Kiai like Lee

Fist of Fury is on TV! My Saturday is made.

My father loves two kinds of movies most: old war moves, and movies with kung fu. I remember hanging out on the couch with him as a kid, watching the old black and white beat ’em up flicks he couldn’t get enough of. As a result, we grew up soaking in a soundtrack of martial arts legends whacking it out onscreen, and I developed a massive girlhood crush on Bruce Lee that has not faded with time.

I didn’t much care for the movies themselves, but I was fascinated by Dad, who seemed to know everything about martial arts. I was particularly curious about the noises they’d make during a fight scene, so I finally asked him about it. I figured it was all for show, but he told me it had a purpose: to release air from the lungs, thus protecting them against a direct hit. Turns out, it also focuses the fighter’s ki, or life force, tightens and protects the torso, sounds cool as shit and intimidates foes.

The word for it is kiai. You may know it better as “HIII-YAAAAAH!

There is no kiai without ki. Ki is one of the most important elements of martial arts, and something not easily put into words. I won’t pretend to know much beyond that, as I do not practice martial arts and would rather not come off like a jackass. But, I know ki when I see it.

When I was learning how to drive, my Dad took me on the military base where he worked and let me loose in the outskirting streets. As I circled, white knuckled and terrified, he practiced Tai Chi on a median. I knew he knew kung fu, but I’d rarely witnessed him in action outside grainy old photos, the occasional sparring match with one of my brothers or his hapless, headless practice dummy.

Here was a man in the middle of a stressful situation: teenaged daughter? Check. In a car? Yep. Alone? Sure was, and to top it off, it was all his idea. Watching him in the grass, eyes closed in concentration, you’d never guess the kid narrowly missing fire hydrants and streetlights was his daughter, driving by herself for the very first time. Calm, focused and in the zone: that’s good ki.

Dad’s been doing karate for most of his life, so the Discipline of the Masters is strong with that one.

Perhaps if I weren’t so distracted by the bad voice dubbing, atrocious sound quality and disappearing storyline, I could think of a good final point to wrap this whole post up in a deep and meaningful way. Yeah, looks like I’m still not that into these kinds of movies, but Lee just did his cute little power wiggle (see 1:40 on this video) and smirked, so… what were we talking about again?



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