Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Grandmaster Ki

The great Wing-Chun Sifu, Loo Yung Ki, is distraught that his latest movie has failed to create ripples at the box-office."I sweated blood for the stunts in 'Omelette without Eggs'. I cannot believe how empty the halls are!"

We are sitting in his monastery in LA, where Ki's students, a hundred eager monks, shuffle in and out silently as they go about their training exercises and daily chores. Ki's been a recognized kung-fu Grandmaster for over twenty years now, ever since he won the '88 kung-fu monkathon in the city. He recalls the competition vividly. He was going neck-to-neck with Xao Woo up until the 'Show me your qi' round.

Woo was hooked up to an voltmeter, and he delivered some off-the-scale electric shocks that impressed the judges. That didn't deter Ki, who, sitting off to the corner knew this round was going to be his. He walked up to an area that had bells strung up. After a few moments of intense concentration, the bells began to ring. The judges had never before heard a qi-bell version of 'when the saints come marching in'. Ki took the lead right there, later sailing through the 'Fly stiffly through air' and 'Zen me to sleep' rounds.

Ki still regrets how he rubbed it in to Woo, as he recounted telling Woo off at the end of the event - "My Zen crescent-kicks your Zen's ass! Who da man now??". He shakes his head "I brought shame upon my dojo....but it felt so good!".

I hear a stifled cough and turn to find a gaggle of monks sidled up beside me. They're carrying trays of steaming hot food - soup, dumplings, shrimp sticks and what have you. They move silently, these monks. In a moment, they've laid out the food and disappeared, leaving me to fumble with a pair of chopsticks. I wonder how we're ever going to finish all they've brought. It's then that I notice, even under the billowing robes, the traces of an ample paunch on Grandmaster Ki.

'Omelette without Eggs' is not a revolutionary movie. Grandmaster Ki admits sheepishly that they used wires. "Old Dojo dictum, do not use Kung-fu for profit. Even so, you know that scene where I break the egg and a chick appears? No special effects, I used finger kata to transport the yolk to a future state. They do not appreciate these things anymore."

Perhaps that's a sign of the times. Intricate art forms like these are fast being lost, because we, the audience, can no longer tell what's real and what's not. I leave there wistfully. I'm not worried about Grandmaster Ki, he has his own Dojo and is doing well for himself. I just feel sorry for the movies he won't get to make. It's you Grandmaster Ki, you da man..

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