Nov 21, 2011

Meet the Karate Kid's Worst Enemy

Thomas Ian Griffith Returns to the Screen
in "Excessive Force"

(by David W. Clary Black Belt Magazine, March 1993)

"Knowing martial arts can only help today's action star. I think audiences like to see their favorite actor handle himself physically..." (Thomas Ian Griffith)

Thomas Ian Griffith is no stranger to the acting business. He has had roles in Broadway plays, has starred in feature films, and has appeared in television series.
Griffith is no stranger to the martial arts either, and when Griffith put his two skills together to portray the evil karate instructor Terry Silver in Karate Kid III, he created the most dastardly villain young Daniel (Ralph Macchio) ever had to face.

Griffith, 32, was raised in Connecticut, where he became interested in both acting and kenpo karate. He later took up Tae Kwon Do and began studying under Hyung Yup Chung, earning a black belt in four years. "I became addicted to it", Griffith admits. "It was a great sport to have on the side while I was working as an actor in New York."

It was Griffith's acting credentials, and not his martial art skills, that originally caught director John Avildsen's eye for the lead antagonist in Karate Kid III. Griffith had appeared on Broadway as the lead in the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and off Broadway in The Three Penny Opera and Guys and Dolls. "When I was cast for the Karate Kid role, my character wasn't really supposed to do any martial arts at all," Griffith relates, "I just tortured Ralph basically, and plotted his demise with Martin Kove."

However, after learning of Griffith's martial art skills, Pat Johnson, the film's fight choreographer, suggested that the actor approach Avildsen about including some fight scenes with his role.

Griffith took Johnson's advice and discussed the matter with Avildsen, who became excited about rewriting the character as an active martial artist. "That was the first time my career as an actor and my martial arts came together," Griffith says.

Griffith claims that starring in Karate Kid III has opened several doors for him in the film industry. Since portraying the sinister instructor Silver, he has starred in and written the screenplay for the feature film Kill Fee, played the title role in the made-for-television film Rock Hudson, and had appearances in the television shows Wiseguy, In the Heat of the Night, and Another World.

"I didn't come from the typical martial arts background and THEN became a movie actor. It's sort of the other way around," he notes. "I'm looked upon as a theater actor who happened to know martial arts before I got into the movies. So people tend to look at me in a different light."

Many people considered Griffith's role in Karate Kid III the best character in the film. Griffith credits Avildsen for that. "He really let me play with the character," Griffith relates. "It was bigger than life. I was supposed to give the adults a laugh and be all scary for the kids. We had a lot of fun."

According to Griffith, he was able to incorporate several of his own ideas into the film. " I kept coming up with new ways of torturing Ralph, and John Avildsen would get excited and try to find a way to work it into the script. That's how the whole teacher/student relationship came about. For me, it was a great first-film role. Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita were great guys and welcomed me."

Griffith will star in Excessive Force, a New Line Cinema production due for release date in late February. In Excessive Force, which co-stars James Earl Jomes (Best of the Best) and Lance Henriksen (Terminator), Griffith performs Hollywood's version of a hattrick: He wrote, produced and stars in the film.

"I play a Chicago undercover cop who is obsessed with catching a crime boss," Griffith says of his role in EF. "The cop has tried busting this guy numerous times, and has come very close. However, something happened each time, and the crime boss got away."

The cop's obsession with the crime boss starts to affect him personally, and he ends up taking the law into his own hands, Griffith claims. "I's all about fighting crime and corruption in Chicago, " he says.

In addition to his other work on Excessive Force, Griffith also assisted stunt coordinator Bobby Bass in choreographing the film's fight scenes. "We worked together because he had never worked with someone who could kick and the other things I can do, " Griffith explains. "So we got in a room and started throwing out some ideas, and choregraphed the film between ourselves."

Griffith says that the combination of Bass-who coordinated the stunts on Lethal Weapon and Thelma and Louise- and himself worked out really well. "He's an expert on handguns, and he improved my driving skills," Griffith notes. "Put that with my fighting skills, and we made a good team."

Griffith admits that he does not want to be typecast in so-called "martial arts" films. "I like to keep it mixed up," he says. "After Karate Kid III, I didn't want to do another movie like this. So I got the lead role in the film Rock Hudson, just to break it up. I love doing the action, and I love doing the karate stuff, but at the same time I live doing the drama as well, and I try to keep it in balance. I enjoy doing martial arts films, but I like the straight stuff too. I'd like to go back and do some Shakespeare, and maybe knock out a play or two. It's all about keeping balance."

Nevertheless, Griffith sees the value in martial arts films. "The good part of martial arts movies is that, if a kid gets attracted to a skill-like if they see a kick or a fight and it gets them into a martial arts school-then that's a very positive side; that's great," he explains. "I'm very much for promoting the martial arts, because I think it's very beneficial for children."

Griffith claims martial arts training can benefit actors, as well. "Knowing martial arts can only help today's action star," he asserts. "Excessive Force is the type of movie where, if you take out the martial arts, you still have a good film. But I think audiences like to see their favorite actor handle himself physically on screen, however he does it. He can wrestle, or box, or he can know karate. That is attractive to the types of people who enjoy these movies. Plus, as an actor, it's a blast being able to do it."

Griffith currently studies Tae Kwon Do under Los Angeles-based instructor Jun Chung, and lately began to do a little boxing training. "I've studied Tae Kwon Do most of my life, and can do the good kicks," Griffith says, "but I recently went to Benny Urquidez' Jet Center and watched the fighters train, and I said `Man, I've got to start over.`It was a whole new deal getting into a ring and doing the boxing. In the ring, you can't back out and you can't play tag. It's like being a white belt all over again. That's what's exciting -learning more than one style. There's so much to learn in one style that you'll never learn everything. But it's exciting to complement your styles with others, and make yourself a better martial artist. Again, it's all about balance."

Playing various action film roles "is like being a little kid in a candy store," Griffith admits gleefully. "I go in and have all these great big fight scenes, and get to beat up everybody, and they can't hit me back."

Nov 19, 2011

One month to go until the All Valley

Daniel begins training on his own.

Nov 18, 2011

Betrayal at the Country Club

Did Ali still have feelings for Johnny? Did she secretly want to get back together with him.

That night at the country club when Mr. Mills asks, “Trouble with Johnny? You two love birds having problems?” She didn’t say they had broken up, she only said they weren’t love birds.

And when Johnny asked her for a truce she replied that she wasn’t at war. Not at war? Thats odd, this is the boy that has brutally beaten up your new boyfriend twice. You most certainly should be at war.

Finally, the dance. Why the dance? She knew Daniel was there somewhere, her father had just given her the time. She was 10 minutes late meeting Daniel. Yet she chose to dance.

Ali had something else on her mind, betrayal.

Nov 16, 2011

Robert Downey Jr. credits Wing Chun for giving him the strength to overcome his addictions


In the nineties, Robert Downey Jr. was arrested multiple times for drug and alcohol-related crimes. He was quoted as saying,

"It's like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger's on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal."

Whether it was driving naked with a loaded gun down Sunset Boulevard or breaking into his neighbor's house by accident, Robert Downey Jr. was out of control.

In 1999, the actor was arrested once more and spent the better part of a year in jail. He was such a loose cannon that filmmakers who wanted to hire him were forced to take out massive insurance policies or withhold his salary to get their films made. He was fired from Ally McBeal after another drug infraction and chose to take a few years to get his life together and re-evaluate his priorities.

It was during 2002-2003 that he began practicing Wing Chun, a form of kung fu which he credits for giving him the strength to overcome his addictions.

Sometimes referred to as "a martial art for the mind," Wing Chun is a powerful new (yet very old) Chinese art known to increase focus, concentration and relaxation.

In 2003, Downey started working again, and released a string of well-received movies like The Singing Detective, Fur and Zodiac before landing the key role of Tony Stark in Iron Man, which was released in May of 2008 to record-shattering returns.

With Iron Man, the resurgence of Robert Downey Jr. is now complete. He's on top of the box office with a blockbuster franchise, clean and sober, and happily married.

With his drug demons behind him, his legend is only beginning. Downey is now working on Iron Man II which is set to be released in 2010 as well as starring as the Victorian-era detective in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes film.

But what is this Chinese martial art called Wing Chun? Wing Chun (Wing Tsun / Ving Tsun) is a highly effective combat-tested system of self defense, fighting skills and defensive tactics. It has been taught and integrated into the training programs of hundreds of military & law enforcement agencies around the world such as the US Navy Seals, FBI, CIA, French RAID and German SEK units.

Wing Chun emphasizes aggressive tactics, direct/scientific movement and realistic training. It prepares its trainees in the subjects of self-defense, self protection, fighting and combat skills, as well as skills to defend others. A practical and scientific system, Wing Chun teaches how to prevent, deal and overcome all kinds of violence and attacks.

But what really seems to have caught the attention of Robert Downey Jr. is the art's ability to go well beyond fighting. It encompasses the full mind, body & spirit of martial arts. The concepts and philosophies found through Wing Chun training bring about a new way of looking at life's challenges helping you to deal with situations in whole new way - things you don't usually find in other activities.

Nov 15, 2011

Karate Kid timeline (expanded version)

Last year while deep in Karate Kid study I created a timeline of events. I felt important to do it again this year and review what I had done last year to check for errors. I still feel confident in my conclusions with respect to the timeline and this year have added the Arrival in Receda and other September dates.

1. September 10th - Arrival in Receda

2. September 11th - Beach Party, Daniel meets Ali, and Rumble on the Beach between Daniel and Johnny

3. September 12th - First day of school

4. September 13th - Soccer tryouts and the 2nd meeting between Daniel and Ali (I explored the possiblity of these events taking place a day earlier on the first day of school in my 9-13-11 posting.)

5. October 28th - Halloween Dance and Daniel's beating at the hands and feet of the Cobra Kai

6. October 29th - Trip to the Cobra Kai dojo to make peace, challenge set to settle things at the All Valley Tournament, and Daniel's training begins with Wax On Wax Off

7. October 31st - Take a Worm for a Walk Week, and Daniel asks Ali out on their first date

8. November 5th - Daniel and Ali's first date

9. November 11th - Daniel's second lesson, Sand the Floor

10. November 12th - Daniel catches the fly with a pair of chopsticks, and his training continues with Paint the Fence

11. November 13th - Daniel grows impatient after his fourth lesson, Paint the House. Mr. Miyagi lets him in on the secret that he as been learing karate the whole time.

12. November 14th - Daniel learns balance in the surf while we get our first look at the Crane Techinque

13. November 18th - Betrayal at Encino Hills, Daniel and Ali's second date crumbles.

14. November 19th - One month until the All Valley, Daniel begins branching out on his own with training.

(Numbers 13 and 14 could have occurred even a week or two later, there really isn't any evidence that ties these events to the 18th and 19th of November. We do know though that the betrayal at the country club took place on a Friday and Daniel went to Mr. Miyagi's house later that night. Daniel's branching out and training on his own could have started the next day since it was a Saturday but that is not known for sure. I chose to put these events on November 18th and 19th mostly because with the 19th it would mark exactly one month to go until the All Valley Tournament.)

15. December 18th - eve of the All Valley, Daniel and Ali make up at Golf n Stuff

16. December 19th - All Valley Tournament

Nov 13, 2011

Sunday, November 13th, 1983

Show me paint the house side side,

show me sand the floor.

Nov 12, 2011

"Man who catch fly with chopstick, accomplish anything." - Miyagisan

Nov 7, 2011

Secluded valley dojo

I will learn the location of this dojo. I will travel there, and I will train.

Nov 6, 2011

Happy 50th birthday Mr. Macchio

I'm a couple of days late, inexcuseable for any true Karate Kid'er, but the Karate Kid himself Ralph Macchio turned 50 years old on November 4th.

Hopefully he had a great birthday. How could you not though?, you are the Karate Kid, everyday is a party.

Nov 5, 2011

Daniel and Ali - Crazier

Saturday, November 5th, 1983

Daniel and Ali's first date

Daniel and Ali's date started off perfectly with every boy's dream coming true, that being getting your picture taken with your girl in one of those old time photo booths.

It turned a little awkward though for Daniel when as the date wound down he realized he was stepping into a world where perhaps he didn't belong. A world of money, fast cars and fast women. Ali being one of them.

Then the ultimate coup d'etat, Johnny and the other Cobras pull up with Ali's friends in tow. They invite Ali to go for a ride driving a wedge between Ali and Daniel. Sure Ali turned them down but the damage had been done.

A darkness fell over Golf n Stuff.