Everything is Kung Fu

The 2010 remake of “The Karate Kid” has myriad flaws, but it also does some things right. Like its source material, it has two climactic moments. The obvious one is the end, when the tournament is won on one leg and an enemy is turned into a begrudgingly respectful friend. The true climax, however, occurs when ‘Dre (or Daniel in the original) realizes that Mr. Han (or Mr. Miyagi) has been teaching him martial arts during the entire course of what the former thought to be menial tasks and labor. This is the most important moment in both films. The 1984 original is a better film overall, but during this moment, the remake actually wins out.

Once Mr. Han sees the “Kung Fu” that Dre’s antagonists are being taught, he pledges to teach the young American “real” Kung Fu. Then he spends weeks forcing Dre to pick up, put on, take off, and hang up his jacket. Dre believes that Mr. Han is teaching him a lesson about being respectful. In the end, he’s not wrong, but there’s more to it than that. Mr. Han is teaching Dre to internalize movements until they’re second nature. He’s also setting up the most important philosophical lesson Dre can learn about Kung Fu (or himself). Watch below.

This moment is chilling to me. First, I love Kung Fu and Kung Fu movies. Second, Mr. Han’s words to Dre resonate with me: “Kung Fu lives in everything we do, Xaio Dre. It lives in how we put on the jacket; how we take off the jacket. It lives in how we treat people. Everything is Kung Fu.”

On the bare surface, Mr. Han is telling Dre that if he looks around him and pays attention, he will see the art of Kung Fu everywhere.  Dig a little deeper, and he’s saying that Kung Fu is not an art at all (martial or otherwise), but is instead a philosophy and outlook on life. The students that have been antagonizing Dre do not know real Kung Fu, because all they know is how to use their martial art for violence and anger. Mr. Han is teaching Dre that the true purpose of Kung Fu is to change the way you see the world, and make peace with your enemies.

What’s remarkable to me is that if I change the lens through which I hear that lesson, and replace the words “Kung Fu” with the word “Christianity,” the lesson resonates just as truly. Try just re-reading that passage, for example: “Christianity lives in everything we do. It lives in how we put on the jacket; how we take off the jacket. It lives in how we treat people. Everything is Christianity.” You could also read the previous paragraph I wrote through that same lens, and I think it would still make perfect sense.

The book of Peter has a passage that summarizes this, I think. It’s just a corollary to the Golden Rule I’ve been thinking and writing so much about, but I think it really points to the heart of what it means to be a Christian:

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called . . .” (Peter 3:8-10).

My lesson for today is to try to see a Christian opportunity everywhere I look. An opportunity to be humble. An opportunity for gratitude, compassion, sympathy and friendship.

Prayer for this morning:

Heavenly Father, please help me see the world through a lens of humility and service, and bring me closer to you today, if even by only an inch.


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