Pay attention. Isn't that what a good movie should make you do? You pay attention because you suspect you will see something or feel something you never have. A good movie will advance your consciousness, take you to a place you never have visited. The words, while familiar, are strung together differently, uniquely, like the ones contained in the following sentence.
"A punch coming at your face, it's an opportunity to problem solve."
That sounds much more interesting and contemplative than "I better duck." The martial arts film — "Win. Lose. Forgive." — will premier Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Third Street Cinemas in Santa Rosa. In no way will it be confused with "Rocky" or "Raging Bull." Those fight movies focused on a single individual. This movie focuses on a single thought — personal growth. And whoa, hold on there Bucky, don't give up, this column ain't a Hallmark card of bland inspiration. Do read on because this isn't about you looking down at your stomach and finding wisdom in your navel.
This movie is about the ancient martial art of Muay Thai, a Thai discipline essential to be a skilled mixed martial artist, a discipline that also allows its participant to simply enjoy the practice of it for the physical and cerebral benefit it provides. As demonstrated by Ben Brown, owner and founder of Phas3 in Santa Rosa, Muay Thai finds peace in violence and knowledge in the apparently contradictory motion of slamming a knee into a kidney.
"Some people (come here) wanting to fight," Brown said. "Some people want to get changed. It (Phas3 gym) is a box filled with punching bags or it's a church. The person who walks into here gets to make that decision."
To those who are determined, every athlete in every sport experiences personal growth one way or another. A baseball hitter hitless in 15 at-bats, that's certainly an opportunity to problem solve. So is deciding what to do when that linebacker aims at your rib cage before a tackle. Or what do you do when you alone are defending the basket with a three-man fastbreak coming your way. Problem solving, and those athletes who excel at it, rise to the top of the food chain.
Nothing, however, makes problem solving so necessary and immediate than a mixed martial art like Muay Thai. There isn't 60-feet, 6 inches between you and your opponent on the baseball field. You are inches away and, brother, in Muay Thai you can't step out of the batter's box to gather yourself.
"You can learn more in sparring (with your opponent) for three minutes," said Brown, 41, "than in three hours of conversation. I use the word 'intimate' a lot but that's what Muay Thai is, the intimate exploration of you and your opponent."
Brown does not claim in the movie or in a follow-up phone call that Muay Thai is the end-all, be-all in martial arts. Yes, the Santa Rosa resident does say Muay Thai is the most effective striking art in the world. But they are many ways to fight, to attack a body and Brown is weary of being asked to compare one discipline versus another, one training academy versus another.
"When I hear someone say, 'My Kung Fu is better than your Kung Fu,'" said Brown, who has a bachelor's degree in music from UC Irvine, "I have no use for that. I'm sick of that. Rather, I'm for people finding a place that makes them comfortable and enjoying the experience."