It’s been said that there are two kinds of people in the world: astronomers and astronauts. In the past, at least, astronomers would sit quietly at the eyepiece of their telescope and study the universe, while astronauts would hop onto the business end of a rocket and explore the universe.
A similar thing could be said about martial arts publishing. In this industry, there are two kinds of people: writer/editors and the masters they profile. As a writer/editor, I am most definitely a behind-the-scenes sort of guy, one who is perfectly happy to shine a spotlight on the skilled martial artists who are the stars of our world.
That said, it’s nice when something you do gets noticed by someone outside the martial arts industry, when you taste what it might be like to be a star. Case in point …
A few days ago, I Netflixed a movie titled Our Idiot Brother. The main character is a simple-minded but well-meaning man named Ned, played by Paul Rudd. Ned is somewhat of a martial artist. “Big deal,” you’re probably thinking. “The editor of Black Belt watched a comedy in which the main character is a martial artist.” I’m droning on about this because the movie has Ned studying an extremely rare Korean martial art whose name has been inaccurately rendered in English as kun gek do.
Back story: In the 1980s, I lived in Pusan, South Korea, where I taught English conversation to support myself while studying and researching the Korean martial arts. While there, I ran across this particular art and was told I was one of first foreigners to discover it. I wrote a couple of articles about kun gek do, which, as I mentioned, is a horrible transliteration of the hangul characters used to write its name. In my stories, I noted that a much better spelling, one that actually sounds like the word, is gwon gyuk do.
The Idiot Brother tie-in: In the film, a boy named River explains that he’s been practicing a martial art called “kun gek do” (using that pronunciation). He says, “Some moves are just like taekwondo — kicking and chopping. What’s special about it is the guys can also throw and choke.”
Moments later, however, Ned corrects the pronunciation of the boy’s mom, telling her it should be “gwon gyuk do” — which is the more accurate spelling I devised for my write-ups.
Now, as far as I know, my articles are the only ones — in English or Korean — that describe this martial art while noting its two “names.” My humble theory is that one of the writers for Idiot Brother came across one of my articles and decided to include the style in the film, perhaps in an effort to be exotic.
I fully realize that I could be wrong on this. However, I can’t think of a simpler explanation, so I will bow to Occam’s razor and continue to believe that something I wrote three decades ago in a martial arts publication left a minor mark on a major motion picture.
(If any member of the Black Belt universe knows otherwise, please don’t tell me. Ignorance can be bliss. Now, back to my telescope to search for stars!)
— Robert W. Young,
Black Belt • MASuccess