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

54 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. Wil says:

    I appreciate your message on ethnic integrity, and agree with most of what you stated except that naming the movie “The Kung Fu Kid” is not quite right either. As you probably know, “kung fu”, as used nowadays to denote Chinese martial arts, is really a misnomer. In Chinese, “kung fu” merely means time and effort, and can be applied to describe accomplishment in any discipline, be it martial arts or calligraphy. If we are to truly respect ethnic integrity, the film should be named something else entirely.

    This whole effort – including the current “remake” and the “Next Karate Kid” with Hilary Swank – to graft a new movie onto the original Karate Kid series with Ralph Macchio is a bit grotesque to me. The original Karate Kid movies (at least the first two), though a bit awkward and with action sequences that were modest at best, seemed to come from the heart, and that was part of their charm. The remakes are just bald attempts to capitalize on the original and parlay people’s fondness for the original into virtually certain box office sales. As such, the remakes suffer at least from lack of imagination as well as some of the things that you pointed out. I will not be watching the new movie, not so much from trying to boycott it, but mainly from lack of interest.



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

  13. 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.

  14. JOHN MARCUS says:


  15. 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.

  16. 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!


  17. 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

  18. 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 😉

  19. Sparksy says:

    That was a very well thought out essay. I hate to say it, but maybe we should take a step back and remember that this is just a movie.
    Karate is a term that is understood by the masses. Not everyone understands or has heard of certain styles of martial arts. If the film was based in the Philipines should it be called “the Escrima Kid”? As was mentioned in a previous post, this is about branding. As school owners know, branding is everything.
    To say the least, to boycott this movie could mean the difference between a successfull summer (for a school owner) and a mediocre (or worse, dead summer!) summer. I mean no disrepect, but once again, its a movie meant for entertainment.

  20. 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

  21. 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.

  22. @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.

  23. taejoonlee says:

    @Sparksy: Thank you for your comment.

    “This is just a movie?” It’s a movie that has grossed over 54million dollars in it’s first week at the box office and this is only for domestic. It will potentially be viewed by 10s, if not 100s of millions of people across the globe. It’s more than a movie and movies are one of the best ways to reach the masses. I am not boycotting this movie per say, but what the producers have done. I am sure it’s a great movie, but what they have done by mislabeling the movie to call it Karate when it has nothing to do with Karate is unforgivable. As for your question, if they shot it in the Philippines, should we call it “The Escrima Kid?” Absolutely, if the kid is doing Escrima. I am not discussing geographies here.

    Lastly, I am a school owner myself and have been teaching for over 30 years. The last promotion of a martial arts movie I was involved with was “The Game of Death” where if we all dressed up in our uniforms, we get a free showing. I must say that I wasn’t all thrilled about it, but I participated because my father was involved in the selection of the actor/martial artist who replaced Bruce Lee in the movie. And, he was Korean! I had no problems with that as he is suppose to play Bruce Lee and not calling what he’s doing in the film “Taekwondo” or some other Korean Martial Art. I have not participated in any other movie promotions to increase my enrollment like when “The Kung Fu Panda” came out and I am still doing well. To say that if we as school owners do not participate in using this latest remake of “The Karate Kid” to promote our schools, we will have a dead summer I think is overkill. Yes, we might not make as much, but I am sure it will not kill us.

    Let me give you another perspective. In my last seminar during February in Minneapolis, I taught a kids session with over 50 children mostly ranging from the ages of 5 to 11 years old. I explained the background of Karate and Kungfu, about China and Japan and of course Korea. I explained how what they are doing with “The Karate Kid” was wrong, similar to my blog entry but at children’s level. They understood clearly and at the end of the class when I yelled out, “What movie are you not going to see this summer!?” They all hollered back with pride in unison, “The Karate Kid!” And afterwords, many parents came up and said that they were all grateful for the clarification and took greater pride in our art and school as we are promoting truth and honor. Isn’t this better than gaining few more students who all want to be “the Karate Kid” and come to find out later that what your teaching them is actually Karate, but they quit because it’s nothing like what they saw in the movie? I am being facetious, but I hope you get my point.

    Lastly, whether the word “Karate” is accepted by some as generic, it does not negate the fact that it is Japanese and no country’s social law or convention can change that fact.


  24. 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 🙂

  25. 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.

  26. 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

  27. William Glasheen, Ph.D. says:

    Dr. Lee:

    I’m with you in your general sentiments. And then you go and butcher it all by referring to karate as a “Japanese” art. Again and again and again…

    Judo is a Japanese art/sport. Jujutsu is a Japanese art. Aikido is a Japanese art. Sumo is a Japanese sport.

    Kara-te started in OKINAWA. It was the mix of indigenous tegumi and to-de or China hand. It ultimately was re-named kara-te or empty hand to nationalize what had evolved on the Ryukyu Islands.

    Okinawans are an ethnically distinct group – actually genetically closer to Chinese. They do not like to be called “Japanese” any more than you want to be called the same, Dr. Lee.

    Yes, people like Funakoshi brought the art over to Japan and made it their own. That happened (and is still happening) in America as well, although the concept is now passe. These days the nom du jour is MMA. What-ever… But it in no way makes karate “American.”

    Bill Glasheen
    Kyoshi Nanadan
    Uechi Ryu Karate (et al)

  28. Tiemen says:

    First of all, great looking blog Master Lee. Can I assume Ray and Ferny had a hand in this? I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet in person when Ferny lured me into your Dojang only to whip my butt. 😉 Despite the physical abuse, I’ve been very interested since in what Hwa Rang Do represents.

    I must admit the confusion that struck me during the movie trailer where “the Karate kid” was told be would be taught Kung-fu. The producers were well aware of the commercial aspect of using a movie title that ignites memories in all of us who grew up in the 80s. Alas, correctness and cultural respect generally don’t rank high on Corporate America’s agenda…. especially when it comes to the bottom line.

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

  30. 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.

  31. 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

  32. 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

  33. 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.

  34. taejoonlee says:

    @William Glasheen, Ph.D.:
    First, I am not a Doctor. You must be confusing me with my father. As for your comment, you are absolutely right, Karate originated from Okinawa. However, I never said it originated from Japan. Since Okinawa is now a prefecture of Japan, I do not think it is wrong to say that Karate is Japanese.

    Thank you for the clarification.

  35. W. Holloway says:

    Thanks for the intelligent and well thought out blog.
    I, as a white american, having spent over 30 years of his life interested in , and pursuing varied Asian cultural arts, and now teaching Aikido, a Japanese art, AM offended by the film’s title. On a regular basis, I have ignorant people come in and ask me, “What kind of Tae Kwon Do is Aikido?” Seriously! I have also had parents tell their children to, “Listen carefully to your Karate teacher,” or similar things, and when I correct them I have received responses like, “Oh he’s too young to know the difference.” I correct them again and say “You chose our school for our values and attitudes, you should help us instill those values, including accuracy and sensitivity.”
    I am NOT encouraging folks to see this film, as I don’t care to add to their profits, but if the film does generate leads from interested people, I will not turn them away. That is an opportunity to be an educator.
    I got sent some of those free passes. My Wife and I did go see this, and I did give a couple to some friends, but I would not pay any money to see it, nor encourage that.
    I was very disappointed to see a local TKD school there doing a demo before the film and handing out flyers to their “Martial Arts Pizza Party” afterwards! Not only is it insulting to foist that unabashed free promotion on me in a movie theater, but I don’t think “Slumming” it in that way says that the arts have integrity!
    ( Also a Korean demo by white kids, at a Chinese martial art movie with a Japanese Art’s name, did not go un-noticed. Extremely ironic! )
    Thanks for your thoughtful Blog.
    W. Holloway
    Aikido Heiwa
    Washington State

  36. 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!

  37. 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

  38. 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.

  39. W. Holloway says:

    Hi all again,
    I had meant to add something else. Based on Mr. Lee’s initial Blog.
    This quote:
    “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).”
    One problem here is that the communities themselves have been known to help foster the “Ignorance” of the cultural, let alone racial differences among Asians.
    Examples; Korean or Chinese Actors accepting roles as “Japanese” in movies, and Vice-versa. Has anyone seen “Memoirs of a Geisha”? It is a who’s who of Actresses from all three countries representing Japanese people! Or Jet Li’s martial arts film, “Fist of Legend”, which has a whole army of oddly Chinese looking Japanese folks, dressed (incorrectly,) in Japanese clothes. Now, The studios do the casting, but if a community of people does not want to be mis-labeled then don’t take the job, right?
    Another example is the TKD school two miles down the road from me that has the big, lit up sign “Karate for Kids” out front. The owner is of Korean decent.
    Anyhow, I just think to preserve our heritage, if that is important to us, no matter where we come from, we should not allow OURSELVES to add to the confusion by misrepresenting who we are. As such, as a teacher of Aikido, I find it ironic and a little sad that our most well-known “representative” for Aikido is a white guy, Steven Seagal, who is depicted in his 1st movie as a teacher of the art IN Japan, which he was. He is better known to the general public than the art’s founder Ueshiba, Morihei, yet in any of the crappy films he has done in the past 16 years he has done mostly fake, Wushu (Kung Fu) moves, NOT Aikido. Little bits of Aikido here and there, but mostly fake crap. Heck, he jumped on the ‘Wire Work’ bandwagon at least once in a film.
    Lets represent what we ACTUALLY know, and who we actually ARE.
    Am I off base?
    Thanks folks for all of your thoughts in these posts. Some pretty intelligent opinions and some funny ones too.
    Be well,
    W. Holloway

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


  41. 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???

  42. I saw the film and thought it was very good. The title, however, was foolish. Geography isn’t my strongest subject, but I can figure out the difference between China and Japan. The film had very little to do with the original series of films, and could have stood perfectly well on its own merits with a better title. The filmmakers looked foolish by mislabeling it, and the martial arts schools who exploited it for marketing purposes looked even more foolish.

  43. 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

  44. Sparksy says:

    I watched the movie this weekend. Thought is was great! This argument is getting a little stupid. I think its halarious that so many people are writing several hundred word posts that are pretty much repeating what everyone else has previously stated. We just have to agree to disagree. Lets stop arguing over a movie. Cant we all just get along?

  45. 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!

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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

  50. 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

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