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Genius Bonus / Live-Action Films

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  • As is Takashi Miike film Sukiyaki Western Django. It helps if you have full understanding on Medieval Japanese history, history of Wars of the Roses, Western movies and Shakespeare Henry VI
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: During the attack on Port Royal, two of Jack's former crew visit him in the stockade (they originally thought it was the armory). After one of them taunts Jack about his "fortunes", Jack replies "Worry about your own fortunes, gentlemen. The deepest circle of Hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers." To the general audience, this seems like a standard retort. For those familiar with classical poetry however, this is a reference to Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, which indeed depicts Hell's ninth and final circle as reserved for traitors (such as Mordred and Judas Iscariot).
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    • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest:
      • Jack shows the crew of the Black Pearl a scroll with an image of the key that will become a major plot point. A pirate exclaims "A key?" in puzzlement and is told that it is not a key, but a drawing of a key, which seems to be a reference to this painting by Magritte.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: When characters on both fleets' flagships (sailing towards each other) remark that the wind is with them, anyone with sailing and/or meteorological expertise could probably guess that Calypso had something worse in mind than just departing in a huff....
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: When Barbossa tells Jack Sparrow how he lost his leg, he paraphrases the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley ("I am the master of my fate ... I am the captain of my ship ..."). Henley had himself lost a leg to a tuberculosis infection at age 16 and his maimed-yet-powerful figure was a major inspiration for the one-legged pirate Long John Silver in his friend Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
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  • Mighty Aphrodite is much funnier if the viewer is familiar with classical Greek dramas.
  • Muppets Most Wanted has several references to films and the film-making process, such as Gone with the Wind and The Godfather III, but the greatest reference is when the Muppets are suggesting film plots, The Swedish Chef turns up playing chess with death; a reference that would go over the head of anyone who isn't a cinephile.
  • Real Genius is chock full of these (not surprising given the decidedly highbrow nature of the film). One of the best though would be this scene:
    Mitch: What are you doing?
    Chris Knight: Self-realization. I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "... I drank what?"
  • Sideways
    • The lousy vineyard in wine country is called Frass Vineyards. "Frass" is bug poop.
    • features an incredibly subtle ironic joke in its last few minutes: The hero finally opens his prized possession of a classic vintage of wine which experts will know is made from merlot and cabernet franc grapes, both of which he had disparaged earlier in the film.
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  • The scene in the Master and Commander movie in which Jack describes Lord Nelson as "A man of singular vision." Nelson had one eye.
  • In Kill Bill, the Bride questions how long she'll have to train with Pai Mei:
    The Bride: When will I see you again?
    Bill: That's the title of my favorite soul song from the '70s.
  • Toward the end of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the "sonic transducer" probably gets more laughs from those who recognize the phrase as meaning "speaker or microphone."
  • Like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Alien also has a microphone joke, in the guise of a device that "detects microscopic changes in air pressure."
  • In The Dark Knight, part of the plot requires Batman to use an experimental form of sonar to track the Joker's location. Whilst often criticised as being a sci-fi concept jammed into a movie which had not used much of that, it contains two little notes that the informed will appreciate: (a) bats track movement and location through using a form of sonar; and (b) the sonar device make the eyes in Batman's cowl glow white with energy. In the comics, Batman's eyes are never seen when he is wearing the cowl - they merely appear as two white slits.
  • The film Malice features an ornate ballerina statue that Bill Pulman's wife (played by Nicole Kidman) supposedly made for him, but he finds another one in her mother's house. She tells him that you can buy those statues in any store. Of course, if you already knew that the statue was a replica of "Little Dancer at Fourteen Years" by Edgar Degas, you wouldn't have been surprised by that twist...
  • Shakespeare in Love
    • Basically, the whole movie isn't half as funny if the viewer isn't familiar with Romeo and Juliet. Knowing the other works of Will doesn't hurt either.
    • An early scene featured Will listening, horrified, to a young boy who's a huge fan of all the gorier elements in his work (he specifically praises Titus Andronicus, which was so horrifying that scholars used to believe that it couldn't have been Shakespeare's). While funny on its own, it's even funnier if you know the Historical In-Joke - this is a young John Webster, who will grow up to write even more violent tragedies himself.
    • Also, when Shakespeare is asked his name by an enemy and he blurts out "Christopher Marlowe!" Although Marlowe appears in the film and this becomes a plot point (as Shakespeare thinks this led to his death), at first it looks like a Historical In-Joke about how some scholars believe Shakespeare's plays were written by Marlowe.
    • And another scene, when Viola asks Will, "Are you the author of the plays of William Shakespeare?" is probably also a reference to those same conspiracy theories.
    • Another example from close to the start of the movie: when Shakespeare is practising his signature and tossing all of them into the bin is a huge joke if you know that there are very very few examples of the Great Bard's signature to be found in the wild, AND no two of them are spelled the same way.
  • Almost all of Theatre of Blood is way funnier if you've read the Shakespeare plays that are the core of the story (hack actor who did a list of Shakespeare plays is killing off his critics via deaths from the plays).
  • Many a snarky historical comment was made in Gangs of New York, especially when a character, Boss Tweed, can be heard making a comment about his plans for the Tweed Courthouse being both "modest" and "economical," which, as history buffs will know, is completely untrue.
  • There are some Fan Bonuses in The Lord of the Rings:
    • In The Return of the King, at the Gray Havens, Bilbo is wearing the outfit that Tolkien was most commonly photographed in during his old age.
    • The lines "riddles in the dark" and "shortcut to mushrooms" are both taken from chapter titles in The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring.
    • "A long expected party," a line from Gandalf and the title of the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, itself a reference to the first chapter of the Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party."
  • Evan Almighty
    • When God shows up in the back of Evan's car and scares the pants off him, God replies "Let it out, son. It's the beginning of wisdom." Proverbs 1:7 states "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom".
    • In another example from the same film when God tells Evan his mission Evan replies with "But I have plans!" which makes God laugh. This is reference to an old Jewish proverb that "When Man plans, God Laughs".
  • One from Young Frankenstein: a book is found by Doctor Frankenstein entitled How I Did It. In Mary Shelley's original novel, the method of monster-creation is never described and Victor Frankenstein specifically says that he will never reveal how it's done. The "lightning" method dates from the film version in 1931, although this reflects early-19th century ideas contemporary with the book that electricity might be the "vital force" causing life.
    • Another one slips in when Dr. Frankenstein tells his creation that they are going to make the greatest contribution to science since "the creation of fire". The full title of the original Mary Shelly novel was Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, Prometheus being the Greek Titan who brought fire to mankind.
  • In Spaceballs, immediately after the order is given to prepare Spaceball One "for metamorphosis", we get the line "Ready, Kafka?" This is a reference to Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. In the DVD commentary, Mel Brooks admits to being ashamed of that joke.
  • In the original The Producers:
    • Max Bialystock looks through a pile of scripts for the worst one and reads the first line from one of them: "Gregor Samsa awoke one morning to discover that he was transformed into a giant cockroach. (beat) Nah, it's too good." This is another reference to The Metamorphosis.
    • At another point Max refers to Leo as "Prince Myshkin".
    • And Leo himself is named after Leopold Bloom of James Joyce's Ulysses.
  • Blazing Saddles:
    • Hedley and Taggart consider plans to terrorize the town of Rock Ridge.
    Taggart: I got it! I know how we can run everyone out of Rock Ridge.
    Hedley Lamarr: How?
    Taggart: We'll kill the first born male child in every household!
    Hedley Lamarr: [after some consideration] Too Jewish.
  • Tampopo is a very funny movie in its own right, but it becomes drop dead hilarious once you've seen a couple of westerns.
  • Watchmen: the inscription on the pedestal "Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!!" just after the Diabolus ex Machina Ending Reveal. Even if you heard of the poem and assume it is a mere Shout-Out, bonus points only come from remembering how the poem ends. Basically, it's a Take That! implying no tyrant's rule ever lasts.
  • The film version of The Paper Chase has a fair number for lawyers/law students—the cases discussed are real and some are recognizable even from shots a few seconds long. One of the more obscure references comes when Hart looks up Professor Kingsfield's notes from when he was a student. The camera shows that Professor Kingsfield took Contracts from Professor Williston—who really did teach Contracts at Harvard in the early part of the 20th century and is one of the most important Contracts scholars, and whose treatise will be familiar to many law students.
  • Hairspray, amazingly enough, has a Genius Bonus, and even more surprisingly it's a very subtle one. It comes in the scene where the main characters visit the beatniks' apartment. One of the residents is playing the bongo drums and reciting some poetry, when he glances at the African-American character and suddenly stops. If you recognize that he is reciting the 1950s classic poem Howl then you'll realize why he stops so suddenly: he was about to get to the line about "dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix."
  • The source code running on the background of the camera in Until the End of the World looks like feasible matrix functions to process graphics data, like the ones a real camera would use.
  • Southland Tales includes a number of references to literature. It's seeping with quotes from Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot. A more oblique and obscure reference comes when a cop (played by Jon Lovitz) mutters "Flow my tears," in one scene. You would have to be a fan of Sci-Fi author Philip K. Dick to realize it's a reference to his novel Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said.
  • If you're familiar with Minnesota, Juno has many great jokes others won't get. One great example is when Juno and Paulie get the bickering lab partners, of which the guy says "You've been like this ever since I got back from my brother's in Mankato, I already told you nothing happened." Mankato is a college town with a reputation for STDs and riots and disruptive behavior by drunks.
  • Easy A: The various movies that Olive sees throughout the films are adaptations of The Scarlet Letter, including a German one. The film is a modernized retelling of that story.
  • TRON: Legacy has many bonuses for unix users, as the computer that runs The Grid apparently runs on a Unix OS. And one for Go players when Quorra indicates that she can play the game almost as well as Flynn. This is a hint of her real nature. Unlike chess, which can be played by computer almost as well as (or better than) humans, programming an AI to be a decent Go player has yet to be successful. There are also Freeze Frame Bonuses where the names of the combatants in the arena are named for pioneers in computer engineering, and the flamboyant Zues is named for Conrad Zues. The whole franchise is loaded with computer-based puns and nods to real-world computing concepts; it would take a whole page to list them all.
  • Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, surprisingly enough, has a William Shakespeare reference. The characters Rosenberg and Goldstein are a based on Hamlet's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
  • Sunshine Cleaning, set and filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, uses an old yellow brick building as a location for several scenes. Viewers familiar with Albuquerque (or In Plain Sight) could recognize it as the historical Sunshine Building.
  • The Social Network included a scene rife with hacker-sounding jargon and cool techno-like music playing in the background as the Mark Zuckerberg character "hacked" the Harvard University computer network to gather photographs of as many students as possible. The informed viewer will notice that all the jargon in this "hacking" scene is actually completely accurate, and quite feasible if you were to understand what it meant and try it yourself in real life (but only in that one scene, and on computer systems of that era). The screenplay writers say they adapted to the film an actual interview with Zuckerberg on how he created the website that was depicted in that scene in the movie.
  • In one of the funniest scenes of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, Gil tells a young Luis Buñuel he has an idea for a movie about a group of rich upper class bourgeoisie who go to a dinner party at a mansion and find themselves unable to leave as they slowly turn into the very animals that they're dining on. Gil quickly exits as Buñuel repeatedly and fruitlessly asks what is keeping the group from leaving the room. It would take about 40 years for him to finally get it. Actually, Midnight in Paris basically runs on this trope since getting at least half the jokes depends on knowing who the characters are.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Unsurprisingly, the Iron Man movies get a few. In Iron Man the Vanity Fair reporter at the beginning of the film refers to Tony being nicknamed "The Merchant of Death." That's actually the phrase used in the obituary for Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, which was accidentally published before his actual death, and was what inspired Nobel to use his fortune to create the Nobel prizes for people, so as to try and make the world better. Similar to what happens to Tony during the events of the movie.
    • In Iron Man 2
      • Howard Stark's notebook shows him discovering the Stark effect.
      • During Hammer's description of "the Ex-Wife" he mentions it has a "cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine RDX burst". That's the same term being said twice, one's the chemical name, the other's the initialism. In other words, Hammer is simply reciting the spec sheet, and doesn't have a clue how it's supposed to work. Quite a subtle way to foreshadow that the weapon isn't all it's hyped to be.
      • During that same scene, Hammer says that if the "Ex-Wife" were any smarter, it would write a book that made Ulysses look like it was written in crayon. Ulysses actually was written in crayon: James Joyce's eyesight was failing, so he used crayons and large sheets of paper to make it easier for him to write.
    • The casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor is very fitting, because in Norse mythology Heimdall is the ancestor of all mankind, and in Real Life humankind originated in Africa.
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natasha uses Operation Paperclip, a program in which several German scientists and engineers, most of whom were Nazi personnel, were hired to work for S.H.I.E.L.D., to explain how Arnim Zola had ties to the organization. This was an actual operation after the second World War.
    • In a way for those who know about the Marvel Universe, Vision picking up Mjolnir in Avengers: Age of Ultron is less impressive or surprising than it is intended to be. Namely, it has been long established that robots can do that, even though it was basically an early storytelling mistake that got stuck in Marvel continuity. It does have a lampshade hung at the end of the film, as Steve, Tony, and Thor have a discussion over how machines can be judged worthy or unworthy.
    • Also in Age of Ultron, Tony cracks a joke about instituting prima nocta if he gets to rule Asgard. To put it delicately, he intends to abuse his authority to score with women. The trailer used a less obscure and less inappropriate version, where he instead says he'll work out a "wench clause".
  • There was a fight to keep a line in Diamonds Are Forever: when Bond is asked by Felix Leiter where the diamonds are hidden in a dead body coming into the country (the stomach), he replies "alimentary, my dear Leiter." Cubby thought it far too esoteric, but it got a couple hearty laughs from some doctors during a preview, and stayed in.
  • Inception
    • The architect of the team is "Ariadne". The architect designs the mazes of the dream world. Any Greek mythology buff will clue in the reference to the Princess Ariadne who helped Theseus find his way out of the labyrinth.
    • Additionally, "Cobb" is an old English word meaning "spider" (hence "cobweb"). Christopher Nolan had previously named a twisty villain Cobb in his first film, Following.
    • And "Eames" is also the surname of Charles and Ray, a pair of famous graphic designers and architects; every major character in the movie was named for a very specific reason or reference.
    • The characters' names create the acronym : D R E A M S.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter had occasion in the past to be around patients in insane asylums. In that era, most depression would have been treated with MAO inhibitors, which have a terrible reaction if the patient eats foods containing tyramine. Thus, access to foods containing tyramine would have been strictly forbidden to any patients in the asylum who were on MAO inhibitors. Three foods that contain tyramine are liver, fava beans, and chianti.
  • The schlocky DTV slasher film .Com for Murder includes a surprising number of references to The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
  • Serenity has a group of very subtle and complex ones: the planet where the government used mind-control drugs to make the public complacent is called Miranda. Miranda is the character in The Tempest whose famous line inspired the title of the novel Brave New World, in which the government uses mind-control drugs to make the public complacent. In addition, the drug used to sedate the population is called "Pax", Latin for "peace"... or "serenity". A bit of background scenery shows a spaceship's name to be C57D, which was the name of the spaceship in Forbidden Planet, which is very loosely adapted from The Tempest (see above), and the "monster" in Forbidden Planet turns out to be a "monster from the id", a projection of the characters' own suppressed subconscious violent desires...which is also a pretty apt description of the way the Pax turns the tiny surviving fraction of the population into rageaholic maniac cannibal killers, AKA "Reavers".
  • In This Is 40, a music journalist for a Jewish magazine asks a musician, "What makes this album different from all other albums?" This isn't funny unless you get that it's a reference to a repeated line in the Four Questions of a Passover seder: "What makes this night different from all other nights?"
  • Gladiator has a couple for history buffs.
    • Before the battle with the Germanic tribes at the beginning of the movie, Quintus' remark that "a people should know when they're conquered," is very ironic to anyone who knows that Rome never ultimately DID manage to completely conquer Germania.
    • When he first meets him in the arena (before realizing who he is), Commodus tells Maximus that his nephew "insists you are Hector reborn...or was it Hercules?" The real-life Commodus believed HE was the reincarnation of Hercules.
  • The Raven (2012) ends with a hint that its Poe-obsessed psychopath intends to stalk and murder Jules Verne next. This provides bonus chills for viewers familiar with Verne's life, as he actually was (non-fatally) shot by a madman at one point.
  • Pacific Rim: To understand all the entries on the web page for the Jaeger blueprints you need to be able to understand English, French, Latin American Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. The last three use their native writing systems.
  • In Pitch Black, Riddick-o-vision is in anaglyph 3d. Go get those red/blue 3d glasses. It's simply purple and blurred at the edges in all the other installments of the franchise, though.
  • Here Comes the Boom includes a lot of references and inside jokes regarding Mixed Martial Arts. For example, Chael Sonnen plays a fighter who gets submitted and immediately protests, "I didn't tap! I was just playing!" This is a reference to Sonnen's infamous stoppage loss to Paulo Filho in which he denied tapping. The final fight with Dietrich also references quite a few famous MMA bouts, which Joe Rogan helpfully name-checks.
  • Pan's Labyrinth is made up of nearly 100% folklore that has been adapted to the film's setting and re-arranged almost vignette style within a framework story based on even more folklore. Almost every event and even the little superstitions shown in the film can be traced back to existing lore from multiple countries.
  • Doom: Dr Carmack mentions the name of his research : Project Olduvai . Olduvai Gorge is one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world and has been instrumental in furthering the understanding of early human evolution.
  • In Die Hard 2: Die Harder, anyone with military experience will recognize The Reveal the instant they see the rifle magazines wrapped in blue tape. Blue is the color code used by the US Military to designate training ammunition, ie blanks. Guess what the criminals and Major Grant's men (who are actually on the same side as part of a Batman Gambit) are firing at each other with.
  • Ex Machina:
    • Many, many points of the film, to boot - from the discussion of Jackson Pollock's automatic painting, to Ava's language acquisition functions to Nathan's BlueBook software being named after Wittgenstein's book on language games, to the names of the characters and the labels on the alcohol bottles. There's no doubt that the creators really did their work here.
    • Fans of Artificial Intelligence studies will realize that Caleb was brought in not for a Turing Test, but rather a modified version of the AI Box Experiment.
  • Cinderella (2015):
    • Zaragoza was historically a Spanish "taifa," or principality. This would mean Princess Chelina is a ruler in her own right and likely has a direct role in forcing Kit to marry her. This also gives her a motive, as she would need to marry Kit to become Queen.
    • The choice of making Cinderella's father a merchant rather than a gentleman seems confusing, since the only traditional version where he is not at least some minor noble is the Grimm's version. But then Cinderella asks him for a twig, and she even plants it on her mother's grave just like the Grimm's version.
    • Some of those places the princesses are from sound made-up... right? Actually those were the names of historical states.
    • Ella's family having a guard goose is actually historically accurate. For a long time, the lower class couldn't afford dogs. Geese made a great alternative. Some people still use them as guard animals today.
    • Disney fans might notice the scene with the stag is based on a cut sequence from the original animated film.
    • In the tie-in book "A Wish Your Heart Makes: From the Grimm Brothers' Aschenputtel to Disney's Cinderella.", the creators confirm that Kit becoming a king is a reference to the 1889 translation of Le roi Charmant (The Charming King) from Madame D'aulnoy's The Bluebird, which is where the expression "Prince Charming" comes from.
    • The scene where Kit pushes Ella on a swing, during which her slipper falls off, may be a reference to the painting "The Swing", which was a visual influence on Tangled and was referenced in Frozen.
  • In an early scene in The Matrix Reloaded, Agent Smith's car is shown to have the license plate "IS-5416"—a direct reference to the Bible verse "Isaiah 54:16", where God speaks of appointing a "smith" to fashion instruments of war to rain destruction down on his enemies.
    "Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy."
    • Near the climax, Trinity hacks into a powerplant using a real network scanning tool, correctly, and uses the real exploit it finds to gain access.
  • The Interview: While originally done for the purposes of Rule of Cool and No Kill Like Overkill, the protagonists' using the tank's cannon to shoot down Kim Jong-Un's helicopter isn't too far-fetched; US military tank crews are routinely trained to engage hostile helicopters with the tank's main gun as modern attack helicopters are unlikely to be brought down with machine gun fire except at very close range.
  • The true nature of Moo-Myeong and Il-Gwang in The Wailing is foreshadowed early on if someone knows enough about religions.
    • The first time she appears, Moo-Myeong keeps throwing rocks at Jong-Goo. It's a reference to the biblical "He who is without sin can cast the first stone", which means that she is a holy being on the side of the heroes.
    • While the shaman Il-Gwang performs an exorcism/cleansing ritual to get rid of the evil spirit that's haunting Hyo-Jin, viewers familiar with Korean indigenous religions will recognize that he is actually performing a hex. What's more, part of the ritual involves stabbing an idol which represents a benevolent guardian deity instead of a spirit. All of this hints at Il-Gwang being Evil All Along.
  • Camp (2003), a film set at a performing arts summer camp, naturally has its share of jokes that require the viewer to know their theater. When Fritzi first approaches Jill, she points out that they've met before co-starring in a production of 'night, Mother, which Jill doesn't remember. The joke is that Night, Mother is a play with a Minimalist Cast of two, so you'd have to be pretty self-absorbed to not remember being in that particular play with someone.
  • Roman Polanski's Darker and Edgier (than a play that was not particularly light and fluffy to begin with) film adaptation of Macbeth ends with Donalbain visiting the witches, suggesting the cycle of violence will start again. No added context is needed to get it, but it takes on additional weight if you know that the historical Donalbain did in fact usurp the throne from his brother Malcom's sons after Malcom's death, and allegedly ordered the murder of his nephew, Duncan II.
  • In Interstellar, audience members with proper knowledge of chemistry might realize that Dr. Mann is lying about the habitability of Mann's Planet; he claims that the chlorine in the atmosphere stays in the higher elevations, which is the opposite of what a heavy gas like chlorine would actually do.
  • In the film version of Crazy Rich Asians, for those who are unfamiliar with MahJong, the scene near the end where Eleanor seemingly wins the game only for Rachel to turn over her tiles may look as though Rachel had won the game, analogous to a game of poker in which one player has a better hand than the person originally thought to win. However, players of MahJong know that Rachel discarding the final tile rather than adding it to her hand meant that Rachel did in fact lose. The reason she turned over her tiles to reveal that her hand would have won with that final tile was intended to show Eleanor that - just like the situation with Nick - Eleanor only won because Rachel chose to allow her to win.
  • The Karate Kid: The martial arts. Mr. Miyagi is named after Chojun Miyagi, who founded Goju-Ryu (Hard-Soft style) Karate. That, in and of itself, would qualify. However, on the wall, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, you can see a photo of Chojun Miyagi among the pictures of Miyagi ancestors. To add onto this, Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita trained for this film studying Goju-Ryu, and a lot of their techniques are identifiable as Goju -Ryu.
    • In Cobra Kai Daniel mentions that kata is the foundation of his karate. Goju-Ryu is based around two kata, Sanchin and Tensho, epitomizing the "hard" and "soft" parts of the style, respectively.


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