Monday, January 19, 2015

Got Racism?

This is a flyer from the first professional kickboxing card held in the US. I first chanced upon this image from the book Al Weiss' the Official History of Karate in America. The organizer for this event, one Lee Faulkner, apparently took some well-deserved heat* for the inclusion of this little gem:


Lewis did go on to defeat Baines (misspelled as Banies), but that's besides the point. One wonders if either man realized they were being used for race-baiting in an attempt to drum up ticket sales.


When Bruce Lee began teaching martial arts in California in the early 60s there was outrage in the Chinese community because of Lee's open door policy of instructing non-Chinese students. A match was arranged between Lee and Wong Jack Man, another kung-fu sifu from the area, with the understanding that if Lee lost he would have to close his school down. A victory by Lee would ensure that he could teach Caucasians or anyone else he wanted to. Lee prevailed, the bout taking either 3 or 25 minutes, depending on who was asked. Within a few years, Lee would begin to instruct Hollywood's elite, charging up to $300 per hour.

Speaking of kung-fu, one of TV's most popular shows, Kung Fu, depicted the struggles of a Shaolin monk who finds himself dealing with everything from racism to barroom brawls in the American Old West. Ironically the lead role of Caine, the orphaned son of a Chinese mother and American father, was originally supposed to go to Bruce Lee (who reputedly contributed to the storyline) but was turned down. Instead, the part was given to David Carradine, an actor with hitherto no background in the martial arts. The reason: Lee was considered "too Chinese" to play the mixed-race character.

Here's a clip of Caine dealing with racism:

The method of nonviolence seeks not to humiliate and not to defeat the oppressor, but it seeks to win his friendship and his understanding. And thereby and therefore the aftermath of this method is reconciliation.

— Martin Luther King, Jr., 1956

*Mitch Stom 1970. Black Belt (Magazine). Vol. 8, No. 3, p.55.

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