Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stage Combat

As some of you know, I am an actor. Most of us have had physical movement training of some kind so we can be more aware of our bodies while in front of the camera or on stage. Yesterday, while in acting class, something particularly interesting happened. I was doing a scene with a fellow actor in which we were in a argument. Nothing was rehearsed so neither of us knew if the fight would get physical. He is about 6'2" and probably 170 lbs., so in terms of size of weight, he was much bigger than I am. Towards the end of the scene on the first take, the actor lunged at me and put a bear hug around me. Instinctively, I immediately went into a 弓步 (Gōngbù) and did a 推掌 (Tūizhăng). And he was pushed backwards, powerless, like a rag doll. A look of shock spread across his face. He wasn't expecting me to be able to push him off so easily. He tried again and ended up with a similar result. I didn't realize what I had done until the teacher mentioned after our scene that my Shaolin training is really paying off. She saw that I had complete balance and control of the situation because, physically, I was immovable. That physicality completely described the relationship between the characters beyond what mere words can be said. It was utterly instinctual. She loved it. The class loved it. I loved it.

It's not very often that we get to use what we practice at the Shaolin Temple. It's not 1200 A.D. where there are still warring tribes and we must fight to defend ourselves every day. These days, the guy/girl with the bigger gun usually wins the fight. It was really nice to know, that other than being a pretty art form, the training is based on real applicable uses. For me, oh lucky me! I get to use it on stage or in front of the camera every day!


  1. wicked awesome, leo!

    i know we don't get to spar in class, but i often wonder if thrown into a heated situation, whether our shaolin training would kick in, and our instincts would take over and protect us.

    a friend of mine was felt up on the subway recently and she was more shocked by what was happening and couldn't react too much. if i were in that situation, would my body take over and could i administer a swift tuizhang? hmmm...i wonder...

  2. It's not 1200 A.D. where there are still warring tribes and we must fight to defend ourselves every day.

    What are you talking about, man, the manchu are coming!!!!!!

    playaofq, the first thing you have to overcome in actual fighting/sparring classes in your wrong instincts: to freeze, to shy away, to get flustered. Against untrained opponents, mindset is most of what matters. Like sifu says, "in fighting, there is no style, just beat the other person up."

  3. I know you guys don't like me posting but anyways...

    That practicality of each martial arts is very debatable. No doubt that Shaolin will teach you things that 99% of the population cannot do. On that mere fact you are at a very good advantage. Just think when you first started, you probably didn't even know how to throw a punch. Most people cannot kick higher than their knees. So you can see the advantages of Shaolin...

    Now if you are fighting someone who does have martial arts experience your odds now have diminished.. so the tough question is to figure out what martial arts is better.. in that case it all depends on the rules... In Shaolin you fight mostly standing so its not very effective if you need to ground fight...

    Another interesting fact is that Shi Yan Ming actually if you watch him shadow box.. isn't fighting Shaolin per se.. I think he has adopted more Bruce Lee approach to fighting.. like jeremiah said... "in fighting, there is no style, just beat the other person up." You can also notice that when he says pop your hip.. these are techniques Bruce Lee taught... and not really "traditional" Shaolin.... As we know Shaolin was created by Bodhidharma who taught the monks this exercise because he felt that they were not physically fit for meditation...

  4. Shaolin has definitely improved my reflexes. I'll have to wait to get into a fight to see if it helps me in a combative scenario..... Probably against a non martial artist I could hold my own, but yeah, if some muay thai afficianado came to tussle they'd most assuredly kick my ass.

    Popping is absolutely a newer addition to temple training. If you look at old videos of demo from several years ago you can see the difference. And when we went to Austria the folks there were definitely not accustomed to the level of hip popping we emphasize now. But I like it as an addition to extension and a strength builder for my hips. Plus, being vain, I like the way it looks :) and since our training at temple is not combat based, I'm not above aesthetics, even if they are not super practical in the ring or on the street.

  5. Even the best martial artist is no match for a gun. That is why for that 1%, I always carry my fully automatic Micro UZI 9mm SMG with armor piercing rounds (to kill those with extra chi).

    Micro UZI

    I would like to see any martial artist go against my rate of fire of 1200 rounds/min. Ground pork anyone?

  6. Ummmm should I worry about you Leo? Anyway, I'm so fast I can catch all your bullets AND throw them back at you so hard it's more powerful than your little UZI.

  7. LITTLE?!?! There 's nothing LITTLE about it!!!!! Grrrrr!

  8. I wonder if woman go around feeling up strange men on the subway? :P