Fighting for the first time in two years, Pacquiao started the match darting in and out, firing off combinations with his trademark fast hands. But Ugas, with his guard kept high, picked off many of the blows. As Pacquiao slowed a bit in the later rounds, Ugas landed a number of hard right hands that sealed the bout for him. A senator in his native Philippines, Pacquiao hinted this might be his final fight as he considers a run for president next year. If so, he leaves behind a remarkable legacy that saw him win the flyweight championship back in 1998 and make unprecedented jumps in weight all the way up as high as junior middleweight where he won a title. Overall, he captured major and minor championships in eight different weight divisions.
That a director of my city's opera company would call me seemed a little odd. There are probably some monkeys who know more about opera than I do. But the director was inviting me to lunch, so of course I went.
I said most Japanese and Japanese-Americans probably view the opera as so ridiculously fictional that no one could take it as a serious historical commentary. In fact, I'd already heard from some traditional Japanese dance groups whose members hoped to audition for nonspeaking roles in the opera. I pointed out, however, that the promotional illustrations the company had come up with for the opera were "wrong." The director was confused. One illustration showed a woman in a kimono, holding her infant. She was clearly meant to depict Madame Butterfly.
"You have her hair in a long and straight ponytail," I said. "That style had gone out of fashion in Japan hundreds of years before the period of the opera."
"But she looks Japanese," the director said.
"Think about an illustration for Downton Abbey," I said, referring to the popular drama about life in early 20th-century England, "where the character depicted was dressed like Henry VIII. Imagine someone pointing out the historical inaccuracy and the illustrator replying, 'But the guy looks British.'"
I was reminded of this recently when I saw some people who claimed to follow a classical school of Japanese swordsmanship. Several of them were wearing bright pastel-red hakama skirts that had no stiff straps at the rear. These were colorful, to be sure. However, they are also the kind and color of kimono worn by miko, young women who serve as attendants at Shinto shrines.
My guess is that these hakama were offered for sale somewhere. (Buddhist temples in many Japanese cities have monthly flea markets where all kinds of goods find their way.) The practitioners probably saw a good deal and, lacking a sense of cultural context, decided to buy.
Western practitioners of Japanese martial arts must be cognizant of these cultural contexts, both to avoid looking silly and clueless (these would-be modern samurai furiously swinging their swords in what looks like the equivalent of a schoolgirl's uniform automatically removes them from serious consideration as martial artists) and to gain an accurate sense of what they're doing.
While not directly martial arts–related, perhaps you've seen women in a dojo or at a public event affecting an "Oriental" look by wearing their hair in a bun that's fastened with chopsticks stuck through it. Certainly, it appears ridiculous if you know that what look like chopsticks in formally dressed Japanese women's hair are actually kanzashi, or hairpins — which, by the way, doubled as weapons in close-quarters encounters.
The reader may say, "Hey, this isn't a fashion magazine. No dojo has any responsibility to correctly present Japanese culture as part of its training. Martial artists are not military re-enactors who strive to get every detail of their uniforms and behavior historically accurate.
"I agree. Frankly, I think much of karate training would be better if participants wore sweatpants or some other loose-fitting clothing. The culture of traditional Japan, however, is obviously important in many dojo, so if it's going to be integrated into training, why not do it as faithfully and correctly as possible?
The way to maintain a culturally accurate atmosphere in the dojo as it relates to Japan is not best approached by watching movies or relying on the advice of self-styled experts. Often, karateka who have spent limited time in Japan see traditions but don't really understand them in context. Which is why a strange hybrid version crops up in some American martial arts schools.
Shinto tori gates find their way onto the front walls. Statues of the Buddha sit in corners. Images of dragons and tigers are everywhere. It's all supposed to look like something out of the exotic East. For the most part, however, it looks like there was a big sale at an import shop.
Sometimes well-meaning practitioners will ask Japanese people in their communities about the right way of doing things. You only need to visit your local sushi restaurant and see the katana displayed upside down and backward to know that this isn't always a solution.
Unfortunately, there's no easy way to acquire the knowledge necessary to do things the right way in a traditional dojo. Even if one has a teacher who knows these things, it's a slow process. Be willing to learn. Be willing to be embarrassed when your mistakes are pointed out. Always be ready to learn more.
And above all, don't wear a pastel hakama.
Dave Lowry has written Karate Way since 1986. For more information about his articles and books, visit blackbeltmag.com and type his name into the search box.
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By itself, the ridiculous coincidence of those two being two of only three (RIP to the 3rd man, Corey Hill) to ever have that happen, is unbelievable. But it defies credulity that it not only happened to two people, and not only two people who were opponents of one another, but that it happened in one of their fights. If we did not have record, it truly is in the most literal sense of the word – incredible. There have been breaks e.g. Conor McGregor's at UFC 264, but not on his opponent's leg (unless Porier was right in his hypothesis about Conor).
Weidman and Silva were going to be inexorably tied together with each other in MMA's history even if all that had happened was Weidman dethroning the reigning king and GOAT contender the way he did. He won that very middleweight belt from him as a matter of fact prior to the rematch containing the injury. And he did it by making Silva pay for being Silva in his clowning antics. The second Silva did the thing that caused paralysis in other opponents by dropping his hands and playing Drunken Master, Weidman – very much unlike those previously mentioned vexed opponents – swung perfectly, touched the off-button, and went home a champion. This story was already rife with drama in Chris's rise to that opportunity, both within the ranks of the sport and outside the cage in overcoming pretty staggering obstacles to get there. Harrowing is the right word.
Their story (operative word being their) could have already been cemented had it ended there. It is a self- contained story of a giant falling to the underdog with all that entails; including how it might have been a fluke, the great one got caught, 9 out of 10 times it doesn't happen that way, ad infinitum. Then in the rematch the story was elevated in the worst way. Like the Temple of Doom or Empire Strikes Back, the sequel took a very dark turn when Silva shattered his leg on Chris's in the rematch. Everyone heard the scream and everyone (except the aforementioned potential psychopaths) felt it. Fast-forward to a paradoxical, other-dimensional type replay of the fateful event; only this time it is Weidman's leg disintegrating on someone else's and it is more than the half- considerate soul can bear.
Then comes the beauty. Once the pain is dealt with. The surgeries are done. The mending begins – inside and out, we learn of the strength of both men. We watched Silva attempt to mount a comeback in the sport and while he fell short in the actual recorded competition and hit a few alleged legal bumps in the road, there was the internal victory of being able to even compete again post destruction (mentioned in previous piece, look that word up in this context for even more poignancy). This former opponent, having lost to the man who took his belt and his leg, did something amazing. Very much in contrast to the ugliness witnessed surrounding the McGregor/Porier rematch, Silva was an early encourager to the fallen Weidman. Immediate sympathy and camaraderie. Zero vengefulness. Zero shouts of justice or vindication. Only respect, love, and words of hope. And the stanzas of beauty continue! You must at least view the opening minutes of the podcast/interview of their conversation and hear Chris apologize and Anderson refuse it in good faith and honor – insisting there is no apology necessary. It is an absolute privilege to watch this unfold.
This writer has said on many an occasion when asked, "How can you watch that stuff? It is so brutal!"; "I watch it and love it for its humanity, and I can see that in spite of its brutality." If you have any acceptance that the A in MMA is indeed Art, then you should see this beautiful progression of Weidman and Silva as nothing less than poetry. Even more so in light of other vitriolic rivalries. There was a time when they were enemies in battle. When everything was at stake and they gave all they had to take from the other. Then on their respective journeys life took so much from them. Now here we are seeing them not only not take, but give to each other. And it is suggested here, they gave something to us who have been reading their verses too.
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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.
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