Thursday, June 11, 2009

A little martial nostalgia

Today's hangtime with Shotokan karate legend Sensei Tom Muzila, and the subsequent review of some of the Black Belt Magazine instructional videos that were shot over a decade ago, brought back more than a few memories from the days I think of as my first set of "golden" training days - college.

Tom was working as fight coordinator on a movie called The Hunted, with Highlander star Christopher Lambert and The Last Emperor star John Lone. They had some re-shooting to do for some scenes at the end of the movie, and Tom brought me on board to double John Lone as we were roughly the same height, and Tom was familiar with my martial background of Chinese martial arts and some training with our mutual teacher - Master Tsutomu Ohshima.

Close Range Combat Academy Wing Chun headmaster Sifu Randy Williams was staying with me at the time as he was in town shooting his own instructional video series with Unique Publications, then owner of Inside Kung-Fu Magazine. So Sifu Williams & I went to the set, a feudal Japanese castle rebuilt inside a Santa Monica Airport hangar.

Tom had me come in to watch some of the non-fighting reshoots and to get a feel for the project, so I got to the set and sat quietly in the back with Sifu Williams. Not wanting to let Tom down, I was focused on taking in the whole process of filmmaking and the flow of the set when suddenly this tall guy stands RIGHT in front of me, obstructing my field of view. Mind you, back then, I had way more fight in me than diplomacy, so I took a bokken (wooden training sword) in hand and gently nudged the man to the left, out of my field of view. Not even looking up to take my eyes off the scene being filmed.

As soon as the director yelled "CUT!", Sifu Williams and Tom looked at each other in total shock, and I looked up to see the man who immortalized Connor MacLeod standing right in front of me.

I, of course, didn't remember pushing anyone out of the way, as I was so focused on studying the scene, but Sifu Williams and Tom didn't let me live that one down, saying, "You pushed Christopher Lambert out of the way on his own set!!!"

Lambert graciously dismissed my profuse apologies saying, "No. You were doing what you should have been doing, and I was in the way. I'm the one who's sorry to you." And I was completely dumbfounded by the classiness with which he handled my faux pas. During the re-shoot, which took something like a week, Lambert was always kind to me, always unpretentious, and never too busy to mingle. Shooting the fight scenes with him at the end of the movie was a great honor, and I'll look back on that memory with fondness.

OK... flashback & nostalgia time over.... BACK TO WORK!

But in case you're done with work already and too curious to let this one lie...


Anonymous said...

Thats a great story, one to tell the grandkids even!

Boris said...

That is an awesome story Doc. I'll make sure to bring a shinai or bokken with me next time I see you.