PAPER TIGERS
Black Belt|Black Belt December/January 2021
MARTIAL ARTS MOVIE PROMISES TO CREATE A NEW GENRE!
DR. CRAIG D. REID

Once upon a time in Seattle — when Seahawks soared, Huskies roamed and the “Little Dragon’s” spirit sowed the city with martial integrity — three baby Tigers named Hing, Jim and Danny were born. Under the watchful eye of a fatherly sifu, they became kung fu brothers. As the sifu contemplated whether the Tigers were worthy to learn his healing knowledge and kung fu values, a wedge was driven between them, and they split. As their lives plummeted, so did their martial arts skills, livelihoods and relationships.

Thirty years later, an evil force swoops down on Seattle and, for reasons unknown, uses its death claw to kill the beloved sifu. Unfortunately, the out-of-shape and over-the-hill threesome have more issues than Time magazine. They must unite, dispense with the baggage that separates them and solve their sifu’s mysterious murder. Along the way, a childhood nemesis emerges, someone who was forced to bow to the Tigers’ power in the past. Now, he’s the kung fu cat’s meow and quickly becomes a thorn in their paws.

NEW GROUND

After watching The Paper Tigers, directed by Vietnamese-American Bao Tran, I was more stunned than a beaver hired to build Hoover Dam because I’d just witnessed something more concrete. The long wait for a new martial arts movie genre, one that could change the landscape of American filmmaking, was over.

Welcome to the martial arts sitcom! The fact that Paper Tigers was shot in Seattle, Bruce Lee’s final resting place, is fitting in that it adds a new dimension to Lee’s memory, to the martial arts and to Asian-American filmmakers’ cinematic pride. Although icons like Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow have done plenty of comedy, the martial arts sitcom as embodied in Paper Tigers is accessible to everyone.

To me, this movie is akin to Cheers meets All in the Family and Friends with martial arts tossed in. Instead of a bar, we have a kung fu school, where the sifu likes to be around his whining students. The family is the aging students who address societal issues with witty one-liners. The protagonists are former teen fighters who have become down-and-out, middle-aged friends with believable afflictions. Hing, played by Ron Yuan, has a bum knee. Danny 8-Hands, played by Alain Uy, has a bum marriage. And Jim, played by Mykel Shannon Jenkins, has a bum grudge.

Supporting characters include the wacky “white Asian-wannabe” Carter (Matt Page, better known as Master Ken), a bunch of hotshot punks and an assassin who guffaws at your kung fu.

At 12, director Tran opted to end his couch-potato life and walk the path of taekwondo. In a way, the trek was familiar because he’d grown up watching Bruce Lee and Vietnamese-dubbed martial arts videos rented from the local grocery. “Lee’s persona wowed me,” Tran said. “But when I saw Jackie Chan’s Police Story, that’s when I wanted to get into movies. I wanted to figure out how his different style worked. Corey Yuen mentored me through the process, saying, ‘You can’t have good action without good story.’ I’d dream about that!”

Tran took that morsel of advice to heart when he wrote Paper Tigers. It appears to be a revenge-for-killing-my-master film, yet it’s a well-crafted relationship-ridden and character-driven story with more nods to martial arts movies than a Bruce Lee bobblehead. Surprisingly, Tran’s inspiration was not martial arts related; it was related to the undead — specifically, to 2004’s Shaun of the Dead.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BLACK BELTView All

10 YEARS OF TRAVEL, PART 2

THIS MULTIPART COLUMN WAS WRITTEN ON THE OCCASION OF THE 10 TH ANNIVERSARY OF ITS LAUNCH AND ITS ASSIGNMENT TO A WRITER NAMED ANTONIO GRACEFFO, THE MARTIAL ARTIST WHO HAS BECOME BLACK BELT’S ROVING REPORTER IN ASIA. IT PRESENTS MORE OF THE AUTHOR’S CONCLUSIONS REGARDING THE STATE OF THE WORLD’S MARTIAL ARTS.

5 mins read
Black Belt
Black Belt December/January 2021

4 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR DOJO AND YOUR LIFE

These four ways to improve your dojo and your life are all about attitude. As such, they will elevate the mood in your school and make learning more enjoyable. First up: Make "yes" your favourite word.

5 mins read
Black Belt
Black Belt December/January 2021

KEYBOARD WARRIORS

BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC, A PLETHORA OF VIDEOS HAVE BEEN MADE AVAILABLE FOR PEOPLE WHO WISH TO CONTINUE THEIR TRAINING WHILE IN LOCKDOWN OR NEAR LOCKDOWN. THIS IS A GREAT THING FOR ALL PRACTICING MARTIAL ARTISTS BECAUSE EVERYONE SUDDENLY HAS ACCESS TO NOTABLE FIGHTERS AND TRAINERS WHO WERE PREVIOUSLY UNAVAILABLE TO THE MASSES.

3 mins read
Black Belt
Black Belt December/January 2021

KUNG FU HIP HOP, DA MARTIAL ELEMENTS AND MARCO JOHNSON

BEING ONE OF THE TOP MARTIAL ARTISTS IN THE WORLD SOUNDS LIKE A DREAM COME TRUE FOR ANY PRACTITIONER OF KUNG FU, KARATE OR TAEKWONDO. YET THAT ALONE ISN’T ALWAYS ENOUGH TO BRING SUCCESS OUTSIDE OF MARTIAL ARTS SCHOOLS AND TOURNAMENT VENUES.

5 mins read
Black Belt
Black Belt December/January 2021

WHY YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING “COBRA KAI”

Because I’m somewhat familiar with the Black Belt demographic, I can safely say there’s a good chance you’re a lot like me. You probably grew up in the martial arts, and when The Karate Kid came out in 1984, you loved every minute of it.

6 mins read
Black Belt
Black Belt December/January 2021

DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE KATA?

IF YOU’RE A STUDENT OF JAPANESE OR OKINAWAN KARATE, YOU’VE BEEN INTRODUCED TO THE FIRST OF THE FIVE HEIAN OR PINAN KATA.

4 mins read
Black Belt
Black Belt December/January 2021

SELF-DEFENSE READINESS TEST

PREPARATION IS NO GUARANTEE OF SURVIVAL, BUT FEW DOUBT THAT THE ODDS OF PREVAILING IN ANY STRESSFUL SITUATION INCREASE FOR THE PREPARED PERSON.

5 mins read
Black Belt
Black Belt December/January 2021

PAPER TIGERS

MARTIAL ARTS MOVIE PROMISES TO CREATE A NEW GENRE!

10 mins read
Black Belt
Black Belt December/January 2021

UNESCO'S INTERNATIONAL CENTRE OF MARTIAL ARTS

It’s a martial arts gem that’s not yet well known. It’s an international organization that’s trying to bridge the gap between styles, techniques and countries. In addition to striving to do all this, it’s a group that’s emphasizing the positive values the martial arts teach.

3 mins read
Black Belt
Black Belt December/January 2021

The Sabaki Revolution

As Seen Through the Evolution of Enshin Karate’s Rules, Concepts and Techniques

7 mins read
Black Belt
Black Belt December/January 2021
RELATED STORIES

Blue Öyster Cult

FOUNDING GUITARIST BUCK DHARMA UNWRAPS THE SYMBOL REMAINS, THE HARD ROCK PROGENITORS’ FIRST ALBUM OF NEW MATERIAL IN 20 YEARS

2 mins read
Guitar World
February 2021

general hospital

WHAT WILL HAPPEN • Scott demands an explanation. • Dante seeks Olivia’s advice. • Alexis places her trust in the wrong hands.

3 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
December 21, 2020

OVER KILL

If you’re old enough to have grown up in New Jersey in the 80s and like hard rock, heavy metal or thrash, then you probably know of the band Overkill. Starting with a mix of punk, metal and gothic theatrics, Overkill built up a following on the tri-state club circuit. They evolved into one of the foremost thrash bands, and eventually landed themselves a major label record deal. Over thirty years later, they’re considered a mainstay of the thrash/metal scene, continue to deliver the goods with new material, and tour globally on a regular basis.

8 mins read
Skin Art
Issue 175

Open Your Heart to Love, Joy & Creativity

Increasing your creative power this holiday season will allow insights to appear and old problems to disappear!

3 mins read
Transformation Magazine
December 2020

LOOKING BACK AT FLEETWOOD MAC

TWO REISSUES SHOW THAT THE BAND WAS GREAT BEFORE IT WAS FAMOUS.

9 mins read
Stereophile
December 2020

Bavarian Demon - Cortex 3-Axis Flight Stabilization System with USB

A not-so-well-kept secret of many competitive scale and jet RC pilots, the Bavarian Demon Cortex is like an electronic way to turn off the wind! Distributed by Chief Aircraft, the Demon Cortex 3-axis Stabilization System with USB costs $289.

3 mins read
Model Airplane News
December 2020

MIAMI BLUES

Two-toned Cruisin’ the Coast

3 mins read
Street Trucks
November 2020

'Cue Up

The name may have changed, but this Ponca City barbecue restaurant is still a Head above the rest.

3 mins read
Oklahoma Today
November/December 2020

LOW2DOR

Yukon Do It!

3 mins read
Street Trucks
September 2020

Fall Out Of Fear

The only power fear has is the power we give it.

2 mins read
Transformation Magazine
October 2020