I recently wrote about being inspired by fictional heroes. In this post, I’ll take a look at some of my own sources of inspiration from films and television.
Caveat: The N0-Atticus Rule… Atticus Finch is one of the most inspiring characters in fiction. However, my website is primarily about fitness and martial arts, so for the sake of simplicity I’ll be focusing on fictional heroes who inspire physical greatness.
Casino Royale (2006)
I’ve been a James Bond fan since my early teens, but this film in particular had a big influence on me. In my previous post, I mentioned all the people who “Googled ‘Daniel Craig workout’” after Casino Royale inspired them to get into better shape. I was certainly among them. What I found was a short article by Craig’s trainer, Simon Waterson. According to Waterson, to get fit enough to be the new 007, Daniel Craig did quite a bit of bodyweight work. Specifically, lots of Dips, Pull-Ups, and Push-Ups.
By this point in my life I was pretty much fed up with the whole gym scene, so the idea of getting into shape using mostly my own body was very appealing. I quit the gym and started training outdoors, concentrating on running along with Dips, Pull-Ups, and Push-Ups. It worked, and along with some major changes to my diet, I dropped my body fat by nearly half in 18 months.
I should also note that it was nice to see James Bond use some good fighting moves. Check out the great fight in the staircase. BJJ fans will surely note 007 of a rather fatal Rear Naked Choke. He even has his hooks in!
The Bourne Identity, 2002
I was very excited when I first heard about The Bourne Identity. The idea of an old-fashioned thriller directed by Doug Liman (who had already directed the excellent films Swingers and Go) and starring Matt Damon sounded very promising. And then I discovered that Damon would be training in the Filipino art of Kali for the role. That was just the icing on the cake!
While I had not trained in Kali myself at that point, I was very interested in the art based not only on what I had read but on some family history. My grandfather–a Marine saber champion–knew some Kali from his time fighting in the Pacific during World War II. He was taught by Filipino rebels working against Japan. Plus, the idea of swinging sticks around just sounded fun.
Then when I actually saw Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne in action, I knew this was what I wanted to pursue. The mixture of Kali, Boxing, and Jeet Kun Do looked practical, efficient, and (I must admit) cool. After all, the fight scene in Bourne’s Paris apartment is far and away my favorite fight scene in any film.
When I finally got serious about martial arts training, I specifically looked for a school that would incorporate some Filipino martial arts as part of the curriculum. I ended up finding Burton Richardson’s JKD Unlimited and Battlefield Kali, which utilized not only Kali but also kickboxing, grappling, etc. I started training with Burton back in 2002 and haven’t looked back. Not only am I still a student of Burton’s, but I’m one of his instructors as well.
And all in part because of Jason Bourne. No wonder I still sometimes listen to Moby’s “Extreme Ways” on the way to train!
Miami Vice (2006)
This is sort of a dark horse choice. Not many people seemed to like this film. As a big fan of both the original ’80s TV show and of director Michael Mann, I loved it.
It terms of inspiration, I really liked how both Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell–not actors best known for their action roles–both got into top shape to be the new Crockett and Tubbs. Plus, Michael Mann made sure they got realistic training in assorted combat techniques, as can be seen in this video by trainer Mick Gould:
Full Contact (1992)
Probably the most obscure film on this list. In all due respect to John Woo and Jackie Chan, Ringo Lam’s Full Contact is far and away my favorite Hong Kong flick.
If you’ve seen Lee Marvin on Point Blank or Mel Gibson in Payback, this movie will seem familiar to you. Chow Yun Fat plays a Harley-riding crook out for revenge on those who betrayed him and left him for dead.
While there’s much I love about this movie–great supporting cast, awesome actions scenes, etc.–what earns Full Contact a place on this list is the short but cool montage showing Chow Yun Fat getting into shape and training himself to go wreak vengeance on his enemies:
The Crow (1994)
Lots of people love this film. I’m not one of them. While it has some great scenes, a fantastic soundtrack, and a classic performance by the late Brandon Lee, I just felt the overall movie had some serious flaws. The screenplay in particular could have used some work.
So why is it on this list? Simple: As slender, sensitive guy with Goth tendencies, I loved seeing another slender, sensitive guy with Goth tendencies kick some serious butt.
And to this day I find Stone Temple Pilot’s “Big Empty” a great song to listen to on a rainy night, driving home from a hard evening of training.
There are no doubt other films I could list, but these are sort of the “Big 5.” What are yours?
In Part Three of this series I’ll look at some of my own sources of fictional inspiration from books.