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.

It turned out the company was producing a performance of Madame Butterfly, the Puccini opera that tells the story of a doomed love between a French military officer and a geisha in early 19th-century Japan. The opera has come under fire for its stereotyped, utterly fanciful depictions of Japanese culture. The local company was trying to anticipate such criticism, and the director asked me, since I serve on the board of some organizations related to Japanese culture, what I thought.
Keep Reading Show less
Karate Combat finished up its third season Thursday crowning their first ever bantamweight champion in controversial fashion. Ilies Mardhi of France seemed to have a small edge over Ireland's Eoghan Chelmiah after five rounds of fighting but when the judges saw it as a draw triggering an extra round, Mardhi couldn't continue claiming a broken hand and the title went to Chelmiah.
Keep Reading Show less

In matters of karate kata, there are all sorts of purported explanations for what's really going on. What appears to be a simple step sideways, we're confidentially told, is actually a clever foot sweep. Or an entry into a grappling position.

After we become trusted students, our teachers demonstrate that what looks like the mere clenching of a fist is actually an ingenious way of grabbing an opponent's wrist and applying a devastating lock that will have him writhing on the ground.

The explanations invariably imply that the "outer" movements of a kata are only the superficial crust of the karate pie. The layer of apples, peaches or cherries below the observable crust — the "inner" stuff of the pie — is the real taste of karate, we're told.

Keep Reading Show less
Photos Courtesy of Sean Kanan

A Personal Journey to Prove It's Not and to Reignite the Warrior Spirit

Back in 2018, when Cobra Kai was just a hit on YouTube Red and not yet a megahit on Netflix, I met Sean Kanan at the Dragonfest martial arts expo in Burbank, California. My main reason for approaching him, of course, was to ask if he would be reprising his role as Mike Barnes, the "bad boy" of The Karate Kid Part III, in the sequel series. He said that he'd love to but that nothing had been decided. Afterward, we struck up a conversation, during which I learned that Kanan is much more than an actor who played a martial artist; he has a long history in the arts and still trains. We stayed in touch over the years, and when he called to let me know he was about to take the trip that's chronicled here, I jumped at the chance to get the report for Black Belt.— Robert W. Young, Editor-in-Chief

Keep Reading Show less