With a modern twist to the 1972 classic, “Kung Fu” features an Asian-American heroine who uses her martial arts skills to save her family and her community.
SAN DIEGO — The new CW reboot of the 1972 series “Kung Fu” features an Asian-led cast, something you don’t see very often on primetime television. So, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding the new show, especially among Asian Americans and the martial arts community.
I spoke with Sifu Ming Lau from White Dragon Martial Arts here in San Diego, about the new show kicking martial arts into the spotlight.
“It’s super exciting because I remember growing up watching the Kung Fu series with David Carradine,” Lau reminisced.
Lau said he is looking forward to the modern twist of the new series “Kung Fu,” which features a strong female Chinese-American lead, played by Olivia Liang.
Liang plays heroine Nicky Shen, who drops out of college to escape the pressures from her “Tiger Mom.” She travels to China and spends three years at an all-female Shaolin monastery, mastering Kung Fu and learning Shaolin values. When she returns home to San Francisco, she ends up using her skills to save her family and community.
“I think it’s cool to have a female lead character in this one because, in our school, we teach everybody,” Lau said. “We teach little kids all the way up to adults, boys and girls, mothers and fathers. So it’s really cool to see that type of representation in ‘Kung Fu.'”
Lau points out that martial arts training encompasses more than just the physical skills. He said on the surface, it teaches students self-defense techniques so they can protect themselves if they are attacked, but there are also important life lessons to be learned as well.
“I think one of the most valuable things, especially nowadays, is to teach people how to just come face to face with adversity and to be able to develop the inner strength, the physical strength and the mental strength to be able to handle all these different problems,” he said.
With the recent rise in Asian hate crimes, Lau appreciates that the new show represents Asian Americans in a positive light, highlighting traditional martial arts and self-defense.
“With my students, I hope they never, ever have to use what I have to teach them ever in their whole life,” Lau said, adding, “But violence is out there. It is a reality. And that’s why we train. And hopefully, if we ever need it, it’ll be there because we are prepared.”
Lau believes focusing on what we all have in common, rather than what makes us different, is key to cultural understanding, and he hopes that Kung Fu — both the show and the martial art — can help bring unity.
“We all want to be healthy. We all want to protect ourselves. We want to protect our families. We want to stand up to bullies and all of that kind of stuff. So I just think the show is just going to really add to all of that,” he said.
White Dragon Martial Arts offers classes and training for the public, in addition to their regular classes for students. For more information, click here.
Kung Fu premieres on April 7 at 8 p.m. on The CW San Diego, then airs weekly on Wednesdays.