The martial arts films and food films, particularly King Corn, the Garden, and Grown in Detroit have one thing in common; getting back to the power of our root through hard work. Kung fu, when translated, literally means hard work and this connects the rigors of martial arts training with the demands of growing real food. As an avid urban gardener I can think of no two forms that require greater organic energy than a day working the fields and a day training martial arts, forms and sparring. At the Green Dragons we think it's time to combine these two forces.
The food films say it directly: we have lost our roots and connection to the natural growth of crops and we need to take this power back. The martial arts films reflect a deeper loss and call for the discipline and structure cultivated with strong training of martial arts. In most of these kung fu films the main characters are having trouble at school (Daniel-san), overweight (Po), or just plain bored. I see this a lot in our kids today and the positive response to these films shows me that this type of training is ready for a comeback.
Have you noticed that in the past few years we have been seeing a lot of films about martial arts but also about food? The Kung Fu Panda films have been quality interpretations of martial philosophy and we also saw the re-make of the Karate Kid in 2010. In a similar time line (see the figure I made below) we had films like King Corn (2007), Food Inc (2008), and Forks over Knives (2011) that are drawing attention to the problems in our food system. To me, this seems like our society is starting to think about these two trends, martial arts and food, and there is room to explore a deeper connection.
This will be just the first of a series of explorations of food and martial arts in popular culture but I think this broad look at the rise of these two forms of film can start a conversation about why we are seeing this and what we can do about it. We hope to incorporate many of the ideas in these films in our lessons and keeping up to date on how our popular culture treats these themes is a good start. - Mike Cermak