Author: Dayton Ward
Illustrator: Christian Cornia
Publisher: Titan Books
The Star Trek franchise has always, in their insightful story lines, mixed with contemporary social messages, added a dash of action and adventure.
This book is a parodical homage and literary love letter celebrating the singular, most deadly fighting skills of the legendary Admiral James T. Kirk, captain of the starship USS Enterprise.
Taking itself somewhat seriously, though with tongue lodged firmly in cheek, Dayton Ward and Christian Cornia present Kirk Fu in the style of a serious combat instruction manual.
Many familiar fighting techniques are featured combining step-by-step tutorials on how to execute the techniques with extracts from Captain Kirk’s official logs as he recounts the infamous instances in which they were used.
If you think “Kirk-Fu” is a manual solely for ardent Trekkies you’d be mostly right.
Writer Dayton Ward has packed the book full of references to the original series episodes and moments which only loyal fans (me included) will gleefully appreciate.
Yet there is plenty of crossover appeal that also includes the less hardcore of trekdom. A Venn diagram would show an intersection that includes interest from sci-fi fans, lovers of action lore, even martial artists curious to see how their fighting art has been artistically included in what was some innovative television fight choreography of its day.
The Art of Kirk Fu
The book is written in the style of an instructional manual detailing each fighting technique step-by-step and placing them in the context used within certain Star Trek episodes.
Author Ward keeps the tone serious and deadpan and includes intros from the legend of the final frontier himself, James T. Kirk addressing starfleet cadets in training. Add in artist Christian Cornia’s manga-esque artwork, complete with the classic ‘WOOSH!’ depicting Kirk’s movements and you have the perfect balance between learning and fun!
Looking at some of the techniques in detail, there are some fascinating derivatives of techniques from various grappling systems. There is the hip throw which is clearly taken from Judo whereas the ‘Tiberius Twist’ resembles many a wrist lock or throw including the Kotegeishi from Aikido.
It’s worth noting that for those coming into “Star Trek: The Original Series” quite late, some of the fighting choreography will seem dated, after all action in film and television has evolved tremendously since then.
However, hats should be tipped to acknowledge the efforts made here to give viewers a type of action not really seen on television. Star Trek was a part of that revolutionary age and in that context “Kirk Fu” is an affectionate tribute. Here are just a few moves featured in the book that have contributed to William Shatner’s iconic role of James T. Kirk.
The Box Lunch
When it comes to memorable moments Trek fans will often cite Kirk’s legendary fight with a monstrous alien called ‘Gorn’ in the episode “Arena”. The fight takes place on a planet called Cestus III (location of which was the famous Valdez Rocks in California) where the two captains must fight to resolve their conflict.
The box lunch is basically a strike to or a clutching of the auditory areas of your opponent.
It’s usually used when caught in a clinch, and in this fight you can see just how Kirk uses this to break the hold of his much stronger opponent.
This one is the most authentic of disabling techniques though in practice it would sport a label screaming “Don’t try this at home!”
This is the most recognizable of techniques, as it is the most used throughout the show and well into all the spin off shows that make up the franchise.
The technique involves clasping both hands together and swinging them into your opponent’s torso or face. It tends to be used in scenes where Kirk is facing a sizeable or stronger opponent, the idea being that your full body weight is put into the strike.
Dayton Ward features Kirk’s fight with his genetically-enhanced nemesis from 20th Century Earth. Played by the late Ricardo Montalban, Khan Noonien Singh posed the biggest threat to Kirk in the episode “Space Seed” and the big-screen follow up “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”.
Fight enthusiasts might question its validity in a real fight but for all intents of reel purposes it looks impressive and in the hands of its master, James Kirk, highly effective.
Long before high-flying acrobatic action took hold of western audiences thanks to Hong Kong action cinema, Star Trek showed audiences that Kirk could fly as well as fight.
The amusingly titled ‘Jimmy Wallbanger’ is used in the episode “Journey to Babel” where Kirk fights an alien posing as an Andorian ambassador. Whilst Shatner at times was doubled for some of his fight action throughout the series, in this scene the actor performed all of his own ‘Kirk Fu’.
This technique involves jumping up and pushing against the nearest wall with both feet and landing your elbow onto your opponent. As a reel technique it does the job in adding a flashy, dramatic touch to the action, and credit should go to William Shatner for performing this risky stunt, and selling this agile move from the ‘Kirk Fu’ playbook like a pro.
Flying Drop Kick
Action aficionados will know this move all too well; a flying kick into your opponent’s torso using both legs.
It’s put to effective use in the episode “Spectre of the Gun” in which Kirk and crew find themselves in the old American West’s most famous standoff, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Whereas most people bring a gun to a gunfight, Kirk brings his deadly Kirk Fu skills to the scene. The Flying Drop kick can be seen in some Kyokushin fights, and given Shatner’s dabbling in this, one of Karate’s most impactful systems, it’s no surprise to see him use it in the show.
“Kirk Fu” is the ultimate, fun-filled combat manual that’s both an insightful, and entertaining read.
It’s packed full of nerd-tastic references for the most ardent of Trek fans yet doesn’t lose its crossover appeal that will surely entice action aficionados.
With its detailed, and fun illustrations complimenting the step-by-step technique instructions, the book can be as enticing to martial artists as Marc Okrand’s Klingon Dictionary is to linguists. Its versatility means you get from it what interests you the most.
Combining the author’s Trek knowledge and singular wit with the artist’s detailed, action comic illustrations “Kirk Fu” is good for a laugh, and a light delve into some of the series’ innovative fight choreography and techniques.
Its ability to reach cross sections of genre and series fans, whilst remaining a fun-filled literary experience with each repeated read, makes this the ideal book for anyone with a love of sci-fi, cinematic fight action, and series fans in need of a masterclass in how to kick alien butt like the legendary Captain Kirk himself.
- “The techniques will vary in effectiveness depending on your opponent’s physiology and whether they are an unwilling host to a parasitic alien entity or have metamorphosed into a god-like being.” – On using the ‘Karate Chop’.
- “I’m sore. All over. I guess that’s to be expected when you fight a genetically-enhanced human.” – Extract from the Captain’s Log recounting his battle with the genetically-enhanced Khan Noonien Singh.
- “Results may vary against non-humanoid or humanoids with more robust physiologies (Klingon’s, Romulans, etc). Employ at your discretion.” – On the effectiveness of the ‘Double Clutch’.
- “Here’s something they don’t typically teach during your academy self-defence courses; non-corporeal beings are tough to fight.”
- One of the many stunt people who worked on the show was Hal Needham who went on to direct the biggest race films of the 1980’s “Cannonball Run” and “Cannonball Run II” which starred Jackie Chan in some of his early attempts to break into Hollywood.
- Needham also served as stunt coordinator on the blaxploitation film “Three The Hard Way” featuring “Enter The Dragon’s” Jim Kelly, and “Billy Jack Goes to Washington.”
- The series’ most prominent stunt double, especially for some of William Shatner’s scenes, was Paul Baxley. By the time he was hired to work on Star Trek during its three year run, Baxley was already a 20-year veteran of action film and television.
- Paul Baxley’s son is Craig R Baxley whose work as stuntman, co-ordinator, and director includes “The A Team”, “Dark Angel” aka “I come in Peace” with Dolph Lundgren and Matthias Hues, “Action Jackson” starring Carl Weathers, and Walter Hill’s classic “The Warriors”.
- Many of the moves included in “Kirk Fu” are based on classic Judo, Wrestling and Karate techniques including the ‘Tiberius Twist’ based loosely on the Kotegaeshi from Jujitsu and Aikido.
- Even as the franchise’s fight choreography has evolved over the decades the ‘double clutch’ is still used including in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Deep Space Nine”, “Star Trek: Voyager” and even the JJ Abrams reboots.
- Martial arts were frequently featured in subsequent Star Trek spinoff series and some new fighting forms were created. This included the 24th century Japanese weapons system ‘Anbo-Jyutsu’, and the Klingon fighting art known as the “Mok’Bara” based on the forms of Tai Chi, the Katas of Karate, and Crane Style Kung Fu.
- Although from time to time, he was doubled on the show, William Shatner still did many of his own fight stunts. He trained in boxing, judo, fencing, sword and shield, and Kyokushin Karate under Sensei Tom Bleecker.