Ong Wat

Well, I’m back in Canada, having survived the cute little earthquake, and am presently shacked up at the folks’ house in Toronto. I will stay here for a few days before returning to Ottawa, then am heading to Vancouver at the end of the week. Unemployment keeps one busy, you know.

Fellow traveller Andrew has uploaded his excellent photos from our adventure in Trinidad to his Flickr page. Above is the only one in the set in which I do not look fat and bloated. Yes, I’m becoming a vain creature in my old age.

Andrew has also uploaded a few video clips from the trip to Youtube. I’d never thought about doing this. Perhaps I should start storing my media on 3rd party sites, as well? Here’s another photo from the trip– the two of us in sheer terror as Andrew took the wheel of “Boopsie”, our right-hand drive rental car, for the first time:

Onto a new topic…

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I spent fourteen years of my life studying seven different martial arts. These days, I go to a boxing class once a week and spend the rest of the time clutching my lower back and sucking in my growing gut. But in my youth I was obsessed with the unarmed fighting arts. To be honest, I was never very good. I have a few medals from my tournament days adorning my parents’ dining room, but they were all won in events at which the good athletes failed to show up. I will, however, proudly declare myself to be a bit of a scholar of the martial arts, though not much of an effective practitioner. I’ve travelled the world observing obscure forms and meeting ancient masters, and have written my share of profiles and folios for martial arts magazines and websites.

And thus I offer a special review of the new Tony Jaa film, The Protector. It’s not much of a movie, in terms of acting or story, but Ja’s athleticism is something I have never seen before on film. Jaa is known for eschewing the now ubiquitous “wire fighting” special effects so popular in Hong Kong films, like those of Jet Li. Jaa’s movie features the single most impressive scene I have ever witnessed in a martial arts movie: for what seems like 12 minutes of a continuous take, Ja races up and down stairs (sometimes not using the actual stairs!) and disposes of more than 20 bad guys– without even breathing heavily at the end. The choreography alone must have been a grueling task requiring peak mental and physical fitness.

I have a special interest in Jaa’s technique, as 16 years ago I spent a month in a town in northern Thailand studying and training in Muay Thai, the indigenous form of Thai kickboxing that has since found a bit of a home in North American studios. Jaa’s style, though, is a bit more ancient as it has been enhanced by the more obscure and less sporty (and thus more brutal) form of traditional and rare Muay Thai called Muay Boran.

After being thoroughly impressed by that one scene in The Protector, I raced out rented Jaa’s breakout first movie, Ong Bak. I happily report that is perhaps the single best martial arts film ever made. So if you’re interested in the genre, go watch it!