Jun 28, 2017

Dojo by the stream

artwork by Andree Wallin

Jun 23, 2017

Stomp the Groin

Master Ken artwork by Aaron Tade

Jun 17, 2017

John G. Avildsen, Director of ‘Rocky,’ ‘Karate Kid’ Films, Dies at 81

(by Carmel Dagan variety.com 6-16-17)

John G. Avildsen who won an Oscar for directing the original “Rocky” (1976), starring Sylvester Stallone, and also directed all three of the original “Karate Kid” films, has died in Los Angeles. He was 81.

A rep confirmed his death.

Avildsen also won the DGA Award for directing “Rocky,” which also won Oscars for best picture and film editing and was nominated in multiple other categories.

In 2006 Variety interviewed Avildsen, who said that a film with a boxing story didn’t excite him at first, but he was “moved by the urban character study of Sylvester Stallone’s script.” He held out on directing part two in lieu of another project — a decision that Avildsen said was “one of my greatest mistakes.” He returned to the franchise to direct 1990’s “Rocky V.”

Stallone said in a statement, “I owe just about everything to John Avildsen. His directing, his passion, his toughness and his heart — a great heart — is what made ‘Rocky’ the film it became. He changed my life and I will be forever indebted to him. Nobody could have done it better than my friend John Avildsen. I will miss him.”

In 1983 he was Oscar nominated again, this time for the documentary short “Traveling Hopefully.”
The Director’s Guild released a statement, saying “We were greatly saddened to learn of the passing of beloved director John Avildsen. His iconic ‘Rocky,’ which won the DGA Feature Film Award in 1976, has been lionized throughout our culture as the quintessential underdog story – a recurring theme in his notable body of work which included ‘Save the Tiger’ and ‘The Karate Kid’ franchise. Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans.”

He served on the DGA’s National Board for three terms, on the DGA’s Eastern Directors Council from 1977-1990, on the Western Directors Council from 1992-1994, and was a member of the 1987 and 1996 DGA Negotiating Committees.

Avildsen developed a reputation for making movies about losers, or underdogs, who somehow become winners.

Avildsen’s other films included the critically hailed drama-thriller “Joe” (1970), starring Susan Sarandon and Peter Boyle. It was his first success as a director, and was praised for Peter Boyle’s performance.

“Save the Tiger” (1973), an issue-oriented drama sporting an outstanding starring performance from Jack Lemmon, was nominated for three Oscars, with Lemmon winning best actor. The three Oscar nominations for “Save the Tiger” and the win for Lemmon secured Avildsen’s place on the list of go-to directors.

His other films included comedy “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” (1975), starring Burt Reynolds; thriller “The Formula” (1980), starring George C. Scott and Marlon Brando; eerie comedy “Neighbors,” starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd; pregnancy comedy “For Keeps?” (1988), starring Molly Ringwald; drama “Lean on Me” (1989), which helped launch Morgan Freeman’s career; and bull riding biopic “8 Seconds” (1994), starring Luke Perry.

Avildsen started in the business as a cinematographer, lensing seven films from the mid-’60s to the early ’70s, including his feature directorial debut “Turn on to Love” (1969) and subsequent helming efforts “Guess What We Learned in School Today,” “Joe,” “Cry Uncle,” “Okay Bill” and “The Stoolie” (1972), starring Jackie Mason.

John Guilbert Avildsen was born in Oak Park, Illinois. He graduated from the prestigious Hotchkiss School and NYU. He started out in the film business as an assistant director on movies by Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger.

A documentary on the director’s life and career, “John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs” (2016), directed and produced by Derek Wayne Johnson, features interviews with Stallone, “Karate Kid” star Ralph Macchio, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Weintraub and Burt Reynolds. The documentary is a companion to the book “The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid, and Other Underdogs,” written by Larry Powell and Tom Garrett.

Avildsen is survived by a daughter, Bridget, and sons Anthony, Jonathan and Ashley.



Jun 10, 2017

Road House (1989)

(by Ramon Youseph kungfukingdom.com 9-14-15)

This modern day western might seem an unusual choice to feature amongst the review pages of Kung-fu Kingdom given that it is not a martial arts film per se. Yet at the heart of this kick-ass guilty pleasure from the bygone era of the 80’s are scenes that feature some highly effective martial arts action.


Patrick Swayze is Dalton a bouncer who specializes in diffusing hostile situations, hired by ‘Double Deuce’ bar owner Frank Tilghman played by Kevin Tighe. Sam Elliott is Wade Garrett a seasoned bouncer who is also Dalton’s mentor and friend. Kelly Lynch provides the love interest as Elizabeth “Doc” Clay.

Ben Gazzara plays crooked business magnate Brad Wesley, who rules Jasper, Missouri with an iron fist. Marshall Teague is cast as Jimmy Reno, Wesley’s murderous enforcer.


Professional ‘cooler’ Dalton is hired by Frank Tilghman to take over security at his club/bar, the Double Deuce, in Jasper, Missouri. Tilghman plans to invest substantial money into the club to enhance its image as a dive bar, and needs Dalton to deal with the troublemakers to help maintain stability. However Dalton’s efforts catch the attention of corrupt businessman Brad Wesley who fears Dalton’s actions could hamper his interests which he viciously protects. Soon a power struggle ensues leading to a deadly confrontation.


Although the martial arts fighting cannot compare on the same level to the likes of Chuck Norris or Jackie Chan, in its own right “Road House” was a fair attempt to bring the excitement of cinematic Kung-Fu fighting to Hollywood 80’s action film without martial arts stars. “Die Hard” stunt coordinator Charles Picerni, and uncredited fight trainer/co-ordinator Benny “The Jet” Urquidez worked with and trained the actors resulting in some pretty decent down and dirty fighting with much of the action mainly consisting of messy and destructive bar fights.

The fighting was not intended to look slick, elegant or even athletic as in most contemporary martial arts films. It’s clear to see that sometimes the kicks are not perfectly straight, the punches do not swing out quite as far as you might expect with one or two actors at times losing their balance hence the lack of grace. However, for what it lacks in finesse-fu, it compensates with grittiness and realism and some close quarter fighting that really does pack a wallop.

For example where Dalton is battling henchman O’Connor, after a combination of hits and blocks Swayze throws a left hook to actor Michael Rider who looked so convincingly stunned by the blow that one expected to see a carousel of stars appear above him!

There are plenty of well executed stylish looking martial arts moves such as Dalton’s Hapkido move sending an armed barfly head first into a table and Jimmy Reno battling the Double Deuce bouncers using a pool cue as a Bo staff. Even Sam Elliott gets to show off some impressive skills taking out a seven foot tall bad guy with a bone crunching kick to the knee and hurting bomb punches that look a little too real even!

All the performers do their best, move fast and hit hard making them fun and exciting to watch.  Yet of all the fight scenes the one that stands out is the anticipated matchup between Dalton and Jimmy Reno. Reportedly Marshall Teague and Patrick Swayze pulled no punches so the pained look on the actors’ faces ramped up the realism factor. The choreography is a mix of various martial art styles evident in the variety of locks, throws, kicks and punches as used in Kickboxing, Hapkido and Jujitsu, with a particularly impressive flying kick from Swayze himself. The grueling work put in by the actors is visible in their strained expressions adding that no-holds-barred street fight feel to a fight scene packed with some excellent technical maneuvers.


Essentially “Road House” is a man’s film in which everyone talks tough and resolves their differences one way. Even Dalton’s stoic Zen bouncer succumbs to the saddle-up lock and load approach to problem solving.

Yet its simplicity is the film’s charm and “Out for Justice” writer David Lee Henry packs the script with plenty of amusing testosterone laden dialogue that will have you laughing and cringing at the same time, and director Rowdy Herrington keeps it all ticking along at just the right pace.
The action is the film’s strong point even though it does not compare to “martial arts films” per se; it’s yet a slugfest of hard hitting, entertainment with plenty of skill on display.


  • The character of Dalton loosely resembles real life veteran bouncer Steve Sexton, an 8th Degree Hapkido practitioner.
  • As a youngster Patrick Swayze studied various martial arts including Aikido and Taekwondo to help manage his temper problem.
  • To train the actors, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez would assign animal traits to help shape fighting styles suitable to both actor and character. Patrick Swayze was likened to a cat, Marshall Teague a mongoose, and Sam Elliott a bear.
  • Actor Sam Elliott had no martial arts training. Given his age and limited flexibility Urquidez taught the actor some basic power moves such as driving punches, elbows and lower kicks.
  • Urquidez would play Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” every day to help Swayze master the rhythmic techniques of kickboxing.
  • By the time training was over Patrick Swayze was able to repeatedly knock cigarettes out of his teacher’s mouth.
  • Various martial arts styles were used in the film including Kickboxing, Karate, Tai Chi, and Hapkido.
  • The fight between Dalton and Jimmy Reno took five nights to complete. Both actors fought full contact and suffered an assortment of injuries including broken ribs for Swayze and a cracked eye socket for Teague.
  • In the scene where Jimmy breaks the log across Dalton’s back Teague believed it was a prop log and hit Swayze hard. Winded and in pain Swayze continued with the fight.
  • Urquidez went on to train actors Cuba Gooding Jr and James Marshall for the boxing movie “Gladiator” (1992) also directed by Rowdy Herrington.
  • Patrick Swayze was one of Hollywood’s biggest film and television stars with a lot of notable work. He is known for playing a variety of roles that include romantic leads and tough action roles, as both hero and villain. He passed away on 14th September 2009 after a long battle with cancer. “Road House” co-star Marshall Teague stated in an interview; “I made one of the best friends a man could ask for, and I miss him everyday.”
  • Reports state that UFC champion Ronda Rousey has been approached to star in a remake of “Road House” in the role played by Patrick Swayze. Rousey is said to have the blessing of his widow Lisa Neimi, with MGM aiming to begin production in 2016.

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    Jun 4, 2017

    Cartoon Master Ken

    Artwork by Aaron Tade

    Even as a cartoon Master Ken looks deadly.