It can be intimidating to take your first step into foreign cinema Language barriers And cultural barriers But if you are a cinephile You probably knows more about Asian cinema than you think Because a lot of your favorite Hollywood movies… have elements inspired by Eastern culture Some more obvious and others Here is an ode to Asian culture in Western made movies “I know Kung-fu” Well, you are in the wrong place for that. Anyway, I want to talk about THIS You may already know about wire-fu a technique originated in Hong Kong It’s basically actors being pulled by invisible wires Popularized by The Matrix in the West it has since been used in many Hollywood movies What you may not know is that this visual has more cultural significance than just flying How’d you do that? The air You can’t see it but it feels your lungs You treat the air the same way You step on it as you with a stone You swim through it as you with the sea And all you have to do is believe It’s called “qing gong”, Literally means the technique to be light It’s a martial technique for scaling obstacles And in Chinese martial art novels This technique has been greatly exaggerated to a point where characters can jump on water or even control their own body weight Explanations for this technique differs One version says these martial artists can control an unseen life force called “qi” Qi… Internal energy The essence of life By manipulating this force in and around them the martial artists can be lighter than air and gracefully float around like dragonflies After the release of The Matrix the visual of Qing Gong continues to evolve The film you are watching here is called Hero Director Zhang Yimou takes inspirations from religious wall paintings his characters in Hero fly and glide like the gods and goddesses of China If you are fan of The Matrix for its kick-ass action and philosophical stories Then maybe you should give Hero a watch “The force is what gives a Jedi his power” “It’s an energy field created by all living things” “It surrounds us and penetrates us” “It binds the galaxy together” Didn’t we just talk about this? It’s no secret the Star Wars takes a lot of inspiration from Asian culture the force is pretty much just qi Instead of lifting a user, it lifts other things And the lightsaber… Katana in space The connections between Star Wars and Eastern culture are numerous From the visual design To the fighting To the philosophy behind the iconic weapon “This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight” In Chinese culture swords are considered a gentlemen’s weapon “An elegant weapon from the more civilized days” Because it demands skill rather than strength “That lightsaber was Luke’s and his father’s before him” “and now it calls to you” Recognizing the owner by the sword And the one swing one kill fighting also draws parallel with katana combat After Star Wars and Kurosawa Japanese sword movies continue to evolve One of my favorite, surprisingly, is an adaptation to manga Rurouni Kenshin It’s a film about reformed assassin with a sword that doesn’t kill who must find his own way to protect the people around him If you want some amazing sword fights Or are into the mystics of swords Rurouni Kenshin comes highly recommended See the similarity? This is called “battojutsu” The sword drawing technique Basically quick draw for swords The origin of the technique is convoluted One version says it was technique used by samurai to counter assassination attempts That’s not to say Western quick-draw is inspired by battojutsu Here’s Shane doing it, before Kurosawa But with Kurosawa’s love for western movies And Sergio Leone’s love for Kurosawa it’s safe to say these two genres influenced each other and the parallels are uncanny The intense stares The fast and accurate kills And of course… putting a weapon back Much like qing gong the art of battojutsu gets more exaggerated over time In popular media, you can often see the objects being cut remains one piece until the sword is put away As if reality is too slow for the swordsman The film you’re watching right now is called Zatoichi It’s one of the longest-running film series ever And it’s still going on to this day The titular blind swordsman was THE folk hero in the mind of a generation Much like the Clint Eastwood cowboy If you want to see some good action in a western-style folktale Zatoichi is a great choice I suggest the 17th entry: Zatoichi Challenged Anyway, this is called “dim mak” Not that one Remember the concept of qi? In Chinese fiction, by interrupting the flow of qi in someone You can paralyze them and it can be done with finger injecting qi as well You can also reverse it by restoring the flow It’s acupuncture, but with the force The extreme version of it can cause someone to die and is referred to as death touch The “five point palm exploding heart technique” from Kill Bill originated from a movie that features the original Pai Mei But not used by Pai Mei At least not in the original Chinese version In Clan of the White Lotus, the technique is called “hundred steps soul reaping palm” And it’s used by Bak Nin, who belongs to the same clan as Pai Mei When struck by this technique the victim dies within 100 steps due to the qi being shut down In recent years though with Chinese audience wanting more realism in movies Dim Mak no longer shows up in movies as often and if it does, it’s for comedic effect But if you don’t mind your classic style martial flicks with some comedy in it Fong Sai-yuk I and II are two movies to watch out for Featuring the titular folk hero of China, played by Jet Li It’s an amazing blend of old-school action from the Shaw brothers era and the more up-to-date story and visual of the Jackie Chan era So that is some of the gateway films for you to get into Asian cinema And some background explanations to help you understand them better But if you’ve still find these concepts overwhelming Well, maybe let yourself get confused It’s like going on a vacation Where’s the fun, if you already know everything about it?