From the 80’s thru the mid 90s, American films had some great martial arts films. Although some possess a typical storyline (i.e. seeking vengeance towards deceased loved one), many of these films reflected the reason why martial arts was apart of pop culture. For example, Best of the Best was perhaps one of those great martial arts films which executed excitement with its epic storyline and martial arts choreography. In fact, this film actually demonstrated the true nature of sport martial arts. This particular match is the final bout against team USA and Korea. Philip Rhee who portrays Tommy Lee of Team USA faces off with Team Korea and Tae Kwon Do champion, Dae Han (whose his real life brother Simon Rhee). Tommy’s moral code as a martial artist is tested because Dae Han is the man who killed his brother (typical in films right).
Despite the great basics and choreography, I was more pleased about the integrity Tommy faced in this match. Here you have a person who has the chance to settle the score against their ultimate adversary. Despite his repressive moments and illegal hits, Tommy fought hard to overcome Dae Han. However, this true test was the compromising decision to finish him. Instead, he took the high road during the guidance of his coach (James Earl Jones) and teammate (Eric Roberts). During the present moment, it doesn’t always feel great to take the high road based on conflicting moments. Reflecting back at those moments it make us appreciate the right decisions we make. This fight demonstrated it entirely in the best metaphorical way possible.
My heart was heavy to receive the news about one of my martial arts heroes, Jim Kelly, went to warrior heaven this past weekend. Jim Kelly was most famous for his role as the swagadelic martial arts fighter, Williams in “Enter the Dragon“. The Kentucky native also appears in numerous Blaxploitation films (i.e. Hot Potato, Black Samurai, Tattoo Connection, 3 the hard way) where he possessed martial art skill, style and swagger to overcome his oppressors by any means necessary (no pun intended). Above everything else, I loved his catchy phrases such as, “You come right out of a comic book” or ” When it comes, I won’t even notice because I will be too busy looking good”. The role in the Bruce Lee film was his second.In recent years, he was a particular celebrity fixture at various comic book conventions.
He started studying martial arts in 1964 in Kentucky and later moved to California where he earned a black belt in karate.His interest in acting began after winning karate tournaments. He also played college football at the University of Louisville. What baffles me about Sifu Kelly was the fact we didn’t see enough of him. True story, There are enough black martial art heroes to look up! It has been stated Hollywood was NOT ready for a black action hero, which caused a deep emotional inflicting wound to continue film during that time. Fortunately, we have other black martial arts actors such as Michael Jai White and Wesley Snipes who keeps the art true and create avenues for future martial art actors. His last appearance was from a Lebron James’ Nike “Chamber of Fear” commercial back in 2004.
As a child, I am beyond pleased my mother raised me on a person who shared my same interest as myself and someone else (besides my father and martial arts instructor) to look up to in the big screen. His work will never be forgotten.