Monday, January 3, 2011

Guest Post: Kung Fu Panda - worst martial arts movie ever?

Here's a guest post from a very old friend of mine, Jonathan Rabinowitz, who was so overcome by the horror of Kung Fu Panda that he felt the need to pen this essay.  I enjoyed the movie myself, but it's hard to disagree with his point that viewed as a martial arts movie the film left a lot of room for improvement:

Kung Fu Panda, Worst Martial Arts Movie Ever

Speaking for myself, I always found consistency to be the greatest gift of martial arts. From studying Karate, I learned that doing the same thing every day led to great results. Even though it's been years since I tied on the obi, I still know this lesson, and I try to apply it often.

What's the lesson from Kung Fu Panda? “There is no secret ingredient [to success].” OK, fair enough, but that platitude is usually applied to situations with fairly overt ingredients, like consistency, or wattage, or grass-fed beef. In the movie, apparently there are no ingredients at all. Po the panda just one day starts responding to training and consequently kicks the villain's butt.

Maybe the screenwriters are confusing “beginner's mind” with the “no secret ingredient” trope. Beginner's Mind means that you approach the technique without preconceived notions, or with a blank slate, so that you stop repeating the mistakes that have stealthily populated your technique. You focus directly on the technique as if you were learning it for the first time. But this assumes that you already know how to throw a punch or kick or block and just need some going-back-to-basics in order to figure out how to avoid being sloppy with the technique. Po in the movie is completely incompetent at technique!

The story makes it seem as if each of us already has a Kung Fu master within, waiting to be let out. Po's inner Kung Fu master comes out when he's hungry, but there's no explanation of how he acquired the training to get that way. It just seems to be an innate property that he has when he's properly motivated (by food).

Taking the Kung Fu Panda approach to your own life would mean giving up everything in order to follow your dreams, then suddenly, without actually doing any work about it, being able to accomplish those dreams. True, identifying and pursuing your dreams are important steps in the process of self-development, but the consistency needed to develop competence at whatever your dream is—be it karate, kung fu, or barbering—is necessary to invest yourself in that dream. Think of yourself. If you achieved your dreams through divine intervention—if some god came down, touched you on your shoulder, and told you, “You're now a Top Chef”—would you really feel as if you had achieved your dream? The process is its own reward, and that's what Kung Fu Panda gets wrong.
 I still love the opening sequence - the part that turned out to be a dream.  I wish they'd made the whole movie like that.

Thank you  Jon for your insight!  More training info next time.


No comments:

Post a Comment