‘The Art of Action’ Shows Martial Arts Through Time

El Vaquero Staff Writer

“Five men out of hundreds survived…out of the charred ruins of their temple they found their weapons and they trained hard, and it was life and death and three out of five survived. Like a phoenix rising out of their own ashes, they rose up and fought.”

This account of the bloody battle of Shaolin by actor Roger Yuan was heard by students during the screening of the film entitled “The Art of Action,”which was shown Tuesday Sept. 16 in the JW Smith Student Center.
The screening was the first in a series of cultural diversity events, which include movie screenings, lectures and student forums sponsored by the United Cultural Council. The Council is a student sponsored club on campus which was formed last semester with the focus of heightening students’ awareness of world cultures and ethnic diversity.

According to J.C. Moore, faculty advisor to the United Cultural Council, “Showing this film will help people go beyond seeing only martial arts; it will help them understand the true philosophy and impact of Asian culture.”

The film, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, featuring Ang Lee, John Woo and Sammo Hung, discusses the history of the martial arts film from its origins in Peking opera to its present day box office success.

In what appears to be a typical Chinese home, the movie opens with Jackson stating, “The Chinese expression wu xia expresses the great dichotomy that martial arts is, deeply spiritual yet potentially deadly.”
According to the film, martial arts and performance first became united in the mid-1760s. When the Manchu Dynasty was taking over China, they made the Shaolin Monastery illegal and destroyed the Shaolin temple.
One of the monks who survived the burning of the temple was Master Zhi Shan, who began to teach martial arts to Peking Opera actors to rebel against the dynasty.

According to the filmmakers, it was this union between Peking Opera and martial arts which later inspired the martial arts film.

For a century and a half, these martial arts traditions were continued through the performance of Peking Opera.

In the early 1900’s, movies began in China, and actors were found in the local Peking Opera houses.

However, since the motion picture was a new medium, Chinese culture of the time saw movies as an inferior art form, and according to the film, the first martial arts movies were performed entirely by women dressed as men.

Chin Tsi-Ang, was the most successful of these female actresses. She began the first successful. Martial arts film company, and starred in over many of her own productions.

“[The movie] expanded my knowledge of world culture. I am Korean and it was interesting to see women actresses in those films,” said student Ama Kim.

It was not until after World War II that male actors became known in the martial arts movies.

According to the film, the first of these was Wong Fei Hung, who along with director Wu Pang is credited with bringing the martial arts movie to a new level.

The film ends with a narration by Jackson, “Martial arts films, a genre that was born in a bloody rebellion, and continues on today, with its own spiritual and creative revolution.”

The next event will be a student forum on inter-racial dating held Oct 24, in the JW Smith Student Center.