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Old 11-12-2012, 07:19 AM   #1
Krystal Locke
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Do we need another Steven Seagal?

I'd dearly love to get away from some of the recent fruitless meanderings about definitions and power and who has what and ask a question that has been in my mind a while.

Lots of our dojos are finding themselves struggling or topheavy or both. Sure, there is a poor economy, sure, our sensei are aging, as are we. You can hear crickets at the beginners class, not so many young bucks frustrating the crap out of everyone at the seminars, the dojocho is calling for dues a few days after the first of the month instead of a couple months down the line.

Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Movies are huge in poor economies. Despite all the rest of the oddness, Seagal brought a LOT of people in the door and some of them actually stuck.

Anyone want to take on that onus? Or should I call it giri?
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Old 11-12-2012, 08:30 AM   #2
phitruong
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Re: And now, for something completely different...

guys just don't find aikido sexy or badass. wearing skirt and twirling around other sweaty men just not sexy. and most aikido just not badass like ufc or the like. not to mention you can't get a date using aikido as pickup line. i know this because i tried and it's not because i wasn't tall, dark and handsome. all these love and harmony stuffs aren't bad enough.

girls can't see themselves doing aikido, because of all these sweating men keep grabbing them. who would want that? i mean, that's what bars and pubs are for. besides, good girls don't do martial arts, that's what boyfriends are for, and protection is one of boyfriend jobs. of course, girls also don't want boyfriends to do aikido, because it would take time away from spending with said girls while said boyfriends molesting other sweaty men.

of course with all the discussion of aiki and in yo ho stuffs on aikiweb aren't helping.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
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Old 11-12-2012, 09:33 AM   #3
St Matt
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Re: And now, for something completely different...

Yes we need another big Steve (but maybe not quite so big)!

Like you said Krystal we need to see more aikido in the movies such as Bourne or Taken or summat else cool. Or at least some cool aikido clips on the internet away from the dojo and the skirts with speed and atemi's and stuff!
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Old 11-12-2012, 11:07 AM   #4
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Well, what function did Steven Seagal fill? People saw what he was doing in the movies, and most of them got the wrong idea about it. Of those, some were attracted to this wrong idea, and came to aikido dojos looking for the wrong thing. Of those, most left pretty quickly (often without starting), some stayed long enough to be a pain in the ass, and a few stayed long enough to get the crap out of their heads and become students worth having.

Question 1: am I wrong about any of that?

Question 2: if I'm right about that, how would a movie martial artist be a better avenue than any other for attracting a large quantity of poor-quality prospects?
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Old 11-12-2012, 11:17 AM   #5
Neal Earhart
 
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

I think part of it has to do with the rise in popularity of MMA and martial arts schools promoting that they teach "MMA" in their curriculum, drawing prospective students from the 'traditional' arts. MMA is certainly competitive and you can fight 'professionally' for money, both of which can be very appealing to the "young bucks"...

I started Aikido a few months before "Above the Law" came out. I can't recall how many students the dojo I was training at the time picked up as a direct result of the movie/Seagal. But, people did make the association of the art with his movies. When I would say "I practice Aikido", people would say "oh, the stuff Seagal does." Now, when I mention Aikido, I find less people who know what it is or have even ever heard of it.

The other thing, Seagal is a high-ranking Aikidoka and Aikido techniques are used in his films, especially the early ones, however, he does administer 'movie-style martial art' beat-downs of the bad guys using a lot of stuff that I think most of us wouldn't associate directly with Aikido. That being said, there are people who see the Seagal movies and go to an Aikido dojo expecting to learn his choreographed "movie martial arts" and then see traditional Aikido....
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Old 11-12-2012, 01:37 PM   #6
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

I think Steven Seagal gave a huge boon to Aikido, it was great. I think right now MMA has every young person's attention, and it costs. Young people want to be super active, and don't mind getting tossed around to learn how to be a little bit stronger. In turn these young kids inspire other, and give lots of energy to the Dojo community. Those kid's are doing MMA these days.

When I first started training here there was a large group of 20 somethings, it was the largest group, then 30 somethings, then fourth somethings then some older and younger people. Now my largest group is 30 and 40 somethings with only 2 twenty somethings. It's a HUGE difference. 20 year olds have more free time, and can be in the Dojo more often, they don't mind taking ukemi, and are usually happy and up to something fun. They add a lot to a Dojo. Those guys are all doing MMA now. It is hard.

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Old 11-12-2012, 01:54 PM   #7
aiki-jujutsuka
 
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

I think particular MA popularity goes in cycles. The thing about MA's is that they become popular for a while because they're new and exciting or mystical to the majority of people and then the aura fades. Take BJJ for example, when Royce Gracie won UFC 1 back in 1993 the majority of people were unfamiliar with newaza style submission grappling and he was able to exploit his opponent's ignorance. BJJ quickly became a phenomenon in the MA world. Fast forward to 2012 and the MMA world is questioning the effectiveness of BJJ to the modern sport. The majority of BJJ blackbelts in the UFC have converted to becoming expert strikers such as Fabrice Verdun. You have guys like Belfort & Anderson Silva who rarely ever use their BJJ inside the Octagon.

I enjoy Seagal's movies, they may only be movie martial arts but at least you can begin to imagine how Aikido techniques may be applied to 'street fights'. Aikido will probably never be as 'popular' as it was back in the 1990s when Seagal was at his peak but it will always attract enough people to survive, just as all well established TMAs will. It's always nice to see Jujutsu/Aikido techniques in action films. Just last week I was watching Batman Begins again for the first time in a while and in the scene where he enters the League of Shadows HQ and has to fight Liam Neeson's character he uses a variety of techniques from different arts. I never caught it before but he peforms a nihonage and Neeson identifies it as Jujutsu as he counters it. I got excited for a split second because I knew exactly which technique Neeson had identified. There's also some Jujutsu techniques in the Bourne Identity. Anyway I'm sure Aikido techniques will find their way into action films in the future but Aikido is no longer new to mainstream audiences so the impact will be less.
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Old 11-12-2012, 01:58 PM   #8
Richard Stevens
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Is there anyone here who came to Aikido because of Seagal and is still training?
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Old 11-12-2012, 02:31 PM   #9
Walter Martindale
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

If people ask me "What's Aikido?" I sometimes say it's the martial art that Seagal uses in his early movies, and that he is/was a 7th dan black belt in Aikido before he got into movies. I also say that some people describe it as origami with people.

Does Aikido need someone equivalent to spread the rowing word? Hmm. Kung Fu took an upswing in North America when Carradine was the grasshopper: Kwai-Chang Kaine (sp?) - do we need a TV series where a wandering ex-uchi-deshi saves damsels in distress while thrashing baddies about with aikido techniques? If there were lots of flashbacks to - oh - say - learning to tie his obi, learning to sweep the dojo, learning to bounce off the floor, learning (and struggling with) Ikkyo/Ikkajo or whatever, learning to fold his new hakama, and so on, who knows - it might work, but it probably wouldn't in today's environment because of the lack of gore and machine guns...
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Old 11-12-2012, 03:04 PM   #10
aiki-jujutsuka
 
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Quote:
Walter Martindale wrote: View Post
If people ask me "What's Aikido?" I sometimes say it's the martial art that Seagal uses in his early movies, and that he is/was a 7th dan black belt in Aikido before he got into movies. I also say that some people describe it as origami with people.

Does Aikido need someone equivalent to spread the rowing word? Hmm. Kung Fu took an upswing in North America when Carradine was the grasshopper: Kwai-Chang Kaine (sp?) - do we need a TV series where a wandering ex-uchi-deshi saves damsels in distress while thrashing baddies about with aikido techniques? If there were lots of flashbacks to - oh - say - learning to tie his obi, learning to sweep the dojo, learning to bounce off the floor, learning (and struggling with) Ikkyo/Ikkajo or whatever, learning to fold his new hakama, and so on, who knows - it might work, but it probably wouldn't in today's environment because of the lack of gore and machine guns...
well that programme would certainly appeal to me but then again I love Budo!

Seagal does have a TV series now called True Justice set in Seattle. I've seen a few episodes, it has all the hallmarks of a Seagal film with a fairly strong connection to his Asian background as a young man. But I'm not sure Seagal carries the same influence he once did. If he were to appear in the Expendables 3 that would definitely boost his stock again!
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Old 11-12-2012, 03:31 PM   #11
Travers Hughes
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Well, let see..... I'm, a bit overweight, have a receeding hairline, speak Japanese, and am a bad actor - pick me!
Seriously though, it's all about fashion and what is relevant AT THE TIME. When "Above the Law" etc came out, it was at the tail end of the 80s MA craze - where striking arts ruled (Chuck Norris and JCVD were gods). An alternative came in, and people thought "Wow - this guys has the legitimate power (he lived in Japan for chrissakes - you can become a ninja master by just flying over Japan, don't you know?), coupled with his persona for invincibility - remember in his early movies how he was always immaculately dressed and never got beaten up? Tough guys would try and hit him, and he would evade and do something awesome.
People saw the moral high ground and were attracted by it.
I'd argue that in 2012, the whole emo and antipathy culture rebels against this - they want to make up their own parameters as to what institiues the moral high ground. Couple this with the "I want result now" attitude that has been created by information overload, and people are headed towards combat sports.
Doesn't help that Seagal got caught up in his own myth and became a laughing stock and running kjoke in MA circle, either.
So - does it matter? Why are you doing aikido? Do you care if it has a good reputation with the public / your peers or not? Or, are you worried about the future of aikido? Do you think it is drawing the wrong people? Either way, the most importnat thing we can all do for the future of aikido is practise sincerely and honestly - the rest will follow.
(Aside - watched a couple of Bruce Lee movies last weekend - "The Big Boss" and "Way of the Dragon". the stroiking was terrible - over-committed punches and kcks with no balance. Times change and what was great was no longer relevant. Whatever happened to BETA?
Cheers
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Old 11-12-2012, 04:05 PM   #12
James Sawers
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Recognizable aikido shown in a movie, heh, what can it hurt? A Seagal type, no. I saw his movies when they first came out and didn't recognize it as aikido (just my ignorance, at the time) and it is not why I started aikido. I was visiting a dojo in Milwaukee once and was changing my shoes when someone walked in and asked the person at the front if this was the martial art that Seagal did. He wanted to learn that. She looked past him at me and rolled her eyes without actually rolling her eyes. The point being that Seagal was not a good reference point for potential students.
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Old 11-12-2012, 04:17 PM   #13
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

The reality is that MA has limited appeal (2-5% of the population )and with more martial arts on offer than ever before aikido has less and less market share (20 or 600 dojo in my home town ). Crunching the numbers a while back (it what i do for a living in some ways) I came to the conclusion that 38 was a reasonable bench mark for an average dojo size in my home town.
Tweaking factors are competitiion (number of other dojos), demographics, advertising, mobility of people etc... here are the numbers and rather weak conclusions for the curous
http://brisbaneaikido.com/2012/10/01/opening-an-aikido-brisbane-dojo/

Daniel James, Brisbane Aikido Republic: AikiPhysics, Aikido Brisbane news,
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Old 11-12-2012, 04:20 PM   #14
David Orange
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Well, what function did Steven Seagal fill? People saw what he was doing in the movies, and most of them got the wrong idea about it. Of those, some were attracted to this wrong idea, and came to aikido dojos looking for the wrong thing. Of those, most left pretty quickly (often without starting), some stayed long enough to be a pain in the ass, and a few stayed long enough to get the crap out of their heads and become students worth having.

Question 1: am I wrong about any of that?

Question 2: if I'm right about that, how would a movie martial artist be a better avenue than any other for attracting a large quantity of poor-quality prospects?
Excellent points, Mary.

But add that when such people get to a dojo, they seldom find any of Seagal's vigor or ability in the class or the teacher. Fortunately, they also don't find the violence and a lot of Seagal's negative bearing, but nice ineptitude is not really better, either.

No, we don't need another Seagal. Maybe we do need a good movie made about some real aikido life, but it would probably be too boring to pay for itself. Unfortunately, movies need violence to sell and that's not what aikido needs.

I think it's really just a fact that aikido is not a product to be sold and therefore not a business to attempt as a livelihood. And I say this having operated my own dojo in the past--the first Yoseikan Budo dojo in North America. It went out of business decades ago and, though I later taught at the Yoseikan Hombu in Japan, I quit charging money for my lessons over ten years ago.

To my knowledge, most successful aikido teachers have a pretty lucrative day job and they train wholeheartedly. Most common teachers don't train very wholeheartedly and don't give a good example of aikido even if it is their only job.

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

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Old 11-12-2012, 05:16 PM   #15
Krystal Locke
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Well, what function did Steven Seagal fill? People saw what he was doing in the movies, and most of them got the wrong idea about it. Of those, some were attracted to this wrong idea, and came to aikido dojos looking for the wrong thing. Of those, most left pretty quickly (often without starting), some stayed long enough to be a pain in the ass, and a few stayed long enough to get the crap out of their heads and become students worth having.

Question 1: am I wrong about any of that?

Question 2: if I'm right about that, how would a movie martial artist be a better avenue than any other for attracting a large quantity of poor-quality prospects?
Nope, you're not wrong about any of that. Getting people in the door is indeed my point. A few will stick and be good students. That's worth it, imo. One percent of someone is better than one percent of nobody.

And, if we are to have room for the folks who dont want the martial, destructive side of aikido, shouldn't we also have room for the folks who do? Seagal's aikido was pretty damn good, not all that far from mainstream, and he got a lot of folk to at least look at a dojo....

What if someone wrote a movie that portrayed aikido a bit differently now that folks have had a bit of an intro to it? Something like the first Karate Kid movie, which was pretty awesome.

Last edited by Krystal Locke : 11-12-2012 at 05:22 PM.
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Old 11-12-2012, 05:21 PM   #16
gregstec
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Quote:
Daniel James wrote: View Post
The reality is that MA has limited appeal (2-5% of the population )and with more martial arts on offer than ever before aikido has less and less market share (20 or 600 dojo in my home town ). Crunching the numbers a while back (it what i do for a living in some ways) I came to the conclusion that 38 was a reasonable bench mark for an average dojo size in my home town.
Tweaking factors are competitiion (number of other dojos), demographics, advertising, mobility of people etc... here are the numbers and rather weak conclusions for the curous
http://brisbaneaikido.com/2012/10/01/opening-an-aikido-brisbane-dojo/
So, where were you when I was have a discussion with Lee Price about the number of Aikido practitioners in the world

Greg
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Old 11-12-2012, 05:42 PM   #17
Rob Watson
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Quote:
Richard Stevens wrote: View Post
Is there anyone here who came to Aikido because of Seagal and is still training?
Slowly raises hand .... maybe sort of ... yes. Mostly I started 'cause my baby brother did first but Seagal was going pretty strong - we all went to see the movies as a dojo group. Still at it (might be one of Marys 'crap in head' types tho).

Quote:
Walter Martindale wrote: View Post
machine guns...
Wait, we are not supposed to use machine guns? I'm taking my stuff and going home then.

That guy in Burn Notice says he's from NY Aikikai (I think) and might have done some aikido moves once or twice and some episode. I might have been distracted ...

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

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Old 11-12-2012, 06:54 PM   #18
Mark Mueller
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Oh great Krystal! You just opened the door for a bunch of middle-aged overweight guys to grow one of those ratty, skinny ponytails...... ;-)
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Old 11-12-2012, 09:35 PM   #19
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Put an MMA sign next to your aiki sign and the people will roll in. Maybe you could call it - Make Mine Aiki or something

Just a daft thought -wouldn't be surprised if it worked either ...

Afterthought - When in the UK one of our dojo sayings was, "Come an 'av a go if you think you're soft enough!"

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Old 11-13-2012, 03:00 AM   #20
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

This is tough.. one of my most persistent students started aikido because he was a seagal fan in his young days. I am happy about having him in the dojo, but it is hard for me to otherwise recognise the impact of Seagal as a positive thing for Aikido.

Maybe all publicity is good publicity - and getting people into the dojo is a nice thing, but since our dojo is not a business I would rather have two or three good honest students that have a decent grasp on what Aikido is than two dozens Seagal-wanna-be's. They may pay the rent, but they will also absorb my time and effort to little effect. Thereby reducing the quality of teachings for the other students with a long time perspective.

Since christmas is getting sort of closer I will utter this wish: I don't wish for a new seagal, but i do wish that some person with good aikido will gain a lot of positive media attention for a while and thereby bring Aikido back in the minds of those who would really love practicing it as a Budo. I have no idear who it should be... a politician without scandals or bribes in the past, an actor without too many broken marriages and drug abuse stories, a business man who hasen't crushed too many small companies (or countries) on his/her way up.. a scientist doing research that cannot be applied in a destructive manner... yes It's a lot to wish for.. .

JJ

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Old 11-13-2012, 03:57 AM   #21
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Quote:
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Is there anyone here who came to Aikido because of Seagal and is still training?
Ok so I saw Hard to Kill and thought it was pretty cool. Then came across a flyer in the community center where I was training Tae Kwon Do. Stopped in to observe a class, was put on the mat the first day, went to the hospital a coupld of days later and am still training today. Does that count?

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Old 11-13-2012, 04:02 AM   #22
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Aikido is a complex art. Having a "front man" to draw a crowd is nice and it will certainly get the word out. What I find though, as many others I am sure, is that once people find out what kind of work is required what people are left are very few. I don't think this is any different than before or what will be. Having that "front man" just speeds up the process of getting those that "think" they want to train into the dojo.

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Old 11-13-2012, 04:13 AM   #23
aiki-jujutsuka
 
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

what Aikido needs is a good Samurai film. Look at Ridley Scot's love affair with antiquity and the middle ages - films about arcane forms of warfare are very popular. Historical dramas have become very popular as a way of making social observations. People like drawing lessons about the present from the past. Take the success of the Last Samurai with Tom Cruise, it's one of my favourite films despite the anachronisms. If someone like Ridley Scot or another big name director made a film about Feudal Japan with a healthy dose of battle scenes and Aikido/Jujutsu techniques in certain scenes, it would spark peoples interest in all things martial arts again. It's a more subtle way of promoting the art as it would be looking at it from an authentic historical viewpoint. But people would be drawn to that part of our history that has been lost and with the right sort of message or tone it will encourage people to rediscover that element of our humanity.
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:01 AM   #24
Walter Martindale
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Quote:
Ewen Ebsworth wrote: View Post
what Aikido needs is a good Samurai film. Look at Ridley Scot's love affair with antiquity and the middle ages - films about arcane forms of warfare are very popular. Historical dramas have become very popular as a way of making social observations. People like drawing lessons about the present from the past. Take the success of the Last Samurai with Tom Cruise, it's one of my favourite films despite the anachronisms. If someone like Ridley Scot or another big name director made a film about Feudal Japan with a healthy dose of battle scenes and Aikido/Jujutsu techniques in certain scenes, it would spark peoples interest in all things martial arts again. It's a more subtle way of promoting the art as it would be looking at it from an authentic historical viewpoint. But people would be drawn to that part of our history that has been lost and with the right sort of message or tone it will encourage people to rediscover that element of our humanity.
The Challenge - about 1982. Scott Glenn is a washed-up boxer sent on a mission to return a katana to a Japanese family that is fighting over the ownership of said chunk o steel. You see some aiki techniques, a cheesy movie, and Seagal is the martial arts coordinator/consultant for the eiga...
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Old 11-13-2012, 06:12 AM   #25
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Re: Do we need another Steven Seagal?

Quote:
Krystal Locke wrote: View Post
Nope, you're not wrong about any of that. Getting people in the door is indeed my point. A few will stick and be good students. That's worth it, imo. One percent of someone is better than one percent of nobody.
And if, along with that one percent, you get a larger quantity of obnoxious buttmunches who degrade the experience for everyone else? Is it still a net win?
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