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Martial Arts Writer Sees “Hidden Moves” In The Movie, “A History of Violence”

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I received a very kind email about my review of “A History of Violence,” asking me about the martial arts styles that I detected in that fine film.

I replied that I saw a lot of my art, Kenpo Karate, present.

But as I moved from scene to scene in my discussion, I pointed out a number of subtle martial arts techniques that may have escaped the attention of everyday film buffs as well as martial artists.

Tom Stall, who is the main character, has three confrontations with bad guys.

In the first and second confrontations, perceiving the threats before they have turned overtly violent, he tries to clear the scene of innocent bystanders, who could be used as hostages or be hurt.

The ability to perceive threats and to calculate their magnitude and then to take swift but subtle action, is a very high act of martial artistry. No fancy hand strikes or spinning rear kicks are required.

Even more subtle, but no less effective is how Stall STALLS.

He slows time down, in order to put his adversaries in a semi-trance. You can see how he speaks and moves at a glacial pace, his facial expressions and hand gestures becoming languid, as he prepares to take action.

One of the problems with confrontations is that they seem to accelerate until they spin out of control. Like combustion, that ignites an entire scene, people burst into violence.

Slowing down the particles, reducing the heat, enables you to prepare ever so slightly for the blaze to come, if it is inevitable. A precious second or two, purchased this way, can be life saving, as you’ll see when Ed Harris’ character is about to plug Stall at point blank range.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service, and the audio program, “The Law of Large Numbers: How To Make Success Inevitable,” published by Nightingale-Conant. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide. A Ph.D. from USC’s Annenberg School, a Loyola lawyer, and an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School at Claremont Graduate University, Gary offers programs through UCLA Extension and numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations from Santa Monica to South Africa. He holds the rank of Shodan, 1st Degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate. He is headquartered in Glendale, California, and he can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at: [email protected]

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  • Posted On December 16, 2006
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