Dr. Craig's Martial Arts Movie Lounge
Have you ever watched a film that was just so amazing that when the sequel came out, your mind started developing great expectations and that it would be a pip, which has nothing to do with a Charles Dicken's novel, yet a movie that could be a real humdinger?
In 2017, one of the most engaging and exciting elements of the Sammo Hung and Vincent Zhao starring God of War is that it was a remake of Jimmy Wang Yu's classic kung fu flick Beach of the War Gods (BWG; 1973). This gave me the perfect opportunity to see how a film on the same subject was handled by two Chinese filmmaking eras 44 years apart and how the fight choreography was used to tell the hero's story.
BWG was inspired by the true legend of the hero general Yu Da-you, who during the Ming dynasty in 1555, killed 2,000 Wokou (Japanese pirates) while defending Jiaxing, Zhejiang province. It was considered one of the greatest Chinese victories of the Wokou Wars.
For the first 32 minutes of God of War II (GOW2), the grotesqueness of the film was disturbing as madman emperor Dong Zhuo was monitoring the development of an army of zombie-like warriors created by an evil, white as snow, female Mao Shan necromancer who tortured and fed children the five deadly poisons, while boiling their bodies in a vat of venomous toxic liquid. At this point, I thought GOW2 wasn't going to be a pip but a pop.
As blood oozed from the bodies of the sorceress' guards and pharmacists being maimed and bitten by the ultra-poisoned and mindless, brainwashed puppet teen named 19 (Charles Lin), who while making his escape became the god of gore with a Hulk-like rage impersonation, for some unknown reason I pictured Moses parting the blood-red strawberry Kool-Aid spill on a kitchen floor…training for his Red Sea miracle. While the bubble of great expectations for combative martial artistry was losing its air, to me, GOW2 was becoming fraught with the spirit of another Dickens character, a real bah humbug-dinger.
Fans of Hong Kong fant-Asia films from the 1990's may be familiar with the black magic ways of the Mao Shan sect of Taoists who were trained to catch ghosts/demons and do corpse herding, where they'd be hired to re-animate a corpse with mantras and spells and walk the body back to its birthplace for burial. This led to a flurry of hopping vampire movies.
Although being hunted down by Dong Zhuo's crack martial vagabonds who kill villagers like two deranged donkeys (ass-ass-ins) who refuse to tell them if they've seen the crazy teen, 19 has no memory of his demonic past and when he stumbles upon the fair maiden Chanyi in the woods, she renames him Yi Lu Bu, based on how he wraps a piece of cloth around his body to cover his naughty parts. The name Yi Lu Bu and the miracle of love becomes part of his mind rebuilding soul.
And that's when it hit me. Though not a sequel, GOW2 is inspired by the story of the real-life Chinese general hero Lu Bu as written in the 14th century, Chinese literature epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which when I was a grad student at National Taiwan University in 1979, it was required reading in Chinese schools. During the late Eastern Han dynasty circa the late A.D. 190s, Lu Bu fought for the most treacherous and cruel warlord, Dong Zhuo, who sadistically enjoyed torturing the common folks. A plot was hatched to kill the tyrant by using the songstress Diao Chan to drive a wedge between Dong and his now adopted son Lu Bu by creating a love triangle with the hope that Lu Bu would turn on Dong and kill him.
Director Mavis Cong creates an elaborate new dimension to the source material by using poison and sex in such a highfalutin way, that you've got to see how she pulls it off. Granted there aren't as many fights as God of War, yet what's important to me is that she gives justice to Lu Bu's martial prowess and his signature techniques.
Historically, Lu Bu, nicknamed the Flying General, was known for riding a powerful steed called Red Hair and that his weapon of choice was the halberd long pole fangtian huaji, which was a spear dagger with a combination of two crescent moon-shaped ax blades that were used for cutting, thrusting, slicing, hooking and blocking. It was an important weapon during the Chin and Han dynasties and was primarily used by soldiers fighting on horseback and foot. Over the next few hundred years it became a defunct war weapon.
One of Lu Bu's signature moves was killing 4-6 people with a single slice. Here's some food for thought, since the film is predominantly about the love triangle, perhaps his slicing skills would be useful in a pizza parlor.
What I like about the minimalist short fight sequences is that they feature strange floating jumping kicks captured in various angles using swish edits in combination with slow motion and speed ramping camera choreography within the same shots, i.e., the result of the poison's effect on his body switching between lax and hyper movements. Smartly, the film doesn't overdo it by having extended wire-fu flight patterns like in what we often saw in early fant-Asia films.
Yet the way GOW2 shows how Lu Bu develops his single slice-killing multiple attackers in one swoop skill is so subliminal that when he starts taking out multiple attackers at the same time, it feels like a natural progression rather than he suddenly and magically knows how to do it. Watch for it.
The love triangle escalating into a full circle of tragedy shapes the film in a way that even Shakespeare might appreciate it.
Somehow the challenger survived and came out to take Volkanovski down in the 4th going for another guillotine. Volkanovski fought it off then delivered more vicious punishment to Ortega. Amazingly, Ortega carried the fight to Volkanovski in the last round hurting him with punches but it wasn't enough as the champion took the decision.
The co-main event saw Valentina Shevchenko put on an outstanding performance mixing punches, kicks, takedowns and top control on the ground to retain her women's flyweight title over Lauren Murphy. The end came in the 4th when Shevchenko hurt Murphy with punches then took her down and pounded her until the referee halted things.
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This is just the latest in a long line of legal problems for Jones, who gave up his light heavyweight title in 2020 to campaign for the heavyweight crown but has yet to fight in the division after various disputes with the UFC. He was arrested for DWI back in 2012, plead guilty to a hit and run charge involving a pregnant woman in 2015 and plead guilty to charges stemming from alleged street drag racing in 2016. In 2019 he plead no contest to charges of battery after being accused of slapping a waitress at strip club and in 2020 he was again arrested for DWI and the negligent use of a firearm. When asked about Jones latest arrest, UFC boss Dana White told reporters, "It's not even shocking anymore... This guy's got a lot of demons."
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The core is so vital that Bruce Lee trained them every day. His purpose was not to crush but stimulate them to be stronger over time. I don't know of anyone who trained their abs more than Bruce. I also don't know professionals who are as fast and explosive as Bruce. Even Bolo Yeung, who doubted Bruce Lee's strength, said Bruce is not just quick and explosive but strong. So, I believe if Bruce's main focus of power and explosiveness was his abs, then maybe we need to look into it.
You can train your abs every day. They are constantly used when sitting, standing up, walking, running, strength training, or doing martial arts. Their strength is based on tension and stability that initiate explosive movements. You can train strength and slow-twitch muscles one day and fast-twitch muscles and explosiveness another. Training every day is ok. It just depends on the intensity and how you do it. You cannot train explosive every day.
Bruce Lee’s Ab training Pointers
1) Train your movements fast and concentrate, focus, and feel the quality of each rep. Do not just do mindless movement. If you just move mindlessly, then your abs will not develop effectively.
2) When you cannot do any more reps, continue by doing short burst half reps. Bruce believed that these short bursts caused more separation and development when the abs burned.
3) At the end of each abdominal session, do static isometric contractions.
4) Exercise your abs daily and with patience. Results will come.
5) The abdominals and waist region coordinate all body movements and act as the center or generator. Therefore, you can promote the ability to control the body's action and master your will more easily.
6) The proper way of doing a sit-up is not just going up and down, but to curl yourself up, to curl yourself back up, like rolling up a roll of paper.
Watch this video to see how to do Bruce Lee’s abdominal exercises.
Lee believed the food you ate is what produces the thickness and esthetics of your abs. So, he always ate the proper nutrition and had a solid diet free of starches, sugars, fried foods, and alcohol.
Lee used these five basic exercises.
Waist Twist- 4 sets of 70
Sit-Up Twist- 4 sets of 20
Leg Raises- 4 sets of 20
Leaning Twist- 4 sets of 50
Frog Kicks- 4 sets as many as you can
Stomach and Waist Exercises (2 Sets)
- Roman Chair Sit-Up
- Leg Raises
- Side Bends
He also used isometric holds, for example:
Bruce used high reps and till exhaustion like waist twists, static isometric contractions like dragon flags, and short bursts after exhaustion to train his abdominals. Using all three methods developed Bruce's defined explosive core. So, the strength of their stability leads to generate tension rapidly to kick or punch explosively. The abs are constantly working to stabilize your spine, so they need to be fatigue resistant.
The abdominal training pointers and exercises are referenced from the book "Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body by John Little."
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