kung fu theater
of all the people to get me into kung fu movies as a kid, i never would have thought it would be my grandmother, but thinking back to it now, it was her and no one else.
its not that she was a woman too gentle to be entertained by the art of combat, in fact, she was a stern lady that, as the creases folded more on her face, had a fight inside that matured with her. a woman who could grow cross at any moment and who, although filled with a cold, distant love, inspired a slight fear in everyone she met. so after considering her more, it makes sense she would be the one who sat me down every sunday afternoon and while writing in her recipe book or stitching a piece of clothing, watched the four hour block of martial arts flicks that the local stations promised us.
every sunday after morning mass we would all come home in one of grandfathers large luxury sedans. i would race to the kitchen and pour myself a bowl of cheerios with a pile of sugar on top, then eat it while watching the remaining cartoons on television. when they were over i would go upstairs and climb from my church clothes, still stiff from being ironed that morning, and get into my jeans or a pair of shorts, then pull on a tshirt.
when i would get back downstairs she would be sitting in the large easy chair closest to the tv, under the portrait of a dying jesus christ, with her hands already busy and the tv tuned to the station. one of my aunts might be there too, adjusting her glasses in anticipation or buried in a book, waiting for the fights to start. id lay on my stomach facing the tv and like the rest of them, i would begin to wait.
my grandfather would never be there, he'd be off working with his hands, involved in his own wars. and most of my aunts would be off enjoying the weekends final hours with friends or other family members. the quiet hustle and bustle of a large family would fill the background with a pleasant din, but id be focused on the tv. id be waiting for the scratchy horns that signaled the beginning of Kung Fu Theater, the mix up of colors that alerted the viewer that the show was about to start. it was always the same, and the movies would sometimes be repeats. there seemed to be a finite collection of 70's kung fu movies but i loved every single one of them. so did my grandmother.
during the show i would get up and try to imitate the moves i saw on screen. for me, it was like a training camp, the movies were my sen sei, my teacher, and i was the student learning the art of kung fu. i think i figured if i watched enough of them id be a martial arts master eventually. and lord knows i tried to become one. but every afternoon, like clockwork, id get too rowdy and start distracting my grandmother and she would hiss at me to sit down before i broke something, so i did. perhaps if she would have never interrupted my training id have become a regular Bruce lee. who knows?
i only bring this up because recently i saw a movie called Ip Man. i dont watch kung fu movies much these days, but i will go ahead and declare that it is one of the best ones ive seen in years. if you like kung fu flicks, check it out. it delivers.