A little known fact about me, is that I love martial arts movies and consider myself a fan. Today I am going to start with, what I feel, served as my launch pad into martial arts movies and my interest in art, games, books, movies, etc. from the Far East. Some of my earlier influences were Gremlins (1984), The Karate Kid (1984), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Charlie Chan, and fables from Japan and China. In other words, it wasn’t any one specific thing, but a fascination that grew out of the American-facing snippets that I had access to about the Far East in general. As a kid learning and reading about new cultures for the first time, I was immediately drawn to the Far East for several reasons, and have been ever since to some degree. Mind you, I spent A LOT of time inhaling books as a kid and learned to read at an early age, and while I can’t say that I was immersed in pop culture, I definitely tapped into what I had access to, when I could.
Looking back, I can see this perfect storm of influences was further enhanced by Star Wars and a textbook I remember getting at a library sale. I loved (and still do!) Star Wars for many, many reasons. It wasn’t until much later that I realized one of the reasons why I loved these movies, was because there were Asian influences which I internalized. Darth Vader’s helmet, for example, was inspired by the samurai. But that, to me, really didn’t have as much of an impact as the relationship between Luke and Yoda did. The wise master teaching the young apprentice the ways of the Force, which was both mystical and powerful, which could be used for good or evil purposes… The swords that each Jedi protected and treasured, that were attuned to that warrior individually…(1)
As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t know the creative forces behind Star Wars, or understood movie magic, or thought about the specifics about the many Chinese and Japanese cultures, other than what I could get from the books I had access to. All of these faraway places(2) and stories from the Far East seemed, like the rest of Star Wars–magical. So, to uncover more “secrets” of the Far East, I turned to books. I don’t know the name of the textbook, but I do remember I had a book that was very colorful and was bursting with stories. In the textbook, there were colorful, three dimensional pictures of kirigami to illustrate the different fables. I do recall that Urashima Taro was one of them, and the other was a fantastical romance about a shapeshifting kitsune who fell in love with a wayward traveler. I loved these stories dearly.
Before I end this post, I want to add a comment about the gargantuan element in the room: Karate Kid. The thing about Karate Kid, for me, was that it sparked my enthusiasm to check out other films with martial arts in them, to get to the source. Yes, I very much understood that this was an American movie, and I didn’t have any issues with that–but it inspired me to start watching other films that fulfilled my desire for authenticity and more from the Far East.
Next time, I’ll make a paltry effort to start picking apart specific films, and see where this trail leads…
(1) If you’re interested in this aspect of Star Wars, check out Star Wars and Philosophy.
(2) They are on my list of places to visit some day, and I hope I’ll be able to afford to go.
Mood: Pre-convention stress exacerbated by a hot, hot summer.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Now trying to figure out how to balance non-carbonated caffeine. In hell.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Yogatastic
In My Ears: Too much in between them!
Game Last Played: Kingdom Rush
Book Last Read: A big-ass stack for research. Again.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Um…
Latest Artistic Project: Sewing project that turned out to be a pescatarian oni. Don’t ask.
Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. A new one coming soon!