For a more artisanal sense of mastery, you must undertake The Ninja Method. To understand the grace and power of this approach, it helps if you close your eyes, and picture Ralph Macchio.
It’s 1986. Ronald Regan is midway through his second term. Chernobyl has exploded. A nice house will set you back about $60,000. Haley’s Comet is making its closest pass by Earth, and a young Ralph Macchio is starring in a followup to the phenomenally successful The Karate Kid.
If you’re slightly confused as to why I’m not making any mention of Jaden Smith or Jackie Chan, all I can say is: look it up. The Internet was invented for a reason, and it was this reason exactly.
Skip to the final scene (technically this is a spoiler, but it’s been 30 years. You’ve had your chance): Daniel (Ralph), challenged to a fight to the death by a disgraced young Chozen (played by Yuji Okumoto) who is holding Daniel’s love interest hostage at knife-point in front of the entire village during a ceremonial presentation, crosses over and then tosses away a bamboo bridge. They – Daniel, Chozen and Kumiko, are separated from any possible rescue by a modest leap over still waters infested with… delicate floating lanterns and possibly some moss.
Chozen, classy man that he is, throws Kumiko to the ground (later, he’ll punch her in the face), after Daniel agrees to fight. Said fight ensues. Daniel soon turns to his tried-and-true Dancing Crane move, which had served him so well in his final battle in the last
closing scene meant to set the stage for a sequel life-defining confrontation.
But! Chozen is ready, and easily counters the move!
This, of course, is the problem with sequels: your future enemies have seen the original plot line play out, and they are prepared. An epic beat-down ensues – or, at least, as epic as Ralph’s agent was prepared to allow to provide the necessary dramatic tension.
Not exactly the look of someone who’s been beaten to within an inch of his life. A cut at the side of the mouth, and a little winded. But it’ll do. Clearly, Daniel must Do Something Spectacular.
At this point, his mentor and friend Miyagi (Pat Morita), offers a hint. He draws from his waist belt a small hand drum, to which two strings are attached, and at the end of those strings are two small wooden balls. (Formally this is known as a den-den taiko and, like the Wikipedia says, it’s commonly used in many cultures’ religious rites, but is just as often sold as a children’s toy. The impression it gives off is not so much Majestic Sacred Object as Ball-in-a-Cup).
Miyagi begins to play his drum, spinning it deftly in his hand. Each turn and counter turn create a double drum beat, ever so slightly off sequence, as if to signify the first few pitter pattering drops of an oncoming storm.
Now, it’s difficult to classify whether what happens next is meant to heighten the dramatic effect of Miyagi’s actions, or the comedic effect. With both, multiplying an action tends to work quite well. Dramatically, we can classify the event to follow as unifying social action meant to convey the whole village’s disapproval of Chozen’s actions, and approval of Daniel’s (an outsider, thus intensifying the shame of it all). If the crowd was divided, it is no longer, and the outcome is clear: even if Daniel were to somehow, inexplicably, lose, the crowd would tear Chozen to shreds.
The syncopating drumbeats build into a percussive downpour. Daniel is…. amused? Ralph Macchio kind of smirks, but then his spine straightens and his fists clench, and Chozen clearly looks concerned and even betrayed.
Still… how is this collective action supposed to communicate something so specific as “we all hate that one guy now. Hey you, the one who’s getting his ass kicked: buck up, we’d like you to win!”?
More specifically – though it seems clear that Miyagi and Daniel know that this gesture is meant to indicate that it’s time for the Flail-Your-Arms-Back-and-Forth finishing move, it’s not terribly clear that the rest of the audience knows this move even exists. We can assume that they do… maybe the technique originated within this village, possibly centuries ago… but we could also assume that they are simply saying, “we are bored, this is taking too long, and though we’re too polite to leave and let one of you finish the other off in some dramatic fashion, we are not too polite to simply play with these toys that we’ve all remembered to bring with us just in case.”
Seriously: how did any of them know such a confrontation was likely that evening? And if they didn’t know, what are the drums for?
Possibly I’m picking a nit here. Obviously the writers knew what they were doing, or the film wouldn’t have grossed $114 million dollars. But frankly, I think the intention was comedic. Witness the final moments of this battle (I’ve given away all but the best part, for which you can skip to around 2:10):
He. Honks. His. Nose. Followed by the not-quite-theme-from-Rocky.
Pat Morita was known as a stand-up comic before he was Daniel’s Karate-teaching mentor, and for my money, I’d say this was his doing. “Hey guys, you know, it’ll be hilarious. It’ll seem like we’re all rooting for Daniel, but really we’re just so dead-to-rights bored-out-of-our-skulls by the pointlessness of this, that we’re just playing around. But we won’t let on that that’s what we’re doing. It’ll be a joke, but no one will know it.” It’s Andy Kaufman-esque, really.
Still, it all had quite an impact on me at the time, and it’s fitting, I think, that we recall this seminal moment in American Cinema today.
The Ninja Method for making fatCoffee Butter Coffee is fairly straight forward. You will need:
- 1 brewed cup (8oz) of coffee (may I recommend our Ludicrous Blend?)
- 1 10-12 oz mason jar
- 1 packet (or 2 TBSP) of fatCoffee
- 1 small wire whisk (any of these will do)
And the steps are fairly simple, although there are some places where introducing your own dramatic flair is more appropriate than others.
- Pour 6 oz of the brewed coffee into your mason jar
- Add packet of fatCoffee
- In your right hand, hold your whisk by the end of the handle, with the wires upright. Your left hand should be placed behind your back.
- Spin gently with your fore-finger and thumb, for effect.
- Slowly, dip the whisk into the mason jar.
- Bringing your left hand from behind your back, hold the whisk between the fingers of your right hand and the palm of your left
- Slowly, move your right hand forward and left hand backward, causing the whisk to spin gently. Reverse the motion.
- Continue this left-right hand thrusting at increasing speed. A guttural emanation is not inappropriate with each thrust (look what it did for Daniel.)
- Continue for 30-45 seconds.
- Remove the whisk with your right hand, and your left hand placed behind your back.
- Pour remaining 2 oz of coffee into mason jar, as a top-off.
- You may, optionally, simply allow the whisk to fall to the ground as you walk off, confident, but without undue pride.
Video demonstration to follow.