The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.

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The Dark Horse

Wanted to just make a note here about a recent movie from New Zealand that I saw at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It’s called The Dark Horse. Thanks to a friend for recommending it. Here’s the trailer:

It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in theaters recently, besides Whiplash, 12 Years A Slave, and Interstellar (although not so captivating the second time around for whatever reason). Though this film may not be playing at a theater near you anytime soon, I’m posting it here mostly for future reference. Mostly because the film gave me goosebumps at certain moments. Mostly because the film reminded me of why I love cinema. And though the director of this movie (James William Napier Robertson) is not a person of color, his film has re-kindled in me the passion I used to feel about Asian Americans needing to make kick-ass cinema, telling it like how we see it, captivating our audiences, making us laugh and get angry and cry and ultimately heal us. The Dark Horse is kind of conventional in its narrative structure and the story is nothing you haven’t necessarily seen before. But the cultural element, coupled with the awe-inspiring acting of Cliff Curtis and the entire cast basically, made me feel again the magic that has been lost in so many movies these days. Thematically as well, the film touches on some very important topics that have been on my mind recently: mature masculine archetypes, initiation and ritual for boys becoming men, elder male mentors, etc. There is one very brief, yet powerful scene for me where Cliff Curtis’ character tells his nephew (played by an awesome James Rolleston) to send his chess teammate his king energy as he is kicked out of watching the tournament because he cannot contain himself. It reminded me of another scene in the recent movie The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (which is not necessarily a movie I recommend) where the dwarves, who are defending their mountain castle, are able to rally around their king after he is released from the spiritual prison of his greed.

I get the sense that these artists are channeling (consciously or unconsciously) the world’s own lamenting and calling for a return of their Kings.

– QK


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Are you alive?

I feel like there’s still too much bullshit in my head about what’s “important” to be doing (in terms of soul work) versus what I love doing. I think my whole push to be an after-school instructor had a lot to do with wanting to feel important and respected and liked. It’s an insecurity of mine that has eaten away at me during various points in my life. Somehow I’m still not okay with just being “nobody”. I still frame things I might want to be doing in this life as to their level of “importance”, which is really just code for ‘doing something that society will respect you for’. Which is complete bullshit, and yet powerfully seductive. I guess it speaks to my monkey brain need to want to feel like I’m a part of the group.

But I was at this movie screening/talk tonight and one of the presenters mentioned this quote by someone I had never heard of before, Howard Thurman, which caught my attention and made say “hell yeah” inside. Apparently, Mr. Thurman was quoted as saying:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

This reminded me of what Joseph Campbell said to Bill Moyers during the 1988 PBS series “The Power of Myth”:

“The influence of a vital person – it vitalizes. There’s no doubt about it…People have the notion of saving the world by shifting it around and changing the rules and so forth. No. Any world is a living world if it’s alive. And the thing is to bring it to life. And the way to bring it to life is to find in your own case where your life is and be alive yourself it seems to me…”

Goddamn. That’s what I’m talkin’ bout! You know? I really don’t know why this doesn’t catch a fire in some people’s minds. It’s the solution to a lot of what ails us. We’ve turned our work into drudgery, day in-day out, 9 to 5, factory line, save for retirement, pay your mortgage, blah blah blah. With the world in crisis, who the fuck cares about what kinda lucrative job prospects you might get with a college degree? You still breathe the same air, drink the same water, and eat the same food as the rest of us. The planet don’t care if you got a PhD or a GED. You only care about those things cause what you really care about is other people’s opinions about you. You care about whether or not you look respectable in the eyes of your parents, your friends, your co-workers, whatever. You care about being “somebody”. But nobody can’t be somebody without other bodies. So fuck all that! Just be your goddamn self.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Do what makes you come alive! I love that. I really dig it. It frustrates me though cause I’m like, alright, what do I do or what have I done that really made me feel invigorated or vitalized? Does martial arts make me feel alive? Actually that’s why I set karate aside since I first left LA for Detroit; I wasn’t finding it fun anymore. It felt stifling. It felt like I was trying to please my teacher. Even now I ask myself, why am I still interested in martial arts? Because I think martial arts education is important? Or because I hella love doing it? I know I love physical exercise. But does it have to be martial? A part of me does honestly feel like I’m doing it still because I think it’s an important and serious thing to be teaching ourselves and other people. And so it’s caught in that “prestige” magnet. And I’m trying to discern for myself, what was it that I really enjoyed about karate when I first took it up? Despite its flawed fantasy training, toxic master-student relationship and kata ambiguity, why do I keep at it?


– QK

On making mistakes

You see, we are so afraid to fail, to make mistakes, not only in examinations but in life. To make a mistake is considered terrible because we will be criticized for it, somebody will scold us. But, after all, why should you not make a mistake? Are not all the people in the world making mistakes? And would the world cease to be in this horrible mess if you were never to make a mistake? If you are afraid of making mistakes you will never learn.

J. Krishnamurti


– QK