I grew up a fan of film and filmmaking. As teenager and more into my early twenties I became aware of the three great directors of the 90’s, Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino, through the movies Clerks, Desperado, and Reservoir Dogs respectively. The movies were life changing for someone direct from Christian school. I loved each of the different archetypes that were antithetical to storytelling that I had grown up with in Superman, Batman, and Captain America. Dante and Randall were the perfect type of weird that I had never met, El Mariachi was the perfect anti-hero who didn’t stop at beating up the villain and Mr. Pink was, well he was Mr. Pink.
I was also beginning to learn Martial Arts. A good friend had started to expose me to the world outside of traditional arts like Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and Judo. I first read the Art of Jeet Kune Do when I was 21 years old. The philosophies that Bruce Lee shared were mind altering. He taught that through physical means a person could free themselves, mind and body, from the confines of pre-determinism. Lee moved beyond the traditional limitations of forms to the freedom of a more practical approach. He famously spoke of being like water:
It was during this time, through my friend, that I learned about another martial artist who trained with Bruce. Dan Inosanto. Dan was the guy who introduced Bruce to the Nunchuka. (Lee had studied the Chinese art Wing Chun, the Nunchuka is a traditional Okinawan weapon.) A weapon that Bruce became instantly connected to in his films.
It was during this time that I met Guro Danny. It was like meeting a Rock Star. Each year in the small town of Waterloo, Indiana the head of the Wetoskey Academy would bring in Guro Danny for 16+ hours of training. I learned more in one weekend of training from Guro Danny about Self-defense than almost anything that I have ever learned in my entire life about anything. He was gracious, intelligent, and quietly expected excellence. I learned about Kabri Kabrong, Filipino Cane Fighting, Escrima, and so much more that weekend.
Flash Forward 18 years and many of my tastes have changed. I would say that from each of the men that I am talking about I learned something. Over the past few years I have grown away from the Tarantino Films. Django Unchained fell flat to me and if I am being honest the once auteur film maker seemed now formulaic. I was disappointed in it and when the Hateful Eight came out I passed on the film.
I had first heard of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood I was excited about Tarantino’s take on Older Hollywood. Particularly about the late 60’s, a time that Tarantino understood and did well. I was excited until I saw the trailer. There was talk that Bruce Lee was going to be a character in the movie. Bruce really had not been done well in film, my apologies to Jason Scott Lee, and while I knew that there would be a Tarantino-izing of the character I felt that Tarantino would do him justice. After all it Tarantino was a fan of Chinese films including the Han Brothers. He even had stolen the look that Bruce had used in Game of Death for the character of The Bride in Kill Bill Volumes I and II. The Trailer depicted Bruce as an arrogant Asshole, not the confident philosopher that he was. Now there are stories that both Shannon Lee, Bruce’s daughter, and Guro Danny are both disappointed in the depiction. I had hoped for better.