One of my favorite movie series ever is the Kung Fu Panda trilogies. The movies balance humor with deep philosophical influences in ways other movies don't come close to. Sure the third one has a bit too much humor for the tone set in the two before it, but it still completes the trifecta.
Po often chased after his destiny in the movies, and the real interesting thing is that it was often not even on purpose. He follow the events that transpired in front of them, and reacted in the best ways he could. He used problem solving, curiosity, passion, and self-awareness to accomplish his goals. Micro or macro, and to me that signifies some of the greatest traits of polymathic people.
"One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it."
- Master Oogway
Note: The videos go along with the post, and sometimes have important points that I reference in the post. I know not everyone will want to watch them all, but I encourage you to. Beware spoilers for the Trilogy if you haven't seen them!
The Philosophies of Kung Fu Panda
Even in the first movie they were going to go all in into the slapstick/humor oriented movie style. However a few higher ups fought for a slightly more serious tone, which ended up being just the right approach. Grossing $631,910,531 in the Worldwide Box Office, and even causing China to reconsider their production of movies. Asking themselves how did a studio outside of the country do such justice to their culture. Which I find purely amazing on all accounts.
In each movie there is a theme, whether it is mind/body/spirit, or Confucianism vs Taoism, or even just the balance of the Yin + Yang.
"Time is an illusion, there is only the now."
- Master Shifu
Wu Wei "Non interference"
Being in one with the state of doing, and akin to the state of FLOW or being in the zone. Po finds this in each film in different ways, such as when he tries the fireworks chair to see the event, finds inner peace through his Tai Chi moment meditating on the past, or even in the final film when he becomes the dragon.
In those scenes he is being one with himself, at least who he is in that time, and that allows him to accomplish great feats in his effort to progress forward.
Similar to some of the other examples in this spirituality list, but being present in the very moment. Achieving peace through the middle path, and being in a state of a soft hum.
It isn't about the highs or lows, but rather bringing it back down to the middle.
Living in the way, or the flow of the universe. As Oogway says there are no accidents, which is because the events that occur are meant to. Similar to Stoicism in the sense that the event has occurred, and you ask yourself "is there anything I can do about this, no? Then move on. Yes? Then do it, and move on.". Regardless of philosophical alignment you may have, these concepts can be applied to your life.
“Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
We see these notions occur in real time in the movies, and even see discourse between different fundamental beliefs. Are you control, or are you not.
While Taoism is more of letting go, and fulfilling one's destiny by freeing yourself from the illusion of control. Confucian gives a counter argument that there ARE things we can control.
The ideas we cultivate, the habits we build, and the choices we make on a daily basis. They all come together to build out who we are, and while they may seem insignificant they do add up.
Respecting rituals, serving our parents, cultivating knowledge, are the things that Confucius found important.
Here is a video to get you in the mental state of this philosophical post.
Taking the esoteric beauty of the flow of Po's torturous life, and transforming it into a cohesive piece. That is what the musicians of the original soundtracks of the trilogy did. It takes an acute understanding of music, Chinese culture, the vast Kung Fu ethos, and of the movie series to do such tremendous justice to the OST.
You can hear notes from each pivotal point in the first two movies, the passion of Po's plight, and the challenges he faces
Why Polymathy and Kung Fu?
The essence of polymathy is doing many things deeply and well, and the essence of Martial arts is the codified systems and repeatable patterns. They both are unique in the framework of the subject, but they both rely on being multidisciplinary. My friend Matt Lucas the "Man of Action", he told me that everything is Martial Arts. Any sort of skill is a martial art of sorts, and that is true. Every skill is a set of codified systems that can be learned.
Check out Matt Lucas here:
The Styles of Kung Fu
I find it fascinating how wide ranging the list of styles is. I always knew of the main five-ish (in part because of Kung Fu Panda), plus things like Drunken style or Dragon.
However it branches out farther as if it was a great tree. Each sometimes quite distinct from just the one province over. Not to mention cross-cultural as well, from the Buddhist to the Islamic, and one that I see a lot more of now: Shaolin.
I think it would be best for you to see it from here, rather than me trying to explain it from my limited understanding. Once I get a better grasp I'll make a Kung Fu styles post!
The Furious Five
Embodying the main styles of Kung Fu in the Eastern real world. I say main however every teacher, and every student is going to teach/learn them differently. Two teachers who came from the same dojo will inevitably teach it differently from each other. It is how we are by nature as people.
I took Mantis style in my youth, and it wasn't until I got older that I realized that other styles don't hook onto the opponents nearly as much. Other styles are more precise, whereas Mantis or Snake/Viper style will be more wrapping around.
The literal animals the styles are named after, are the characters in the movies. Their personalities embracing the styles of their namesakes. Really bringing into the picture how one style has an impact that one person deeply.
In each style they have their pros and cons, and in my opinion one should learn from many areas to master themselves. The same goes for exercise in general, and taking a more crossfit mindset when it comes to one's own cross-disciplinary training.
The Dragon Style
As Matt Pat puts it, the dragon style is a mashup of all the other techniques, and in my words that sounds quite polymathic to me. Taking the polymathic approach to exercise is the theory behind PolyInnovator's own "Polymath Exercise" topic category.
Taking multiple forms/disciplines/areas, and bringing them together to create something new. More viable as well because you get the best of all of them.
Po loves all of the Furious Five, and has been self-teaching himself their moves since he was a kid. An autodidactic trait that continues in the series.
How is Po a Polymath?
By mastering multiple styles of Kung Fu he is able to see things from multiple perspectives. From a young age he admired the Furious Five and their abilities. Not only did he admire, but he would practice in his room to mimic the movements. Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery as they say, and I am sure during the trainings at the Jade Palace he would learn more of their styles up close.
Whilst each of the Five are specialists of their one art, Po instead chooses to embody all of them, as well as his own. Making him polymathic for choosing multiple deep ares of learning, even if he wasn't fully aware of himself doing it.
Both sides of the Yin and Yang
This emotional climax of the second film portrays Po as the ☯︎ truly for the first time. Sure he is black and white in physical form, but this is showing his mental clarity and evolution.
One key part to #Polymathy in my own opinion is the concept of balance. Maintaining a separation from overly specializing, but balancing between specializations. When you find that balance, then you find the intersection of the areas.
Jack Black's Performance
Much respect to the Jable's acting in the series, and how he portrays the character with multiple layers of depth. Considering Jack himself is polymathic, for he is an actor, singer, rocker, game creator, producer, and more.
Po's Vast Experiences for a Seemingly Simple life
Looks can be deceiving however, and just like they say don't judge a book by its cover. The Kung Fu Panda tribute by Khaled Osman was created to share Po's journey of discovering Who He Is. It is not about what you can become, but what you have become. Who you are now.
Knowing who you are to fill the "crater in your soul" as Shen says, and the feeling of loss/emptiness is hard to fill. You can't expect for it to come from the outside, but only from within. Even though I've always known who I wanted to be... I haven't always known who I was. This video has made me tear up a few occasions.
"Your story may not have such a happy beginning but that does not make you who you are, it is the rest of it – who you choose to be"
What does Kung Fu and Polymathy have in Common?
As my friend Matt said that everything is a Martial Art, it makes me think that the concept of polymathy in mastering many areas, but also the discipline and depth to martial arts coincide.
You have to learn many skills to master an Art, but also deepen yourself into many areas to be a polymath. Perhaps they are interlaced?
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Being a successful Jack of all Trades
I would think someone who tried out 10,000 kicks would actually be the scarier opponent. The wisdom behind Lee's line of thinking is that when you do the same movement over and over again, then the strength and neuromuscular connection will be significantly higher. That is true, but there is also a benefit to practicing a wide range of movements as well.
Let it be known that I greatly respect Lee and his mindset, and I am only showing that going wide is good too. I think his quote actually misses a key point, for both opponents practiced 10,000 times.
Making the person who did more types of kicks more versatile, let alone stronger in more than one area. Making him/her a far greater opponent, as the only difference then would be speed. Making the specialist more of a threat if given the chance, but the person who went wide can get around that more often.
That to me is being a successful jack of all trades, for the person continuously practice, and never gave up. Just instead of going keep, went all in on going wide.
"There is always something more to learn. Even for a master."
- Master Oogway
Po bringing together the various styles of Kung Fu
"Panda Style" or "Dragon Style" it doesn't matter, as in either case he is mixing and matching the best of all worlds. That to me is the true definition of cross fit, let alone Polymath Exercise, and the embodiment of what a "Dragon Warrior" would be. Po also brought balance to the future and past of Kung Fu too.
The Future and Past Together in Unison, in the Present
As I mentioned before, Po brings together the future with is new ideas, but also the past with his heritage and unique position. By balancing them both out in his own life, he is able to bring Kung Fu forward to a new age.
"You are too concerned with what was and what will be. There’s a saying: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present."
- Master Oogway
He always for the most part stayed in the future or past, thinking about everything except the present moment, but when he did that is when he succeeded. Asking himself what can I do NOW? What is happening NOW? Which is the same concept behind my Now Page Updates:
Why Oogway Chose Po
The beauty of the choice expands in each film too, and it didn't seem to be added on like a weighted plot.
The various aspects of what makes Po, Po, are there from the beginning. More than just him being fat, more than him loving Kung Fu, there is a balance being achieved far greater than he could know. Even by the end of the third film.
Oogway, being as old as he is, experienced things that other people weren't even alive for. A great example being the previous panda civilization he came across, for it was his experience with them that helped him find the basis of Kung Fu.
How the universe works in mysterious ways, for a panda who ended up adoring Kung Fu from afar. Someone who was born into the species that helped inspire the art as a whole in the first place.
However also looked into the future, and could imagine/visualize what was possible. Both good and bad for that matter, and that is the grounding of stoicism in him too.
My own Experiences with Kung Fu
Growing I loved this song, and imitated the movements too. Say what you want about Cee Lo, this song does slap, and Jack Black is one of my favorite actors.
I grew up loving the films, loving Jack Black, and even needed to learn a self-defense for myself for a variety of reasons. My grandmother paid for me and my uncle to go learn Kung Fu, which not knowing this at the time much was Mantis Style.
I loved it, and although I didn't make a whole lot of progress. Mainly due to my inadequate physical development at that point in my life (leading me into personal training/fitness down the line). I did end up learning a lot, especially about balance and toughness.
I remember taking taekwondo prior for an extended amount of time. Probably maybe a couple years, and I learned more in two weeks at the Kung Fu place than I did in the years at the other martial arts place.
I still find myself thinking back on that training as much as possible, and I wish I could afford to go back. Perhaps my training in the future will lead me towards Shaolin Kung Fu.
The Four Pillars and Kung Fu Panda
This is the last section of the post for the most part, and one I find the most fascinating. The Four Pillars Philosophy I created, is completely based on other parts of the world's interpretation of life.
I make no claims that I am the sole creator of the idea, but rather try to do the opposite. By not leaving it all to me, then other people can take their own backgrounds, and apply it to the Four Pillars more easily. Which is far more important than claiming, so for example Yoga, Kung Fu, Martial Arts in general, Aristotle principles, and more. They all culminate in creating a better version of YOU.
I love how the films come across the same conclusions as I did too.
Being a "big fat stupid panda" as multiple characters in the series describe him, is something he faces on a regular basis. The external societal idealism on the perfect body. While being fat literally saves his life multiple times in the trilogy, it also becomes the de facto growth for his self in the first film.
In fact it is what allows him to defeat Tai Lung.
The villian of the second film is a logical one, and challenges Po's resilience. Even toying with his emotions, and causing him to thinking irrationally. One does not find Inner Peace with a clouded mind. Just like Shifu in the first film, as Oogway exclaims:
“Your mind is like this water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”
Po finds his peace because he allows himself to stop, reflect, and think clearly.
Mastering Chi becomes the central focus of the third film. With Chi often being associated with the spiritual world, not only in the films, but in real life too. The energy of the body, and the life force of each living thing. The esoteric aspect behind it flows into the heart as spiritual growth.
Po's journey to mastering Chi follows his previous two Pillars, accepting his physical form as a panda, his mental clarity of knowing who he is, and balancing the past and future of Kung Fu as the Dragon Warrior. He enlightens himself along his journey, mastering Chi in the process, and elevates his fellow denizens of the valley.
As "Sage's Rain" explains in the video above, the second film breaks Po physically/emotionally/mentally, and only he alone could he restore himself. Better than that bring himself to his own destiny.
It was a matter of emotional intelligence that brought him to Shen in the final act. He could have ran, same in the final film, but his commitment to others brought front facing. His empathy, and emotional awareness to the suffering around him. It all originated because of his feeling of loss.
Just like the PolyInnovator Four Pillars Philosophy, the big three that everyone always knows, is deeply intertwined with the fourth: Emotions.
I talk about his in my post the Sadness of a Happy Man.
An End for a Beginning
Between the usage of color, the powerful quotes from ancient philosophies, the love for Chinese culture, the power of self-reflection, and so very much more; There is the movement in the films that brings together all of the various arcs. From the point of the protagonist, or the hero (separated in the first film actually), to the sheer appreciation of Chinese culture scattered about.
The ascension of the film in regards to modern media is no surprise, and my love for the trilogy only grew exponentially with the writing of this post. I have been thinking about bits and pieces of these films, and thereby this post for the length of years. I actually held off from finishing this post for some reason. I truly believe that this is because I was waiting...
Waiting for inspiration? Waiting for flow? Waiting for me to get back into the MINDSET of Kung Fu Panda? Perhaps.
This video came out ^ two weeks ago at the time of this session of writing, as I have tackled this post on a few occasions. Whilst I write this I have my accountability buddy co-working on a zoom call, giving me more motivation to finish, and this video sparking my interest again.
Immersing myself into the flow and the passage of time, all to be writing the end of this post with the same feeling I had when starting it.
That is when I am in flow best, to experience a sort of channeling of the universe if you want to get spiritual about it.
I will end this here, and I once again encourage you to watch these various videos. They follow the post in the flow of the writing, but even the ones below I had used as inspiration.
I would be remissed if I were not to share this:
It was recently announced that a new KFP series would be launching, with Jack Black himself, as the previous two shows did not have him. It seems to have an interesting premise so to speak.
Try Meditating on all that you read/watched today, and see how it figures into your life.
This is an Example of one of the PolyPro Posts
I wanted to put this purely behind the paywall, but I realized the wide reach that this movie series has. How much it truly has impacted me on a personal level, and that all of these videos shared in this post do not viewed nearly enough.
This post is a prime example of the passion I employ when making these long form PolyPRO posts. Meaning that the paid subscription gets you long form, information/wisdom dense, and overall just full of value posts like this. Topics may vary, but the quality does not! You can expect awesome detailed posts like this one!
From what I am thinking, this will be one of the last FREE PolyPRO posts for quite some time. I probably even went overboard with the amount of free samples, but I had felt a deep intuition to make this one open to the world. However perhaps a similar post on How to Train Your Dragon will be made, and that one will be gated with love behind the PolyPRO membership.
Check out the PolyPro membership:
Video Essays that Strive to share the Philosophy of the Series
I added these because of how powerful they can be as explainers. You gain a lot of understanding about life through the movies, and these videos distill those ideas.
More videos from the Series and Soundtracks
This next one is one of my favorites: