I was 8 years old and spending my after school hours at Miss Trudy’s house on Monticello Avenue in Jersey City, as I had been doing for the last three years. I had been walking the route from grammar school to Miss Trudy’s starting at age 6, and was very familiar with that two block radius, but not much else. Everything was a new experience as a child: someone driving a colorful car; a person being chased by the police; and unique clothing I might see someone wearing.
After a normal round of playing toys with Miss Trudy’s children, along with other kids that she watched over, my mother arrived on schedule, just after 5 PM. Mom grabbed my coat, motioned for me to come to the front door of the apartment, wrapped me up, and we were on our way home.
We arrived at the front door of the apartment building and I remember seeing three large teenagers walking towards us from the direction of my school. I was a very curious child, and noticed them because they wore all black clothing. Luckily, my mom bumped into a friend of hers and they began chatting, giving me ample time to indulge my curiosity. The three teens, all dark-skinned, stood out from the surrounding street, as if they were carved out from the background. It wasn’t until they were close enough to be in focus that I also noticed small highlights of white spread uniformly throughout their clothing.
In addition to their clothing, what I also took notice of, was the show of respect they gave my mother and her friend, once they finally reached us on the street. They asked both women how their day was going, wished them well, and then walked on. Now this might seem like a minor gesture to most people. However, if you came from that neighborhood of Jersey City in the late 1970s, you know that three teens walking towards you meant you were lucky if they simply ignored you and kept going. And if they asked you for anything, there was usually a motive behind it. Even at age 7, I was aware of this.
As they slowly began to disappear down the busy street, my intrigue only increased. I was starting to feel a sense of wonderment at how they carried themselves. They had a sense of pride and dignity about them, that I remember until this day. I would later come to learn that the white highlights I glanced on their clothes, were actually loops that held a set of wooden buttons that streamed down the front of their jackets, the tips of rolled jacket sleeves, and the white bottoms of the odd shoes that they wore. I believe that if on that day I had seen three classy pimps in bell bottom slacks, fancy shoes and gold jewelry, I wouldn’t have wanted to emulate them as much as I wanted to be like those three teens. I realize now that I had laid eyes on three martial arts students – or enthusiasts – or both.
That was my very first encounter with anything related to Asian fighting arts, but looking back on that day, I don’t think they could have been serious students. Instructors generally don’t encourage their students to wear their uniforms on the street, especially in urban dojos. It invites trouble and can seem boastful. When I interviewed Little John Davis in Florida, he told me that his students are instructed not to wear their uniforms on the street, and can be subject to serious consequences if they do.
The beauty of these films isn’t how good or bad they were, or how original their story lines. In the end, if a movie genre inspires large groups of people to do something positive, they deserve to be discussed… and take their place within cinematic history.
Appreciating the power, beauty, skill, sacrifice and wisdom involved in studying this graceful art form, has clearly transformed and shaped the lives of millions of people worldwide.
For some, Blvd. Warriors will cause fond memories to careen back into your consciousness, recalling joyous days long-forgotten… and at times, a bit embarrassing. For others, it will explain some long-accepted notions that were learned without reason… defining images that have been a part of popular culture for decades, yet seemed to have no clear root. And finally, for the men and women around the world who have dedicated their lives to pursuing the physical and spiritual philosophies, that are the foundation of the martial arts, and the forms of entertainment that have been a byproduct of them… it is a thank you. You have inspired millions of people to better themselves and improves the lives of those around them.