Kung Fu Panda Lessons

In our house we have debated many times why we like Kung Fu Panda the movie – mind you, our son Javier has perfume by the same name so I clarify. To some, it might seem we have analyzed the movie beyond any screenwriters original intent. We probably have.  But then that is the nature of art. The artist’s intention is only one dimension of the work’s communicative power. So here are some of our Kung Fu Panda lessons:
  1. Master Shifu acknowledges he cannot train Po like he did the others. – Teaching and training are not 1 size fits all.
  2. After earning his dumpling, Po gives it up – Exercise is a natural appetite suppressant.
  3. Po can do awesome kung fu when he is focused on food – We can achieve awesome results when we are singularly focused.
  4. Shifu: Read it and become the dragon warrior ! Shifu knew the truth but did not understand it. He saw his apprenticeship as to Oogway as a right and privilege. Shifu understood that he would be the trainer of Warriors and, more importantly, the Dragon Warrior. Aware of his place in history, Shifu aimed to be judicious and metered out his sharing of Kung Fu.  He was strict and selective.  Shifu wanted to ensure the worthiness of the recipient of the magic held by the Dragon Scroll.
  5. Shifu’s approach to training others shaped Tai Lung. Tai Lung was raised preparing for the next thing. Whatever he did it was not enough. He was always being trained so he could be worthy of the dragon scroll. This imprints Tai Lung with the acute message that he is not worthy as it is. He is waiting for external validation that never comes and is haunted by the void he feels inside. This void gave him insatiable rage and focus to earn or claim the dragon scroll. This rage was the key behind Tai Lungs outstanding Kungfu.
  6. Po: (Trying to read while blinded by the reflection of the scroll) it’s blank? ! So Oogway was just a crazy old turtle – This is Po’s most difficult moment. His childish faith has been shattered.  Po goes home.  In this nurturing environment he is able to come to terms with his faith and understand it more fully.
  7. Po’s father loves him,.this is easy to see to any parent. Po knows he is loved and will always have a place at home where he is needed and valued. This is captured consistently throughout the movie through Po’s Dad call out early on:  “Po! Your noodle cart!” and upon Po’s return and public failure. Po: Hey dad, Po’s Dad, Mr. ping: PO! Good to have you back son!   So for our next shop … Po’s Dad makes plans for him and his son. The Dad’s reaction is unchanged, Po’s Dad always has a future with Po in it, if Po chooses.
  8. Po’s Dad, Mr. Ping: The secret ingredient is… nothing! You heard me, there is no secret ingredient! To make something special you just have to believe it to be special. Po: There is no secret ingredient? This exchange highlight the redeeming power of faith. Our faith in each other unlocks the power with each of us to transform the world.  Soup made with ordinary ingredients becomes an experience for the senses because of the attention, focus and love that are part of the process.  The “magic” is in how we do things. We have a choice to assist in transforming the world around us or living and dying in a banal and meaningless sequence of events.
  9. Questions that we are inspired to ask after watching the movie: What do you love above all else? Do you dare be awesome? Who do you choose to be?
  10. Tai Lung: Finally,  (upon seeing his reflection on the glistening scroll) It’s nothing! Note that when Po sees the Dragon Scroll he assumes the scroll for some error is suddenly blank. This contrasts Tai Lungs response, whom upon seeing his own reflection says he sees nothing. Tai Lung was expecting magic, and does not see his own value otherwise.
  11. Tai Lung: The scroll has given him special powers! The Wuxi finger hold….skedoosh! – Your beliefs and you fears hold power over you.
  12. Po looks to others like a dragon warrior even when he is looking ridiculous himself with haggard fromt he battle with Po and wearing a cooking pot on his head.
  13. Maybe its because we are parents, but I see the Noodle Duck as an important unsung hero in the story. The Noodle Duck enables his protege’s with love and acceptance. But that would not be enough, the Noodle duck expresses his need – something we are so often told not to do these days…we should never be weak or needing of others -and it is through this need, that the protegé that is loved, feeling needed, finds a purpose, at least for that moment. Little by little the protegé is transformed through service to others and when the time is right, if the calling is heard, the protegé will again set on a new course confident that regardless of the success he meets he has a home.