The Karate Kid Re-make Banking on America’s Ignorance

“Man should not follow money. Money should follow man”
– Supreme Grandmaster Dr. Joo Bang Lee, Hwa Rang Do Founder


I have had the privilege of being able to travel to many countries throughout the globe. Each country I have been to all had the similar martial arts history. Judo was first introduced along with Jiujitsu, and then came Karate, which was the byproduct of Japanese imperialistic regime during the early 1900s and lasted until the end of WWII. Then came along Kungfu as well as Tae Kwon Do in the 70’s.

In America during 1970’s, due to the TV series, “Kung Fu” and Bruce Lee’s films, Kung Fu became very popular. Asian culture was new to America and was slowly being accepted through the popularity of martial arts. I came to America in 1974 and I grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods. The Asian ethnic communities were small and scarce. The majority of Caucasians could not identify the different Asian races and we were all clumped together as either “chinks” (Chinese) or “nips” (Japanese). Then of course the “gooks” during the Vietnam war. And, these terms were not used exclusively for each race; rather it was used interchangeably to describe any Asians.

Martial art was relatively a new thing in America and the only terms that the public was familiar with was Judo, Karate, and Kung Fu. So, many of the Korean martial arts had to refer themselves as “Korean Karate” and since we were both soft/circular and hard/linear, we called ourselves “Karate/Kungfu.” The term martial arts was rarely used. Even the Yellow Pages had all the different martial arts listed under the heading of “Judo.” It was not until the 80s did they change it to the appropriate heading of “Martial Art.” Many people back then mistakenly thought we were a Chinese restaurant with the name “Hwa Rang Do,” and we are still mistaken occasionally. As we tried to find our identity and place as a unique form of martial art within the new country and culture, so was I searching to find my identity, my source of empowerment.

I lived through these prejudiced times, growing up in Orange County and let me tell you, it was not pleasant. I was reminded daily that I was different and ridiculed for something that I could not change even if I wanted to. I remember as a freshman in high school, the kids all thought that I was Hawaiian as I had a beach bleached long hair from surfing. This was accepted as cool and really the only way for me to make friends, especially girlfriends. Of course the other part was because I could fight.

I remember my father carefully explaining the social/cultural differences and adamantly reminding us not to do anything to offend the white people. In Korea, we make noise while we eat. It shows how much you are enjoying your food and it’s well received. However, he told us never to make loud noises when we are eating and chewing our food. We could not eat our primary staple diet of “kimchee” in the morning or for lunch and only for dinner, because the garlic smell was offensive to the white people. What’s even stranger now is that when I visit Korea, although I am aware of the Korean eating etiquette I am also offended and bothered by the noises people make while they are eating and chewing. I guess after 35 years I am no longer Korean, but Korean American.

There are many other stories of racial discrimination, but I am not here to bash the Caucasian people for their ignorance as they were the majority and this kind of mal-treatment towards minority racial groups happens all over the world. However, I am here to bring to people’s attention the regression of our social evolution and that we are not living in a third world totalitarian nation, but a democratic nation of the most eclectic ethnic mix all seeking the ideal of FREEDOM!

We are not in the 70s or the 80s. This is the 21st century with advanced technology bringing everyone together as a global community. This is also the decade of “Political Correctness” (PC). I remember there was a big stink a while back about Asians not wanting to be called “Oriental” as that describes rugs and inanimate objects, not people. So, Asians rallied to be called “Asians”, not “Orientals.”

Then, the highly popular brand of clothing, Abercrombie & Finch, came out with a line of t-shirts making fun of Chinese stereotypes. Shirts that have slogans across the front in big bold letters, “Two Wongs Don’t Make Write.” What made them even consider this as an option as one of their biggest markets were Asians? Soon after, the Asian community rose up against the Abercrombie & Finch and they terminated the line. I wondered even in this PC era, how could such a thing happen from such a large corporation with so many levels of approval before it finally gets to the mass market. It was unbelievable!

Traditionally, Asians have remained quiet, as we are most conscious of offending others. As a product of assimilation, many Koreans today cannot speak or write Korean as their parents made them learn English as quickly as possible when they were children and did not reinforce learning the Korean language. I think we are out of the dark ages and into the light of global communication and no race should need to hide their culture, their way of life in fear of ridicule and discrimination. We as Asian Americans have paid our price to be Americans from working the railroads, to the sugar cane fields of Hawaii, to becoming one of the most educated and economically strong ethnic groups in America.

We must evolve, progress, grow and change together for the better. We must elevate ourselves out of racial tolerance to respecting racial differences. In my opinion, we can only achieve unity and racial harmony when we are able to respect each other’s differences and not deny one’s identity, source of empowerment. It is due to our individual and racial differences that make living as a global community so exciting, enjoyable and at times challenging.

Then, how can we allow “Hollywood” to set us back in our quest to find and empower ourselves through understanding our individual racial identity? It’s understandable that in the 60’s and 70’s, during the height of racial ignorance that our parents and grandparents did whatever they could to survive. However, there’s no excuse for us today to call something that’s Japanese as Chinese or vice-versa. If you called something German as French or Scottish as Irish, they would be screaming in protest, but why do we just sit and watch as they are clearly mislabeling the new remake of “The Karate Kid.”

The Karate Kid? – Looks Like Kung Fu (courtesy of eonline.com)

What’s even more appalling is that Jackie Chan, who is one of the most beloved, well-recognized Chinese martial arts actor/producer with the greatest wealth and influence is sitting idly, while “Hollywood” just clumps all of us Asians together once again as “chinks” or “nips.” His defense when asked about it, was that when he was making the movie, he didn’t know what it was going to be called and that it was referred to as the ‘Kung Fu Kid’ during production, shrugging his shoulders and hoping not to offend his bosses. (1) (2) (3)

It is imperative that we as Asian Americans as well as any ethnic group support each other in destroying racial ignorance and educate the people to respect our differences. We are not talking about Jackie Chan as an actor, playing another ethnicity. As actors one should be able to play other ethnic roles as long as they do it justice, maintaining the roles ethnic integrity. This is clearly calling something Chinese as Japanese. It should be called “The Kung Fu Kid.”

Jerry Weintraub, who was the producer of the original ‘Karate Kid’ and co-producer on this re-make along with Will Smith’s company, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal admitted that this issue was discussed.

Will Smith had concerns and asked him about possibly calling the film, “The Kung Fu Kid”. Mr. Weintraub’s response, with zero sensitivity or respect to Japanese or Chinese culture and identity simply replied, “I’m not going to do it. This is like changing Pepsi-Cola to Dookie-Cola. Why would you lose a brand like ‘The Karate Kid’? It’s a BRAND. In China it will be called the Kung Fu Kid, but in America it will be called ‘The Karate Kid’.” (4)

Karate, an art and cultural treasure to the Japanese, in America has been claimed as a “brand” to be misrepresented for the purposes of marketing and profit. Every single martial arts studio in America (except for mine) has been convinced to herd children into special screenings of the new ‘Karate Kid’, use their kids as recruiters and have them bring their friends to these screenings. This creates a new batch of fresh leads for the studio owners to recruit from, perpetuates ignorance into the next generation and inflates the profits of the production companies through the strengthening of a money-making “brand”, at the expense of our cultural identities.

There’s nothing wrong with making money or a savvy marketing campaign, but why can’t we respect each other’s race and culture? It’s a remake and they are banking on the success of the original “Karate Kid,” which I feel is something the industry really needs amidst the popularity of MMA and no-holds-barred fighting that’s become so prevalent. We need this, if it’s anything like the original. But, not like this….

I argued that no kid today remembers the original “Karate Kid.” They are more familiar with “The Kung Fu Panda” and should use Kung Fu. Ah, then the reply was that our generation who do remember are the parents and they are the ones who will take their kids to see it. Wow, marketing genius!

It’s all for money that we as Asians once again take it. I have even heard from other Asians who have said that they don’t care whether they mislabeled or not as long as more Asian culture, stuff, things are exposed to the masses. No matter how much money it should never overrule integrity and honor and this is the cornerstone of what Martial Art is. Wrong is wrong and yes two wrongs don’t make right!

I propose that we boycott this movie and deliver a loud message to “Hollywood” and to Jackie Chan, that we as Asians are not going to allow disrespect to our cultural identities and that we may be quiet, but when we roar it will be ferocious. Even in our greetings we are humble and not entitled. As the western greeting is a handshake, extending the right hand to show that there’s no weapon to kill you and our eastern greeting is the bowing of the head to show humility, looking down as to say please don’t behead me as I take my eyes off of you. It’s time we stand up for our beliefs and gain the respect we deserve and although we may be humble, we are not stupid.

  1. http://news.softpedia.com/news/Columbia-Pictures-Changes-the-Name-of-Karate-Kid-Remake-108132.shtml
  2. http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/04/02/the-karate-kid-or-the-kung-fu-kid-fans-debate-the-title-of-new-jackie-chanjaden-smith-movie/
  3. http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2010/01/07/jackie-chan-unsure-of-karate-kid-remake-title-reveals-fate-of-wax-on-wax-off-the-crane-kick/
  4. http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/04/10/jerry-weintraub-discusses-new-memoir-karate-kid-naming-controversy/

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

44 Responses to “The Karate Kid Re-make Banking on America’s Ignorance”

  1. Roberta Shintani says:

    Thank you Grandmaster Taejoon Lee. I love that you stand for honor and respect of race and culture against the giant movie industry. Ignorance has never been and never should be an excuse. Constant misuse perpetuates ignorance.

    I applaud your courage and taking a stand.I stand with you.

    Roberta Shintani

  2. Lincoln McCormick says:

    Dear Master Lee,

    I support you in this. As a white Canadian I have had very little direct experience with ethnic intolerance. I was raised to consider race a non-issue to and be respectful of humanity itself. Over the years as I grew up it became apparent that this was not so common – both the majority whites and the minorities in and around Toronto have strong racist tendencies, far more so than you would expect given the age in which we live and the stereotype of Canadians as polite, considerate, humble people.

    My Father came from a protestant Scottish background and rejected much of his own culture on religious and philosophical grounds. My Mother was born in Wales and came to Canada when she was six, to find that even as a British-derived white person in Canada she faced mockery and discrimination for everything from her accent to her superior academic status (the British school system was well ahead of our own at the time). She too went on to discard her Christian upbringing on the grounds that it was intolerant and stuck in the past. Thanks to my parents’ individualist views, I have lost the worst points of my British heritage, but I believe I have also lost out on having a culture at all. I think that your position is enviable, in some ways. Cultural knowledge can be taken for granted, but in the thousands of years it took to make Korea what it is today or what it was when you were born or when your father was born, things of great beauty or intellectual importance were created and infused into the culture, which you can carry with you and pass on to your children.

    I often think that maybe a chief cause of the discrimination whites in North America inflict on others is jealousy – that we lack the stability of a culture that has been evolving for millennia. It can free us from old prejudice and stuffy thinking, but it can also make us feel alone, alienated from our families and lacking a sense of community or a confidence that the trials we face in the world have been faced before and can be surmounted.

    To do justice to something as complex as a martial tradition, one must be willing to make at least a cursory effort to learn some small thing about it – to understand it, at least on the surface. I agree with your position on this film.

  3. Pedro Sauer says:

    Totally agree, the Art is, Kung Fu from China, not Karate in Japan.
    The origins need to be respected.
    Master Pedro Sauer
    8th degree Red & Black in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

  4. Kerry says:

    That was an excellent post! Thank you for your thoughts on the movie.

  5. Marc says:

    I disagree. This movie is aptly titled the Karate Kid, not only because it is a remake and using a name that people will know, but because the character in the film was a karate kid. When he first moves with his mother to China and starts getting bullied, he initially fights back with the little karate he had learned back in the States. Although he subsequently was taught “Kung Fu”, he is the “Karate Kid” because of his origin.

  6. M. Brock says:

    I had not thought of this pictured they you have until now. I have my own reservations against such pictures because it takes tradition and turns it into commercial (thank you Hollywood). I’ve been a Martial Artist now for 20 yrs. And in my teachings, all were tradition (not UFC). You learned the history, you learned the disipline, you learned technique and you learned to be humbled. These movies and ufc teach aggression and take away from tradition.
    Much like many other Martial Arts students and now instructors, my teacher taught me for free in exchange for my hard work. My bringing honor to his tradition was payment. My bringing honor to him as his family was payment. He was teaching to get rich or bring shame to Shotokan or Iaido.
    So, I agree with you 100%. And I shall not be spending my money on this film.
    Please feel free to contact me about this blog.

  7. Molina says:

    Thank you for sharing this Master Li. I go to a martial arts studio where I live. I had not gone for a while due to lack of funds and was planning to re-enter. We don’t have Hwa Rang Do where I live so I was making the best of things. It is a studio that is not about being forceful, but knowing one’s self and making the most of one’s self. My teacher has a lot of respect for Hwa Rang Do, and loved the film I forwarded him of you talking about your life.
    When the original titled movie came out, I saw it and remember it. The first impression was, “Oh please! Here Disney goes again!” The Martial Arts School I attend is planning to go this Saturday and inviting any student to go also. The things you write are so much more of the voice inside me, therefore I will decline on going in honor of the truth in your words, and not betraying myself.

  8. GARY says:

    True Karate is Okinawan in orgin,not Japanese.

  9. Molina says:

    Thank you for sharing this Master Li. I go to a martial arts studio where I live. I had not gone for a while due to lack of funds and was planning to re-enter. We don’t have Hwa Rang Do where I live so I was making the best of things. It was the best school I could find locally. My teacher has a lot of respect for Hwa Rang Do, and loved the film I forwarded him of you talking about your life.
    When the original titled movie came out, I saw it and remember it. The first impression was, “Oh please! Here Disney goes again!” The Martial Arts School I attend is planning to go this Saturday and inviting any student to go also. Since reading your blog, I have decided to remain loyal to what I experience inside of me, and not go.

  10. Molina says:

    Thank you for sharing this Master Li. What you write is a treasure of dignity to say the least. The local school I attend is doing the big student invite. To my original horror I hought it was another Disney movie. Same – same..
    Having read what you had to say, I have chosen to decline on the herd mentality $. Thank you for taking the time to write. I will say that my teacher loved your web documentary I shared with him, and has respect for Hwa Rand Do.

  11. I think we should call all food from Latin America, “Mexican Food”… and all Latin Americans “Mexicans” — just so people don’t get confused. 😉

  12. Jenny says:

    I thought I might make a few comments on this blog and they are in light of the great respect I have for Asian culture and identity within the differences. I am white. I am American and I’m a little insulted at being lumped in with white inconsiderate people who caused you or any other Asian culture so much pain. We are sorry you had to suffer but is it fair to target people by selling yourself as the injured party? I’m not ignorant of Korean culture, nor would I think that all Martial Arts are the same. I have German background, does that mean I;m a Nazi? You sound bitter.

    The “Karate Kid” is named that because it’s catchier, a recognized name, and has the same story. Anyone who watches is not going to leave the theatre thinking, “why were they calling it kung fu when the title is “The Karate Kid.” We know what martial art they are doing. Why waste your time and efforts on conflict that is unwise. It’s already the best-selling movie of the summer. The story is good. There is world hunger, talks of war, ruined economy, destroyed eco-systems, and you’re rallying people to fight over a movie title.

    I always thought that you and the discipline you fight to keep alive taught students how to choose fights wisely and with the knowledge of who you are fighting. I guess this is simply a way to produce your own political agenda. After all, it is just a kid’s movie.

    If you want to fight ignorance effectively, inform people who don’t know if they ask. As people of Asian heritage, take pride in your success . We don’t think you’re stupid. In fact, no one in Hollywood ever said that. You are not ignorant, but you are selling everyone else short. Hollywood does the same thing. They are known for it. Do you really think that every other culture is depicted accurately? Be happy that Hollywood doesn’t discriminate. Asian people are as bad off as everyone else. Teach peace and embrace differences.

  13. JOHN MARCUS says:


  14. Joyce says:

    A similar controversy has surfaced regarding (Avatar:) The Last Airbender movie and its decision to case non-Asians in the leading roles. The ironic thing is that its director is M. Night Shyamalan, who’s Indian! I think that Asians and our concerns often are easily dismissed b/c we are dependable in our response: we’ll just shrug and mutter to ourselves because we don’t want to cause a disturbance. Without a unified and loud protest, however, (though be sure it’s the battle you want to pick, or you run the risk of being compared to a Gloria Allred or a Jesse Jackson, known for their outcries over anything that can be taken incorrectly), we will not be heard…even if it’s a legitimate issue. That, I think, is the tragedy of what we’ve traditionally been taught–that we should marginalize ourselves out of “respect” for others’ comfort.

  15. Edward Hall says:

    Master Lee, I completely agree with you. I am not of Asain decent, but I am a Martial Artist. I have studied both Korean and Japanese Arts. To me this is just another way of blending everything together (like this country tends to do) robbing the martial arts of it’s rich cultural history. I fear this is just another way for that the media to de-value the Martial Arts. I feel we are in jeapardy of losing our “Martial identity” with things like the MMA craze, and mis representations like this movie. Sadly I believe that Martial Artists are slowly trading thier souls for a dollar!


  16. Jules says:

    Excellent essay, and right on point.
    Being of the age to remember enjoying the Kung Fu series as it aired on TV, and seeing Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon” (my reason for starting training in the martial arts), it always bothered me that Bruce Lee, who really was the creator of the Kung Fu series, and who was supposed to be the star of the series, was denied the role of the traveling CHINESE Shaolin Monk, simply because he “looked to Chinese”…. Hence, the hiring of David Carradine (RIP) for the role….is that not the most stupid, most racist thing Hollywood has ever done when it comes to this topic ????

    Master Jules, 6th Dan

  17. Nicola says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your view Grandmaster Lee. I’ve felt very much the same with the rise of the gaming industry, being exploited in a demeaning and untruthful way just to make the news.
    You’re lucky to be living in LA and I hope you’ll be able to take Martial Arts to the big screen yourself. I know all students would love to help and the outcome would be profound and full of great virtues… and badass moves of course 😉

  18. Dear Grandmaster Lee,

    I am happy to see someone stand against the stereo types created by the movie industry. It is through the leadership of masters like yourself that we can learn to appreciate and share the rich tapestry and cultural traditions of our martial arts. I commend you on your efforts to bridge these cultural gaps in the martial arts community to unite us.

    Best Regards,
    Richard Hackworth, PhD., Lac.
    Editor: World Martial Arts Magazine

  19. cj says:

    Although on some level I understand where Sparksy is coming from however about it just being just a movie. But movies for decades have been getting away with doing things like this all of the time. And it is kind of sad on some level when you think about it. However it is not just the movie companies fault for things like this.
    It is also up to the people that are going to see these movies as well.
    When it comes down to it, They do not want to have to think when they go to the movies. And in other words most people do not care about the fact that it is called the karate kid. They only care about it because in there minds it was a movie from the 80’s that alot of adults ( like myself) grew up with. And it makes them feel young again and they take there kids to see it. So in its own messed up way the movie companies are just giving the people what they want.
    And making sure that they get theres in the end and they do not care if they really hurt anyone. As long as there bottom line is met all is good in Hollywood.
    Most movies now a days are all about image and very little substance.
    And as far as seeing this movie, I never really planned on seeing it anyway.
    One could say, been there done that. And it was done better then.
    These are just my thoughts.

  20. @Marc-
    Having seen the movie, I have to say you’re dead wrong. The premise that “he uses a little karate he learned back in the states” is not only weak, it’s inaccurate. He gets his butt kicked after balling up his fists like he’d never learned anything. Secondly, the only line in the movie which references the difference between karate and kung fu is when he berates his mother for calling it “karate”. Perhaps that was the tissue thin link in a draft of the script, but it’s not in the movie. The fact that it’s being released in China as “The Kung-fu Kid” speaks to the intellectual dishonesty and racially ambivalent greed of the creators of the film. They know what they did is wrong. That’s why they’re not doing it in China. They’re banking on the ignorance and apathy of the American wallet.

  21. Charles McNeilly says:

    Yes I agree with Master Lee in his opinions on the new “karate Kid” movie. My father first found out about the martial arts especially the Korean arts while serving in the United States Marine Corps. My father served and fought alongside Korean Marines in Chu Lai Vietnam and was very impressed with their discipline, fighting skills and their heart or spirit. My father trained with them in Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, and Yudo and brought back what he learned and continues to train and study even today.
    If they want to use Kung Fu and Jackie Chan and have the movie in China it should most certainly be called “The Kung Fu Kid” sounds good to me! If its Tae Kwon Do call it so, but give credit to the origin of the style.
    Every nation should be proud of their combative styles, and we should not lump them all together.
    But no matter where you go in this world you will find discrimination and racial injustice, it just depends on who is the majority and in charge wherever your at.
    But we shouldnt be surprised…that is Hollywood for you.
    Good Blog Master Lee, your the first Ive seen openly voice your opinion on this topic.
    Charles McNeilly Jr.
    6th Degree Korean Hapkido
    5th Degree Israeli Krav Maga
    4th Degree Korean Yudo
    Humble student Brazilian Jiujitsu 🙂

  22. jero-si says:

    greetings all artist,
    i did indeed see this movie, people need to understand the word
    entertainment, thats all its supposed to be, if you take all life forms
    on the planet and put them into a basket at birth, they are all the same
    its your surroundings and knowledge that separates you, from each
    other, as you grow and mature you learn, naturally, if you desire to seek
    moor you will go to schools, or seek out knowledge from others.
    your enviroment makes you what you are, before you boycott or take
    action you need to understand the environment, and your surroundings
    why things work the way they do, [ quotes from the koga ninja]
    the warrior who is against the laws of nature will lose the battle before
    he begins to fight.

  23. Nini says:

    Nini Davis Amaizing I feel the Same way about that Movie. Karate Kid. Hollywood Butchers anything of real substance and meaning. Just as bad the people that allow it.. I feel There are Many Kids that Really worked hard That Derserve a Role like that…

    I`m Not interested in seeing that movie . Truth

  24. Great write-up. Thank you for opening my eyes. I’m with you 100%

  25. I completely agree with your comments and find it very sad that the fim makers deemed it necessary to confuse not only the style of Martial Arts they have portrayed but indeed they have played into the hands of the racist card. I feel very sad; I am white, English and have a mixed heritage. I at least know my martial arts lineage. The correct title for this film is “The Kung Fu Kid” and to be honest as much as I respect Jackie Chan I think he knows in his heart that they got it so very wrong. This is a case of greed feeding the frenzy and ignorance is bliss for the film makers who will gross millions and could not even be bothered get the style of martial arts correct “Kung Fu” or the name of the film right . If you are out there reading this film makers it is called “RESEARCH”.

    Keith G Bailey MBE (Sandan-Doshi)
    School of Shotokan Karate & Self Defence.

  26. Ejaz Latib says:

    I do agree that calling the movie ‘The Karate Kid’ is totally incorrect and it is an insult to martial artists and to everyone in general. It should have been called ‘The Kung Fu Kid’. We have already had ‘The Karate Kid’ and this is in no way a sequel.The Hollywood guys are just trying to prey on gullible people.People are not stupid and labelling a very well known and respected martial art like Karate whihc is purely a Japanese style and having Kung Fu in it , which is also a very respected group of martial arts ,is just totally wrong.

    However I disagree with boycotting it just because of it being incorrectly labelled by someone who is totally ignorant of the Martial Arts. We as Martial Artists are tolerant and open minded.If you go through life with a closed mind and heart then how can you possibly learn.I will watch the movie for sure! I have watched the previous Karate Kid movies and thoroughly enjoyed them as I will this one.I have a deep respect for every Martial Art in existence at least 315 different Martial Arts are still being practised today according to

    I have been practising Martial Arts for a quarter of a century and feel that these people should give credit where credit is due and that is to the style of Kung Fu that is being taught by Jackie Chan in the movie. I agree that its an opportunity for us as Martial Artists to educate people and inform them of the differences & similarities of the different Martial Arts.

    P.S.If you would like you school to be endorsed please let me know as I will gladly exchange links with you as I am the web developer of a very comprehensive Martial Arts site.

    Best Regards
    Sensei Ejaz Latib

  27. Interestingly, I had the same reaction as Grand Master Lee. I thought “Hey! a remake of the Karate Kid. Great!” But when I saw the trailer it was Kung Fu. Not that that’s a bad thing but the movie title was now a misnomer. Karate is Okinawan/Japanese not Chinese. I haven’t seen the movie yet but it seems obvious the title is in error and is a crass attempt to cash in on the name recognition “Karate Kid!” I’m not sure it’s racist per se but It seems to ignore the ethnic and cultural differences of the peoples and martial arts traditions of East Asia. As a martial artist , historian and author I find this commercialization and inaccuracy offensive. Looks like the public is being duped by Hollywood again.
    Another way to look at it as a positive view is these movies but young people in our schools where we can then train and educate them!

    George W. Alexander, Hanshi 10th Dan President
    範士 十段 会長
    Okinawa Hakutsuru Kenpo Association
    International Shorin Ryu Karate Kobudo Federation
    World Budokan Martial Arts Federation
    Shorinji Ryu Jujitsu Federation
    World Budokan Kendo Federation
    Yamazato International
    180 Yellow Jacket Drive
    Reliance, TN USA 37369
    Tel. 423-338-4972
    Toll Free 1-888-299-YAMA (9262)
    Fax 423-338-5651

  28. Here’s an interesting note. The film will actually be titled “The Kung Fu Kid” in Japan as well. You think they thought about how the film would be received in Japan if they called it “karate kid”?

    Re: Okinawa – I believe Okinawa is no longer a nation and is officially a part of Japan, so while Karate originated there, “there” is a part of Japan, so calling it Japanese is fair. The original Karate Kid, did reference Okinawa in the film as where Mr. Miyagi was from and saying that everyone in Okinawa knows Karate. The the original did pay respect to the history and cultural legacy of Japan and Okinawa (which is part of Japan). Why can’t they do that in the re-make?

    In the past, Tae Kwon Do was called “Korean Karate” for the purposes of marketing it, but in this case, calling it “Korean Karate” is actually an accurate description, given that Tae Kwon Do evolved from Karate during the Japanese rule of Korea, where all Korean martial arts were outlawed.

  29. G Ramirez says:

    Interesting post.never thought of it in that light,my husband,who is Filipino,just didn’t care to waste money at the theature to see the movie because we knew it wouldn’t be anything like the actual karate kid.Most todays hollywood sequels/remakes aren’t.I think my husband was more disturbed by the fact the kid would go to China,be taught a short time in martial arts,and then be able to beat kids who had been taught since babies in traditional arts,and trained for years.Just seemed a bit wrong to us!

  30. Regina says:

    My deep Respect for bringing this up and sharing it with all of us!
    As a German I can tell that you would think there would be no racial problems that could hit you until you start travelling, living in other countries and being confronted with racial problems. I have seen a lot of “white Americans” on the Road and when they start they´re own travels in Europe they are all the typical Americans raised on Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, totally ignorant to culture and different raices. After about 3 months of travel most of them are very thoughtful and have learned that being American does not stand for “We rule the World!, rather that there are many different people with there own Culture.
    You can say the standard procedure of those people like the Hollywood Industrie is: we use everything that we can to gain money, why should we want to understand them? …that would require thinking in a different track and you GM Lee are the voice of many people since in HWD you teach people to open they´re minds… (not mentioning the teachings of Body, Mind and Spirit).
    So… yes! I also stand with you.
    Greetings to you all… ReGina

  31. Master Lee is clearly upset about the title of the film because it does not respect and honor the traditions and history of the art that is actually depicted in the film, namely, kung-fu. “There’s no excuse for us today to call something that’s Japanese as Chinese or vice-versa,” Master Lee writes.

    I think I understand Master Lee’s outrage. As an American of African descent (and a few other things mixed in along the way, to be sure), I’d probably be a little offended at being lumped in with Haitians or Jamaicans or Sudanese simply because I am black. I’m an American, dammit!

    And as a martial arts instructor, I believe I have a serious responsibility to make sure that my students understand and appreciate the cultural background and underpinnings of my chosen art, karate.

    If I were of the hair-splitting type (hey, sometimes I am), I would be quick to point out that karate is NOT a Japanese art in the first place. Karate is an indigenous Okinawan art, one that was heavily influenced by Chinese martial systems, and an art that was eventually embraced and further refined and developed by the Japanese.

    The makers of the new Karate Kid make it pretty clear that young Dre is learning kung-fu, and NOT karate. In one scene in which Dre is watching an instructional video on TV, they took some real steps to make the cultural distinction between karate (Okinawan) and kung fu (Chinese) — but whether those steps were enough is a matter of opinion. It’s also pretty obvious that the name, “Karate Kid” was kept for reasons of marketing, branding, and nostalgia.

    Still, some people are clearly offended. So, is the new Karate Kid just a rose by any other name? Does the name matter? I guess it all depends on your point of view. I’m not offended enough to boycott the movie, but after reading Master Lee’s article, I’m a little more sensitive to the surrounding issues of culture and race that the movie brings up.

  32. Here’s an interesting article about how Hollywood always puts profits over proper representation. Touches on a lot of the same points:


  33. Eddie No says:

    If you watch the movie, the main character actually mentions that the martial art is called kung fu, not karate, to his mother. Isn’t this enough to correct the mistake in the title???

  34. Joe Warman says:

    While I strongly agree with your Father’s thought “Man should not follow money, money should follow the man”, I as an American not a German Irish French American disagree with your thoughts here. As long as we coninue to highlight our differences (race, language, religion) we will never all be seen as ONE HUMAN RACE . America was founded as a melting pot, not a cupboard where you had distinct and seperate dishes. My Grandmother spoke German in her house but would not speak it in public. When I asked her about this as a young child, her response was that it was disrespectful for her to not learn and use the language of the country that gave her family a new home. If I moved to Korea or any other country I would not expect them to change for me, I would expect that I out of respect for that country and it’s people would need to change and adapt to their way of life. If I felt slighted or disrespected to the point of intolerance, then it would be my right to leave and choose to go live somewhere else where I felt I was treated with respect. Political correctness is what is wrong with this country. We have given up our right to speak our minds on what belief system actually founded this country. I for one refuse to be or worry about political correctness! Your either an American or your not. I will not call you an Asian American or a Korean American or a Japanese American or an Arab American or an African American or a Black American or a Muslim American or a Jewish American. I will say Merry Christmas not Happy Holidays. Early Imigrants that came here like my Grandmother understood this respect and had no problem even changing there name to make it easier to pronounce in this country’s language. They didn’t believe this country owed them anything. Quite the contrary, they believed they owed the country a debt for allowing them to be here and were willing to do anything required to fit in. They wanted to be apart of this country and felt very thankfull to be able to be here.

    With Deepest Respect,
    Joe Warman
    Chief Instructor
    Warman’s Martial Arts Academy

  35. Jon Y. says:

    Hello, I would first like to say that I believe Master Lee has a very valid point about how Hollywood misrepresents many different culture identies for the sake of their own profits. I should know, I”m Native American (Navaho/Dine). We as native peoples of this land (all Native Amercan Nations) have been wronged and misrepresented by all kinds of Hollywood films for many years. Now all different kinds of people and cultures call this land their home, Its time that we all let Hollywood know that we won’t tolerate this or any kind of abuse of our cultures to be misrepresented for profits. They should a least represent the facts of whatever culture they choose to put in there films. Thats my two cents!

  36. forrest says:

    I am a white male, 43 years old who grew up on Star Trek the original, Bruce Lee and the Kung Fu series. I remember the Karate Kid in the 80’s. It was all about tolerance for me and still is. Especially as a Tae Soo Do practitioner I have to listen to what you are saying and take it seriously. I just got my first tape last week.
    I hear you and what you are saying. These are valid points you are making as a Korean American Hwarang do teacher. I wish I was at your stage in the process and had the convictions you have coming from where you are.
    I was going to watch it but am not so sure now. Actually ironically my Korean/Canadian friend Yoosik asked me to watch the movie with him. I don’t know if I will.
    Credit to you, you had the conviction (I was going to use a cruder term but declined) to voice your concerns from your unique perspective. Maybe not all that unique.
    This is a global community now. Your viewpoint is respected by more people than you know.

  37. Rafael Grullon says:

    Grandmaster Taejoon Lee,

    I would like to thank you for exposing the truth in such an intelligent way: “Man should not follow money. Money should follow man”. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with the world. I agree it is just like “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other…”. We should live with truth not lies.

  38. Jack Kaplan says:

    Grandmaster Taejoon Lee,

    I did not know karate was from japan before reading this, I had always believed it originated from China considering it is the official martial art of there army. I was aware that the martial art in the movie was mislabeled but did not realize the extent until this article. Thank you, and I will not be seeing this movie.

  39. Leonardo says:

    Mr. Kaplan: Karate can be considered the martial art of the Japanese military in the days of WW2; Universities like Takushoku implemented Karate for the education of their officers -who later would wreak havok and pull some of the most terrible war crimes (much like the Germans did in Europe) for the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” (which was nothing else than pure fascistic ideology). Many of those who survived, went to America, Europe, Africa, teaching the locals karate -exactly that what you, sir, will learn, watered-down by all the martial-arts myth and incompetent “masters” (haha, three years of karate, a ton of colourful belts and they have the nerve calling theirselves masters, can you believe it?) that float around, if you are looking for the “typical karate dôjô” next door. Most western karateka don’t even know about this heritage, glorify violence and announce things like “in karate you kill with only one strike”. Idiots, it’s a disgrace.

    However, enough of the ranting.

    Mr. Taejoon Lee, it was an excellent read, I don’t share all of your points, but your article has moved me. The love for martial art and verity I read from your lines, touched my soul. I think you are right, in the main picture. It is always about the money, these days. Royal despotism is replaced by economical, the world grows together every day and we (as people of the planet) often miss to grow together, too and create bonds of solidarity. Society tries to separate us from each other, everyone gets isolated by the mechanics of market and we are losing what makes one people really strong: the spirit of community and foremost, the spirit of responsibility. With this in mind, I will boycott the Karate Kid, too, in appreciation of the spirit of solidarity.

    Best Regards,
    Leonardo Ruland

  40. Jeff Allen says:

    Dear Grandmaster Lee TaeJoon,

    Being a white guy and growing up in Korea, I feel your pain. I was on the other side. I too am glad I could fight. I see your point and understand. Although my son and I already saw the movie, I have told other people not to waste their time. I was not impressed with their view of Asians or non-Asians in this film. Being in the film industry myself, it sickens me to see what goes on in board rooms when a new movie comes out and we have to change things as to not offend anyone. Politically correct….is not. Movies are not for political tyranny. They are for art and to educate. If a true representation of both cultures was given, ignorant people wouldn’t be entertained. Unfortunately, America has been “dumbed down”. Thanks to modern media, the lack of care, and selfishness. It all boils down to the loss of traditions, culture, and the family unit. Remember when we all sat down together for dinner? My family still does. Everyday.

    Grandmaster Jeff Allen

  41. Camillus says:

    The Salami Kid
    I was entertained by the new Karate Kid; and deeply bothered by it at the same time. I could not put my finger on it. Something was wrong with this picture. Sure, it was a great ‘feel good’ movie. Of course the martial arts was pure ‘Hollywood;’ OTT (over the top) as the British would say. Without question not only the form of fighting is incorrectly described, but come on! Where on earth would you allow kids 12 years old to pound themselves like this, without physical protection, in an arena full of adults. Ancient Rome? What Mother (as in the film) would sit idly by and watch her Son be physically punished and not stop the fight? How could any training facility, for any sport, permit the ‘close combat’ type of contact shown in the film between adolescents? Answer to these questions; China!
    Karate Kid is a white wash of the conditions that really exist in China and not simply a mislabeled martial arts film. It is a fawning ‘commercial’ for the propagation of the power of the Chinese Communist Party. Hollywood, as it spectacularly does elsewhere on the planet, overlooks a lot when it wants to help deliver a message it supports and today, in the 21st Century, it loves China!
    And ‘go figure,’ as they say in the USA! China! A country with no free elections. A place where arrest can be made at the beck and call of a political party. China, where from what I read in journals, salaries are now being “doubled” in electronic factories; to $295 a month! (Do the math and think about this a moment, if you are currently employed in the West in a similar job). And don’t forget about the ‘Stick People.’ These are the country dwellers who are second class citizens in their own country. They physically carry the loads for small business and local industries on their backs and are not allowed to officially relocated to or educate their children in the cities where they work. In fact the same benevolent Chinese government depicted in the film has started to set up, dare I call them by this term, ‘concentration camps’ where nightly police and security guards lock up the country dwellers for the night, so great is the gap between the City Chinese and their brethren in the country. I can go on for ten pages in trying to explain what a travesty China is for its people and what a threat it is for this same “planet” Jackie Chan wants to save by turning off the power to a hot water tank (see the movie). This was a shameless Hollywood plug for Global Warmers. Yes, China, were you are given a quota of electricity for free (also plugged by the firm) and told to turn off the power to your heater once done showering, allowing water heated inside an insulated tank to cool – Good. America where this insulated water tank is maintained at a temperature selected by the person who pays the electricity bill – Bad (PS that Western person in this comparison makes a lot more than $295 per month cleaning dishes). But I digress; China is trying to save the planet? Which planet? Earth?
    And what planet is Will Smith living on to provide such a blatant plug for a totalitarian, communist Government, in which he would never be allowed to live as he lives, earn the money that he earns or promote his Son’s career as he has done in this film (and his Son has a brilliant career ahead of him; he is a good actor). The (new) Karate Kid is a travesty, worst it is criminally lacking in balance and shows the Government which the greatest threat to any number of the Worlds problems as benign, caring, companionate, effective and efficient. None of this is true and Hollywood should be ashamed of itself. But, this emotion has never existed under the skin of any director, producer, star or film mogul and never will.
    I want a movie made as well; The Salami Kid. I came to America at the age of 7 from Venezuela. I was an immigrant from an Italian family, who had left Italy in 1946, moved to South America, then to America. I was bullied and beaten every single day for most likely at least the first year I was in America. And, trust me, it was close combat and there was blood. Plenty of blood flowed and I fought and won my fair share of contests, not with Kung Fu but with my bare fists. In the end I too, like Will Smith’s son, earned the respect of the gangs that tormented me. Or, maybe they just got tired of hitting the same face and fed on some new immigrant, I don’t know. Most likely it was a combination of both. But I was the Salami Kid! I was also proud of my Italian heritage but fiercely determined to be accepted by America and Americans! I was not going to be scared and this part of the movie is spot on, 100% dead right! The person bullied wants most of all not to be scared and the only way to be accepted is to fight and win, period. I did. I won. I went through High School, applied and was accepted by the United States Military Academy, at West Point, and graduated high in my class. I proudly wore the uniform for 10 years, left with a Masters Degree and now work as a principle Engineer on the rebuilding and expansion of the Panama Canal. I am married 27 years to a wonderful American Lady, have four children, two with college degrees, own property, travel internationally as I please and earn a good living.
    That is my story and that story, the quintessential American success story, is the one that needs to be told, not this politically correct, white wash of a brutal, communist Government, where, if I immigrated today with my family (bold added) NONE OF THEM would rise within the Chinese hierarchy to anywhere near the level I have achieved, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Jo Jitsu, Kung Fu, ALL of them used together!
    Hollywood, tell my story. Tell the American story. Tell the world a little of what is right with America. While you are at it, white wash it just a little, will you please. For once, show America in a positive light. If China can be shown so magnificently, then what can Hollywood do for the Salami Kid!
    But I am dreaming. Camillus

  42. John Moore says:

    As a martial artist, I too was upset about the naming of this movie. I practice jujutsu, which America believes is a Brazilian ground-fighting system. I think that many of us in the martial arts community took offense to this.

    There is prejudice and racism, and everybody has the right to their cultural identity without apology. However, I need to take exception to some of what you’ve written.

    I would not think of entering a person’s house in Japan without removing my shoes. To do so would be culturally offensive. Further, it would be ridiculous for me to assert that I should be allowed to do so because I am an American and it is my cultural heritage.

    I have been told to my face by people in Ilocos in the Philippines that I needed to learn the local language. Today, those in America who say that people who come here should learn English are branded as racist.

    I have traveled the world, and America is by far the most tolerant country I have experienced. I have never seen a restaurant or bar with a sign reading “no foreigners” anywhere but in Asia.

    There is a growing idea that America doesn’t have it’s own culture and that other cultures are somehow more important. This is a dishonorable idea when it comes from Americans and an ethnocentric and racist ideas when it comes from outside the country.

    America has a culture all it’s own, formed over several centuries by those who immigrated here. It is not “white culture” or “european culture” but has been influenced by everyone who came here – even as slaves or indentured servants. As evidence, look at American clothing, food, music, movies, television. These are artifacts of a multi-ethnic culture. The English language itself has words from nearly every language in the world.

    ALL cultures influence social pressure to conform to norms. Whether right or wrong, act out of line with the norms anywhere in the world and there will be social repercussions. Yes, there is racism, which I have also experienced as a Caucasian in Asia.

    The difference, to me, is that racism is the judgment of a person merely based on their perceived race. This is wrong because it is something they can’t control. Sexism, ageism, prejudice against the differently abled – the same thing. However, you do have control of your behavior. If I go to a country other than my own, and refuse to at least respect their culture, I can expect to be treated in a way I may not like. Such are human beings.

  43. David Leslie says:

    I Love The Martial Arts And Respect And Believe You Are Absolutely Right!!!
    I Haven’t Practiced My Art In So Long, Which Was Tae Kwon Do, I have Studied
    Some Wing Chun! I Have Also Looked At Your Art And I Am In Awe And Very
    Deep Respect Of it. I Want To Thank You For teaching Us The Truth’s Of The
    Martial Arts!!!!
    I Watch A Movie Called “Ip Man” For The First Time And I Was So Impressed
    By The Absolute excellence That The Film Portrayed, One Of The best I Have
    Seen. When You Talk About Quality This Movie Has it And So Does Your Art Of
    Hwa Rang Do I Bow!!! In Respect And Say Keep Doing What You Are Doing.
    Be Blessed Dear Friend.

  44. Sean says:

    In the new Karate kid Jaden smith is called the karate kid because he learned some very poor karate from his uncle. (similiar to how Ralph Macchio learn karate from the YMCA) It is clearly stated in the movie that Jaden is learning kung fu. I’m paraphrasing here, but I believe one of the lines is “This is china everyone knows kung fu”. I know that sounds racist towards the chinese, but Jaden says it in order to convince his mom (a typical ignorant american) because she though he was just learning to fight for street fighting.

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