Thursday, June 30, 2005

Snatch the Pebble From My Hand, Grasshopper

"Spinning Backfist!"

"Eight Shining Palms of Doom!"

"Black Crane Style Drunken Kinokuji Pressure Kick!"

There is probably little or no logic associated with making up names for imaginary martial arts moves, so I don't think I can accurately explain the urge. It's fun, though. :)

We get our "martial arts fix" in strange ways: The local channels used to have Kung Fu Theater serials that still occasionally appear in reruns. A number of independent schools teach martial arts classes to paying students. Virtually every fighting game in the arcades involves disciplined combat in some form or method. There is even an entire category of animé that is devoted to martial arts, serious or otherwise.

And if you're still skeptical about the degree to which the "chop-socky" has pervaded the public consciousness, I can always start naming movies: The Matrix. Kill Bill. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. House of Flying Daggers. Batman Begins. Daredevil. Elektra. Blade. Bulletproof Monk. Lethal Weapon 4. Perhaps even Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. Heck, we've been running into martial arts movies ever since somebody picked a fight with people like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris on camera.

Even if we don't directly engage ourselves in the martial arts, we still reserve a sense of admiration for those who do. This is why kids emulate Dragonball Z's "KAMEHAMEHAAA!", why we have irresistible urges to kick offensive guys in the crotch, and why we still run into weird people who declare "Back off, man! I know karate!" when threatened.

As with all things that catch our fancy long enough for us to put a "cool" label on them, the martial arts have become something of an urban legend to many people. From the point of view of many non-fighters (including me, for that matter), these collective martial arts are all about the punches, the kicks, the "special moves", and the weird-sounding names that take longer to announce than to execute.

I remember God of Cookery, a cooking-and-martial-arts farcical comedy that had names like "Ten Thousand Buddhas Jumping Over Wall!" (Yes, the exclamation point at the end was important.) For that matter, the Deadlands: Doomtown collectible card game also had a kung-fu action called "Step Back to Ward Off Monkey" (which is an actual martial arts move, but it sounds like somebody just made it up, doesn't it?).

So would you blame me if I like making up names for imaginary martial arts moves?

"Supreme Lightning Heaven Flying Arrow Nine-Point Prodigious Strike!"

The longer ones seem to feel more satisfying to pull off, for some reason.

Aw, come on. You know you want to try it.



Anton said...

Hey Sean,
How about MAJESTIC CRANE'S TWO-LEG JEWEL SNATCH...err, kicking the groin couldn't have sounded better...

Sean said...

It's kind of difficult to beat Pol Medina's take on kicking the groin: "Omelette Kick!"


kat said...

I got my fix by actually enrolling in taekwondo classes back in elementary...

Sean said...

Kat: Oooooh... Taekwondo looks good. I only have background in Tai Chi, which (as my teacher put it) is supposed to be a deadly martial art when practiced properly.

eClair said...

I've taken up a bit of tai chi in college. I am too impatient for it though... ^_^;

Susa The Great said...

Hi SEan... I've been trying to find out what exactly is meant by that phrase, "sounds like you're almost ready to snatch the pebble from my hand" from that Kung Fu movie... could you give me a little insight on that???


Sean said...

Susa: The "snatch the pebble" speech is one of the most well-known quotations pertaining to the martial arts, and it comes from the first episode of the "Kung Fu" TV series from the early 70s.

In that episode, we encounter a Shaolin master who is in the process of accepting a young man into his temple. The master opens his palm to reveal a tiny stone, and challenges the boy to snatch the pebble from his hand. When the boy does not succeed, the master tells him that the moment he can actually snatch the pebble is the moment when he knows he will be able to leave the monastery. Eventually, years later, the boy presents himself before the master again, snatches the pebble, and graduates.

As well known as the "snatch the pebble" phrase may be, however, I have been unable to find anything similar in actual martial arts philosophy... which indicates that it was simply invented for the TV series. That said, however, I like to think that it illustrates self-potential and the development that comes with learning: You can do anything you want, given a bit of education, practice, or training.

As with all arbitrary quotations, however, it probably means a different thing to each person. Movie quotes are like that, I suppose.