rise and change things for good. Some are gifted in ability, others are trained to master it and some, some have it bestowed upon them at birth, but they all must choose.” These words, spoken in a James Earl Jones baritone, could be the opening crawl for the latest “X-Men” movie. But they aren’t referring to traditional superheroes, at least not in the masked and overly muscled sense. They are dancers.
The lines come from the first episode of “The LXD” or “The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers,” a new dance-inspired Web series created by Jon M. Chu, the 30-year-old director of the hit 2008 movie “Step Up 2: The Streets” and the soon to be released “Step Up 3D.”
The series, which made its debut on July 7 on Hulu is produced by Mr. Chu and Hieu Ho with Agility Studios, and is a leap in Web-based original programming. “This is the most ambitious project that has been done for the Internet,” said Thomas F. Lesinski, the president of Paramount Digital Entertainment, adding later that the cinematography “could hold up in a movie theater.” New episodes will appear every Wednesday throughout the summer. Changing public perceptions about dancers was part of what Mr. Chu had in mind when he conceived the series.
“Dancers actually have a real power,” said Mr. Chu, who studied tap growing up in Palo Alto, Calif., before he fell for filmmaking, and this is how he views the dancers in the show. “Some people call it aura, some people call it chi, we call it ra,” he said. “And the ra is that power.” He added: “So when a b-boy does his spins, if you concentrate, you can see him shoot out that power, and it can affect someone physically. Or like when a ballerina cuts her leg through the air, it’s actually like a Ninja slice across someone’s face. And a jazz dancer’s jazz hands can actually rumble the floor if they know how to do it in the right way.”
I would love to cite Raging Phoenix as the first awesome martial arts film with a female lead. I would love to do that. But its choreographers and writers conspire against me.
Raging Phoenix is the story of a young female rocker (played by Jeeja Yanin) who gets caught up in a ruthless kidnapping ring. Women are abducted off the streets of Thailand, drugged, and taken to a secret laboratory hidden within a Temple of Doom, which is in turn hidden within a metropolitan sewage system. Naturally, the women’s tears are harvested there, to concoct a patent medicine for eccentric billionaires.
Only one force is strong enough to thwart the kidnapper’s plans: a small group of drunken vigilantes who learned to combine Muay Thai boxing with stylish hip-hop dance moves.