Jun 25, 2015
(by Roger Ebert rogerebert.com 5-24-11)
"13 Assassins" has what many action pictures need, a villain who transcends evil and ascends to a realm of barbaric madness. Against this creature and his private army, a band of samurai is mustered to end his terror. Their heroism against impossible odds is a last hurrah for the samurai code; the film is set in 1844, toward the end of the medieval Edo period, when true samurai warriors were growing rare.
The film is terrifically entertaining, an ambitious big-budget epic, directed with great visuals and sound by Takeshi Miike. The last 45 minutes are devoted to an inventive and ingenious battle scene, but it's not the sort of incomprehensible mayhem we often find in recent actioners. It's a lesson to the queasy-cam auteurs, because Miike choreographs the action to make it comprehensible — and, more important, has spent his first two acts establishing the characters. We know who the 13 samurai are, and we understand why many of them behave as they do under threat of death. The care taken with the screenplay and the shot composition deserves comparison with Kurosawa's (even better) "Seven Samurai."
The film opens with stark, bloody simplicity. A man kneels in a courtyard and disembowels himself in protest against Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), the half-brother of the shogun. This seppuku was inspired by Naritsugu's cruelty, which we see demonstrated in appalling detail. He amputates some victims, kicks the severed heads of others across rooms and exercises the right to rape anyone in his domain. He isn't a twisted caricature, but a preening narcissist; the shogun inexplicably plans to promote him.
To correct this evil in the land, Sir Doi (Mikijiro Hira) seeks the samurai Shimada (Koji Yakusho) and finds him peacefully fishing atop a ladder in the sea — but with his sword of course nearby. Shimada then seeks another dozen warriors to join him, and this process is familiar to us from countless other movies. Each of the recruits has his own personality and back story, some more elaborate than others, and of course there must be a little comic relief, although Koyata (Yusuke Iseya) grows more serious in the heat of battle.
The odds for these heroes seem impossible; they are only 13 and Lord Naritsugu fields at least 200 against them. Miike spares us the whimsy that 13 good men can defeat 200 evil ones, and has his samurai rig an entire village as a trap. It's clear this is planned, but the details remain vague, and when the surprises begin, it would be logical, I think, to ask exactly how the assassins found the time and resources to marshal such an elaborate ambush. Logical, but not fair; you don't ask questions like that in movies that require your belief.
Samurai films have a rich history, and Miike evokes it elegantly with traditional costumes, idealistic dialogue, sharp characterizations, and a gloriously choreographed fight sequence that must extend in one form or another for 40 minutes. I often find fight scenes in movies boring, because they substitute movement for drama. But in "13 Assassins," characters are involved who we know and understand, and the general melee is broken down into structured vignettes. Hollywood action directors could study this film, especially in the way it focuses on story in the midst of violence.
There is a subtext in the film. The 13 assassins are essentially making a last stand for the traditional samurai code. Modern times are encroaching on Japan, and the shogunate is corrupt, decadent and a hive of nepotism. I was reminded in a lateral way of Yamata's "Twilight Samurai" (2004), a very good film set in 1868, about a samurai who works for his clan as an accountant, and is forced to recall the code of his tradition.
While watching "13 Assassins," I was sure CGI effects must have been used, but I was rarely able to notice them. That's the point, as it always was in traditional special effects: to deceive the eye, not insult it. Most of the movement here is at least somewhat plausible in terms of the real world. Too often CGI is an excuse for what amounts to live-action cartoons. Here is a film that could be studied for its lessons by the manufacturers of Friday night action blockbusters.
Jun 23, 2015
Jun 18, 2015
We met Master Ken last year at the Long Beach Internationals, where he did an amazing eye opening AMERI-DO-TE Demostration, the crowd went crazy and mostly everyone surrendered their belts to Master Ken.
Many of our Martial Arts friends from around the world sent us their questions and Master Ken took the time to answer them all. Master Ken thank you very much for taking the time to share your insights.
Here is what you don’t know about Master Ken…
1. - What does Master Ken eat for breakfast when training hard? Linda from Oregon.
Ninjas. With tabasco sauce if possible.
2. - Does Master Ken have a favorite movie? Nathan from CT.
It’s a tie between “No Retreat, No Surrender” and any of the “American Ninja” movies. Those are some great comedies. All the bullshit in those films makes me laugh.
3. - I want to join the force (Ameri-Do-Te) how do I do that? Liza from Arizona.
First you must win a physical fight against yourself by knockout. Then, you must collect the hangnail of a ninja, an ounce of sweat from a Kenpo stylist, and the left sneaker of a Krav Maga instructor. Or you can just purchase a White Belt Certificate at http://www.enterthedojoshow.com/collections/all
4. - Does Master Ken train another sport or he is devoted to Ameri-Do-Te? Terry from Texas.
By “another sport” you are insinuating that Ameri-Do-Te is a something that someone plays for fun instead of being a deadly street fighting system. If Ameri-Do-Te was a sport it would be compared to activities such as shark wrestling or dynamite juggling…but it’s not. Because Ameri-Do-Te is not a sport. It’s deadly serious.
But to answer your question I occasionally play table tennis.
5. - What is Master Ken's secret diet to stay in shape? Victor from Chile.
I eat 400 grams of protein every day for muscle growth. It’s a mix of protein powder and raw meat. To maintain my focus during my workouts I drink a large can of energy drink every hour. In order to suppress my desire for carbohydrates I chew on a piece of shoe leather in between meals. This also strengthens my jaw in case I need to bite anyone during a fight.
6. - Does Master Ken like music? what kind of music? do you train with music? Nicole from Florida.
Pretty much anything by Frank Stallone.
7. - Does you style use any weapons? Ray from Florida.
In the hands of an Ameri-Do-Te specialist anything becomes a weapon. I can do more damage with a spatula or a nutcracker you could do with any traditional martial arts weapon.
8. - There is a place for the first 11th Degree Black Belt in the National Sport Karate Museum History. What do you think about that? Professor Gary Lee.
I think you should stop trying to lure me into your garage.
9. - Do you have a favorite weapon? Christina from Oregon.
If I had to choose one, I’d pick the knife. It’s a something you can carry with you almost anywhere and allows you to defend yourself as well as make a sandwich afterwards. Just don’t forget to clean the blood off the blade first.
10. - What do you think about Team Titanes from Mexico? Luis Gutierrez, Mexico.
I had to Google who they were and from the images I found they appear to be circus folk. My opinion is that their uniforms are very colorful.
11. - Elvis Presley was a Kenpo Black belt, what do you think about that? John from Las Vegas.
I think that seeing old films of Elvis doing Kenpo reminds me of what a good singer he was. Kind of like when Michael Jordan started playing baseball. We knew he was doing it but watching was kind of disappointing.
12. - Do you like to read in your free time? what do you do in your free time? Claudia from Argentina.
I read martial arts related material to see what other bullshit is out there and how I can fix it and turn it into Ameri-Do-Te. Whether it’s Ed Parker’s Infinite Insights or Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do I always enjoy figuring out what’s wrong with everyone else’s style.
13. - What doe Ameri-do-te have to offer in the fight in on the ground? Franciszek from Poland.
We offer street-effective techniques they don’t teach in Jiu Jitsu class. Eye gouges. Fish hooking. Biting. Lots of biting. And at the advanced level we teach you how to use your bodily fluids to overcome an attacker on the ground. It’s called “Catch and Release”.
14. - Is Master Ken married? Alyssa from Nebraska.
Yes. I am married to Ameri-Do-Te. Every martial art that I met before her was a dirty…dirty whore of disappointment that smelled like pennies and shame.
15. - What is the most effective kick in your system and why? Ron from UK.
Restomping the groin. Because some can survive the first stomp. But nobody survives the restomp.
16. - What do you think about Jean Claude Van Damme? Carlos from Brazil.
I think that he is an excellent dancer but kickboxing is clearly bullshit. All I ever see him do in his training is kicking trees with his shins or flower pots with his feet. So essentially he is an expert in full contact gardening.
17. - What does Master Ken like to do when is not training? Ron from Alaska.
I am always training. When I’m in the kitchen cooking eggs I’m thinking of how best to decapitate someone with my spatula. When I’m in the office I’m coming with new places to stab someone with my pen. And when I’m in the toilet I’m imagining new and interesting ways to attack the groin from a seated position.
18. - What do you think about Hyper/Tricking? Henry from New York.
I think that anyone afflicted with this terrible illness should get a prescription for Adderall immediately.
19. - Have you ever had to use Ameri-do-te to defend yourself? Justin from Montana.
Yes. Many times. Against human beings. Wild animals. I was once attacked by a Plymouth Sundance late at night while I was minding my own business in the middle of the highway. There was a sign nearby that said “Speed Trap”. Should’ve said “Death Trap”. I destroyed that vehicle with my Kill Face. Not sure what happened to the driver. I meant to check on their well being but I had somewhere to be.
20. - What has been your biggest challenge you had to face? Norma from San Diego.
Realizing the greatness that lies within myself. Because every time I think I’ve discovered how powerful I am…I realize I’m even more powerful than I thought I was. So the power within me is so powerful that I can’t even use that great power to comprehend the power that lies within myself because…it’s too powerful.
(Master Ken in his kenpo days)