Recently, I watched this movie on Netflix called “The Paper Tigers”. It is an action/comedy film that came out back in 2020, and it tells the tale of three Kung fu students.
These three students (Hing, Jim, and Danny) spent their childhood and teenage years in a Kung Fu Dojo.
They were taught by their teacher “Sifu Cheung” who is their master in the movie. He raised them to demonstrate discipline, determination, and diligence.
These traits would follow them into adulthood, but would eventually fall by the wayside.
As they got into their forties and fifties, some having families of their own, they fell into a sort of funk. This caused their Kung Fu to falter.
The reasons for their deterioration were not necessarily due to their age. Since their Sifu always remained young and vital while he was alive. Rather it was due to their decline in discipline.
It was interesting watching this movie and seeing the character of Danny (played by Alain Uy) who had become a father in later years.
For the most part, he had given up his kung fu to devote more time to raising his son (Ed).
Feeling like a failure as a fighter and a Father, he has forgotten his regimens and routines.
A few scenes in the movie really stuck out to me, and made it a joy to watch. Their focus was on the power of meditation.
It demonstrated this power in a pretty profound way. There is a scene where the three Tigers are nursing their wounds after getting whooped by street thugs.
Danny talks about how, when they were younger, it was impossible to hit their Sifu.
To even land one hit on their instructor was next to impossible because he was so fast. But Danny, also known in the movie as “Danny Eight Hands” had a popularity for beating people to the punch.
Not because he was FAST, but because he was FIRST.
In his own words, he explains how the breathwork and the meditation that they used to do in the Dojo was able to slow him down. Even to the point where the world seemed to stand still.
“You remember doing meditations? When I had it just right, I was the most relaxed I'd ever been. I could feel the color in the grass. It was intense. So anytime we went to Beimo, when I had my breathing down just right, I could get the world to slow down. I mean, I could feel the other guy's muscle tensing up long before he even would try to punch. That's how I would always hit first. I knew what the other guy was going to do before he even thought of it.” ~Danny
Through the method of meditation, he was able to use his breath to synchronize with the rhythm of nature.
It was like he opened up a sixth sense. Unlocking the power to perceive the world and the passing of time in an altered state.
This gave him the ability to read his opponents moves as though they were clearly telegraphed. As though it was obvious what they would do next.
Before a punch was thrown, he would be first because he could feel his enemy better than they could feel themselves.
This was totally awesome and well utilized in the film.
Later on, there is a crucial moment in the movie where they're facing an opponent that is way out of their league.
The three tigers, well past their prime, are now rickety and not well off.
You can hear their bones cracking as they try to muscle themselves into a sense of motivation.
You hear them grunting and groaning as they gather their strength.
You can clearly see that they're not in the best shape.
Their posture is poor, their flexibility is off, and they probably haven't stretched in years.
But through the pain, blood, sweat, and the tears, they are able to fight through their fears.
In one of the final scenes, another meditation is mastered by the main character.
Danny goes up against an impossible opposition, but he is able to find a way through by slowing down his breath and allowing himself to be in a state of calm awareness.
It is like a scene that I remember from a Bruce Lee film “Enter The Dragon” where he described a good Martial Artist. He said that one is not tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet, not dreaming.
It almost feels like a contradiction that you are slowing down to speed up. That you are relaxed, but you are ready.
There was also a scene that really stuck out to me in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
When the Jedi Qui Gon Jinn was fighting Darth Maul alone in a corridor beneath a palace on Naboo.
During the battle, Qui Gon Jinn and his young Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi were separated. It is left up to Qui Gon to face off against the sith Darth Maul by himself.
As he goes down the corridor, mini barriers block the way, impenetrable by lightsaber.
In one instance, a barrier comes in between him and Darth Maul and, in that 15 second window, he takes a breath.
As Darth Maul is pacing back and forth with anger lining his face, Qui Gon Jinn chooses to kneel down, close his eyes, and begin a brief meditation.
It is moments like this that illustrate the importance of making the time for your mind. Creating the space for more clarity, even amidst the chaos.
“If you don't have time to meditate for 5 minutes, then meditate for an hour.” ~Zen Proverb
The Paper Tigers gave a dangerous depiction of what can happen when we don't allow ourselves to slow down in life.
That when we rush ahead recklessly we can run into disaster. But we can instead allow ourselves to acquiesce to life's comings and goings.
To synchronize with nature and the universe.
To bring our breath into harmony with the all that is.
In this way, we can triumph in the face of any trial.
I would recommend this movie, The Paper Tigers, to anyone who is a kung fu fan, a martial arts enthusiast, or just a lover of action-comedies.
It was a fun-filled experience and an enjoyable tale that comes with a timeless teaching.