I’ve loved watching the martial arts ever since a masked Bruce Lee began dispatching villains on the Green Hornet. At first, I was focused on the physical mastery and power of the striking arts. Then along came David Carradine in the TV series Kung Fu, and what I found most alluring there was the Carradine character’s spirituality. He still kicked ass every week, but he did it serenely and always with reluctance before the fact and with sorrow afterwards.
When I first saw aikido, I was spellbound by its combination of spiritual depth and serenely graceful and effortless efficacy. It was a revelation, and Steven Seagal seemed to be its new prophet when I first saw him doing and discussing pure aikido on an episode of a TV newsmagazine in the mid-80’s. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Seagal brought aikido to the forefront of the martial arts universe and became a star with his first few films. Still, I was disappointed that the characters he played were cocky, foul-mouthed, and bloodthirsty, and that his aikido was used to brutally cripple and kill without remorse.
My disappointment with Seagal grew as his films became pathetic, direct-to-video disasters, and as unflattering rumors about his actions and character circulated through the media. But here is a video that displays some of the qualities I first saw in Seagal and in the amazing beauty and power of aikido executed by a master. How I wish that he or some other master of this remarkable art could personify its true spirit in a genuinely artful and engaging film.
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