Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow

A wonderfully named kung fu film - the 1978 directorial debut of Yuen Woo-Ping (who later choreographed the action for Iron Monkey, Crouching Tiger , Hidden Dragon, Kill Bill etc.) Yuen Woo-Ping's father, Yuen Siu-Tien played the role of Jackie Chan's teacher - and it was a very unusual coupling of characters. It was the first time anyone had attempted to introduce comedy into the serious business of fighting and the student and teacher seemed to be drawn together more by affection than by a formal arrangement of passing on a tradition. In fact, towards the end of the film, the student modifies what he has learnt and forms a new style, which he wants to call 'Cat's Claw' but his teacher suggests that it be named 'Snake in the Eagle's Shadow'.

I like to watch the late 70s-early 80s kung fu films for their emphasis on non embellished fights (minimal weapons and no special effects except for strange sounds), to view the action in the context of principles of movement that I read about in T'ai chi or Yoga texts. I am attaching a link to a snippet from this movie that brings out the spirit of the film - a scene where Jackie Chan is just beginning to train as a Kung fu fighter. The style is interesting and, as with many kung fu styles, the resemblance to an animal (snake, in this case) is evident. Beneath the levity and lightheartedness lie fundamental principles of how to shift one's weight and also - how to sit and how not to sit on a bench! Do watch this little scene, which the actors seem to enjoy perhaps as much as the spectators would.

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