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Martial Arts

Posted March. 02, 2006 03:12,   


Q: It seems like this film isn’t just about the life of a martial artist. Was a part of your life reflected, too?

A: “Yes. Through the life of Yungap, I wanted to show the search for life’s truth. Coincidentally, both he and I started to learn martial arts since we were eight years old, and he was my age, 42, when he died. Because I understood his initial obsession with victory, and then the process of learning that martial arts is ultimately fighting your inner demons, I suggested the making of this movie.”

Q: What message were you trying to convey through the movie?

A: “Two things. First, I wanted to tell kids these days the true meaning of life. They’re too weak in the heart nowadays. But there are ups and downs in everyone’s life. The enemy is not from without, but is the negative thoughts from within.”

Q: What’s the second thing?

“In the modern world where wars are endless, I want them to know that violence only begets violence, and revenge begets revenge. In the Western part of the world where violence and terrorists are rampant, I want to say that the repetition of revenge is a vicious cycle.”

Q: What’s the significance of a martial arts mentality in today’s world?

“True martial arts is not fighting. The phrase for martial arts in Chinese characters is a combination of ‘stopping’ and ‘spear.’ To stop a spear is to stop a fight. The core of martial arts is the hidden mentality behind the intricate footwork. I’ve filmed martial arts movies for two decades and the nice guys only use martial arts for punishment when the bad guys pin them down. Violence cannot move hearts. Understanding and love is more important than martial arts. I want this kind of enlightenment to be captured in the movie.”

Q: Do you think of marital arts in terms of stages?

A: “There are three stages. The first is when you have a knife in your hand and heart. It’s when you hone your skills to become the best. The second stage is when you have a knife only in your heart. You don’t injure your counterpart directly, but your heart is still full of arrogance and obsession to win. The third is when you have no such knife in both hand and heart. You have no enemy. This phase is almost religious. I don’t want to film any more martial arts movies, because after this film about Yungap, it’s highly possible that my next movie will be religious.”

Q: In the movie, Kwak becomes a combat master, but loses his family due to his arrogance. He then goes through dramatic changes of heart. Is your life similar?

A: “It’s not as dramatic as the movie, but I’ve had my share of difficult times (laughs). When I was young the pain was more physical, but as I matured it became mental. As I reached 40, I could finally objectify the pain that nagged at my heart. Hardships don’t come from the outside, they come from the way I observe problems.”

Q: In December, 2004, you were described as a hero by the press when you were shown saving victims of the Tsunami with your family while vacationing in the Maldives. How do you feel about that?

A: “I want to say first off that I’m no hero. At that time in the hotel, there were over 200 people of different races and religions. In the face of such a disaster, we all became united.”

Q: Any future plans?

“Half of my life was spent making movies, now I want the rest to be spent doing charity work. Not to preserve the environment, but the soul.”

Mun-Myung Huh angelhuh@donga.com