Monday, July 1, 2013

And Another One Gone

 Jim Kelly looking good

This month marks the 40th anniversary since the Mother of All Martial Arts movies first exploded on the big screen.

"Enter The Dragon" introduced the incomparable Bruce Lee to a worldwide audience.  Unfortunately only days before its mega successful debut, he died in Hong Kong from an allergic reaction to a common medicine taken to relieve a headache. 

I could use up a lot of bandwidth posting about the influence Bruce Lee had on an entire generation of martial artists, boxers, wrestlers, and action movie aficionados -- but nothing could compare to simply watching a snippet of the amazing man in action.

Another star who briefly lit up the silver screen alongside Bruce in that  breakthrough picture was a black martial artist with a big Afro and, seemingly, an even bigger ego.  But as they once said about Bruce Lee: he was cocky, but he could back up the cockiness with physical prowess.

Jim Kelly died over the weekend.  He was 67.  But I will always remember him as that twenty- something fleet of foot karate fighter, one of the best of his time.

That was a time in America when Sport Karate was just starting to take off, where on any weekend anywhere in America you could find a high school gymnasium overflowing with men, women and children dressed in karate gis, grouped according to belt color awaiting a two-minute match.

When the bad guy, Han, confronts Williams (the Jim Kelly character) saying he needed to learn humility through defeat, Williams responds, "I don't waste my time with it. When it comes, I won't even notice ... I'll be too busy looking g-o-o-d."

As the bad guy then prepares for the climactic fight to the death, Williams sneers, 'Man, you come right out of a comic book."

Like most top tournament karate competitors at the time Jim Kelly hoped his martial arts prowess would lead to other lucrative opportunities, since the tournament wins usually paid off in over-sized trophies.

My favorite  Jim Kelly quote comes not from a movie but from an article in Black Belt magazine where he lamented, "Trophies don't put gas in my car."

Like tournament karate itself,  Jim Kelly never quite reached the sustained pinnacle of financial success so richly deserved.  But he could always be counted on for  "looking good."

Now, for eternity.


Anonymous said...

Hey, that's Black belt Jones!

Anonymous said...

Larry, you should have two blogs. One for Amherst (this blog) and another for your personal interests. Please don't take offense to this, but articles about your interest are not... interesting. The town politics are the bread and butter of this blog. Keep it that way is my advice.

Anonymous said...

I like hearing about his other interests. It proves that Larry is not as uncomplicated as you think.

Abraham said...

The thing is, I'm not concerned about Larry; I'm concerned about the town. And being such a defender of his own right to be considered a bonafide journo, it devalues his meaning town-based work. He doesn't need to prove to me that he is 'uncomplicated.'

Larry Kelley said...

When I start publishing fewer Amherst stories per week than does the Gazette/Bulletin/Republican, you may complain.

Until then ...

Anonymous said...

" until then" ...what?

Larry Kelley said...

Shut the f_ck up.