Thursday, December 20, 2012
Needle Through Brick
At the Moving Image museum, the film was introduced by its composer, Gil Talmi, who spoke of the film's origins. Patrick Daly was studying traditional Kung Fu with a master for a year in Borneo, East Malaysia, and had gained the trust of masters who wanted their stories to be heard. While martial arts for centuries was always seen as a family and military practice, never one to be taught to the general public or outsiders, the masters realized that a worldwide audience would see their art, and reduce its chances of being lost forever. It was a relationship between filmmakers and the masters of mutual interest and respect that led to this small yet remarkable film.
The speed and agility that these masters maintained was sharp and inspiring to see. They truly possessed their essence of chi, with a calmness that commanded respect. One of the masters said, "It's not just about fighting, it's a way of life. It's spiritual, it's physical, it's everything." And I agree with his statement. Martial arts is a practice that is popularized through action films, seen as only a means of attack or an act of violence. But when seeing artists practice their form individually with ritualized movements and steps, it reminded me to maintain my practice in dance and martial arts, because the peace that comes from practicing classic movements centers me, and I grow as a student when I learn the basics.
At times, the masters sounded like crabby old men when talking about young kids favoring wushu over traditional martial arts. The film intercuts this with students flying and twisting through the air in acrobatics that would be seen in a tricking video or a Jet Li film. I myself have taken a wushu class, and found it exciting and a lot of fun, a combination of beautiful movement with explosive acrobatics. As kung fu has an almost endless amount of forms due to combining styles and modern interpretations, I feel it is important that a student does learn the traditional form while also studying styles that are more suited to their personality or interests. I took Wing Chun because I wanted to learn more self-defense moves, and was breaking the habits that I had learned from Muay Thai, like positioning of stances, punches, and kicks. Similarly, I enjoy taking dance classes because I love different forms of movement and challenging my body to take on unfamiliar positions and steps. In that case, I take classes in ballet as a ground root for other dance styles, like hip-hop, modern, and jazz.
This film can be found on Hulu to watch, and I recommend just taking an hour out of your day to listen to the stories of these masters who only want to ensure that their traditional art form is not lost in a rapidly changing modern world.