When I started Kenpo Girl I had no idea the level of popularity it would have. My goal was to start and open discussion between all systems of Martial Arts about the passion we have for Martial Arts. I wanted an open dialog going on in the Martial Arts Community.
I discussed this recently with my good friend Debbie Goodman on her TV show, Martial Arts Mania.
Debbie Goodman (Left) Kenpo Girl (Right)
Debbie Goodman goes way back with Martial Arts. She was one of the many children inspired by the TV show “Kung Fu.” It wouldn’t be until her late 20’s that she decided to start taking lessons...
“I started with Shotokan Karate but it just didn’t do it for me. I tried a blended style which taught self-defense moves but there was no philosophy… I finally found John Cho’s Kung Fu school and felt it was a good fit for me."
The goal of the show was to invite Central California martial artists to come on the show and demonstrate their styles and talk about their schools.
In 2013, Debbie was nominated for a "Martial Arts Hall of Fame" award in Newport Beach. On this trip she attended a book signing at the Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank, CA and filmed the event and interviewed some of the martial arts celebrities that attended.
Soon Martial Arts Mania was the talk of Los Angeles but suddenly the show was facing an uncertain future. Martial Arts Mania’s co-producer, Eric Catlapp, in May 2013 was tragically killed.
“The show came to a screeching halt at that point and I wasn’t sure it would continue,” Debbie explained.
The show would go on. Bestina Mounenalath signed on as co-producer and help Debbie pick up the pieces, just in time to get a call from James Wilson. James Wilson is a film producer and wanted Debbie to interview his stars from his upcoming move, “The Martial Arts Kid.”
Debbie saw an opportunity and took it,
“I told him I'd been dying to get an interview with James Lew, and if he could get me an interview with James Lew, I'd come down when he was available, and whichever one of the stars was available on that day, I'd interview them. It turned into a dinner party at James Lew's house, and Don Wilson was the one that was available.”
Debbie been watching these two icons since the '80's. They graced the covers of many Martial Arts magazines at that time. James Lew has been in the film business since the early '70's, starting with the TV series "Kung Fu". Don “The Dragon” Wilson is not just an actor but a 10x World Champion Kickboxer. These two interviews would boost Martial Arts Mania’s popularity and would become Debbie’s most memorable interviews.
Don Wilson (Far Left) Debbie Goodman (Left Center)
Discussing Theories On Martial Arts Films with Don Wilson...
I was invited by my friend Debbie Goodman, creator and host of Martial Arts Mania, to visit the Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank, CA. We were attending a fundraiser for the museum and I was surprised to find that the majority of the guests attending where not only martial artists but involved in films.
I am a complete novice concerning Martial Arts Films and had had mixed emotions of the genre. As an instructor I can’t even begin to count the times students come in asking when they would learn to do front flips or climb up the walls like a ninja.
Yet, who am I to judge? “The Next Karate Kid” was a hit when I first started taking lessons. I remember watching Hillary Swank obsess over her forms with Mr. Miyagi then many years later jumping in the ring with Clint Eastwood in “Million Dollar Baby”.
The truth is it never fails to see a high attendance in Dojos when a blockbuster such as The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Karate Kid (2010) opens. As I walked through the museum, viewing items such as Danielson’s headband from the first “The Karate Kid,” I felt myself slowly becoming more inquisitive to this mainstream subculture of karate.
Was an audience’s fascination on martial arts or the film? How engraved had the film industry become in Martial Arts?
Luckily, later that night I got to have dinner with Don “The Dragon” Wilson.
Don is an 11x World Champion Kickboxer, practitioner of Pai Lum Kung Fu and has starred in over 30 Martial Arts Films.
His response was diplomatic and realistic, “They are not prejudice. Hollywood is color blind, they only see green. It’s about how much they make on opening night. Women now-a-days can do action films, you are seeing more and more of them. What they (Hollywood) wants a big opening and it’s believed a female star might not open as big as if a man was the leading role.”
It’s an interesting concept for Hollywood considering the largest Martial Arts film opening is Rush Hour 2 at $226.2 million and the largest Action Heroine film opening is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at $424.7 million.
For all the people that failed math like me, that almost a $200,000,000 difference.
In 1973 Enter The Dragon starring Bruce Lee and distributed by Warner Bros opened and changed the film industry and began the “Kung Fu Kraze.”
Don explained the significance of the genre...
As for the captivation...
He further clarified, “You can watch the flashy kickers and the stunts with flips but it’s not realistic on the street. It’s not applicable.”
He had a point. Somewhere between the flying kicks and super strong punches, audiences had become captivated with the genre, but there is still a line drawn between Martial Arts and Hollywood Martial Arts.
That line is application.
This could possibly even be the reason student’s that first start at a Dojo seem somewhat disappointed at times. In the end, flashy showmanship will not save them from someone trying to harm them. If we could all run up walls, we would never have to fight anyone.
Nonetheless, we will still see an influx in students when the next martial arts film releases. For the lucky ones that walk into our school it could change their lives for the better. There are still the unfortunate ones that find themselves in a McDojo; schools that feed off the craze but do nothing to better their students.
I believe the best thing we can take from Martial Arts Films is what they are intended for: Entertainment.
Now excuse me, I need to go watch a shirtless Tom Hardy in "Warrior."
Jesalyn Mae Harper
Hello my name is Jesalyn. I'm a divorced single mom and a karate addict...
I am currently a 1st Brown belt in American Kenpo and a Junior Instructor at Double Dragon Kenpo Karate under JR Diaz, I am part of the Parker/Planas Lineage and study Karbaroan Eskrima with JR Diaz, under Guro Ed Planas
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