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The Asian ApertureKung Fu
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, November 11, 2012    Share

I remember sometime back in the late 70’s staying with a family that was looking after me while my parents were at work, they were watching a strange TV show that had bald people wearing orange robes and rooms filled with burning candles. I watched it for a few minutes and then I got bored and left the room. That show was Kung Fu and it was influential in bringing Chinese martial arts to the Western public.

Being a Bruce Lee fan, I have seen many documentaries that say that Lee was passed up for the role of Caine because Hollywood wouldn’t allow an Asian male lead. I also remember hearing how Bruce Lee created the Kung Fu series and it was taken away from him. Bruce Lee was interviewed on TV for the Pierre Berton Show, in 1971, and he mentioned a show called The Warrior about a martial artist traveling through the Old West. In the movie Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Jason Scott Lee, playing Bruce Lee, is discussing with a Hollywood producer his idea for a show called The Warrior, later on the series is made without him.

However, Ed Spielman, was researching kung fu in New York’s Chinatown for years in the 60’s. Spielman wrote a 44-page script that was the seed for Kung Fu the series. All the characters and the concepts were registered sometime in the mid-sixties.

Bruce Lee did a lot to jumpstart the 70’s Kung Fu boom for martial arts movies but Americans audiences fondly remember David Carradine in Kung Fu. He had a serene quality and Zen presence that resonated with people. I remember watching Kung Fu on reruns sometime in the early 80’s. It was one of the first shows to rely heavily on flashbacks. I loved how Caine’s past and present intertwined in each episode. It was always interesting to see young Caine, aka Grasshopper, learning wisdom at the Shaolin Temple, never knowing how that knowledge would help him out as he traveled the American West.

What the Kung Fu show did was to show that Kung Fu, as a martial art, was not just a physical activity that relied on punches, kicks, and grappling moves, there was a spiritual side that was much more important towards the total development of the individual. That wasn’t seen on TV until Kung Fu debuted. Also, the show came out at the perfect time as young people were experimenting with different lifestyles and searching for the meaning of life by hiking in the woods, seeing the US on a motorcycle, or resorting to drugs for a quick fix with sometimes negative consequences. However with the Kung Fu boom came another option, you can enroll in a Kung Fu class and learn how to take care of your body and mind, without drugs, and have a good life. The principles and wisdom transcended the school and out into the real world where it mattered the most.

Along with Enter the Dragon, the Kung Fu series did a lot to promote martial arts in the US. Audiences, who would never sit through a bloody Kung Fu movie, could appreciate the wise wisdom and peaceful aspects of Kung Fu that were missing from Action movies. It did more to promote the spiritual East than any other series or movie could. People are still discovering it through reruns, DVDs, and Youtube because it has a built in legacy that will continue to grow for years and years.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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