Saturday, July 03, 2004

On my way to a meeting on Thursday afternoon, I was caught in a river of capoieristas walking along Shattuck. I was late, and in a grim temper, and I was not well pleased by the slowness of the crowd. But two women in front of me were practicing samba as they walked, and when one of them stopped so suddenly that I nearly ran into her, she grinned such a cheerful apology that I couldn't help but grin back. I was tempted to skip the meeting altogether, and walk with the crowd to their final destination, to hear the merimbau played and perhaps to see a roda. But I resisted the temptation, and went to my meeting.

On Friday, I walked to school to receive a call from a collaborator. As I walked by the park near my home, I saw two men practicing forms. More specifically, they were practicing one of the forms of a style from southern China which a college acquaintance of mine practiced. I slowed for a moment, watching. The Chinese martial arts can be very graceful, and one of the men was quite smooth; the other had problems with his elbow. While I watched, the more experienced man turned to his neighbor and corrected the position of his elbow, showing how to set it up to cover against a strike to the ribs even as the hand parried a strike toward the head.

Last night, I was deep in H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O'Brian, and came to a passage involving an inebriated sloth. I laughed until I had to put the book down to catch my breath. In time I recovered, and as I reached to pick up the book, I thought Wouldn't a drunken sloth school of martial arts be grand? Practitioners would learn how to plod slowly along tree branches for a few feet, then fall asleep with one arm and one leg wrapped around a branch, half-dangling from their perch. Advanced exponents would learn to miss their footing and fall artfully in a way that squashed opponents passing below.

I think that the Drunken Sloth style, along with the style of Bread Do, would be a wonderful addition to the mix of Hong Kong action movies. But for longer lasting interest, I'll keep watching the parks and the streets on my way to work.