David Carradine Kung-Fu Inspiration

I was a die-hard fan of the early 1970s TV series Kung-Fu, starring David Carradine. Back then I was a low ranked karate black belt in an America that barely recognized – let alone understood – the Asian martial arts.

Shaolin Temple monk Kwai Chang Caine, wandering in exile from China in the rough American West, living his Buddhist wisdom as best he could in a violent and spiritually primitive land, was surprisingly emotionally motivating to me. He did his best to remain unobtrusive, aiding others in trouble when needed, sharing his spiritual insights  in a gentle way, but nonetheless drawing a clear martial line of boundary when the crude, stupid, and brutal mistook his compassion for weakness.

I was at that time in my early 20s, working sadly out of character in a corporate job ill-fitting for my spirit. The Kung-Fu show and its Kwai Chang Caine hero forced me into recognition of what I should have been doing in my life. David Carradine’s nuanced portrayal of the Buddhist monk martial artist nailed me right where I lived. What was I doing with my life? I needed a radical revision. I needed to become someone I respected. I needed to find and be spiritual wisdom. I needed to serve and build spirits full of potential in a sometimes cruel, stupid, and discouraging world. In 1972, I knew what I needed to become, but how would I do it?

Long after Kung-Fu the series disappeared, I got to know David Carradine the person and actor. Gently put, I’ll just say I did not experience much of Kwai Chang in the persona of David, who sometimes left people feeling awkwardly ill at ease meeting him (at least those times when I was around). I cannot advise patterning in how to be the best celebrity possible from David Carradine. Nonetheless, the impact of his roles on so many of us of my generation is of undeniable importance.

Thank you, David Carradine, for your inspiring role in my life, and in the lives of all who subsequently found my books, DVDs, schools, and seminars. May you now find the inner peace and illumination that your beautiful Kwai Chang demonstrated so movingly for all the rest of us.

9 comments to “David Carradine Kung-Fu Inspiration”

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  1. A very touching tribute, An-shu.

  2. The ‘Kung Fu’ series was my first ever exposure to martial arts and it was certainly an inspiring one. I still laugh (in a good way) when I think of how we used to play ‘snatch this pebble from my hand…’ with each other as kids. ; )

    Cheers to Mr. Carradine, may he rest in peace.

  3. Loved Kung Fu !

  4. Thank you for sharing with us your touching eulogy of Carradine/Caine. It echoed much of what many martial artists are feeling at this time.

  5. Yes, a series to remember I must add. I think I was fascinated by the ninja before I saw the show, but watching the ‘Kung-Fu’ series made me realize there was much more to the martial arts than punches, kicks, and takedowns, it was almost at this moment (watching Caine) that I realized the martial arts were a fascinating aspect of life and that there must be many secrets and truths to it. I loved his line “I am Caine, I will help you.” which to me embodies a true sage of wisdom.

  6. Tim Phistry says: -#1

    I too loved the Kung Fu Tv series. It inspired me to do my best to be involved in the Martial Arts. About 5 years ago I even acheived a Yellow/Black belt in the art of To Shin Do. Unfortunatley due to moving I was unable to continue my practice.

    Now I once again have the resources and support to practice but it seems that the School in the Chicago Area has closed. So I will return to the Arts practicing Hapkido.

    I have a question though, I loved To Shin Do, how could I suppliment my Hapkido with To Shin Do, or does anyone know how I may be able to resume practice in To Shin Do here in Chicago?


    Tim Phistry
    Former Student of Quest in Naperville IL.

  7. Hi Tim,

    You can continue your training as a long-distance student, and An-shu offers many instructional videos to help you with this.

    Black Belt Home Study Course is an entire DVD set with Earth, Wind, Fire, and Wind elemental instruction in To-Shin Do.

    Optionally, you can also purchase these as individual DVD sets, such as Effortless Victory over Larger Attackers is one.


  8. Just wanted to say hello to Stephen Hayes, from an old high school buddy. Steve, I live in Arizona (winters), and Montana, and would not know a thing about a ninja. But, still wanted to say hello!

  9. “David Carradine: The Eye of My Tornado” is the new book about Carradine’s untimely demise. It’s written by Carradine’s ex-wife, Marina Anderson.

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