I just watched some martial arts demos on Eurosport. It's strange - I love physical prowess, but this weird mixture just puzzles me. If Bruce Lee wasn't just special effects then why does the grand final involve the bigger guy kicking the smaller guy around and winning on 'points'?
All the Wu Shu guys come on in Las Vegas glitter and fanny around with 'real swords' and other weapons (only one drop) - and it IS astounding (like good circus) but it's just show biz. And the 'breaking skills of Karate'? Well, at Oval House circus workshops in the 1970s people showed me how to break a slab of concrete on my chest while lying on a bed of nails (and hey, I ain't spiritual, it's physics) - hell, back in the early 60s (at my magic club) I broke a pole hanging on paper loops hanging off open razors (it's physics). We did walking on broken glass (not my kind of macho act) and all that jazz.
I am sure these guys are sincere, and they certainly are extremely fit, but as a show it has uneasy echoes of sado-masochistic stuff that appealed to Yukio Mishima. Isn't this Marine life entertainment (setting your balls on fire in the shower)?
So, I am not denying the skill, just the spiritual bullshit. Some people do fire-walking and get religion. Others do fire-walking and get a living. The first guy (in Mexico) who taught me to eat fire said I just needed to believe him it was going to be OK the FIRST TIME. I did, I did it, and it fed me for the following decade.
Like that dare that made me run my finger through a candle flame when I was a kid.
I've seen strong men acts you wouldn't believe. Bending 6" nails with hands; tearing a telephone directory in half (I managed it a couple of times after I was shown a few tricks); tearing a pack of cards in half (same principles, but I couldn't do it). I've seen a guy bend a long strip of metal stuck into his larynx...(nice physics and a lot of chutzpah).
I'm not putting it down - it's dangerous (don't try this at home) but not a lot of it is 'spiritual' unless I misunderstood.
And then the Shaolin Monks came on. They're good. I mean, they are astounding. Same quibbles hold as all of the above, but they are REALLY good at it. But so are a lot of my circus friends and freaks.
Here's Bob again:
Too much of nothing
Can turn a man into a liar,
It can cause one man to sleep on nails
And another man to eat fire.
Ev'rybody's doin' somethin',
I heard it in a dream,
But when there's too much of nothing,
It just makes a fella mean.
Or, in terms of - passing our time down here - should it be:
Ev'rybody's building the big ships and the boats,
Some are building monuments,
Others, jotting down notes,
Ev'rybody's in despair,
Ev'ry girl and boy
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here,
Ev'rybody's gonna jump for joy.