miyagi

To many people, the character of Mr. Miyagi instantly brings to mind the kind, wise, tough but fair character from the Karate Kid series who mentors skinny Italian kid Daniel. Actor Pat Morita brought him brilliantly to life on the big screen, but few people know that while a talented screenwriter penned Morita’s lines, the cinematic persona who would coin the phrase “wax on, wax off” was based on a true karate legend.

Fumio Demura is known to anyone who is involved with martial arts for being a master of honor and precision, and he is the focal point of The Real Miyagi, a film by Kevin Derek, a rising star of the documentary world. It tells the life and times of one of the greatest karate masters to ever walk the earth. This elegant and precise docu reflects the highlights of Mr. Demura’s life, from his humble beginning as a talented martial artist to the present day, where he inspired not only his students, but many of cinema’s most enduring action heroes. The highlights include not only the successes and challenges Demura has experienced throughout his substantial career, but also amazing stories of family, friendship, and loss.

Writer/director Kevin Derek paints a wonderfully colorful picture, depicted through photos, memories, and testimonies from the likes of Stephen Segal, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris and Billy Blanks. Demura brings his unorthodox style to America and despite the complaints of his own mentors, teaches Karate as this maverick (much like his contemporary, Bruce Lee) thinks it should be done.

The movie follows a standard documentary format, but the director injects old footage of Demura sparring fluidly with interviews of those who were lucky enough to study under him. This makes for a unique viewing experience. Many documentaries, while pertinent, come off as something you would be forced to watch in a political science or history class. But not this one. It is entertaining from the get go, with a rare combination of humor, sentimentality and insight that escapes some of the more heavy handed offerings.

This is a celebration of a man who beat the odds, took no crap from anyone, and still remained respectful to his fellow martial artists, his students and people in general. It is an uplifting movie going experience and one that should be seen by everyone even if you have no experience with karate. It is about a journey that we can all relate to, no matter what it is. Respect, dedication and the ability to continue despite the odds, this motion picture shows all of these qualities and does it admirably.

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