September 12, 2008
Wax on, wax off
I'm watching the Karate Kid on AMC right now. What a great movie. I've heard that I'm not the only one who likes it--it's one of Chuck Liddell's favorite movies of all time. Part II was kind of goofy, Part III was just plain stupid, but Part I...wow. What is especially amazing about the movie is that even though it's got "Karate" in the tile, there isn't all that much fighting; karate serves as a vehicle for self-actualization rather than a method of violence (this wasn't the case in the sequels). There are many ways to interpret this film. It can be a story of friendship, a story of mentorship, or a story of a boy becoming a man. I'm sure there are many more interpretations. It's amazing that a two hour movie can say so much.
I see it mostly as a generational film, a story where an old guy mentors a young guy, and the two teach each other about life. Daniel-san is a young boy who needs an older mentor to help him navigate through his bully problem, while Mr. Miyagi is a lonely old man who needs Daniel to bring him life. Daniel looks for the teacher, while Miyagi provides the guidance. Miyagi becomes the father figure that Daniel-san so badly needs. "Karate" is the vehicle and the discipline.
I learned something new on this viewing. Right after Miyagi cuts the deal with Johnny's karate teacher and they return home, Daniel-san asks if Miyagi thinks he can beat Johnny. Miyagi tells him that it doesn't matter, that if he fights well, everyone will have his respect and the problem will be over. I never thought about it before, but he's right. If Daniel had lost, it would make a crappy movie, but I highly doubt Johnny and the Cobra Kais would continue bullying a guy who showed up to fight at the tournament. There would simply be too much respect between them. It's a wonderful lesson if you think about it--people can all work together when there's a bond of mutual respect. And respect can come from mutual work and shared experiences.
By the way, I just looked up Ralph Macchio on Wikipedia, and according to his entry, he named his son "Daniel." That movie definitely changed his life!
Edit: Just watched Karate Kid II. Really lame, even though Tamlyn Tomita is in it.