Movies and Martial Arts

Nick Roussos, white belt, and his karate entourage.

Exercising Discipline on Set

Last month (May 2017) we were talking about discipline, both as a noun (“training that corrects, molds, or perfects a person’s physical body, mental faculties or moral character”) and as a verb (“to train oneself to do something in a controlled, precise and habitual way”).

Karate and taekwondo are disciplines. Same with creative pursuits like writing and making films.

On a recent Saturday we were lucky to be part of a documentary film project with a special guest, author and speaker Nick Roussos. Nick was born and grew up in Ethiopia, where his parents ran a safari business.

Nick Roussos, white belt, and his karate entourage.

He’s lived with cerebral palsy all his life, and all his life he’s fought for ways to overcome challenges.

So what do students learn about discipline by interacting with Nick and his team? Take Saturday’s film project at the karate school.

Action (and Inaction): Patience as a Discipline

The premise of the scene is that Nick, a white belt, is in karate class throwing blocks and punches with the other students. All’s well until who bursts in but (you guessed it!) three black-clad ninjas. Alas for them, Nick has summoned his mental powers to project himself as a young karateka, who swirls into a series of cartwheel kicks, side kicks, reverse hook kicks and judo flips to take out the trash. Ninjas pile up one, two three on the floor, and all the students rush to hug and cheer “Ninja Nick.”

Rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at some ninjas.

Now these are serious, professional film makers calling the shots. It takes time to set up the cameras and level the dollies. Write out scenes on the clapperboards. Adjust white balance. Arrange the actors and extras. And each 12 second shot needs to be done over, and over, and over (and over again about five more times) to make sure it’s just right before the cuts go to editing.


The process depends on discipline. One person moves off mark or laughs or forgets their line as the camera pans, it’s “Cut!” And you start again. It’s just like when you’re all on the wall holding sidekicks during class–one person puts their leg down, you all gotta start over.

After about two hours, the film makers ended the day’s shoot. “Ahead of schedule,” they noted.

That says something about our students’ Black Belt discipline (not to mention Nick’s), listening to instruction in a brand new field, and following through.

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