Category Archives: Martial Arts

Zener is back! And Kung-Fu Cinema is ON!


While I was able to appreciate my alone time when Z-boy was gone (it’s so lovely to be able to write without distractions!), I missed him dearly.  Every time I watched a movie, I’d think about how much Z would have enjoyed it, and missed his laughter and exuberance. 

What we’ve explored so far:


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Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) – an early Chan movie, the first of his iconic comedy infused kung-fu style.  It’s a fun movie and features many (most?) of the same actors as Drunken Master (1978).  Jackie Chan plays an orphan at a kung-fu school who is maltreated by the instructors, but soon befriends an old beggar who happens to be one of the last remaining masters of the Snake Fist style.  The Snake Fist school is being systematically destroyed by the Eagle Fist masters (for no adequately explored reason, as Douglas Adams would say, but hey, it’s a kung fu movie, it’s not about the plot!).  The fighting is excellent, and pretty near bloodless.  One rather huge issue, for me, is the scene where a cobra and cat are fighting.  Hong Kong cinema had no rules to protect animals from harm during filming, and I fear that both the cat and the snake came to serious harm.  I skip the scene (fortunately, it’s only about a minute or two).  Zener loved the Cat Claw style, and has made constant attempts to use it against me since watching the movie.  I have scratches. 

The English dubbed version is available for free viewing on Crackle.



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Fearless Hyena (1979) – Another early Jackie Chan film, made after his huge successes with Drunken Master and Snake in Eagle’s Shadow.  This one is more serious and dramatic, yet it still features Chan’s comedic style.  The fight at the end is stupendously complicated and wonderful to watch.  The plot for this one is more traditional, and revolves around Chan’s character’s, path of revenge.  Which is apparently a very typical plot device for Kung Fu films, but as I’m new to the genre, it’s not a cliche yet for me.  This one is a tad more brutal than the others we’ve seen so far, but still pretty cartoonish. 

Zener was on the floor laughing for many of the comedic fight scenes.  We also decided that Jackie Chan was adept at “Bum-Fu”  and “Tickle-Fu”.  Zener was already familiar with “Tickle-Fu”, since that is my primary style of defense against his attacks. 

Zener also had quite the reaction to the inevitable “Shirtless Training Scene” where Jackie Chan is dragging two very heavy bags across the ground. He said, with wonder and awe in his eyes, “He looks so cool!”

"He looks SO COOL!"

“He looks SO COOL!”

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So I told him that if he wanted to be strong like that, he needs to work on his push ups!  And he did do a much better warm up set in Karate after viewing this movie.  Chan-spiration strikes!

Bonus:  chop stick fight, which undoubtedly provided the inspiration for the one in Kung Fu Panda. 


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Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) Both movies in this animated series are wonderful films, and Zener and I enjoy them greatly.  The second film is darker and more serious than the first, but still beautifully done. 

Bonus:  Do I detect hints of Shaolin Soccer in the final showdown between Po and Shen?  Methinks I do! 


Jackie Chan – Spirit Guide

Jackie Chan, Spirit Guide

Jackie Chan, Spirit Guide

I have developed a deep appreciation and love for Jackie Chan’s work.  Z-boy and I have been exploring Kung Fu movies since he’s gotten into Karate.  I had suspected that Jackie Chan movies would appeal to Z the most due to their comedy (which is pretty much the only thing I did know about his work).  The first movie we tried to watch was Super Cop (1992), but Z didn’t like it because of all the guns and explosions.  So I switched to the other Jackie Chan movie that was available on Netflix  that I’d actually heard of – Legend of the Drunken Master (1994).  I was surprised by how good it was – I had this idea in my head that Jackie Chan would be too goofy and stupid to enjoy – how wrong I was!  We both absolutely loved it, we loved the goofy slapstick and the amazing artistry of the fight scenes.  Z gets really into movies, to the point where he’s kicking and punching and jumping around with the action on screen.  Legend of the Drunken Master had him doing all that as well as doubling over in fits of hysterics.  Big win!

Legend of the Drunken Master - so very Chan

Legend of the Drunken Master – so very Chan


Later, we watched the original Drunken Master (1978).  While the fight scenes were not as impressive as the later version, it was still a great deal of fun and we enjoyed it.  It also served as a “teachable moment” – Chan’s character, the young Wong Fei-Hung, is a wastrel in need of discipline and direction, and as such, is portrayed as very whiny and petulant.  I have no idea how annoyingly whiny he is in Chinese, but the English voice dubbing actor whined and whinged almost constantly through many scenes.  So I asked Z if his whining was really annoying, and he said “oh yeah, he’s a spoiled brat, isn’t he?”  Yes  he is!  Did you know that that’s what you sound like sometimes? Do you really want to sound like a whiny spoiled brat like the young Fei-Hung?  “No…”

I think Z can really connect with a lot of Jackie Chan’s characters, and the man himself seems like a decent sort of bloke for the most part.  So I’m happy to have more Jackie Chan around for my son, as a source of inspiration for his training, as well as for life  in general.  Thus, Jackie Chan is our Spirit Guide.

(And lucky me, while Z is gone visiting his grandparents, I get to preview his films!!!!  It is simply too much fun, and I’m so excited to watch them with him! Watch this space for suggestions and reviews of martial arts films you can watch with kids!)

Jackie Chan Prayer Hands pic credit:
Legend of Drunken Master pic credit:

On the benefits of afterschool activities


Karate class continues to go well!  They have started a module on Philippine stick fighting techniques in a style called cinco teros, or in their tradition, senco teros.  Z-boy has been working very hard and improving greatly in focus, concentration, control, and technique.  It’s so incredible to watch him blooming!


Sinawali (yes, it’s blurry to obscure identities)

I hope he can link this into other areas of his life.  He’s been working so hard, and he loves it, and he’s so excited to progress and move on to new, more complicated, and therefore more awesome techniques and skills.  He wants – really wants – to earn his next belt.  He’s also very worried about being able to do well enough in school to get his teacher’s to sign off on his belt promotion.  He thinks it will take him all year to do it.

So self-confidence is growing, but not yet in the area of school.  I had hoped to catch one of his favorite instructors to have him give Z a pep talk, but he was off this week.

So my plan for this school year:  make sure he has plenty of after school programs scheduled for when he’s at his dad’s house.  While he’s at mine, we’ll concentrate on karate, choir, and homework (as his dad isn’t really capable of helping him with writing and math).

For one thing, having afternoon/evening activities reduces the likelihood that the ex-girlfriend will be able to visit him (his dad allows visits, against my wishes).

But perhaps more importantly, it will surround Z-boy with different types of people, many potential positive role models.  And friendships with kids who share his interests and lift him up.

And of course there’s the opportunity to build skills and confidence in himself in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and he can carry that confidence into his school day.

I don’t want to “over-schedule” him, but at the same time, I want him to see the wider world, and to feel he has a place in it.

So I’m going to get him into 4-H, possibly a drama and or dance class, possibly gymnastics, possibly fencing, possibly violin lessons, possibly robotics, possibly computer programming.  Not all at the same time, though.  But there are so many potential avenues for growth!  I’m going to try to make this the best year yet!



My karate kid


Zener is now in Karate!  He started taking it a few weeks ago, and I think it is really helping him discover his strengths.  He seems to be gaining confidence in himself and his own abilities, and the knowledge that perseverance pays off.   His instructors seem like excellent mentors and role models for him.  They teach with sensitivity, warmth, humor, and discipline.

Not to mention learning awesome moves!

This also means we get to watch kung-fu and karate movies, and he absolutely loved Karate Kid (yes, the 1984 original).  He was inspired to write his own martial arts student pledge (based loosely on the one they recite at his dojo) and create his own practice routine.

I am so excited to watch Z on this journey!

Karate Kid Daniel-san and Mr Miyagi

Karate Kid Daniel-san and Mr Miyagi

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