When Dr. Bro was about 12 years old, he took up Tae Kwon Do. Part of it was to learn self-defense; another reason was to gain confidence. I’d watch his classes from time to time; fascinated by the discipline needed to practice this martial art.
Of course, a year after he started practicing Tae Kwon Do, the original “Karate Kid” movie came out. It was definitely a movie that both of us had wanted to see. Dr. Bro, because of the reference to learning martial arts. And me, because I wanted to see Ralph Macchio again after seeing him in “The Outsiders“. Of course, both of us just loved the film; as did every 10-14 year old that saw the film with us. It was quite evident, especially during the scenes during the tournament, when every kid cheered for Daniel Larusso to win.
This past Friday, Hubby & I went to an early evening show at the movies; something we haven’t done in awhile since finding myself unemployed. And of course we went to see the new version the “Karate Kid” … not only because we wanted to see how Jackie Chan could fill the role of Pat Morita, but because we were wanted to see how the story would translate now that it was set in China. We were not disappointed.
I must warn you, if you’re looking for a completely different spin on the original movie, you won’t find it here. The story line, from the cute classmate to the bully, down to the some of the sayings “Strike first! Strike hard! No mercy!” are the same. Except with this version, there seems to be some sort of twist to each element we see in the original film.
The first (and obvious) twist to the story is that instead of being taught Karate, Jaden Smith’s character (Dre) is taught Kung Fu. So, as a good friend pointed out … why not call it “The Kung Fu Kid” instead? Well, after a little research I did manage to find out that the film is, indeed called “The Kung Fu Kid” internationally.**
Another twist is in how Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) teaches martial arts to Dre. In the original movie, Mr. Miyagi’s method of teaching Karate ranges from from waxing a car to painting a fence. This version does not have Dre being Mr. Han’s chore boy. Nope … instead, Mr Han teaches Kung Fu by having Dre take his jacket on and off.
I admit that when initially seeing the whole “Jacket On/Jacket Off” technique (as opposed “Wax On/Wax Off”), it appeared pretty lame, for lack of better words. But when put into context with the rest of the film, this method of teaching not only taught Dre Kung Fu, but it end up teaching him about respect.
Being a first generation Asian-American, that is the aspect of the film that spoke to me most. It was watching a kid from the new “Western World” try to integrate his life in the old “Eastern World.” There are many moments where we see Dre act like a typical American teenager; brash and arrogant, unaware of his surroundings. This attitude obviously would not be acceptable in China where tradition and elders (as evident by the multiple scenes of senior citizens exercising) are revered.
Mr. Han does an excellent job, albeit reluctantly, teaching Dre about the importance of respect in the Eastern World. He does it in the method in which he trains Dre in Kung Fu; because as Mr. Han says:
Kung Fu is in everything we do. It’s in the way we put on a jacket. It’s in how we treat people. Everything is Kung Fu.
In other words (or at least what I get out of it), if you respect everybody … everything in your surroundings … you, too could be a master of Kung Fu. You, too would be able to find balance between mind and body.
What I hope that most kids (and let’s face it, adults as well) get out of this movie is that there needs to be respect for everything; that we must treat people with the same respect that we would want in return. Whether it has to do with other cultures or religions … or with Mother Nature and our own planet … we should find that balance within ourselves.
When reaching the last few minutes in the movie, I couldn’t help but cheer Dre on as he moved through the tournament. And that last scene … otherwise known as “the crane kick” in the original movie? Well, listening to those 10-14 year old kids around us clap and cheer … it reminded me of that day, some 26 years ago, when Dr. Bro and I watched the original.
** And while I was at it, I managed to find that there was actually a Philippine TV show called “Kung Fu Kids“. Hmm … talk about coming around full circle!