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Monday, June 03, 2013

The Karate Kid

Okay, so one of the things that I really wanted to do with the Monday Matinee feature was to incorporate more of myself into each entry, and make it seem like less of an information dump.

I mean, granted, I'll still bring up some trivia facts, information about the director, producers, and actors, and if I can find them, movie clips. But, I will open up each Monday Matinee with a personal story that happens to be based (in some cases, loosely) on the plot of the film in hopes that you will learn a little bit about me in the process.

PERSONAL REQUEST: Please let me know if you like this new format, just so I know what will work, and what won't. I do this blog for my readers, and your opinions do count more than you'll ever know!

Okay, so to kick off today's Monday Matinee, I have a secret that I have to reveal to you. And, honestly I don't really remember if I shared this secret before on this blog. I suppose it's entirely possible that this secret I have to share isn't quite so secret. But, regardless, I'm just gonna come out and say it.



Did you know that when I was eleven, I studied the art of karate for a couple of years? It's true!

Now, I didn't stick with the art long enough to gain the ultimate prize (that prize being the coveted black belt). I'm almost kind of sorry that I didn't stick with it longer, but the one thing that I will say about my karate school was that they didn't really seem to understand that once you turned thirteen, you were NOT an adult. The minute I hit 13, I was placed in the adult classes, and I couldn't keep up with them at all. I think that had the school had separate classes in which the class was comprised of 13-19 year olds, I probably would have stuck with it a little longer. But, I suppose that I could always go back.

Part of the reason why I wanted to learn karate was so I could defend myself against the kids at school who used to push me around on the schoolyard. Granted, the one and only time I did use the skills I learned in karate, I ended up getting an indoor suspension, but at least I put them to some use.

Truth be told, I learned quite a bit in karate. And, I reckon that although it's been almost two decades since I set foot inside of a karate school, I think I still remember a little bit of the moves from way back when. At the very least, I learned how to count to ten in Japanese!

What was funny was that karate was at the center of one of my most embarrassing moments at school. It was quite a bizarre thing, and looking back on it now, I can't help but laugh over how not a big deal it really was. On the same day that I was to attend a graduation ceremony for some program where we learned all about how to be a “very effective person” (something which kind of makes me chuckle as I roll my eyes today), I was to receive my yellow belt in karate. Naturally, I wanted to go to the belt awarding ceremony first. That was my top priority. But, the ceremony wrapped up considerably early enough for me to attend the ceremony at school. The problem was that I didn't have time to change. I thought that if I wore a jacket over top of my karate gi, it wouldn't seem nearly so embarrassing.

So, when the teacher called my name for me to accept my certificate, I tried to sneak up quietly to the stage without people noticing me, but before I got up on stage, some kid named Robert started to laugh out loud, and soon enough, that side of the room began to laugh and make fun.

And, I immediately burst into tears. It was probably the most humiliating and embarrassing moment that I can possibly remember going through. Imagine being up on stage in a room filled with my classmates and their proud families, pointing at you because you happened to go to a pseudo graduation ceremony wearing a karate gi instead of your finest dress clothing.

But, then I look back on it all, and I go back to the blog that I wrote yesterday. About learning how to control my emotions so I can maintain the yin/yang balance that all of us are capable of having. I'll be the first to admit that when I was eleven, I did NOT have that down. Hell, at 21, I still didn't have that balance in check. And, that's a really tough admission to make.

The point is that no matter how many “Robert”s there are in this world, the only way that they can get to me is if I let them. What I should have done at that pseudo grad was laughed it off. Cracked a joke. Said something like “I got my yellow belt AND this meaningless certificate? What a lucky day this is!” Heck, I should have tested my karate chop on Robert to show the audience what I had learned!

No, wait...that would have gotten me suspended. Scratch that.

Of course if I had done that, people would have known that I was a real karate kid. And, since I brought that up, I may as well talk about the movie of the same name.



That movie, of course, is “The Karate Kid”. And, no, I'm not talking about the 2010 remake starring Will Smith's kid and Jackie Chan.

I mean the original release from June 22, 1984, which was directed by John G. Avildsen, and which starred Ralph Macchio, Elisabeth Shue, and the late Pat Morita.

Right off the bat, this film had all the makings of being a success. After all, Avildsen also directed the widely successful 1976 classic “Rocky”. Only instead of boxing, the film focused on martial arts.



The story of “The Karate Kid” begins as high school senior Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) relocates to Reseda, California from New Jersey. Daniel finds it difficult to make friends, but seems to like the handyman of the building that he and his mother live in...the eccentric Keisuke Miyagi (Morita).

At school, like most teenage boys, Daniel develops strong feelings for a high school cheerleader, Ali Mills (Shue). And, it seems as though Ali's feelings towards Daniel are the same. But there's a really big obstacle in the path of true love between Daniel and Ali.



And that obstacle is Ali's ex-boyfriend, Johnny Lawrence (William Zakba). He and his gang of friends study at the Cobra Kai dojo - a martial arts school that teaches its students a form of karate which could be considered more violent and less ethical than your average karate classes. As a result, Johnny and his gang easily overpower Daniel when he makes the mistake of challenging Johnny in a fight. Of course, Daniel couldn't help himself. He did have some basic knowledge of self-defense and karate skills...they just weren't enough.

So, naturally, things escalate to the point in which an entire gang from the school begin to beat up Daniel, it's time for Mr. Miyagi to step in and show the goons a thing or two. And, Daniel watches in amazement as Miyagi takes down five of the attackers by himself! Daniel is so impressed by Miyagi's moves that he goes up to him and begs him to teach him everything that he knows. Miyagi turns down Daniel's request, but offers to go down to the karate school where Johnny trains at to teach the sensei a thing or two about teaching his students how to use karate respectfully.



Unfortunately, the sensei of the Cobra Kai dojo is not up to listening. John Kreese (Martin Kove) is completely dismissive of Miyagi's suggestion, basically laughing in the face of the mere mention of mercy and restraint.

Class act, that Sensei Kreese.

Anyway, since Kreese and Miyagi have reached a stalemate, they both decide to put their reputations on the line. There's a karate tournament that is taking place in two months time, and both men decide to agree to a match between Daniel and Johnny at this very tournament. Miyagi agrees to the conditions and commits himself to getting Daniel ready for the tournament, on the condition that Johnny and his gang leave Daniel alone during the two month training period. Sensei Kreese agrees to the terms. But Kreese also tells Daniel that if he is a no show at the tournament, he will make sure that the bullying and harassment continues.

Like I said, real class act, that Sensei Kreese.

So, Daniel ended up getting what he wanted anyway. Daniel wanted to learn karate techniques from Mr. Miyagi. And, Mr. Miyagi had some interesting ways of instructing Daniel-san.



In fact, if one were to really look closely at what Miyagi was teaching Daniel, it's almost as if Miyagi was just using Daniel for cheap labour! And, even Daniel seemingly sees through Miyagi's act. Or does he?

As Daniel and Miyagi start to bond with one another, Daniel starts to learn more about Miyagi's past, and he inspires Daniel to put forth every effort in winning the competition. And, it seems to work, as Daniel advances to the semi-finals with ease. But, Sensei Kreese is not willing to admit defeat, and plays a rather underhanded game with his pupils in order to gain the advantage. Can Daniel rise above it all to become the newest tournament champ? And, how does Ali fit into all of this?

Well, you're just going to have to watch the movie for yourself. Let's just forget the fact that the movie spawned three sequels – the last one featuring an up and coming actress named Hilary Swank who would later become an Academy Award winning star. I still want you to watch this movie anyway, as it has a really powerful message.

Anyway, since I have some time left, I thought that I would offer up some trivia in regards to this film's behind the scenes action.

01 – The role of Daniel was originally meant to go to Charlie Sheen, but he turned it down.

02 – Elisabeth Shue's younger brother, Andrew (who would later star in “Melrose Place”) makes a cameo as one of the Cobra Kai students.

03 – Pat Morita earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in the film.

04 – The first scene shot for the movie was the scene that took place on the beach.

05 – Ralph Macchio sustained a real injury in the scene where Daniel is hit with a spin kick, knocking him down. The kick actually made contact!

06 – The panoramic scene which had Daniel walking all the way from the locker room to the gymnasium took at least thirty-five takes! Poor Ralph Macchio must have been exhausted doing all that walking!

07 – Although many never knew it given his youthful appearance and high-pitched voice, Ralph Macchio was 22 when the film was shot!

08 – William Zabka reportedly still owns the red leather jacket his character wore in the film.

09 – Five hundred extras were hired for the karate tournament scenes.


10 – Originally, Daniel's last name was supposed to be Webber.

1 comment:

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