Comic Fodder

The Martial Arts Roots of Kung Fu Panda

Okay, this one isn’t really about comics, but bear with me. It’s worth it.

A friend of mine loaned me a DVD of an old kung fu movie, oh, a little more than a year ago. I accidentally broke it when I tried to pry it out of its casing the first time, and bought an entirely new copy to replace it. I didn’t pull it out to watch it until relatively recently. A few days later, I watched Kung Fu Panda, and was pleasantly surprised to see a blazing similarity in one of the major plot points. No way was this an accident! As a matter of fact, several times in the Panda movie, someone mentions that there are no accidents. Hmm…

The Circle of Iron was a kung fu movie that was Bruce Lee’s baby. He wanted to make it, and James Coburn was a friend of his, who studied martial arts under him. Coburn had read the script and liked it, and the movie looked like it would be made. Fate conspired against them. Bruce Lee achieved great success and by all accounts turned a little bit arrogant. Perhaps it was kind of hard not to, when you have that much talent backed up by the determination to make something of yourself. Coburn ended up leaving to do something else. Anyway, the script was kept hush-hush, and few people were exposed to it.

Somehow, the script had gotten out of where it was hidden for a short period (okay, one of the guys stole it to show it to some people), and eventually it got into the hands of a producer who could make things happen, and David Carradine. There’s a lot of interesting history about the film’s development, but it’s on the special features section of the DVD, so fans can check out the juicy details there.

***Spoilers follow for both films technically, so hit the “Back” button on your browser if you want to keep the mystery for one or both of them until you see the actual movie.***

Back to the Panda movie. The secret of the scroll is that there is no additional ingredient you can obtain to make you a better person. All that Panda sees when he gets his hands on the scroll is his own reflection. Some people might consider this profound, while others will think it to be self-help sappiness. However, I immediately recognized it from Circle of Iron, where the hero had to pass several trials to make it to an unknown land, and a fabled book. Inside the book… a series of pages that held only mirrors.

No coincidence, this! Somebody on the team for Kung Fu Panda knew about this old movie, and they definitely incorporated it in homage to either Kung Fu itself, or possibly Bruce Lee or David Carradine.

So if there are no accidents, does that mean the fact that I broke the DVD the first time was no accident? That my waiting to blog full time was no accident? That my viewing the old movie exactly just before I went to see the new one, and at the exact time I was starting to do more contributions on line to share this with people… was no accident?

I put it out for you to decide. But there was no way I wasn’t going to share this.
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Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

The concept that, in the end, there is nothing to attain is to be found in some of the earliest Buddhist and Hindu writings and has been a zen staple for centuries. Nothing new about it to those who have studies Asian philosophy and culture. BTW, Bruce Lee was my student for a while before he shot to fame and, although his martial arts knowledge and level was quite rudimentary his arrogance was very much in evidence off of the mat.

-- Posted by: Miles Bennell at July 10, 2008 7:33 PM