Jackie Chan Inspires...

…me. Does he? I was asked this question a while back and I didn't have an answer because I simply couldn’t make up my mind. Does Jackie Chan inspire me? And if so, how does he inspire me? I've been trying to come up with a suitable answer for a while now but even after careful consideration I’m still not sure whether Jackie Chan does inspire me so I’ve decided to take a little trip down memory lane instead.

I was only little when my dad introduced me to Jackie Chan – yes my dad is wholeheartedly to blame. He brought Jackie into my life and somehow it was love at first sight. I shall endeavour to explain this a little bit better. There’s two things you need to know:
  • My dad loves action movies. The more action the better. Explosion after explosion. Good guys vs. bad guys. Car chases, guns being fired left right and centre, fights of just about any kind. The more the better. The reason? Well let me quote my dad ‘When I watch television, I want to relax. I don’t want to think, I just want to switch off and watch some mindless rubbish for an hour and a half.
  • I'm a daddy’s girl. Always have been. Growing up, I spent any chance I got with my dad. I was happy when I got to sit in his workshop and watch him work away. There was always spare paper flying around, perfect for colouring, cutting up, folding, gluing together. There were plenty of bolts, nuts and a wide array of various spare parts flying around that could be screwed into a piece of wood or thrown into dad’s coffee cup. There was never a boring moment, I always found something to do. Whether what I was doing actually aided my dad's work, now that's a whole different story.
Now you can imagine that a daddy’s girl and an action movie loving dad don’t really go together. The type of action movies my dad watched included plenty of cursing, sex and drugs. No sensible dad would let his daughter watch that kind of stuff only to have her wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares. No, my dad was more thoughtful than that. He purposefully picked movies that would make me laugh. Sure there was some violence but it wasn’t excessive and it was always more comical than serious. Dad’s movie choices were therefore perfectly reasonable and okay for me to watch.

Terence Hill & Bud Spencer
For one, there was Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. I couldn’t get enough of those two. Dad always checked the TV programme in advance to see if there was a movie on we could watch together and sure thing whenever there was a Bud Spencer and/or Terence Hill movie on, we’d watch it. I don’t think we ever missed a movie – that was our ritual. Sometimes my mum would join us but most of the time it was just me and my dad. My dad must have seen some of those movies close to a dozen times or more but I’ve never heard him complain. When I was little, I always got to sit on his knee and watch those movies with him while I cheekily stole a cuddle or three. Let me tell you, daddy’s girls know how to get what they want when they want it – always.

I should mention that apart from action movies, my dad also likes Asian material arts movies. He’d often stay up late to watch one of those. I seem to recall that my dad favoured Bruce Lee but I don’t think I watched many of those movies with my dad. I seem to remember one particular movie but there were plenty of scenes with naked women in it and I didn’t really understand the plot either so I lost interest pretty early on. What I did enjoy were the fight scenes, I loved those. They reminded me of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill giving some fifty bad guys a run for their money. The good guy giving the bad guy a good beating was just my cup of tea. (Note: I also loved to play with dolls, dressing up as a princess and colouring, but I was quite a bit of a tomboy.)

The man himself ;-)
This is where Jackie Chan comes into the picture. My dad had a thing for Asian material arts movies, I had a thing for the fight scenes…it was a win/win for both of us really with the benefit that my dad didn’t have to worry about me being subjected to sex and violence at every turn. He wasn’t prude about sex but there are things a five-year-old really doesn’t need to see…yet. Women wriggling their less-than-dressed bodies in a strip club for the benefit of a bunch of 50-something business men was one of those things.

Since my dad knew that Jackie Chan’s movies didn’t include any of those ‘highly inappropriate’ scenes (for children), he would happily let me watch them. When I was little, I was especially in love with ‘Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow’. I felt for the young orphan boy, being picked on by the material arts school owner, his son and everyone else around. I loved the Old Man and how he taught Jackie’s character to defend himself and also gave him a few life lessons along the way. Looking back, I think I identified with the young orphan boy because we both got picked on in school. During that time, the Old Man was there for the orphan boy while my dad was there for me when I came home with bruises and a tear-stained face. It somehow made all those punches and mean words bearable because I would just close my eyes, block them out and think ‘I’ve got an Old Man who’ll come by to make it all alright.

I distinctly remember watching the first ‘Drunken Master’ movie together with my dad and I was doubled over laughing for most of the movie. I remember asking my dad ‘Is Jackie really drunk?’ and he explained to me that Jackie was just drinking water, that he was pretending to be drunk. I found this hilarious and would often stumble into the kitchen or living room, holding a glass of water and pretending to be ‘Little Drunken Master’ much to amusement of my dad. My pretended kung fu kicks and punches were nothing compared to Jackie’s unreal talent in fight choreography but it was hilarious anyway. Whenever dad put one of Jackie’s movies on for me to watch, I would excitedly try to copy some of Jackie’s moves. Most of my attempts ended with me face down on the bed and my dad poking fun at me. I usually subjected my dad to series of Jackie Chan punches – his response ‘And you’re tickling me why?

By the time we got around to the Police Story movies, I wanted to be a material arts master, a police woman, a stunt man, Jackie Chan’s personal assistant, and everything in-between. Apart from Bud Spencer and Terence Hill it was pretty much Jackie here, Jackie there and Jackie everywhere. I think my dad was probably more or less thinking something along the lines of ‘oh god, what have I done?’. He was however stunted when I started Judo classes and stuck with it for 18 months after which chess and basketball took over my life but that’s another story altogether. I do believe that my during my Judo days my dad ended up the bad guy on a few occasions while I was pretending to be Jackie (I did never manage to win against dad though).

Our living room table looked something like that
I pretended so well that one particular attempt, when I tried to copy one of Jackie’s high kicks, ended with my ankle and the marble table in our living room getting intimately acquainted with each other. It wasn't a very good relationship, I have to admit. It ended with tears and a pack of frozen vegetables on my throbbing ankle. To console me, dad treated me to ‘Rumble in the Bronx’ and told me that this was the movie where Jackie broke his ankle jumping from  bridge onto a hovercraft. My response was ‘What sort of mad man jumps from a bridge onto a hovercraft?’ to which my dad gave me a pointed look and said ‘Well, what sort of mad little girl kicks a marble table, trying to be Jackie Chan?’. I didn’t know what to reply to that so I didn't say anything at all.

Two days later, in a blind and unfounded rage, I punched the marble table to get even for my sprained ankle. This naturally didn't end in my favour either (in fact it ended with a sprained wrist) and my dad suggested that maybe I should leave the kicking and punching to Jackie and concentrate on my maths homework instead. I couldn't really see the point in that, but since my mum sided with my dad, I didn't have much of a choice though I did argue like a world champion (in the end they won because somehow parents always do!).

Over the years, even when hanging out with the girls got more interesting, Jackie has always been at the back of my mind. Sometimes his influence was a bit more prominent, sometimes it was less prominent. Thinking of Jackie instantly brings to mind happy childhood memories and throughout my teenage years I never turned down an opportunity to watch a Jackie Chan movie with my dad. I truly treasure memories of my childhood although I have to admit, I would love to forget all about the kicking-a-marble-table-incident. So if you know of a memory wiping charm, like the one Will Smith uses in Men In Black – one that’s been proven to work – do let me know.

Growing up all I really knew about Jackie was that he’s a tremendously brilliant actor, does all his own stunts and is hysterically comical but that was good enough for me. In a way Jackie always makes me think about my dad. The two are a little alike – they’re both super cool (yes, this is the little daddy’s girl in me speaking!). My dad is pretty damn strong – I’ve never seen my dad fight but I’m pretty sure my awesome superhero dad could knock over a baddie with a well-placed punch in the face (and no I’m not biased!). Also my dad is comical beyond imagination. He comes back with a witty response as fast as Jackie can throw a series of punches. By time you’ve thought up a suitable reply, my dad’s knocked you for six with at least three more responses that leave you wanting to pull your hair out while desperately trying to come up with something witty to throw back at him.

Naturally, when I got older I started to investigate the whole Jackie Chan story a little bit more thoroughly. I watched the one or other documentary and discovered all about the injuries he got when doing stunts. I can’t say I was particularly impressed. I thought he was insane for doing what he did but then I also admired him for being so whole-heartedly committed to his career and actually keeping it real. I have to admit, I cannot watch the beginning and the end of ‘Armour of God’ without squirming or looking away from the screen but that’s just silly emotional me. I can’t stand watching people get hurt and because I know (from watching and reading interviews) just how badly Jackie got hurt, I turn away.

Apart from truly enjoying Jackie’s movies, I also enjoy his singing. In fact, I was quite ecstatic when I found out that Jackie is quite an apt singer. I discovered that little fact about Jackie quite late and suddenly it was like Jackie had become a entirely different person – there was so much more to discover. When I first started to listen to Jackie’s songs, I didn’t understand a word but it sounded just beautiful to me. I love the sound of Jackie’s voice – talking or singing. It is soothing and makes me smile at the same time. I can’t say I listen to Jackie’s English songs very often but I truly heart anything he sings in Mandarin (I probably most frequently listen to everything from 1992 onwards).

These are a few of my favourite Jackie Chan songs but by far not all, I’ve just randomly picked out a few:
  • 你是一場多情的夢
  • 但願花常在
  • T潮起潮落陪你度過
  • 在我生命中的每一天
  • We Are Ready
  • 相信自己
  • 打开天空
  • 生死不离
These are in no particular order, but if you want me to pick a favourite, I will choose 相信自己 without the slightest bit of hesitation. I connect with that song on so many levels that I almost don’t know where to begin to explain why I like it so much. It’s my inspiration, it’s my feel good song, it’s my you-can-do-it-song. It’s my pick me up, it’s my lullaby. It’s a bit of everything for me. I love the melody, the words, the meaning, Jackie’s voice. In my own little world, this is Jackie telling me – and only me – that I should believe in myself, that I can do it. He’s telling me what my dad would tell me whenever I can’t pick up the phone to call my awesome superhero dad to tell me (his favourite daughter) what she needs to hear. 相信自己 inspires me. 相信自己 inspires me to try something; something I’ve not tried before. 相信自己 tells me not to give up just yet, that the easy way out isn’t always the best choice, although it’s the easiest.

打开天空 would be a close second on my list of favourite. It’s my wake-up song, my get myself into gear song. My sing-along-out-of-tune song. I can listen to 打开天空 while writing, reading, working out. It definitely gets me going and just like with 相信自己, when I listen to 打开天空, Jackie has a message for me too. It’s more insistent though (but has nothing to do with the song, mind). This is Jackie telling me to get going, to not be such a lazy bones. That thought makes me smile just like the wake up message my dad recorded for me a few years ago does. Dad’s message is a bit more direct because he just doesn’t beat around the bush. He tells it like it is whether I like it or not. I suspect Jackie would too, if he knew me, but he doesn’t so he’s taking the more gentle, less direct approach which suits me just fine. One dad telling me which way the wind blows is by far enough for me.

Apart from a happy childhood and some truly amazing songs, Jackie has managed to draw my intention to matters like various charity protects such as, Animal Protection (Wild Aid), Operation Smile, Save the Children and the Build-A-School-Project to name but a few. I truly appreciate the fact that Jackie gets hands on involved in all these charities instead of just talking about them. It’s one thing to just talk about a charity and get others to donate and help out but it’s an entirely different thing to just go ahead and do something and let people judge you by seeing what you do.

I believe that message is more subtle but much more powerful. Watching someone you admire / care about standing in muck and dirt, distributing food and water to those less fortunate is a million times more powerful than watching a carefully recorded and airbrushed video clip of said person, trying to entice you to help out a charity. The former is more honest, more caring, more real. It shows me that that someone is for real, that they are sincere, that what they are involved in something they believe in with all their heart. I believe, if you feel you will act and if you see someone feel you will most likely feel too, especially if you care about who you see.

I must admit that Jackie is not the reason why I started learning Mandarin but he has indeed been a driving force behind keeping me going when I get fed up with those pesky measure words and want to throw it all way. Jackie mainly manages to keep me going through his music, though some of his movies and/or video clips have played small parts. They give me a nudge when I need it the most and remind me that if I give up now I’ll never get to the bottom of what Jackie said. Sure there are translations and subtitles – I’m very grateful for those – but there’s nothing quite like understanding a language and getting the meaning behind it without somebody else doing it for you. Three times out of four I still blankly stare at my computer screen when I watch Jackie animatedly speak in Mandarin but at the same time I also have that silly grin on my face and one thought – “one day I’ll understand what you just said.

I guess, if I look back on everything, Jackie Chan has (still does) inspire me…even just a little bit. He’s definitely touched my life in a good way and I’m happy to know him – one side of him, the one that he happily shares with the world. It’s been a lovely journey so far and I’m sure it will continue to be a lovely journey for many years to come.