Martial arts Venetian style

I wonder what gym space rental fees are like in a place like Venice, Italy? On a short three-day break in Venice recently, I came across at least 3 different types of martial arts gym - gojo ryu, okinawan karate and judo - all Japanese in origin. The photos above were on an advertising board outside an ultra-expensive cafe. (Very up-to-date marketing, if I may add). I didn't see any students, despite the enticing 30 degree heat, but I did meet with the gojo ryu master. He had faded pictures of Japanese masters all over his gym wall. He didn't speak any English, and with my Italian limited to only greetings, we only had one clear understanding of viewpoints - his mirth of taekwondo! I handed over my new business card, and the tone with which he read the word 'taekwondo' meant that he regarded it as quite separate from his gojo ryu. With a shake of the head he handed me back my card and I left for the airport. I'm not going to diss another martial art just 'cus I don't practise it.


Punch Lady - Movie Review

Just watched K-Movie, Punch Lady, released 2007, and have to say that it was RUBBISH. I'm sorry to the producers that my opinion of it is so bad to deem it unrecommendable. The fundamental concept of a battered wife wanting to get her revenge on her husband in the boxing ring is a strong one, but the way they realize it was not the route to take. It is so unconvincing, it's pathetic. Combining unoriginal comedy with domestic violence was also lame. If you really wanted to put a killer lady into the ring against her husband like this, then you really needed to train the woman through a tougher routine than that in the film. Alternatively, I would have chosen the daughter as the one to train up to get revenge. Save your time and don't bother to watch this.


Shaolin mach II

You cannot always say good things about your workplace, but when a minibus marked 'Shaolin Warriors', full of little monks from China, pulls up outside the front of your office windows, it surely has to be a good place to work. At least for me it provoked a rush of excitement that saw me abandoning my duties (fortunately my manager had gone on his lunch break when I dropped a pile of faxes, yelling 'The Monks!'), and running outside to greet the Monks as they disembarked on their latest stopover on their new(ish) Seasons of Life production around the UK. It's a pretty hectic tour, as they have nightly shows in a different city for about 4 months in a row. I'm suspecting that there are different groups of Monks who divide the tour schedules up between them rather than having a single group covering all the venues.

Lamentably, there were only 2 of us in the street who noted the new arrivals and gave a greeting. Again, the Monks were soooo friendly, and were really delighted to have even just this small piece of recognition. I did not recognize any of the Monks in this group that I had met on their previous visit to the city. I tried to explain in Chinese that I had met some of their members before and that my prayer beads that they had presented me with last time were bound by elastic that was about to snap. I quickly had an interested crowd of just about the entire troupe gathering round me, they being apparently - although strangely to me - just as excited to see me as I was to see them. I think they were more baffled by my poor Chinese, but as soon as they recognized my pronunciation of '2008' (I've grasped the tones of Mandarin numbers - just about the only vocabulary that I know the tones of!), they twigged on to what I was telling them.

I asked if I could take some photos of them, to which they were only too pleased to do so. I rushed back into work, and persuaded a colleague who thought I had gone nuts to took some photos on his cellphone camera. As soon as my colleague said 'fighting pose', the Monks automatically knew what to do. (So did I, and obviously, I went into silly pose mode.) It was incredible, as I felt that they would have been prepared to do any pose in front of the camera. They really seemed to enjoy the attention and photographing opportunity so much. However, in such a circumstance, I always feel a bit embarrassed to point a camera at people touristy style just to exploit them for my own personal gain/interest, particularly when it comes to a subject matter as honorable as the Shaolin Monks. I also felt responsible in that I was holding them up from their all important preparation to their very physically demanding gig.

Again, I am still uncertain as to the political element of the Shaolin Monks, and it's strange that there seem to be no obvious observers who travel with them to keep an eye on how they behave and what they say in public. However, it is undoubtable that they have genuine acrobatic and martial arts training, and they gave another very fine performance. Seasons of Life was different to Wheel of Life in terms of backdrops and less obvious story telling, although a lot of the same routines were there. I noted that they had some very good floor level spin kicks. They also had some Hapkido style breakfalls, but I had seen quite a few students in Korea who achieved much greater height and technique to these falls. The Monks seemed to rely landing on their feet a lot when doing a jump and fall, whereas the Hapkido falls tend to land on the forearms. Matthew Ahmet, the Britmonk and Abbott Zhuang were not there this time, however. They also incorporated a routine which had audience members involved. Overall, it was very good, but I still wonder about some of the appeal elements of exhibiting martial arts in this way. There was a feeling after a certain number of skull somersaults that it has a limited viewer attention span even though it is certainly a very talented feat.

Go go Monks!


Double Happiness

I was STUNNED when I received news that my original Taekwondo instructors from Hong Kong sent me an email a couple of weeks ago to announce that they have MARRIED!!! I had always thought their relationship was purely business! So, what a big surprise, and what fantastic news!!! I wish them Double Happiness!!!!! I was also impressed by their wedding album pictures (top). Sometimes, Asian wedding studios produce really cheesy wedding shoots, but their photos were really impressive - envy - envy....

Also recently married is ex-colleague Yee Mei (bottom - that's bottom picture), whom I also wish Double Happiness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Her wedding photos bring jealousness in the form of the wonderful memories of the Hong Kong landscapes. Hong Kong, you're the best!!!! (Although Korea will always be best for martial arts!)

Yes, I do have martial arts shenanigans going on in the background, but am too busy to write about it, as I am literally writing them. More news to follow one day.



I was surprised myself that the last posting on here was from 2008. I'm clearly not good at updating. However, I'm still EXTREMELY busy with a couple of projects that have to take priority over weblog postings. Hopefully, later in the year, I can reveal them on this site.

Meanwhile, I can recommend to all of you, that if Percossa are in town, they are highly worth going to see. Percossa is a Dutch comedic percussionist group whose current promo logo is '10 Jaar van de Straat'. I had the priveledge to see them on tour in Holland in February.

I'm really not a theater-going type, but for the Shaolin Monks or Percossa, I'll make an exception. While Percossa is not quite martial arts, the performers have an incredibly high fitness level, running around the stage, banging lots of drums, with a couple of really genial acts. They are extremely talented people. There was even one act done in a Capoeira style.

As to what I was doing in Holland, that was part of my exciting martial arts project that I am undertaking at the moment. For the project, I spent a week in Europe visiting some locations, and if you are interested to see some of the places, you can watch my YouTube videos from the trip. Apologies that the quality of my videos are not the greatest.