January 31, 2016

Korean Kickboxing: Someone's Got a Cousin Who Owns a Camera

Is this a documentary on a lesser-known martial art from Korea? An introductory tutorial intended for self-styled mixed martial artist wannabes eager to expand their fight vocabulary? An infomercial for the heretofore unknown Chung Moo Academy? I couldn't honestly tell you. For this hour-long video has few answers for inquiring minds and feels more like what happens when an inexperienced editor is tasked with crafting a narrative from hours of not-particularly-well-planned footage. And so, you don't learn much about the history of the sport (a mix of western boxing and Tae Kwon Do) or about the gym's resident champ (except that his toughest challenge is cutting weight) or the proper form for various moves or the intensity of the training regimen (which includes the cartwheel) or whether the few women athletes in class ever get to compete. And while some very basic details are revealed about the Academy whereabouts, you don't leave feeling that you know its owner's personal philosophy, the dojo's significance, or even the sport's national popularity.

What you do get is one very prolonged shot of two glistening, fairly silent young men demonstrating Korean kickboxing while wearing the official uniform — basically baggy, flared short shorts that resemble cos-play outfits for men who want to look like babies. Additionally there is a repeated shot of a drop of sweat falling off the tip of a woman's nose; endless, vaguely instructional title cards that tell the viewer to "keep moving" and "develop reflexes"; a host of low-grade special effects intended to add drama via slo-mo vocals and creepy negatives; and the increasing use of prolonged blackouts between sequences which suggests that the creatives hired for this production had a time limit they had to hit in their deliverables. Clocking in at a little over an hour, the running time appears to be the one place that Korean Kickboxing has gone beyond what was initially expected.

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