Friday, June 13, 2014

Review of Journey to the West

  Okay, let me start off saying that I have a soft spot for bad movies that don't take themselves seriously.  That's probably the 80's influence on me.  Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons pretty much falls into that genre.  It is the latest movie from Stephen Chow who brought us such interpretive classics as Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer.
  The opening scene of a water demon terrorizing a village sets the mood for the rest of the movie.  It is both slapstick and horrendous.  A family gets picked off individually throughout the scene, including their 5 year old daughter, but the transitions to the comedy aspects keep the dark aspects in check.  The opening scene is a very strong homage to Jaws.  There's a direct rip off of the scene, where the fishermen catch a shark, and Richard Dreyfuss tells them this isn't the shark they're looking for.
  I described this to friend as a combination of Kung Fu Hustle and Big Trouble in Little China.  How can you go wrong with that?  In the same way you don't take Jack Burton seriously (come on, the Pork Chop Express?) the main character of Zhang Wen, played by Xuan Zang is more of a caricature than a character, but at the same time, the movie plays with the idea that these are gross caricatures.
  In the movie Xuan Zhang is a Buddhist Demon Hunter who uses a beat up copy of children's nursery rhymes to try to convince demons to become good again.  Hint: It doesn't work.  This is balanced by the beautiful, competent demon hunter Miss Duan, played by Shu Qi (The Transporter).
  The first overall impression of this movie for me is the special effects.  Perhaps because I've come to expect low-budgets from Kung Fu movies in general, but this movie would be a rival for most Hollywood made films.  Watching, even my wife said "Wow, looks like Stephen Chow got a bigger budget for this one."  Even though the scenes and story are ridiculous, the acting is superb, and you end up feeling for the characters.
  Overall I'll have to give it 4 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  I liked the movie, and laughed throughout the whole thing.  The story was good, though it does seem a bit repetitive from Stephen Chow's other movies.  The story was a bit heavy in Buddist teachings, but the method of showing it was at least interesting.  As I said the special effects were surprisingly good, and done in interesting ways.  Wait for the restaurant scene to see what I mean.  The acting was great.  The main characters were all expertly played with both seriousness and comedy.  The secondary character, even though they were mostly absurd, were all played as if they were real people. The martial arts in the movie is more supernatural, flying people and superhuman type stuff, but when you're dealing with demons and demon hunters with 20 foot long legs, I guess that kind of comes into the territory.

P.S. Watch out for Giant Space Buddha

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Skeptical Martial Artist: An Introduction to Logical Fallicies

    The Japanese suffix of "-jutsu", as in kenjutsu, or jujutsu, as it is usually applied to martial arts has a couple of interesting translations.  In some books I've seen it translated as "art", in others; "techniques", and a couple I've seen it translated as "sciences".  Science could be the best way to translate it because martial arts should basically work like the scientific method.  A technique should be tried, evaluated and reviewed, and then re-tried.  As such, the martial arts should be filled with logic.  However, many times cultural biases, ignorance of application,  and ego get in the way of logical progression.  There are arguments presented that are not logical or even really reasonable in their nature.  What follows is a couple of logical fallacies that are frequently present in martial arts.  For logicians out there, these are really what are called informal fallacies as the argument may or may not be true... but not because of the reason presented.  The logical fallacies I'm going to talk about today are a group that are called Irrelevant Appeals.  There are other appeals, but I'm going to talk about those most applicable to martial arts and artists.

Appeal to Antiquity/Tradition

This is when something is done in a martial art because it was they way it was done in the old days, or because it is tradition.  This doesn't mean that there is anything inherently better about that way of doing it.  In fact, many modern applications may be better, because of the increased knowledge of anatomy and psychology that we have today.  The idea of these arguments are that these older ways are better simply because they are older.  They traditional way may very well be better, but not due to the simple fact that they are the older way of doing it.  There could also be a cultural reason why we do things in the arts, just not a martial reason why we do them.  And if part of your experience in martial arts is the cultural exchange, then by all means continue.  Not to pick on the Chinese arts, but the Confucianism that was ever present says that the way of the ancestors is better, and you should do it that way.  This may lead to some of the appeals to antiquity.

Bruce Lee: Evidence based Martial Artist?
Appeal to Novelty

    This is the opposite of the Appeal to Antiquity.  The argument is that because it is new it is, by definition, better.  As martial artists we see this in people trying to convince you that a martial art is better because it isn't bogged down by tradition.  This may be an appeal to some people, but it is not an argument that it is a better, or more effective martial art. Sometimes it manifests as the martial art that combines all the other arts into some new form.

Appeal to Authority

    This is one of the most common appeals.  Well...Funikoshi said this, so it must be true.  In many cases there is a reason these authorities on their subjects are the authority.  And it can be a true argument.  However, simply because an authority figure said it, does not make it true.  Although great masters of martial arts, they were (and are) human and therefore fallible. 

Appeal to Popularity

    The appeal to popularity goes something like this..."The most popular martial art in the world is Taekwondo, so it has to be the best right.  Otherwise, why would all those people do it."  Just picking on Taekwondo, no offense meant.  Simply having a large number of people do something does not make it sound evidence.  Many Southern Americans believed in economics of Slavery.  That doesn't make slavery the best economic system.


    First ask questions about why you're doing some of the things you're doing.  Questions are always good, if their asked in the right format.  Don't just blurt out challenging questions to your instructor while he's in the middle of a technique.  But when you do ask your question, be wary of answers that have logical fallacies in them.  You could be doing some things for completely different reasons that what you initially thought.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Episode XII-White Men Can't Podcast Shownotes

Martial Thoughts Episode XI-White Men Can't Podcast

Download the Podcast HERE

Recorded: 5/30/2014

Link to Purchase Site

Intro:  Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifri

  Interview with Danielle Bolelli

Discussion Topic: Martial Arts vs. Self-Defense
  ESP (extra sensory perception)
  The Force
  Peripheral Vision
  Kendo Mask (Bogu)
  Darth Vader
  Fight Science
  Verbal Judo
  Rory Miller's 
    Meditations on Violence
  Monkey Dance
  George Thorogood I Drink Alone
  Saturday Night Live (Video)
    Jim Carey
  Danny Rollings
    University of Florida
  Florida State University
    (Ted) Bundy
  Manson Murders
  Phantom Dennis
  Shomen uchi
  Adrenaline and its Effects
  Johnnie Walker Red
  Woman's Self Defense Courses
  Old Yeller
  The Joker
  Stand Your Ground laws
  Jim Kelly
  Kevin Smith

Silver: No 'groundswell' for mixed martial arts
    Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
    Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee
    Ronda Rousey
    Muhammad Ali
    Dana White
    American Top Team Coconut Creek
'High elf'  attacks woman's car with sword while battling 'the evil Morgoth'
    High Elf
    J.R.R. Tolkien
Actor makes a living getting killed by Samurai
    Seizo Fukumoto
    The Last Samurai (Trailer)
    Uzumasa Limelight

Interlude Music: Torn Apart by Valiant Thorr

Interview: Daniele Bolelli
  On the Warrior's Path
  Master Yoda
  Jedi Knight
  Tai Chi
  San Soo
  The Drunken Taoist
    50 Things You're Not Supposed to Know: Religion
  Joe Rogan
    The Joe Rogan Experience
  Adam Carolla
    The Adam Carolla Show

Interlude Music: I (bonus Track) by Tyr  

This Week in Martial Arts: 
  Danielle Bolelli's Website

May 28th, 1973
  The WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) was formed 
  Taekowndo as Olympic Sport

Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

Outro Music: Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna