Monday, January 30, 2006

Kung Fu Kiddies

At the San Francisco Asian Art Museum on the afternoon of Sunday the 30th...

...there was a kung fu demonstration in the ornate Samsung Hall...

...which looks pretty much the same as it did when this building housed the San Francisco Main Public Library.

The demo was introduced by Connie Yu, mother of the three performing children.

I have run into plenty of stage mothers in my checkered career, but this was the first time I'd seen a Kung Fu Stage Mother.

The kids were both cute and awesome in equal measure.

The program notes on the museum's website note the following:
"Siblings Chrystina, Michael, and Robert Yu – collectively known as Jiayo (“more power” or “more strength” in Mandarin) – will perform a dynamic demonstration of wushu in celebration of the Chinese New Year."

"Wushu is a form of Chinese kung fu embodying self defense, determination, and perseverance. It is a time-honored art form honoring the achievement of confidence, health, vitality, strength, power, and inner peace. With advanced skills, they wield weaponry such as chain whips, swords, staffs, spears, and graceful hand forms."

I discovered kung fu movies in 1972 as a teenager in Singapore just before kung fu movies were banned from the island nation because they were a "bad influence," and before they swept the Western world.

The movie palaces were ornate, 3,000 seat affairs with monster curved screens that were perfect for exhibiting widescreen Shawscope spectaculars. (The Shaw Brothers were the Hong Kong version of Warner Brothers during the 1960s and 1970s.) I was often the only gringo in the audience and was quite an object of curiosity.

I don't watch the movies much anymore because my loving Domestic Partner, though he doesn't have a racist bone in his body, hates the sound of the Chinese language, particularly when they are screaming at each other which happens quite a bit in kung fu movies.

Still, I did manage to make it to a multiplex with my friend Joshua last year to see "Kung Fu Hustle," which was easily my favorite movie of the year. It's a truly innovative cross between a Shaw Brothers Spectacle (including the casting of some of their old stars) and a Looney Tunes cartoon. Do check it out from your local DVD store.

And do check out part two of "Traditions Unbound: Groundbreaking Painters of Eighteenth-Century Kyoto" at the Asian Art Museum.

The second half of their installation of Monster Japanese Screens is up until February 26.

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