I find that when it comes to martial arts, you are either well versed on the subject or you know diddly-squat and I was the latter. I didn’t have a burning desire to know more and if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t care. Budo: The Art of Killing (TAOK) crept up on me with stealth and poise. I lost track of time. I forgot to drink my coffee. I was mesmerised as karate-do master, Teruo Hayashi defeats a sword with a simple sheet of deer skin.
It had made it’s advance, delivered it’s mortal blow and awoke a desire within me to know more. Bummer, dude.
Despite being made in 1978, at the height of the movie boom, when nunchucks were a coveted item and Bruce Lee was everyone’s hero, TAOK didn’t find it’s fame until 1982 – luckily for us, Screenbound have remastered this cult classic for us all to enjoy.
Created and produced by Hisao Masuda, the documentary gives you a very detailed but user friendly introduction to the practices and ideologies behind many martial art forms such as; Judo, Aikido and Karate. At one moment you watch in horror as the narrator, Harry J. Quini, describes and demonstrates (not literally, of course) ritual Samurai suicide. Before you can say ‘Shogun Assassin’, you watch in awe as a torturous traditional Judo training regime (watch the clip here) and a Sumo wrestler being forced into flexibility, is seemingly shrugged off as another days work.
You begin to respect and understand the high levels of discipline and self control that are required. That it isn’t all just Uma Thurman and silly swordplay, this was once a life or death necessity with cultural roots that are embedded deeply to this day. It is indeed a heritage to be proud of.
TAOK shows that Japanese women have a part to play in this rich history and that it isn’t just a man’s world. In a scene that Mr. Miyagi would be proud of, the women polish the training room floor to cleanse their mind, but that’s about as domestic as it gets. They are soon clobbering each other with traditional Japanese poles called Naginata.
The narrator explains: “It is the desire of every woman to be beautiful. In Naginata, the essence of beauty is not merely in appearance, but in the harmony of sensitivity and reason.” You wouldn’t argue with them, however much sensitivity and reason these ladies have, they also have a very big stick with a pointy blade on the end.
Don’t put off watching this award winning docu-drama. I can guarantee that you will come away with reverence. Martial arts is definitely not all wax-on-wax-off, if you don’t believe me then buy your copy of Budo: The Art of Killing, here. You can domo arigato me later.