Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Philosophy of Mike Terry


I was thinking at work today about a movie I have seen a dozen times, and it caused a reaction I had yet to see in myself until this morning.....

"Redbelt" is the story of Jiu-Jitsu instructor Mike Terry. A "pure" martial artist who believes that competing, especially for money, "weakens the fighter".  His primary need in the world, of seeing the best in everyone and wanting to help them, has brought him nothing but financial problems and disdain from his wife.  She comes from a family of Brazilian martial artists taught by "The Professor"(played by Bruce Lee's prized Jeet Kune Do pupil Danny Inosanto), and steeped in wealth.

The actor who plays Terry is pitch perfect. Not only does Chiwetel Ejiofor come off as a fantastic hand to hand fighter, he's a brilliant actor with expressive eyes that can tell a story in and amongst themselves. You've seen him before as Denzel Washington's brother in "American Gangster", as well as in "Love Actually", "Talk to Me", and as a doe-eyed, benign-seeming, self-proclaimed "monster" in the film based on the "Firefly" television series, "Serenity".

One rainy evening, a peculiar incident takes place that sets the events of the movie in motion. Terry sees things start to look up, but as the film moves along, he finds that everyone is taking advantage of his good nature, to better and further their own financial agendas. No matter what the risk. Including the suicide of Terry's prized student, a police officer.

All of this puts Mike Terry in a corner where he agrees to compete to help his student's penniless wife, as well as himself and his own wife, who have financially been pinned between a rock and a hard place....

Mike Terry is a warrior, and he finds that the "big competition", of which he only fights on the undercard, is a sham. It is an event that is played out in front of the unknowing and Godlike "Professor" from Brazil, and includes fighters taking falls, and Mike's own teaching idea stolen from him and used as the centerpiece of the pay per view event.

Mike walks away, friendless.

Except for maybe one. A rape victim that he returned her confidence to along with, quite possibly, her life. When she sees Mike, staring at his shoes and walking away, she slaps him.

Mike knows now. A woman he helped through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder awakens him to the point that he knows he has become a victim himself with a chance to prevent that word from being tagged to him.

"Ripping it down" is what he decides to do. One of my all time favorite fight scenes ensues, that finishes with the most touching moment in martial arts movie history.

There's a scene where a security guard says to Terry, "Shame about Joe, he thought the world of you, Mike" He is referring to the police officer who had committed suicide over the previously mentioned string of events. Mike almost cries.

That's what made me almost cry this morning. I remembered how I idolized and almost deified my own martial arts instructors, as Joe did. I also saw in Ejiofor's eyes the agony that must come with that responsibility.

And the last thing that came pounding down along with my tears, is the world's ability to take those who trust, those who only see beauty in people, those who want to help and teach, and take advantage of them, and destroy them with their own love.

Mike prevents that....

I wish I could.

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