The Protector, reminds me of what I miss about being a kid. As the youngest of Generation X, I lived in the golden age of martial arts media.

I witnessed the ninja fad permeate pop culture, watched Chuck Norris on Walker, Texas Ranger, and paid to see Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme kick butt in theaters. But since the turn of the millennium, things have changed. Jet Li has reportedly retired from wushu movies, and Jackie Chan has returned to Hong Kong and now rarely makes Hollywood flicks.

Fortunately, a relatively unknown actor—at least unknown in Western households—is generating some genuine buzz for martial arts movies. His name is Tony Jaa, and he stars in The Protector (called Tom Yum Goong in Thailand and the rest of the world). Tony Jaa is basically a walking stunt reel the likes of which we haven’t seen since Jackie Chan in the 1980s. His mix of flashy muay Thai, aerial taekwondo, bone-busting grappling and high-flying gymnastics is revolutionizing the genre.

Relive the golden age of martial arts media with our FREE guide—Our Bruce Lee Movies List: Little-Known Trivia From Bruce Lee's Pictures.


Tony Jaa plays Kham, a young elephant herder who tracks a Vietnamese gangster to Australia after Kham’s father is killed and his elephants stolen. In Australia, Kham has to take down dirty cops, the thug’s henchmen and a Chinese syndicate before he can rescue his pets.

Like most films of its ilk, The Protector is predictable, with a cliché-riddled script. The characters are cardboard cutouts with nary a motivation. Thankfully, Tony Jaa’s on-screen fights more than make up for the flaws.

In the first big set piece, Kham knees one opponent’s roundhouse kick, sending him flying, then delivers his own elbows, knees and kicks that propel more thugs through the air. Later, he brawls with a capoeira expert, a wushu stylist and a hulking wrestler. It’s devastating choreography that uses familiar muay Thai moves in innovative ways.

Not all the fight staging by Tony Jaa and stunt mentor Panna Rittikrai is flawless. At the climax, Kham battles dozens of bad guys, taking them out of commission with awesome aerial kicks and brutal joint breaks. The scene is breathtaking the first time, but after he snaps an ankle, elbow and wrist for the 10th time, it gets tedious. Later, when Kham straps elephant bones to his forearms to defeat four hulking strongmen, the movie plummets into an illogical cheese fest.

Prachya Pinkaew’s direction has vastly improved from when he filmed 2003’s Ong-Bak (which also starred Tony Jaa), partly because of his growing knowledge of Hollywood and Hong Kong aesthetics. In one Brian De Palma-inspired scene, Prachya Pinkaew has Kham busting into the thug’s hangout, climbing up a huge spiraling staircase, destroying furniture and throwing guys over banisters—all in a single, apparently unedited four-minute Steadicam take.

It’s a shame, though, that the fight between Kham and the villain is so short. The main heavy is played by Johnny Tri Nguyen, a former U.S. Wushu Team member and a Spider-Man stunt double. With stunning spin kicks and growing acting talents, he should have more screen time and a more developed character. Still, he and Tony aa do the best they can with the script they were given.

Overall, The Protector’s illogical moments shrink in comparison to Tony Jaa’s amazing stunts and killer choreography. This is definitely a film worth watching, and hopefully it’ll revive an age of action cinema that hasn’t been seen in years.

How will you perform at the moment of truth?

What's going to happen to you physically and emotionally in a real fight where you could be injured or killed? Will you defend yourself immediately, hesitate during the first few critical seconds of the fight, or will you be so paralyzed with fear that you won't be able to move at all? The answer is - you won't know until you can say, "Been there, done that." However, there is a way to train for that fearful day.

Keep Reading Show less

This week I've asked Robert Borisch to give me a birds eye view on his marketing strategy.

Robert is the head sensei and owner of Tri-City Judo a well-established commercial judo school in Kennewick, Washington. I am very impressed with his highly successful business. Unlike BJJ, TKD, karate, and krav maga, in judo we tend to teach in community centers, YMCA's, and other not for profit outlets. So when I find a for profit judo model that is growing by leaps and bounds, it intrigues me. Below are Robert's raw and uncensored comments spoken like a true commercial martial arts school entrepreneur / owner.

Keep Reading Show less

The man who apparently launched a racist verbal attack on U.S. women's kata champion Sakura Kokumai earlier this month in a California park has been arrested following a physical assault on an elderly Korean-American couple in the same park Sunday. Michael Vivona is accused of punching a 79-year-old man and his 80-year-old wife without provocation.

Mynewsla.com reported that a group of people playing basketball in Grijalva Park at the time of the assault recognized Vivona from his previous harassment of Kokumai and surrounded him until a nearby police officer arrived to make an arrest. The incident with Kokumai, who is slated to represent the United States in this summer's Tokyo Olympics, gained widespread notice after she posted a video of it on social media in an effort to increase awareness about the growing threat of anti-Asian racism.