Tony Jaa has shaken up the martial arts movie industry. In 2003’s Ong-Bak, the action phenom glamorized muay Thai on-screen and unleashed unbelievably real stunts that hadn’t been seen since Jackie Chan did them in the 1980s. He upped the ante in 2005 with Tom Yum Goong, released stateside a year later as The Protector. It featured more dangerous stunts, bigger fights and a rogue’s gallery culled from the globe’s best up-and-coming stunt actors, including former U.S. wushu team member Johnny Tri Nguyen.

Now, with fans calling Tony Jaa the heir apparent to Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Bruce Lee, distribution company BCI has decided to repackage a 1994 Thai movie as Spirited Killer and give Tony Jaa co-star billing on the DVD cover. The problem is that it’s not a Tony Jaa movie. He does appear in it, but it’s not his movie—unless you consider a six-minute role a co-starring turn.


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Known as Plook Mun Kuen Ma Kah 4 in Thailand, Spirited Killer can be enjoyed as a “good” bad action movie as long as you know what you’re getting: very little Tony Jaa action, horrible writing, pitiful acting, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style dubbing and regurgitated battles.

Tony Jaa doesn’t appear in the movie until the 40-minute mark, and only then as part of a team of relic hunters who are ambushed by a coldblooded killer controlled by a voodoo doctor. This spirited killer (played by Panna Rittikrai, the co-director and Tony Jaa’s stunt mentor) wipes out most of the team, then has a fantastic throwdown with Tony Jaa’s character. The brawl shows that Tony Jaa’s unique moves were emerging even 10 years before Ong-Bak. While Rittikrai’s choreography simply replicates Hong Kong action flicks, Tony Jaa takes their fight beyond imitation. He infuses their short battle with a few taekwondo aerials and his own brand of gymnastics—the kind of kinetics not seen in other parts of the film.

In the 79 minutes Tony Jaa isn’t in the movie, Panna Rittikrai simply lifts moves from Jackie Chan’s intricate street fights, plagiarizes Jet Li’s graceful wushu and even steals Bruce Lee’s nunchaku-versus-sword choreography. Panna Rittikrai may be competent, but he’s not particularly original. Sure, he taught Tony Jaa action moviemaking, but 10 years later it’s clear that the student has surpassed the master.

Although Spirited Killer’s DVD cover misleadingly gives Jaa co-star billing, don’t write it off just yet. BCI has issued a glossy two-disc set, the first of which contains the feature film, which unfortunately hasn’t been remastered or color corrected. The second, however, contains six featurettes, two of which will please Tony Jaa fans.

Your jaw will drop as you watch Tony Takes Manhattan. On the surface, it’s nothing more than a fan’s shaky camcorder footage of Ong-Bak’s New York City premiere, an insider’s glimpse of the event at which Wu-Tang rapper RZA introduces Tony Jaa to the audience after the screening. Tony Jaa then blows everyone away by demonstrating his high-flying kicks, amazing stunt work and nearly full-contact fight choreography before the bulging eyes and roaring cheers of the assembled. After watching this footage, you’ll never again suspect Tony Jaa of using wires to get the job done.

Another behind-the-scenes featurette, Tony Jaa: Thailand’s Favorite Son, contains higher-quality digital footage of Tony Jaa at some sort of religious ceremony. Or is it a movie premiere? Maybe a charity event? No viewer can truly know unless he understands Thai because this documentary contains no introductions or subtitles to explain why Tony Jaa is praying with monks, signing autographs and riding an elephant while fans and the press take photos. Still, it’s fascinating to see him treated like royalty in his homeland.

Ultimately, if you’re expecting Spirited Killer to be another Ong-Bak, you’ll have better luck surviving one of Tony Jaa’s flying knees.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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