American’s have been fascinated by martial arts since the mid 1970’s to 1980’s. A Chinese man from San Francisco, California name Lee Jun-fan would change the entire planet with his films. We came to know him by the name Bruce Lee.
Movies like The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon altered the U.S. film industry and the minds of American people forever. His movies brought a new idea to what it meant to fight, and what it meant to be a fighter. Bruce Lee spoke differently, he talked of the importance of self knowledge, and fearless free expression. These were not things American folks usually accepted with the idea of combat.
Around the same time, the Shaw Brothers began to make their own films like 36 Chambers of Shaolin, Five Deadly Venoms and One-Armed Swordsmen hypnotized the American masses. They instilled a new the idea of what violence, honor, respect, discipline, humility and human character meant.
This fascination with martial arts culture took an even bigger turn when the TV Show Kung-Fu aired. It was not the best TV show ever made. There were many racist undertones in the show from time to time. However, some of the conversations between the original Master Po and his students.
Additionally, these films and TV shows introduced a new idea of how to practice nonviolence to Americans from all walks of life. These films had an affect music as well. Rap music from artists such as Wu-Tang Clan, Dilated Peoples, Andre Nickatina, Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys, One Be Lo and many others have paid much homage to the impact of the movies and the philosophies learned from them.
The work of Bruce Lee, The Shaw Brothers, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and other films of the time helped teach Whites and Blacks alike the power of peace. To seek peace not just outside ourselves, but more importantly the one we all seek inside ourselves.
Unfortunately the biggest mistake we make in the West is to think that someone who loves to study boxing, kung-fu, wrestling or jiu-jitsu loves to fight. We think somewhere internally they enjoy hurting other people.
Now take a look at Buddhist monks. They are known globally as one of the most peaceful people on the planet. But they are also known for having a long tradition of cultivating self defense techniques.It is precisely because they have extensive knowledge of how to break bones and choke people, that they choose not to.
Let me be clear. When someone lashes out at a woman and swings wildly at her, it is proof that they’ve lost emotional control.
That act is completely different from the woman being swung on to tactically evade the fist coming at her. If she decides it is necessary to isolate her attackers arm, and break it so she can be safe- that is nonviolence. She has created no violence in a space where violence was prevalent. Buddhism teaches nonviolence without question. Still Buddhists were taught that to observe injustice going on and do nothing made one worse than “devils.”
Martial arts films are the only movies in existence that consistently show women of clear mind and action fully capable of defending themselves. In America we look at women who can fight as “manly” and unattractive. Martial arts encourage women to learn martial arts to cultivate and preserve their beauty and spirit. At the same time, we learn that violence is never to be taken lightly. That seemingly casually aggressive situations can turn deadly fast.
The roots of what motivated the attacker and the response from the woman who was attacked came from two different places. The attack came from rage or a desire for power. The response the woman gave was rooted in self preservation and a desire for peace. Jet Li was recently explaining the meaning of martial arts to CulturePulp :
In Chinese writing, wushu comes from two words: one is “stop” and one is “war.” “Stop-war.” In most action films, people focus on the “war.” Fighting, fighting, fighting. Violence against violence. Nobody talks about the “stop.” [laughs]
Today MMA (mixed martial arts) is taking over the world. The sport proves humanity has evolved to a place where martial artists can test their skills safely and make a great living a it. It is also important to acknowledge that many of the fighters you see in the UFC and Strikeforce almost never get caught up with the law. They are often far too focused on their physical and mental well being to run the streets trying to hurt people for the sake of their ego.
Now we see bullying as a long ignored social epidemic. We see crimes against women and young girls as a global cancer. Our children are also horribly out of shape. Teen obesity and disease from poor health are common among our kids. It is not the parents, educators or politicians who are helping America solve this issue. It is a family of martial artists, named the Gracie’s. Two brothers, Rener and Ryron Gracie, created Bullyproof and Women Empowered for children and adult women in need of realistic ways to protect themselves. Their cousin Kyra Gracie is respected around the world for her accomplishments. Beyond the self defense techniques, the students are taught about the psychology of an attacker so they can used “verbal jiu jitsu” to evade a confrontation altogether.
Today we see many of today blockbuster movies for kids like Kung Fu Panda and Jaden Smith’s Karate Kid introducing young people to the ideas of self discipline, inner peace and learning the power of not fighting. In these ways, the martial arts fused with film and music have helped preserve the legacy of nonviolence laid down in America by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.