Needle Through Brick – It’s FINALLY out on DVD! This great documentary from Season of Light Pictures was originally titled: The Fighting Arts of Borneo. If you are a hardcore traditional Chinese martial arts practitioner, this documentary speaks directly to you.
This was slated to come out in 2007 after making the rounds in the Indie Film Festival circuit. We all waited with anticipation after seeing the trailer on YouTube, and then… (2008 came and went) and then… (2009 came and went) and then… until now. But, it was well worth the wait.
It’s a well-paced, well-edited documentary spotlighting Malaysia’s pockets of aging “crouching tigers and hidden dragons” descending from Chinese martial expatriates who escaped from the Chinese Communist Party’s control of mainland China in 1949. Faced with the prospect of an untimely and unfortunate demise of their arts due to the overwhelming circumstances of modernization, these unsung, everyday masters struggle between past experiences of “eating bitter” to achieve their Kung Fu, present indifferences toward their passions and pursuits, and an uncertain future with regard not only to traditional Chinese martial arts, but more so toward the culture and customs of a people.
For those of you familiar with his efforts, Master Eric Ling – whose chronicles of Malaysian Chinese martial arts masters has been a staple on YouTube for the past several years, has a big role in this documentary. His Fujian White Crane fighting skills are impeccable.
With the younger generation, it is through the athletic and aesthetic appeal of modern wushu that a glimpse of traditional Chinese martial arts survives. It is with hope and wishful thinking that a handful of these youthful devotees will look for the deeper meaning of what they do by reaching out to these elder warriors for the wisdom and understanding to comprehend the true essence of Kung Fu as a survival art in every sense of the term.
Needle Through Brick is an important look at how traditional Chinese martial arts is enduring not only in Malaysia, but throughout the entire world today.
4708: A Year of Changes, Flexibility, and Adaptations
Traditionally, Tiger years are years filled with change – sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better. It can make or break you. But more importantly, it defines you. It’s a year to be calm during the storm and composed under enormous pressure.
Sounds a lot like training in martial arts: to face the most difficult of life’s challenges with a focused mind, determined spirit, and refined clarity.
But for this moment, let’s focus on the more positive characteristics of the tiger that are so revered by martial artists:
In Chinese culture, the tiger is a symbol of strength and ferocity. It is believed that the strength of an animal is derived from its bones – the stronger the animal, the stronger its bones must be. This includes the muscles, tendons and ligaments that are affiliated with the bones. As a result, the tiger is associated with bone strengthening according to the Shaolin tradition pertaining to the Five Animals, or Five Shaolin Shapes. Since the marrow of the bones sustains and supports the body’s essential functions, which in turn defines physical power, the best animal to emulate was the tiger. It is in this manner that the tiger came to become one of the Five Shaolin Shapes. With regard to status, the title of a tiger is typically bestowed upon famous warriors or champion fighters. Guangdong Sahp Fu (廣東十虎; Guangdong or Canton’s Ten Tigers), Dunggong Maahng Fu (東江猛虎; Dunggong’s Fierce Tiger), and Dunggong Saam Fu (東江三虎; Dunggong’s Three Tigers) are just a few examples of the prestigious tiger designation. A famous Chinese proverb states that a mountain cannot have two tigers on it – making reference to the tiger’s territoriality, dominance and aggression. These characteristics are the tiger’s primary qualities that are traditionally emphasized in Pak Mei Kung Fu. Fu bui (虎背) or tiger back refers to the strength that is needed to appropriately command this body part. As one of the essential components of luk ging (六勁) – the 6 sectors of integrated force production, the back needs to be firm yet flexible to assist in the execution of the refined force known as ging (勁). The practitioner’s back needs to embody the likeness of a tiger in a predatory position – ready to pounce on its prey. As one of nature’s most fearsome mammals, the tiger is well-known for its stalking and hunting abilities. There is the ubiquitous fu jaau (虎爪) in Southern Chinese martial arts, made famous most by the patterns performed by Lau Gaa Fai (劉家輝), or Gordon Liu – aka The Master Killer, Chi Kuan Chun / Chik Gun Gwan (戚冠軍), and Alexander Fu Sheng (傅聲) of Shaw Brothers fame. In Pak Mei Kung Fu, the fu bouh (虎步), or tiger stepping, imitates the mammal’s advancing movements and retreating patterns – regulating the range and controlling the rate of attack. This form of footwork facilitates the smooth transition of movements without compromising the integrity of the practitioner’s stance or balance in the same mannerisms and cadences of a stalking tiger in nature.
It’s no wonder that there’s an entire year dedicated to this amazing animal.
So here’s to 4708 – a year of strength, fortitude, and inspiration.