It’s a beautiful scene and incredibly deep. I truly enjoyed the remake of the original 1984 The Karate Kid – and this scene in particular. In The Karate Kid (2010), the art is now Kung Fu and the figure of Mr. Miyagi is now Mr. Han, played by Jackie Chan. The original figure of Daniel is now Dre, played by Jaden Smith.
In both movies, Daniel and Dre are growing impatient in their “training”. They are both given remedial tasks (“sand the floor” and “paint the fence” in the original; “put the jacket on” and “take the jacket off” in the remake) that they feel have nothing to do with Karate/Kung Fu. They both tire of their chores and begin to walk out and quit on their teachers. Their teachers stop them, urge them to repeat these chores in the air (chores in motion, if you will), but this time Mr. Miyagi/Mr. Han throw kicks and punches. Instinctually, Daniel/Dre block with the body movements they have been practicing with their mundane chores. The students veil of ignorance fall and they realize they’ve been learning Karate/Kung Fu all along – a look of shock and illumination written all over their faces in this moment of realization.
Both scenes are profound, but I would argue the 2010 version of this scene goes much deeper philosophically. With Dre’s enlightenment that he “knows” Kung Fu, Mr. Han further enlightens him on what Kung Fu is:
“Kung Fu lives in everything we do… It lives in how we put on a jacket and how we take off a jacket. It lives in how we treat people. Everything is kung Fu.”
This is getting deep at the background philosophy of Taoism and the Yinyang – the idea of balance and living in harmony – from which Kung Fu developed. Tao literally means “The Way” and the practice of Kung Fu cannot be separated from “the Way”. Kung Fu is a life philosophy, not fighting. The hard work, discipline, and mastery of Kung Fu is ultimately about self-mastery, balance, and self-defense – physical and mental harmony inwards – and preserving harmony with others outward.
We are all interconnected. With power, comes humility and responsibility. The true expression of Kung Fu cannot be one of selfishness, anger, or bullying. It’s a philosophy that underlies most martial arts and why the Yingyang symbol is such a prevalent symbol for martial artists. It’s why we, and true martial artists following “The Way” are revolted at someone using their art to bully (as we were in The Karate Kid movies) someone weaker and/or untrained. There is no balance or honor there, just abuse of power.
At the middle of Yinyang, where the black and white intersect, lies the place of balance. Structure with creativity. Strength with technique. Body and mind. Confidence with humility. Leadership with service. With great power, comes great responsibility. Balance and harmony are the goal in everything we do.
Kung Fu bears an incredible responsibility; it cannot be separated from “The Way”.
In short, everything is Kung Fu.
Image credit: Alexandramander