Jackie Chan. Jet Li. In the same movie. ‘Nuff said, right? Well, not quite. But fans of “J&J” (Jackie Chan and Jet Li, as the studio calls them) have waited to hear those eight words in the same sentence for 25 years, and all it took was the director of Stuart Little and the writer of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron to make The Forbidden Kingdom happen. “Say again?” you might ask. Yep. Director Rob Minkoff and screenwriter John Fusco spearhead the movie that not only brings the globe’s two biggest martial arts icons together on-screen for the first time but also adapts elements of China’s most famous novel, Journey to the West. Not Asian filmmaking legends like Tsui Hark or Ang Lee. Not even Hollywood action experts like James Cameron or the Wachowski brothers. Instead, it’s John Fusco (who wrote a cartoon about talking horses) and Rob Minkoff (whose claim to fame is bringing E.B. White’s children’s novel to life).


Find out which Bruce Lee movie Jackie Chan appeared in by downloading our FREE guide—Our Bruce Lee Movies List: Little-Known Trivia From Bruce Lee's Pictures.

That’s not a knock against the filmmakers or Forbidden Kingdom. But Rob Minkoff and John Fusco certainly gloss over a lot of Chinese mythology with a fine layer of Hollywood queso. Fortunately, the pair crafts a simple, family friendly fantasy and lets the real behind-the-camera talent shine: action director Yuen Woo-ping. His dazzling fight choreography makes Jackie Chan and Jet Li look more deadly than they have in years despite being in their mid-50s and 40s, respectively. Yuen Woo-ping unwittingly started the “wire fu” fad in the West by staging fights for two of the last great martial arts movies of the 20th century: The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. For the next half decade, Hollywood imitated him, often with laughable results. Now, the master of movie combat takes back his style from the poseurs who turned wushu wire work into a cliché. With Yuen Woo-ping’s help, the two screen legends don’t just drop kicks in their duel; they drop jaws with a martial buffet of high-flying strikes, intricate hand techniques and various Shaolin styles. Praying mantis, tiger claw, stunt-wire-infused kung fu—Yuen’s got it all playing to each actor’s strengths. As the Silent Monk, Jet Li spins, twists and flies with a grace not seen since his Once Upon a Time in China days. Meanwhile, Jackie Chan and Yuen Woo-ping pay homage to their 1978 Drunken Master classic by having Jackie Chan dish out some intoxicated kung fu comedy as Lu Yan, a drunkard who happens to be an immortal warrior. It’s a beautiful thing to watch their contrasting styles meld like yin and yang in a lethal on-screen ballet. Unfortunately, Forbidden Kingdom loses some of its action cachet for featuring too much chi kung magic in the climactic set piece. It’s disappointing to see Jet Li and the villain (played by Collin Chou) shoot fireballs at each other like Dragon Ball Z wannabes. Why rely on CGI special effects for thrills when there are two action icons and a fabulous martial artist in Collin Chou? The flick’s biggest weakness is its watered-down story. While John Fusco, a real-life martial artist, sprinkles the script with odes to Chinese movie classics and references to jeet kune do and Taoism, he panders too much to demographics. He underestimates the mainstream fans’ understanding of other cultures, forgetting that it was the average American moviegoer who helped pump up Crouching Tiger to Oscar-winning status with more than $125 million at the U.S. box office. In an unnecessary effort to have audiences relate to Chinese mythology, John Fusco and Rob Minkoff shift the spotlight off J&J and onto Jason (played by Michael Angarano), an American teenager who gets sucked into ancient China when he finds the staff of the Monkey King, a mischievous deity who’s been imprisoned by the evil Jade Warlord (Collin Chou). After a second act filled with typical martial philosophy and some humorous training via Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s interactions, rivals Lu Yan and the Silent Monk predictably team up with Jason to return the staff, free the Monkey King and overthrow the Jade Warlord. Thankfully, Michael Angarano is a rock-solid actor, and his kung fu progression in the movie is quite convincing. Collin Chou is an on-screen gem as the Jade Warlord. Having co-starred as Li’s dad in Fearless and Donnie Yen’s nemesis in Flash Point, Collin Chou proves he’s a versatile performer with the ability to act or fight in almost any role. Too bad his demise in Forbidden Kingdom is as predictable as the sunrise. Plus, it’s too obvious that the filmmakers carefully balanced Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s screen time for fear of offending egos. Each actor gets a starring role and a supporting role that requires special makeup: Jet Li plays the Silent Monk and the Monkey King, while Jackie Chan plays Lu Yan and Hop, an old shopkeeper Jason befriends. But four times the star power doesn’t quadruple the cinematic value of 2008’s first martial arts box-office hit. Funded mostly by Hollywood money, crafted by American filmmakers and created largely for Western audiences, Forbidden Kingdom could have been one of the greatest epics from China in recent years. Instead, the movie is the cinematic version of Panda Express’ sweet-and-sour pork—it’s tasty fast food but not particularly authentic. (Patrick Vuong is a freelance journalist, screenwriter and martial artist based in Orange County, California.)
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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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