Friday, November 24, 2006

Structure and Content

I have began to structure the film in a general way. Who am I to tell this story? How is a chance meeting with a guy so significant in the life of an 11 year old?

For me it starts with film, an awareness of the popular culture of the time. Being of the 60s television generation I watched a lot of late night and after-school films. These were classic films from the 1930s to 1950s. These were scratchy sound tracked films with dramatic lighting and wonderful writing. There is a warmth of style in many of these American films of this period. Full of slang and dialect, it is easy to see how American bravado garners so much attention abroad from these cultural artifacts.

I feel in love with cinema after watching a documentary on the making of some Alfred Hitchcock film. This love was enforced by watching the WTTW(local PBS) Foreign Cinema series on Friday nights. When I saw Melvin Van Peebles' La Permission(Story of a Three Day Pass) I was thoroughly moved and astounded. It was about this time I went to my high school counselor, told him what I wanted to do and asked him what schools I should apply to to study filmmaking.

Well, it was the 60s, and America's baggage of race was wayyyyyy heavier that it was now. This clown told me there were no schools for studying film and why didn't I consider taking up a trade. He told me I should have a more realistic goal????

40 years later the baggage is still there, it's emphasis shifted to become inclusive of agendas that are not wholly in the American ideals.

Among the films I would watch were old war films, spy thrillers, pulp sci-fi. I had moved from a small town in Mississippi to Chicago and one of the features of being a new kid was having to fight. Now, I was told not to fight, practice my Christian values and turn the other cheek. Of course that worked wonders in the street. I fought and lost, a lot. I watched Mr. Moto got from mild mannered Asian to jiu-jitsu maniace in his films. Years before Bruce Lee took on his Japanese opponents after they killed his teacher, James Cagney took on the Japanese(Not Japanese, but caucasian with slanty eye make up and a bad accent)intelligence agency in Blood on The Sun devasting them with judo. Cagney was great...take a look to the right. There were no Japanese in the film becaause they were like in the Manzanar Camps, maybe

More in line with my thinking was Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock. The one armed man kicked some butt and I needed to know this stuff. In certain neighborhoods reading a lot of books, not trying to fit in, and having a speech impediment is hard on a kid.

It starts with where I live, the environment, This is where the story begins for me. I had a problem I needed solving. I was getting my ass kicked on a schedule. I turned to Bruce Tegner and his book on self-defense and had a little success practicing with friends. We would try Mr. Moto moves after Sunday matinees on TV when we got home from church.

I worked in Chinatown at Restaurants on Saturdays when I could get the work for awhile. I would catch glimpses of things. Sometimes young menwho worked in the kitchen with as much english as I had Chinese would be playing arm wrestling games in the alley that ended with someone being slapped. Later I would know this as Chi-Sao(Sticking Hands).

As a male child in an agressive environment there is a great concern about honor, face, the need to be "cool." Cool is the face we show to the world, to walk with a confidence that is apart from the everday reality but ever present inside of it. The Yoruba consider cool an aspect of creation a part of character.

I am just rambling now, trying to think it out in the blog while probably need food more than anything else about now.

To sum it up. It has always been popular culture that pushed the idea of martial arts at the public, first for Judo, then Karate, with the coming of Bruce Lee everybody was Kung Fu fighting and with his death came the rise of the Ninja and Ashida Kim's move into mail order infamy.

Time for Yogurt and toast....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

John Keehan and Ed Parker

I was doing some research tonight and came across a site about Ed Parker, Kenpo Karate Setting History Right 1960-1962.

I am really trying to get these origins and exposures right. I think understanding the basis of his martial arts education may give me some insight into how I will structure this part of the film. John Keehan was in the Marines from 1958-1961 and spent part of that time in San Diego. In an interview in Black Belt magazine with Mas Ayoob, Jan 1976, he talks about this.

The site explains a lot about the background of Edmund Kealoha Parker, considered the father of American Kenpo, and his association with Chinese martial artists. Opening his first school in the mid 1950s, he worked closely with experience Kung Fu and Tai Chi practioners and was friends with T.Y.(Tim Yuen) Wong, who introduced him to James Yimm Lee, who would become a close associate of Bruce Lee and have a great influence upon him.

When John Keehan talks about being in San Francisco's Chinatown in the early 60s with James Yimm Lee it has a ring of truth to it. It explains why Keehan was so different as a martial artist. In the late 50s, early 60s he would have been exposed to a lot of Chinese martial arts as well as Kempo. It always seemed to be his core training.

John McSweeney, one of Ed Parkers first black belts, mentions John Keehan as being one of his classmates along with Dan Inosanto.

It seems to me from my brief readings this evening that Parker had an open mind, coming from Hawaii. His Kenpo seemed to easily blend into and accept the Chinese martial arts and maybe this could have only happened in San Francisco. It calls some history into question though. Non-Orientals were said not to be taught back before the coming of Bruce Lee. James Yimm Lee appears to be the bridge between the two communities.

According to some history Kenpo was not Karate, nor was it Okinawan. It seems to always have been on the move. Without going deep into it let me just speculate that the Kenpo/Kosho that came to Edmund Parker was already a blending, a fluid tradition.
More on this history can be found at Al Tracy's website.

As I mentioned before, John exposure to poison hand and even the "Dance of Death" are Chinese in origin. James Yim Lee published a book on Iron Palm and Poison Hand back in 1959. This is where John may have learned about Dim Mak and developed his incredible breaking skills.

John also talks about Spending some time in the Far East when he was out of boot camp. With his dad's support he could afford it, but boot camp is what, 12 weeks? Can''t investigate everything...gotta pick and choose. I only have 90 mins to tell this story. 5:33 am here now, I am going to sleep. I have lost my focus.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Victor Moore

I spoke with Victor Moore some months back about his association with John Keehan. He was a contemporary and was at Robert Trias's school along with Keehan and they worked out together in Arizona. I am hoping that Mr. Moore will be able to give us some insight into the realtionship between Keehan and Trais and what the relationship dynamics were like.

Mr. Moore is the man who went up against Bruce Lee in a speed contest and came to a draw against Bruce's "unblockable punch." This took place at Ed Parker's Long Beach International Tournament in 1967. Don Warrener has this on film. This lost and found production, “The New Gladiators,” was financed by Elvis Presley but never released.

Mr. Moore was a well-known competitor in sport, full contact and kickboxing in the early days of professional martial arts. He speaks highly of John Keehan as a fighter. I am including him in todays blog because of a match between he and Joe Lewis that is online at His is an interview I am very excited to pursue.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Black Dragons in Oak Park

Looks like it has almost been a month since my last post. I got lots to tell but not all of it today. I met these two guys in the photo whose names I will reveal later in my own back yard of Oak Park, IL. They are students of one of Doug Dwyer's students. More on then over the holiday.

They are good, clean cut guys in real estate who grew up in the shadow of Dante's legacy. They have a lot of stories. They spent their Sunday 's working out with Black Dragon Students who
studied under Dwyer and Keehan.

I got good news and bad news. The good news will wait. The bad news is the Chicago Police Department will not release any files to me on John Keehan or Jim Konsevic. I was looking for arrest records and mugshots. So I got a two-fer here regarding law enforcement. Department of Justice has still not replied to my request for FBI records regarding Keehan either.
Meanwhile I got a pretty interesting take on Dante in Cuba with Raul Castro that I had not heard before and is so deep in "craft" I have to think twice about messing around with it.

By now you probably know me....I'll mess with it.

I got clues about Christa Dante, found out who she married, what he was like, where she used to drink even on the North Side.

I have heard from a clinical psychologist who was a student of Dante Students and he tells a story of Mr. T coming into a Black Dragon School "Bruce Lee style" and challenging everyone. Apparently he remained standing in a doorway at the top of the stairs while issuing his "I Pity the Fool..." challenge. Needless to say someone went rolling down the stairs and he had a Mohawk hair-do. Of course I have to see if I can T to talk about this. Responsible journalism is paramount you know.

I am working on my presentations, got press kits being printed, got a fancy DVD preview...things are moving forward.

I got turned down for an interview with a radio personality who was greatly influenced by Count Dante. Secretive aren't. I will make it all clear in my future posts.