Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

This is a great movie. The action, acting, dialogue, and plotting are all great. The film looks good and the story holds.

Robert Downey Jr. kills as the great detective, and Jude Law is great in the supporting (but super important) role of Dr. Watson. These two actors together have some of the best on-screen chemistry I've seen in years. [Downey caught some flak from studio execs for kinda saying that the two could be lovers. I, for one, have always thought the friendship between the two partners/roommates should be presented as more than just that.]

Guy Ritchie has been accused of making things move too fast, but I think he's a master of pacing and knows exactly what he's doing. This movie just keeps moving and moving but never feels overly tense or strained. Everything serves the story and characters.

I'm a fan of the character in books, but I've never really enjoyed the movies or TV shows. Even though he's eccentric, Holmes has always been portrayed as a bit too stuffy for my taste. And Watson is always kind of the bumbling, ignorant sidekick. I have to admit that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories have been pretty accurately adapted in the past, but I'm one of many, it seems, who have always thought that Holmes should be portrayed as an action hero. And he should be. I love seeing Holmes jump out of windows, beat people up, and get in gunfights.
But Holmes is no two-dimensional character. While the cocaine addiction is really shown in this movie, the audience does see that Holmes's amazing talents and eccentric ways do often distance him from other people.

In short, go see it. (I say it's a much better film than "Avatar", but it may be unfair to compare the two since they are meant to serve somewhat different entertainment purposes.)

[I was hoping that the hints at Moriarty would be left at just hints, but I guess you have to spell things out for some audience members. I'm definitely looking forward to a sequel.]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Over the last month or so, as the TV and all other media have been overrun by adverts for James Cameron's "Avatar", the internet buzz and word-of-mouth anticipation just kept building and building (and building and building and building). People everywhere were talking about the flick. My fellow film students, who I normally hear decrying most mainstream films, were always speaking of their anticipation for what has long been declared and promised as Cameron's opus -- a film to change film, a film to transcend all technological limitations.

After the first trailers and TV spots hit, people just couldn't shut up about how the Na'vi and their world Pandora looked. Everyone I knew would ask me if I was excited about the film. All I could say was, "Not really."

To the surprise of many, I had pretty much no interest in seeing this film. "Oh! But it looks so good!"

Not really. It looks COOL, but not REAL.

The story never seemed original. Many early reviews I read said that it isn't a film for people looking for original story or characters. So, even the big fans were admitting that it was all about the super cool CGI.

I kept telling people that I wouldn't pay to go see it, but if my dad or someone wanted to see it, I'd go. Why would I turn down a movie with family or friends (especially if its free)?

So, today I saw it. It was alright. The plot, characters, and dialogue are all very flawed in terms of logic, realism, cheesiness, and general originality. The film is mostly a series of pretty pictures. And that's fine. I don't deride anyone for wanting to see a movie mostly for its visual quality. That's a perfectly viable reason for movie-going. However, I'm a bigger fan of plot, characterization, and dialogue.

Now, while I didn't enjoy the plot, characters, or dialogue, I have to say that I was fascinated by all of the science-type stuff in the flick. I found myself thinking mostly about the anthropology, biology, botany, and etcetera regarding the Na'vi and Pandora. Those aspects were super interesting and I'll enjoy discussing these things with people in the future.

I recommend this movie if for no other reason than that everyone will be seeing it (although I still haven't seen "Transformers 2" or the latest Harry Potter movie, and I have no plans to). Also, it is pretty. And the science stuff is fascinating.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Anniversary

Well, it's been a year since I started this blog. I originally began this as a test to see whether or not strangers would ever read anything I write. Turns out, there are a few people out there who would be so kind as to find my words to be of some minute interest. For that, I thank you, readers.

When this began, my reviews and such were written with quite a personal/relaxed tone. Over time, however, I think that I've become a bit more formal (if the reduction of my use of swear words is any indication). I don't know if I'll continue to write more formally, or go back to my original style of saying such things as "Fuck so-and-so" and "Cocksuckers". Most likely, I'll find the healthy middle ground and stick with that.

For the last month or so, I've been much more busy than usual. I've been working on film sets, dealing with plenty of school work (it's exam season!), and often simply being lazy (lounging around, reading, watching DVDs). Once my exams are over for this semester, I'll try to write with more frequency. Also, when I get some money, I'll be able to go to the movies again, and then I'll write reviews.

To start the next year right, I'd really like to know what you guys enjoy most out of this blog, and I'd like to read any ideas you might have for future posts. What do you want to see more of from this blog?

Let me know in the comments.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Batman -- Martial Artist - 06.01 - Wing Chun

Wing Chun is a style of Kung Fu that originated in Southern China. It primarily focuses on trapping, fast and accurate punching, and direct attacks.

The generally accepted history of Wing Chun goes as follows:
Sometime in the late 17th or early 18th century, the Shaolin monastery was burned to the ground because the Manchurian government feared that the monks (by this point in history well-known for their martial prowess) posed a threat. A small number of masters and disciples managed to escape and went their separate ways.
One of these escapees was the Buddhist nun Ng Mui. Ng Mui was a small, unassuming woman had spent many years training in the Shaolin school of Kung Fu. However, because of her diminutive size, she had gradually phased out her use of high kicks and any attacks or defenses that depended on muscular strength. She instead focused her training on sudden contraction and relaxation (explosive movements), “dirty fighting” like finger jabs to the eyes and elbows to the face, and kicks that were swift and powerful but were never aimed above the waist.
In her travels, Ng Mui came to meet a beautiful, intelligent young woman named Yim Wing Chun. Yim Wing Chun had attracted the attention of a local landowner who wanted her as one of his brides. Yim Wing Chun had no interest in marrying this brutish man, so Ng Mui came up with a plan. Yim Wing Chun told her boorish suitor that she already had a fiancée, but that she would call it off. She told the landowner that she would write to her husband-to-be, but because he was traveling afar the letter would take quite some time to reach him. She asked that the landowner wait the months that it would take. The landowner reluctantly agreed.
That’s when Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun got to work. Over the months, Ng Mui trained Yim Wing Chun in her particular variation of Shaolin Kung Fu. Since Yim Wing Chun didn’t have the decade or so that it would normally take to “master” a traditional fighting style, Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun learned to streamline Ng Mui’s variation even further, shedding many things they deemed inefficient and unnecessary. At the end of the training period, the new style hardly even resembled the style taught at Shaolin Temple.
The landowner came to collect his new bride, but he only found himself soundly beaten-up by the young lady. After seeing the success of this new style, Ng Mui named her art “Wing Chun” after her protégé.

Over the centuries, Wing Chun was taught and passed down as many other styles have been, having a grandmaster as the leader of the overall art. Eventually, the mantle was passed to Yip Man. Yip Man was the teacher of many of today’s top Wing Chun masters (such as William Cheung). Yip Man was also the master of Bruce Lee.
Yip Man was born and raised in Southern China and made his living as a police officer and occasional Wing Chun teacher before the Communist revolution. Like many Chinese, he fled the mainland for the British-controlled Hong Kong. There he made his living as the grandmaster of the Wing Chun school of Kung Fu.

Bruce Lee was a hyperactive kid who often got into a lot of trouble. After he came off pretty bad in one fight, he decided to take up a martial art that he could use efficiently as soon as possible. At age 13, he began his Wing Chun training. At first, he learned under Yip Man. However, Yip Man despised non-Chinese and refused to teach foreigners. Some students found out that Bruce Lee was a quarter German, and they pressured Yip Man to drop him as a student (because Bruce frequently beat them at sparring, despite being younger and smaller) or they would all quit and join another school. Because Yip Man really liked Bruce, but because he also had to make a living, he told his secondary instructors to train Bruce. From age 13 to age 18, Bruce spent a great deal of his free time intensely practicing the art of Wing Chun.
Bruce Lee went to America, and very soon began giving instruction in martial arts. He basically began by teaching modified Wing Chun, which gradually developed into Jun Fan Gung Fu, which eventually became Jeet Kune Do.

Wing Chun has become quite popular all over the world, due largely in part to efforts made by Yip Man’s students like William Cheung and Bruce Lee. Also because, while it is a style of Kung Fu, it has been demonstrated as quite efficient and more self-defense oriented than other arts.

There are several “famous” aspects of Wing Chun.
1) Chi Sao: “Sticky hands” is a practice in which two individuals make continuous contact of the forearms, trying to subtly move in for a strike, or feel their opponent’s intentions and defend against a possible strike. While this might seem bogus, after years of training, it has been shown to develop the reflexes to a point at which some practitioners may even be able to practice trapping and punching while blindfolded. (Even Bruce Lee attributed a lot of his ability to Chi Sao practice.)
2) Mook Yan Jong: The wooden dummy is used to develop various blocks and strikes. It is a makeshift representation of a human body and helps with practicing footwork and trapping, as well as the toughening of forearms, palms, and fists. (Also heavily utilized by Bruce Lee.)
3) Straight Punch: The primary punch of Wing Chun is done not by starting at the waist, but up by the shoulder. This allows the puncher to move his arm much more in a straight line. Also, the Wing Chun practitioner typically forms a fist vertically, as opposed to the normal horizontal formation. This supposedly provides a better surface area for punching.
4) Butterfly Knives: These are not the balisong typically used in the Philippines or by hoodlums in the US, but instead are broad daggers/short swords, the movements of which can easily fit with the basic principles of punching in Wing Chun.

I could continue to write about Wing Chun seemingly forever, but I figure that I have probably already written too much to keep the interest of the reader. So, I will move on to the most important part:

Would Batman learn Wing Chun? He would certainly find it beneficial. Although Boxing and Wing Chun have some pretty drastically different techniques, the smart martial artist/fighter who blends the two will have some very effective, even deadly, hands. Batman does need effective, even deadly, hands.
Trapping is good to know, but I think Batman shouldn’t rely too much on infighting. It’s best to keep one’s distance from his opponent if he doesn’t want to risk getting stabbed by some unseen knife. Also, it is a good rule of general self-defense to always keep your kicks below the waist (to the shins, knees, groin), but once again this provides only so much power and distance.
I think that Batman would spend some time learning and mastering at least the basics of Wing Chun, and he would blend the trapping, punching, and eye-poking techniques with other striking methods. After all, if it’s good enough for Bruce Lee…

Some sources:
-"A Handbook of Martial Arts" by Fay Goodman
-"The Tao of Gung Fu" by Bruce Lee (edited by John Little)
-"Chinese Gung Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self-Defense" by Bruce Lee
-"Wing Chun Kung-Fu: A Complete Guide; Volume 1: Basic Forms and Principles" by Dr. Joseph Wayne Smith
-"Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit" by Bruce Thomas

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Batman -- Martial Artist - 06.00 - Kung Fu

I will be using the phrase "kung fu" to mean Chinese martial art(s). The phrase does not actually mean "martial arts", but rather something like "something achieved by hard work".
The Mandarin phrase that actually means "martial art" is "wushu". However, the use of "wushu" has been complicated in modern times by the much more popular use (at least in the west) of the phrase "kung fu" and the fact that there is a martial art-sport that was developed by the Chinese government called Wushu.

The most widely spread story about the origins of kung fu involves a Buddhist priest/monk named Bodhidharma traveling from India to China in the 5th or 6th century to translate Buddhist scripture.

The story goes that Bodhidharma came to Shaolin Temple, but was barred from entry because he was thought to be barbaric. Bodhidharma then hiked up Mt. Song and meditated in a cave for nine years. When he came back down, he entered the temple and was disappointed to find that the monks would frequently fall asleep while meditating. He taught the monks some exercises to improve their physical fitness, which he deemed necessary for spiritual fitness.

That, supposedly, is the origin of kung fu. Highly dubious, of course.

More realistically, there have always been fighting styles in China (as in all places). Many retired soldiers would become monks in their later years, bringing to the temples various martial techniques that would come in handy when monks might have to defend themselves from bandits. What Bodhidharma really did was bring some yoga exercises, and probably some Indonesian fighting techniques that now make up Pencak Silat. Bodhidharma did not create kung fu, but simply contributed to China's martial traditions, and helped institutionalize the style of fighting practiced at the Shaolin Temple.

(Arguably, Bodhidharma's more important contribution was that he brought with him the teachings of a particular sect of Buddhism that came to be known in China as Ch'an, which would eventually be known in Japan [and all over the world] as Zen.)

There are a LOT of different martial art styles that orignated in China, and I plan to write a little bit about a few of them. (These may include Wing Chun, Baguazhang, Shaolin, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Praying Mantis, Xingyi, Sanshou, Chin Na, Hung Gar, Mok Gar, Choy Li Fut, Five Ancestors Fist, Tiger-Crane, Wudang, Five Animals Style, and/or Wushu.)

Would Batman learn kung fu? Of course. He wouldn't really know too much in the way of martial arts if he didn't have some sort of training in at least one Chinese style.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Up in the Air

Jason Reitman's latest film is, simply, wonderful. The director of "Thank You for Smoking" and "Juno" has maybe made his best movie yet.

George Clooney stars as a professional ax-man who spends more than 90% of a year on airplanes, in airports, and in hotels. And he loves it. He is sent all over the country to fire people. He is very good at his job.

The movie is about a lot of things, really. It's about peoplelosing their jobs, a man who hates commitment, a young lady looking to live the perfect life, a woman looking to escape her life, and plenty of other stuff.

While some of the acting is off (because Reitman used plenty of regular, everyday people), George Clooney does an exceptional job. The film isn't as funny, perhaps, as either of Reitman's last two features, and it certainly doesn't have the biting social commentary of "Thank you for Smoking". It does have as much heart as "Juno" (if not more), but the audience doesn't suffer through Diablo Cody's forced quirkiness.

I got to see a test screening, so some things may still change before the movie comes out on December 4th. To me, the only things that would need changing would be to tighten up some lingering shots in editing, and add a bit more music to fill in some gaps. Otherwise, like I said, I think it's Reitman's best work.

(Also highly enjoyable: Reitman's re-use of some actors -- Sam Elliot, J.K. Simmons, and Jason Bateman)

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Stepfather

This remake of the 1987 "based on a true story" horror film is... Well, it was better than I expected.

I should say that I only wanted to see this movie for Dylan Walsh. I love the show "Nip/Tuck" and I wanted to see how Dr. Sean McNamara fared in something else (though he was the lead in "Congo", way back when).
His acting was definitely the best part of the movie.

While the movie is pretty typical, mundane slasher-thriller stuff, it is still fun. I was at first a bit reticent because it is rated PG-13. All this meant, however, was that there wasn't really any slashing, and there weren't any unnecessarily nude coeds (although practically everytime we see Amber Heard, she is either in a bikini or underwear). Unfortunately, there is at least one bad cut, and some rather obvious digital work.

While the music selection is good on its own, a lot of it is unnecessary. This comes out to be more of an MTV teen flick than a horror film in a lot of ways.

I suggest that if you go see this, you see it when and where and with whom you will have the most participatory experience. The movie is best when you're in a room full of people laughing, screaming, and yelling at the characters together.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Batman -- Martial Artist - 05 - Capoeira

Capoeira is an art that originated in Brazil, developed by African slaves sometime in the 17th century. It is characterized by its high, sometimes acrobatic kicks, moves that seem similar to modern break dancing, and typically being accompanied by music.

Firstly, it should be said that Capoeira is really less a martial art than a cultural practice. It is, in essence, a dance. Its fighting origins are debatable, but it is generally accepted that the slaves brought to Brazil by the Portuguese (from what is modern day Angola) developed a fighting style that could be used while their hands were shackled, but they disguised it as a dance so the slave masters could not stop its practice.
While African tribes did have fighting styles, and similar techniques could be seen in the fights amongst Afro-Caribbean slaves, the generally accepted origin story of Capoeira is highly dubious. One problem with this origin is that slaves were most typically shackled by their ankles. How much work can a slave really do if his hands are immobile? Another problem is the question of effectiveness: if the slaves really had such a great fighting style, why are there not MORE stories of escape and uprising? While plenty of slaves would have known wrestling, stick fighting, and kicking techniques, the slaves had often been captured in the first place because they were not the best fighters around.

This is not meant to discount Capoeira as a fine cultural tradition. It can even be described as a martial art, but with the emphasis on ART. Capoeira is really a dance or game. It is NOT recommended for anyone looking to learn practical self-defense. But, if one wanted to get in great shape, dance to great rhythmic music, and meet fine Brazilian girls, then by all means he should take up Capoeira.

So, would Batman practice Capoeira? No. He would certainly become familiar with it, maybe even borrow a move or two, but it is not an art that Bruce would have spent time diligently practicing or attempting to master Capoeira. While it would be a good idea to learn some techniques that would allow him to fight while shackled, Batman would be able to use kicks from Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Savate, or any other art more effectively than the break dancing moves of Capoeira. Also, Batman’s Plan A is to simply not get handcuffed in the first place.
Remember, Capoeira is a dance. While Bruce Wayne may do the tango or salsa, or waltz with gorgeous society girls, we know one thing for sure -- Batman does not dance.

-There is a delightful bit in the movie “Never Back Down” in which the main bad guy faces a fighter who shows off with some fancy Capoeira moves. The bad guy dispatches him quickly with a simple, direct punch.
-The villain in “Ocean’s Twelve” uses Capoeira to slip through a security laser field.
-Capoeira is the art used by Eddy Gordo and Christie Monteiro in the Tekken video game series.
-As per usual, check out youtube if you want to see Capoeira in action.

Batman -- Martial Artist - 04 - Eskrima/Kali/Arnis

Eskrima, Kali, and Arnis are all names for similar styles of Filipino martial arts. They primarily focus on the use of sticks or knives, or the defense against such weapons.

As with many martial arts, the Filipino martial arts’ origins are hard to objectively pin down. Most of the styles were culturally rich and passed from father to son until more recently, when teachers started making money. The cloudiness of the origins is compounded by the fact that stick and knife fighting were not necessarily the practice of scholars, so there are no older written source materials.
Like most martial arts, the origins are likely a mixture of older cultural practices (from places like India, Indonesia, and China) and native developments.

The method by which Eskrima is taught is streamlined and so effective that one can become fairly proficient in a relatively short amount of time. The armed techniques are all very direct and quick, and the unarmed techniques are just as direct and joint locks are heavily utilized. For this reason, Eskrima is taught to various special military forces and intelligence field agencies. The ability to defeat and disarm a knife-wielding opponent is of course a valuable skill to anyone who must defend himself on a regular basis.

Eskrima is practiced with items such as rattan sticks, wooden (now mostly rubber) knife replicas, and various other improvised weapon substitutes. Drills are the most common form of practice, much like forms are used in empty-hand arts. When sparring in Eskrima, the practitioners will don protective gloves and helmet-masks similar to (or the same as) those used in Kendo or fencing.
A lot of the safety features have been added not just as a result of modern thinking, but so as to appeal to people of other cultures. Traditional martial arts as practiced when they come to America or Europe are more watered down, at least in terms of cultural integrity and physical severity. If you go to the Philippines to train in Eskrima, Kali, or Arnis, you will likely suffer many more bruises, lacerations, and even fractures than you would if you went to a school in America.

The popularity of Filipino martial arts in America has been due to both their efficiency and, in large part, the efforts of great martial arts masters like Dan Inosanto (one of Bruce Lee’s top students/training partners).
I incorporate very basic Kali solo drills into my own martial arts practice, and while I’m not so confident as to think that I could face a knife-wielding mugger unarmed, I’m confident in my skills with a stick in my hand.
You can see Filipino martial arts mixed into the fighting styles of fictional characters (using Kali or a similar art adds a realistic proficiency) in such movies as "Daredevil", the Daniel Craig "Bond" films, and the "Bourne" movies.

Would Batman learn and practice Eskrima, Kali, and/or Arnis? Of course he would. Batman would need to be able to effectively disarm knife- and stick-wielding assailants. Bruce traveled the world and spent years in Asia. It’s likely that he would have spent 3 to 12 months in the Philippines learning some of the most efficient fighting /self-defense techniques in the world. Or, at the very least, one Bruce’s many teachers would have covered knife and stick use and defense.

-If you want to learn more about Filipino martial arts, I highly suggest the Kali and Eskrima episodes of Fight Quest and Human Weapon, which you can find on youtube. Also on youtube, you can find plenty of instructional (or at the very least demonstrational) videos from teachers or semi-casual practitioners.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Simpsons take on MMA!!!

"The Simpsons" episode 21.03 ("The Great Wife Hope") just aired and it dealt with a subject dear to my heart: Mixed Martial Arts.

Now, it's a few years late, but "The Simpsons" can't always be expected to be truly cutting edge (like the episode they did making fun of "24" -- it aired like three years after the first season of "24" was over). They already kind of took on martial arts in general early on in the series, when Bart wanted to take up Karate, but didn't have the patience or interest in anything besides the violence. Now, they've finally gotten around to MMA.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is represented (as Ultimate Punching Kicking and Choking Championship) as MMA becomes popular in Springfield, but of course Marge has to protest.

As per usual, all sides are pretty well represented and made fun of. The kids immediately start imitating, Marge feels that she should be able to ban something if she doesn't agree with it, etc. People on both sides are portrayed as stupid and mean, but each argument is given just the right amount of validity.

It's a good episode, overall. Unfortunately, Chuck Liddell is SEVERELY underused as a guest voice actor.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Batman -- Martial Artist - 03 - Savate

Savate is, essentially, a French form of kickboxing. The martial art takes its name from the French phrase for “old boot” or “old shoe”. This is because Savate is derived from older “kick fighting” styles that originated in the 19th century. In a time in which it was thought that kicking was ungentlemanly (and for sissies), French street fighters threw that false sense of honor to the wind and used their feet for more efficient fighting.
Some claim that it started as a fighting style for French sailors. They would hold on to something like a mast or rigging and would use kicks.

The style uses the basic punches of boxing, but Savateurs tend to prefer kicks. This is most likely ingrained by historical practice. Since your legs are longer and stronger than your arms, you can typically keep a safer distance and do more damage by kicking rather than punching.
There is also the fact that punching tends to look more savage and hostile, so French street fighters would use kicks and even slaps to avoid harsher legal punishments. This way of thinking is actually beneficial to street fighters, or even law abiding citizens who simply have to defend themselves, of modern day America. Police officers and most jurors are rather typical people who primarily see boxing as the fighting mainstay and think kicking is for sissies (I find this odd, as one would think that the proliferation of Asian martial arts would have changed this mindset by now), so they are more likely to believe you were just defending yourself.

Savate kicking is rather interesting because (at least from my observations) the hips are not used much. Kicking with the legs and not the hips (and punching with the arms and not the waist) does not produce the same amount of power, but it is more deceptive. This type of kicking allows you to plant your foot on someone’s face much more quickly because you don’t telegraph your move by twisting.

Would Batman know Savate? You bet. While I don’t know of any specific issue in which Batman uses or learns Savate, Scott Beatty does mention it in “The Batman Handbook”, and we should remember that Bruce did train in France for a time. While he was learning from Henri Ducard, he probably picked up plenty of Savate techniques.Savate would be a good supplement to Bruce’s boxing training, and while the kicks might not be as powerful as those learned in Muay Thai, Karate, Kung Fu, or Tae Kwon Do training, they would be more deceptive, and Batman is big on deception.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Batman -- Martial Artist - 02 - Jujitsu

In Detective Comics issue 38 (April 1940), the debut issue of Robin, the Boy Wonder, Bruce Wayne is depicted training the young Dick Grayson. For martial arts, he trains the boy in Boxing and Jiu Jitsu. To my knowledge, this was the first real mention (at least by name) of Batman’s martial arts training. Nowadays, we know that Batman knows many (if not all) styles of martial arts, but 1940 was a different time. There were western fighting arts like wrestling, boxing, fencing, and single-stick fighting (which was a lot like fencing, but with wood). Jujitsu and Judo were pretty much the only eastern arts known in the west at the time. At the time, Jujitsu was becoming a leisurely physical activity for those who could find and afford instruction. Also, it had the appeal of being exotic. Because Bruce Wayne is supposed to at least appear to be one of the idle rich, and Jujitsu gives Batman not only fighting skill but an exotic edge that is helpful to the popularity of a pulp character, it makes total sense that Bob Kane and Bill Finger would establish that Batman knows Jujitsu.

Jujitsu is a Japanese art, the name of which translates into English as “gentle art”, or even “science of softness”. Make no mistake, though: it may be called gentle, but it can definitely be deadly.
Jujitsu is a cultural martial art with deep roots in Japanese history, so it is a bit difficult to place its origins exactly. Many experts date the origin back to CE 8th century, with historic roots going as far back as BCE China.
One story claims that in CE 712, Tatemi Kazuchi threw Tatemi Nokami as if he were “throwing a leaf”.
Another story claims that Emperor Shuinjin holding a martial arts tournament in 23 BCE. One fight ended when a sumo wrestler died after being thrown and kicked by Nomino Sukume.
Some say that Jujitsu was developed by a Buddhist monk in CE 13th century. Some say Jujitsu comes from an art called katori-shinto ryu, developed in CE 15th century. Others say that Jujitsu was brought from China by a monk named Chen Yuanein in CE 17th century.

Every culture has some sort of fighting, whether systematized and artistic or not. Japanese Jujitsu does have origins in Chinese fighting systems, but it is also the result of much work on the part of Japanese combatants. There is likely no “true” origin of Jujitsu, but instead, like most martial arts, it developed from cultural needs. Basically, the samurai wore armor. You can’t hurt a guy very much by punching him in the chest when he’s got a chest plate on. So, Jujitsu developed as many different schools (ryu) that focused on throws, joint locks, and strikes to areas that weren’t easily protected by armor (i.e., armpits, back of the knees, elbows, etc.).

Samurai, ninja, and even non-combatants also developed defenses against assailants who might use weapons. While it ultimately comes down to who is the better fighter (not who has the better style), a Jujitsu practitioner should ideally be able to disarm someone who comes after him with a sword, bo staff, jo stick, spear, etc.

There is some confusion about the English spelling of “Jujitsu”. The phrase "Jiu-jitsu" is useable for any variation, really. Interestingly, the phrase "Jiu-jitsu" has become mostly associated with Brazilian Jiu-jitsu here in the west. This is interesting because it is a rather recent development (more so for North America and Europe than South America, of course). BJJ was mostly unknown outside of South America (particularly Brazil, of course) until the Ultimate Fighting Championship came about. Prior to that (particularly from the '30s to the '60s), Jiu-jitsu was well known as a Japanese art alongside its "child" Judo. Nowadays, though, the Japanese have to remind people that Jiu-jitsu is of Japanese origin!
As with many martial arts, and foreign phrases in general, there are variations in English spelling. Ju-jitsu, Jujutsu, Jiu-jiutsu, Jujutsu, Jujitsu, and others are (in my opinion, at least) acceptable spellings. However, I think to avoid such confusions, a general consensus has been reached that the Brazilian variety should be spelled "Jiu-jitsu" and the various ryu of the Japanese variety should be spelled "Jujitsu" or something like that. This has had a lot to do with the insane rise of popularity of BJJ over the last 15 years.

Batman would certainly study at least one ryu of Jujitsu extensively under a highly skilled sensei. Batman definitely spent some time in Japan, and even if he didn’t study Jujitsu specifically, if he studied Aikido or Judo his techniques would have roots in Jujitsu. Batman would use Jujitsu to be able to trap and manipulate the limbs of assailants. While he certainly isn’t averse to punching out a bad guy, it’s always good to have a gentler and more controlling option.
In "Batman Begins", Ducard recognizes that Bruce has studied Jujitsu.
Jujitsu is listed as one of “The Martial Arts Every Superhero Should Master” in Scott Beatty’s “The Batman Handbook”.
In Detective Comics issue 38, Bruce is shown teaching Dick “Jiu Jitsu”.In "Batman: Death Mask" (the manga by Yoshinori Natsume), a young Bruce Wayne trains in Japan in an art that "had roots in Judo and Aikido" (so we can tell that the art had roots in Jujitsu).In the animated series episodes "Night of the Ninja" and "Day of the Samurai" (both in season two), we see a young Bruce Wayne training in a style that seems to be a blend of Jujitsu, Aikido, and Karate, with some Samurai and Ninja stuff thrown in for good measure.And, of course, our most modern idea of Batman includes him having mastered as many styles as possible.

Now, here's the deal with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. When Jigoro Kano was going around learning different styles of Jujitsu, there was often a preference that each school had for either standing and throwing or rolling around and wrestling. Kano, being an early version of Bruce Lee or any mixed martial artist, combined these styles and streamlined them to his liking to form Judo. Originally Judo was fairly evenly split with a combination of ground and standing techniques. However, as often happens, even Judo started to split up. Different teachers of Judo would have different preferences and in the early '20s, the throwing techniques even started to lose much popularity to wrestling!
Kano couldn't have this (he himself preferred throwing/standing), so he started emphasizing throwing over ground fighting. One of the teachers who had preferred ground fighting, however, was Mitsuyo Maeda (a.k.a. "Count Coma"). Maeda was the victor of many tournaments, so Kano sent him on a "Judo is great" tour that ended in Brazil. He opened a school in Brazil, where he taught his personal blend of Judo, Jujitsu, and striking. In 1925, Brazilian politician Gastao Gracie hired Maeda to teach his sons Carlos and Helio. While Carlos was big and strong already, Helio was tiny but tenacious. He was the more devoted and driven of the two brothers, so he wound being the better fighter. Gradually, the Gracie brothers adapted what they learned to fit their own tastes (and Helio's diminutive stature). They challenged many people, typically won, and ...blah blah blah... Royce Gracie, UFC, Dana White, and so on.

While there has been no mention yet (at least to my knowledge) of Batman having learned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, our modern story of him should include the idea that a young Bruce would have traveled to Rio de Janeiro with a Portuguese phrasebook and learned Gracie-style Jiu-Jitsu. While Batman’s goal is to never get taken to the ground, he would also be prepared for just such an occurrence.

-Much of the historical information on Jujitsu was adapted from Fay Goodman’s “A Handbook of Martial Arts”.
-A good portion of this was taken from comments I previously made on Building Batman. See
Also check out
-The information about BJJ's origins in Judo comes from a great article by Kelly Crigger, "Maximum Efficiency Minimum Effort", in the June 2009 issue of Fight Magazine.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

The sixth DC animated original movie is based on the issues/TPB by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness.
Overall, it’s pretty good, but not as enjoyable as I expected.

The story is based on a great concept, but the plotting leaves a little to be desired, as does the dialogue. The fights are excellent, but the character sketches look like ridiculous action figures (Batman actually looks pretty good, though) (Amanda Waller is so grotesquely, cartoonishly fat that she looks like Helga from "The Oblongs") and the backgrounds and designs look like they belong in cheap Saturday morning cartoons.

The real highlight of the movie is the voice acting. Kevin Conroy is as amazing as usual as Batman, and Tim Daly and Clancy Brown are great as Superman and Lex Luthor, respectively. Allison Mack (known as Chloe on “Smallville”) is pretty good as Power Girl (but it’s hard to take her seriously as the character design has insanely large breasts and a butch haircut).
Sadly, Malcolm McDowell did not return as Metallo and John C. McGinley is not particularly impressive when he does his few lines. Also, the voice acting for Hiro (Toyman) is rather atrocious.

Despite its flaws, it’s still cool to see a bunch of B- and C-list characters go up against the two greatest superheroes ever.

I would suggest the deluxe edition DVD, though, for the special features. There is a cool little exploration (although my Psychology-major girlfriend was unimpressed) of the mentalities of Superman and Batman. There is a dinner conversation between Kevin Conroy and others involved in the production that is pretty cool for a Batman fan. There are two great episodes of “Superman: The Animated Series” that feature Batman and Superman teaming up. There is also a look at the upcoming “Crisis on Two Earths”.

Me, Chi, and Bruce Lee

Brian Preston’s book – subtitled “Adventures in Martial Arts from the Shaolin Temple to the Ultimate Fighting Championship” – is an enjoyable journal of sorts. It’s comparable to Matthew Polly’s “American Shaolin” in that it’s about a wimpy westerner who trains in the martial arts and provides some insightful writing regarding the history and culture. It’s rather different, though, as Matt Polly was a young man at the time he trained, and he specifically trained in a Shaolin school for about a year. Preston, however, is a mid-lifer who starts learning a style of kung fu in Canada, and does some dabbling in Tai Chi, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, visits China for a couple of weeks, talks to a UCF fighter, and eventually settles on training Bagua in his backyard.

Overall, I think that Preston’s research into the arts he discusses leaves something to be desired. And his status as a pot-smoking, pacifistic journalist (who may be going through some sort of mid-life crisis and really only took up martial arts because his publisher told him that they should capitalize on the kung fu craze caused by films like “Kill Bill” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) does not exactly make him look like an authority on the subject.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book because Preston visits some Wudang schools, as well as the actual Shaolin Temple, meets Royce Gracie, and talks to UFC fighter Jeff Monson. He also talks a bit about Bruce Lee, both positively and negatively, so at least his opinion is balanced. Unfortunately, his first master and master’s master seem to be crazy kung fu bullshitters in a lot of ways.

I would suggest it if you’re just looking for an entertaining read and know enough about the subject already to not take Preston at his word. If you’re new to the martial arts, or looking for something definitive, then read something else.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Hello, dear readers (few though you may be).

I have been rather busy for the last few days. I haven't written the next piece of "Batman -- Martial Artist" because I've been so busy (and in my head I'm thinking it will be rather lengthy).

I have been working as a Production Assistant on a short film being made by some fellow UCF students. As a PA, I've been doing a little of everything (I've dealt with equipment, recorded a small bit of the audio, dealt with some of the food [craft services], and even been an extra). It's been time-consuming and very tiring, but it's been worth it because I've gotten to work with some great people.

I know that none of you will probably ever see the film, but I encourage you to visit the production site at
The film is called "8th" and it is a nice little coming-of-age piece about friends having to separate. It's written and directed by a cool cat named Marcos, and produced by a cool chick named Rene.

Check it out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Unfettered Mind

I just read "The Unfettered Mind" Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master by Takuan Soho.

It is an excellent little book that contains extensive letters to a sword master (or possibly two sword masters). Takuan Soho was a Zen master who was quite famous in his day and recognized as a very wise man. He was a spiritual mentor of sorts to the famed Musashi Miyamoto (considered by many to be the best swordsman to have ever lived). Two of the three pieces were written to Yagyu Munenori (one of the best; instructor to a couple of shogun; author of a book that is comparable to Musashi's). The third piece of writing in the book was written either to Yagyu Munenori or Ono Tadaaki (another great sword master).

The book really doesn't have much to do with martial arts on the superficial level. However, Takuan's writings show a desire to infuse Zen into anything and everything people do. So, just as one should be spiritual in meditation, he should be spiritual in his day-to-day tasks, and be spiritual in his martial arts practice.

I recommend this book to anyone, really, but especially to those interested in philosophy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Batman -- Martial Artist - 01 - Boxing

In Detective Comics issue 38 (April 1940), the debut issue of Robin, the Boy Wonder, Bruce Wayne is depicted training the young Dick Grayson. For martial arts, he trains the boy in Boxing and Jiu Jitsu. To my knowledge, this was the first real mention (at least by name) of Batman’s martial arts training. Nowadays, we know that Batman knows many (if not all) styles of martial arts, but 1940 was a different time. There were western fighting arts like wrestling, boxing, fencing, and single-stick fighting (which was a lot like fencing, but with wood). Jujitsu and Judo were pretty much the only eastern arts known in the west, and even those were not nearly as prevalent as they would come to be after WWII. Wrestling seems to most people to be rather boring or even primitive, and fencing and single-stick fighting were only useful when one had a weapon, so boxing seems an obvious choice.

For as much as teachers, students, and various other proponents of the “more graceful” eastern martial arts say that something like Karate or Kung Fu makes a more efficient striking art, boxing has certainly earned its nickname – “the sweet science”.
Boxing is amazingly efficient for what it focuses on. I do think that martial artists and fighters should not be so limited and should definitely learn kicking techniques to supplement hand techniques, but when it comes to flat out punching somebody boxing is the absolute best choice.

Overall, boxers punch much harder and much more quickly than practitioners of Kung Fu, Karate, or even kickboxing. They may not know or use such sophisticated techniques as back fists, hammer fists, chops, or finger thrusts/jabs (these are all effective, though), but they manage to do a great deal of damage nonetheless.

Boxing is as old as wrestling and club fighting. Human beings (and our hominid ancestors) have been punching one another in the face and gut for as long as we’ve been rolling around on the ground or hitting each other with sticks and rocks. As a sport, boxing has existed since at least ancient Rome and Greece. Boxing was an original Olympic sport, and a certain category of gladiators would beat each other to death with their bare hands, metal gloves, or even spiked gauntlets.
In the 19th century, boxing regained its popularity as a spectator sport and manly pursuit. Boxers typically bludgeoned each other with their bare knuckles, going until a knock out. Many bare knuckle boxers died during or right after a match.
It was in the 20th century that boxing became the mega-sport that we know it to be today. Boxers wear good gloves nowadays and follow much safer rules, but plenty of boxers still wind up with brain damage or even die from their injuries.

The goal of the art/science of boxing is really to hit the other guy as hard and as quickly as you can without getting hit by the other guy. Heavy bags, speed bags, focus mitts, and sparring are great ways of training for any martial artist, but they’re absolutely necessary for fighters.
A boxer might only use his balled fists, but an ideal boxer hits so hard, so fast, and so accurately that he doesn’t really need to do anything else.

Without a doubt, Bruce Wayne would learn and utilize boxing. He may not take the posture of a prizefighter when taking care of street punks or super villains, but he hits hard, quickly, and accurately. And often with his fists.

In the Nolan movie universe, I think it’s safe to assume that Bruce would have done some boxing while at Princeton. The Ivy League schools have a good history of boxing clubs.

I don’t know if any of the early Batman comics mention where and with whom Bruce trained in boxing, but more recent comics cover the subject fairly well. I’m not sure when it was first established that Batman had learned how to box from Ted Grant (a.k.a., Wildcat), but in a “fight card” in the back of “Batman/Wildcat” issue 2 of 3 (May 1997) written by Chuck Dixon:

[Bruce] traveled around the world looking for teachers who could help him in his future bouts with the underworld. One of those teachers was heavyweight champion Ted Grant. Bruce was a natural. Grant taught his apt pupil all his best moves. The Champ had high hopes for the kid going into the ring and becoming a contender, but as fast as he’d come, the kid was gone.
He had picked up all he could from Grant and moved on to his next teacher, and his next, and his next. With each new master, he perfected a new fighting skill. He was becoming the sum of all his teachers and more…

Bob Kane and Bill Finger probably had Batman learn boxing simply because they had a very limited knowledge of martial arts, but any crime fighter worth his salt WOULD be quite an adept boxer.