In regards to my last blog, I would like to point something out:
Today I take a departure from my regularly scheduled complaining to talk about something I love with a passion uncontested.
-Part 2: Low Budget Charm- Did you know that Aliens was made for $18.5 Million. Adjusted for inflation that about 42 million dollars. That’s roughly half the budget of Jack & Jill…. The Thing still has some of the best practical effects ever filmed and adjusted for 2017 dollars it cost about 40 Million dollars as well. Low budget doesn’t have to mean low quality at all. In fact a lot of the biggest franchises in hollywood started on a very modest budget. That being said, even if you can tell they were pinching pennies at every turn, it doesn’t actually have to effect the overall enjoyment of a film. Remember that 120 million dollar 2016 Ben Hur remake? Don’t worry, no one else does either. Big budgets and making everything “epic” doesn’t translate to a decent film that makes you feel something. Sometimes budget limitations can add to a films overall package. In a lot of ways a low budget action film is like a comic book brought to life, and when the sets also look like something out of a comic book it’s actually more congruent with the themes and tone of the film.
-Part 4: Charismatic Lead- Whether we’re talking about Mark Dicoscous or Dolph Lundgren, the lead will absolutely make or break these films. Oftentimes your lead can have so much “it” factor that it doesn’t matter if the rest of the film around them is terrible (Cough Cough Guy Pierce in Lockout cough cough). Attributes a lead aught to have: Being built like a marble statue definitely helps, but isn’t required (Charles Bronson, Bruce Willis). Having the physicality to perform some of the action without over relying on stuntmen helps a lot. The more you have to cut to hide the stuntman the more goofy shots you’re going to have to use, and consequently the more it takes the audience out of the moment. Van Damme once said “In a Dramatic film you act in the Drama, but in an Action film you need to be able to act in the Action”. While a lot of what Van Damme says can be brushed off as the incoherent ramblings of your old Belgum uncle, it takes a certain kind of comedian to sell Jim Carey esque physical comedy, and in that same way, it takes a certain kind of performer to sell the physical action. They need to be able to convey toughness, worry, and intensity all at the same time. There are plenty of great dramatic actors who can’t ‘action act.’ Again it’s a “I know it when I see it situation”. Something did strike me while writing this, most of these leads aren’t modern hollywood “generic model” good looking. Faimed fighter Renzo Gracie Once said that being a truly attractive man was about “A lot of Manliness mixed with a little bit of Ugliness” and reviewing most competent action movies has lead me to agree with this. Imperfection and ruggedness in the male face is a large part of what makes a man unique and attractive. While you definitely have some guys who look like they stepped off a runway (michael Beihn, Michael Dudikoff ) the majority of them aren’t beautiful as much as they are interesting looking. They just have a real likable quality about them. They are charming, and charm beats looks any day of the week.
-Part 6: The Sidekick- The sidekick is the films get out of jail free card. It’s the scripts jack of all trades. The sidekick can be a lot of things. A rookie (brandon lee in SHowdown in little Tokyo), a babe/hunk (Gabrella, Benjamin Brat), a chimp (Clive), a robot (Uma Thurmon….wait, that’s just how bad of an actress she is…. nevermind), or comedy relief (Steve Buschemi). The sidekick is one of the most versatile tools for the script writers. Whatever a script is missing the Sidekick can supply. Imagine diehard without John McClain having the walkie talkie… it would be 100 minutes of Bruce Willis looking at office walls interspersed with him shooting at guys with Eruo-trash accents. But put Carl from family matters on the other end of the CB and we’ve got ourselves some of the most classic action dialogue in film history. Film not funny enough? Comedy side kick. Film needs a woman’s touch? Lady sidekick. Film a little too hard edge? Talking animal sidekick. If our hero is someone who’s tough to identify with, the sidekick can be the everyman who helps ease the audience through the wild, strange world of the film. A perfect example is Franka Potente in Bourne Identity. She is the reason the first movie worked so well and she is the missing element in every other film in the series. The Sidekick tells us a lot about our protagonist. The Road Warrior is quiet, brooding, and willing to kill you for half a fill up at the Vallero, so he enjoys the company of a quiet but vicious dog. They eat from the same can of food. Our hero’s had such a rough time the only sentient being in the world he would consider showing love to is a dog. The Sidekick can be a reflection of the hero, or can supply what the hero (or the screenplay) is lacking. And the very best screen writers will weave the sidekick into the story so well you don’t even realize they are the sidekick (bet you didn’t realise Obi Wan is actually Luke’s sidekick in New Hope).
So in no particular order, here’s a list of action films you need to see immediately. Movies in bold are perfect candidates to ease you or a small group of friends (this is the best way to watch them) into B Action movies if you don’t have much previous experience. Movies that are italicized are for seasoned B movie experts only, and are under NO CIRCUMSTANCES to be watched until you’ve viewed a few dozen B films to develop an appreciation for truly great low budget trash. Watching an italicized movie too soon may throw you off b movies all together. Now you might be saying to yourself “Hold on Uncle Crabby! Some of these movies aren’t even that low budget!” This is true, but the high budget films are PURE SCHLOCK, and thus make it into the B movie category. Furthermore some of these technically fall into the SciFi or Horror genres, but were too good not to include:
-Big Trouble in Little China (one of the greatest films ever made)
Miami Connection (this is the citizen cain of cheesy martial arts films)
-Blind Fury (80s version of blind samurai flicks)
-BloodSport (Van Damme at the peak of his powers)
-Universal Soldier (Van Damme also at the peak of his powers. This movie walks a razor thin line between schlock and a classis action film, a very good argument could be make that this is not a B movie at all. Dolph Lundgen gives the best performance of his career)
-The Blood of Heroes (aka Salute of the Jugger)
-The Last StarFighter
-Escape from New York (Not escape from LA. That’s too campy even of me)
-American Ninja (cause when I think ninja, I think blue eyes and blonde curly hair)
-Universal soldier: Regeneration
-Tremors (one of the tightest buddy movies ever)
-Deadbeat at Dawn
-Evil Dead 2 (Sam Rami earns his stripes)
-Megaforce (deeds, not words)
-The Final Sacrifice
-The Punisher (1989 Dolph Lundgren version. All other Punishers are far inferior)
–I bought a vampire motorcycle (not quite as good as the title would have you believe. Contains a little too much gross out humor for most people’s taste, but so many bizarre shifts in tone it’s worth a watch)
-Death Stalker 2
-Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (#1 is classics horror. #2 is….. #2)
-Showdown in Little Tokyo
–For Your Height Only (Weng Weng 1)
–The Impossible Kid (Weng Weng 2)
-Death Race 2000 (1975 version)
-Hell Comes to Frogtown (dance of the three snakes, anyone?)
-Tag Team (Roddy Piper & Jesse Ventura)
-LionHeart (an on the cheap version of bloodsport, but with varied fight locations and fun costume changes)
-Class of Nuke em’ High
-The Rollerblade 7
-Hard Ticket to Hawaii (really anything directed by andy sidaris is on this list)
-Masters of the Universe (Canon films can do no wrong)
-The Long Kiss Goodnight (What ever happened to Gina Davis??? Oh yeah, cutthroat island)
-The Street Fighter (Starring Sunny Chiba, Not ‘Street Fighter’ starring Van Damme, though now that I think about it…..)
-Street Fighter (starring Van Damme. This movie has aged like wine)
-Point of no Return
-The Last Boyscout
-Assault on Precinct 13 (The original)
-Rapid Fire (Alas poor Brandon Lee, we hardly knew ye)
-Wanted: Dead or Alive (aka Rutger Hauer vs Gene Simmons)
-The Apple (the only musical on this list. Sort of Scifi-ish I guess. This film is so bizarre I had to include it.)
Because wardrobe is important.
Fade in, you’re entering your local grappling club to get your grapple on. It’s a typical Thursday evening, it’s a mild 75 degrees outside and you haven’t a care in the world. That is until you see the new guy. He’s stepping out of his car in the parking lot and something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. You can’t tell if he got dressed in the dark or if he hired Stevie Wonder to pick out his training gear. He’s wearing a rashguard with skulls, wings, and everything else that Ed Hardy produced in the early 2000s, with this he’s wearing completely clashing neon yellow shorts speckled with lightening bolts. He’s decided to top all this off with leggings that have an angry baboon on them. He looks sort of like ‘The Hot Topic’ vomited all over him. This poor, lost soul is an absolute train wreck. Blissfully unaware of the fact that he looks like Jered Leto’s Joker from Suicide Squad, he waives to you. Pretending you don’t know him, you slowly turn away.
“How did this even happen?”
The newbie is the victim of a fairly common pitfall for new grapplers. He’s fallen into the “individual item purchase” trap. For the purposes of clarity, let’s name this newbie “Newb McNewGuy.” He’s Scottish, and it’s a family name. It all started when Newb felt self conscious about continuing to come in to class training in his ratty “Getting Lucky in Kentuky” t shirt and the ill fitting swimming trunks he purchased 5 years ago while he was on vacation. He sees all the advanced guys wearing grappling specific compression gear, so he goes online and checks out what’s reasonably priced. Then something terrible happens: The HQ is having it’s rolling deals weekend. He literally exclaims out loud: “At these prices, I can’t afford NOT to buy stretchy pants!!!” Newb then purchases a couple of tops, some spats, and a few pairs of shorts. Each of these items looks great by itself, but just as you learned in second grade when you tried mixing cole slaw and chocolate pudding, mixing together two great things doesn’t always make a better thing.
When people genuinely can’t tell if you’re dressed for a No Gi class or a Lucha Libre Cosplay convention, it’s time to reevaluate your life.
No joke, this is a serious problem for new guys. To be fair it’s not all Newb’s fault. There’s really no procedure for what you should or shouldn’t wear to a grappling class. It’s not like the government sends out pamphlets on how to do this correctly…. though they probably should. The modern trend in grappling wear is very colorful, compression gear with lots of cartoons on them. While this is fun and whimsical (and god help me, I am a huge fan of whimsy) you don’t want to end up looking like a Finish circus performer on laundry day. Also, after Newb finally realizes he has bungled his initial series of purchases, he also comes to another harsh truth of this uncaring world: he’s blown half of his paycheck on gear, but now he has to spend even more money on expensive gear just so he won’t look like a total clown.
So what to do? Where should a new guy get started? Don’t worry, your Crabby Uncle Lavvy has got you covered. The cure for the tatami fashion police is what I’ve started calling the grappling ‘starter pack’. Lucky for you, dear reader, this system is easy to follow and hard to mess up. As Shakespear once said: “Brevity is the Soul of Whit” Another translation of that phrase is “Quit wasting Crabby Lavvy’s time….” So without further ado, my two decades in mat sports have all lead up to this… Purchase the following:
2x Rash Guards, All Black, Long Sleeve or 3/4 Sleeve. As few Logos as possible
2x Fight Shorts, all Black or black with dark trim, stretch panel in crotch. As few Logos as possible
2x Tights/Spats, all black. Full length. As few Logos as possible
For serious. That’s it. Genius sometimes runs to simplicity. Now here’s what new guys don’t understand: Buying new grappling gear will slowly become your weird, unstoppable hobby. It is a hobby absolutely rife with tons of impulse buys. You’ll end up purchasing all sorts of weird looking orange octopus pants, but not until after your credit card has been charged will you stop and ask yourself “what goes with orange octopus pants?”. The answer is Black. Black goes with everything. When you get those Anubis shorts, are you really about to pair them with your polka dot rashguard? The all black outfits are your jumping off point for what will become an ever increasing wardrobe of goofy looking stuff. Pairing is important, and the all black outfits will leave you with something that matches your new piece of apparel at all times.
Rashguard: Something very important to keep in mind is the vast majority of MMA/BJJ schools use Swain Tatame 1m x 2m mats. Most schools that don’t use Swain use a knock off, copy cat brand. While I prefer mat covers myself, the Swain mats make tons of sense for school owners. They are easy to replace and they are preposterously easy to move if your school needs to change location. The swain mats are excellent, however they have some pretty serious grip to them. Grip is basically measuring where the texture of the mat falls. Mat texture runs anywhere between slippery as ice and rough as sand paper. It’s a catch 22, too smooth and the second people start sweating the mat feels like it’s covered in butter, almost impossible to stand on. However too textured and the mat is literally ripping the skin off peoples elbows and knees in horrific chunks. The swain mats in 90% of gyms offer a good balance, but definitely land on the higher grip side of things. This is a huge benefit when you’re driving for a guard pass or getting traction while chasing that takedown, but isn’t so great when your bare elbow is being raked across the cheese-grater like mat surface at high speeds. The main point of wearing a rashguard is to avoid elbow burn and if you don’t wear your rash guard…… THERE WILL BE MAT BURN. Hence the long sleeves. Short sleeved Rashguards don’t protect your elbows, and are thus about as useful as nothing at all. (I do wear short sleeved rashguards for kickboxing.) A big drawback to long sleeved rashguards is that both you and your opponent will both spend a lot of time firmly grabbing your wrist.With a rash gurad covering your wrist the sleeve will constantly be getting pulled and stretched and even tear. This is a great way to ruin an expensive piece of equipment. You want your wrists exposed but your elbows covered, making the 3/4 sleeve length to your benefit. You can also just get a long sleeve rashguard and hike it half way up your forearm (you’re basically making capris for your arms)
Spats: The function of spats/tights can be explained by taking the above paragraph and swapping out the words “arm” for “leg” and “elbow” for “knee”. The only difference being you don’t want 3/4 length leg spats (your ankles will be grabbed infinitely less often then your wrists). 3/4 spats look weird, and will give you embarrassing tan lines. Remember that sizing for spats has more to do with thigh and calf diameter than it does the actual length of your leg. Even if you are 5’6″ with short legs, if you never miss squatt day, you may have to purchase large sized spats.
Shorts: The need for stretch material in shorts should seem obvious, but make sure you get something with a stretch panel in the groin area, or 4 way stretch material all over. Try to get something that covers the velcro area near the belly button, exposed velcro here tends to scratch your stomach something fierce.
Lastly, get yourself a groin protector, mouthpiece, and some ear guards and you’re good to go.
Long story short, just as Cobra Kai figured out in the 80s, whether you’re the tannest autumn or the pastiest ginger, black looks good on everybody.
Oftentimes, people who have zero understanding of real life self defense attempt to tear down the abilities of people who actually train legitimate self-defense martial arts. When someone who doesn’t understand ground fighting tries to fight a grappler, the match is usually very short and painful for the non grappler. However, in an effort to save face the non grappler will usually dig up two absolutely classic critiques. Seriously people have been trying to discredit the importance of grappling for 25 years with these misguided arguments.
Now I have yet to address the second point but that will have to wait until tomorrow, I’m pressed for time. My academy opens in 45 minutes and unfortunately I’ve got to go outside and use my giant “corpse rake” to clear out all the dead bodies that are piled up along the streets in front of my gym. I mean, I’m running a business here.
In fighting sports, hand wraps are one of the most misunderstood pieces of equipment. Trainees at boxing gyms seem to do EVERYTHING with hand wraps on. But then there are people involved in fitness boxing, or training at an MMA facility don’t seem to bother wrapping their hands at all. What gives? I’ve come to this conclusion: hand wrapping provides tons of benefits with no real downside, and if you aren’t doing it you’re just being Lazy. Boxers have been using hand wraps since the ancient Olympic games in Greece 3000 years ago. This is a piece of equipment that has really stood the test of time. Below is a list of Pros and Cons of wrapping your hands:
1- This is a no-brainer: Wraps protect your hands against immediate injury and against long term chronic pain from cumulative impact training. All competitive fighters wrap their hands, but people who just do fitness boxing wonder if they need to wrap their hands too since they only hit bags and mitts. The irony in this being that wrapping your hands isn’t as much for protection during sparring as it is protection during heavy bag and mitt work. The majority of punches thrown during a sparring session aren’t as hard as those thrown on a heavy bag, nor is the punch volume as high. Mitt and heavy bag work are where you most need to wrap your hands.
Dearest Odin, I don’t want to write this. This group has already wasted enough of the time of legitimate coaches and by posting this, I may only fuel their awful, awful fire. The average MMA/kickboxing/boxing hobbyist can often remain unscathed but if, however, you are an instructor, it’s very likely this is a person you have run into. Or more accurately, they run into your gym, annoying everyone until you firmly tell them to leave.
Modern Boxing has nothing to do with ‘street boxing’. Modern boxers wear huge pillow gloves, and if they tried to box like that in a street fight, they’d just break their hands, allowing these wise bare knuckle boxers to defeat them.
I must stress to you that I’m not BS-ing, this is actually what they say: They point to 1800s pre-photograph, hand-drawn illustrations that show boxers taking funny hand positions with their lead arm almost completely extended, with both palms facing up to the ceiling while making fists and claim this is proof of some long forgotten bare knuckle stance (there also are numerous old art prints that show pugilists in the regular boxing stance). You know what I’m talking about, that old timey pose where the guy has a kick ass mustache and you can clearly tell he handed his top hat and cane to his friend before engaging in some fisticuffs. Somehow, no professional strikers anywhere in the world have ever heard of this stance, but a bunch of dudes who are banned from ever coming back to the local YMCA Kuk Sol Wan class know all about it.
I’ve had three or four of these unwashed slack jaws walk into my gym over the years. Not one of them has been able to explain the nuts and bolts of how this stance will actually work. They’ll say something vague about using the extended forearms to block and parry punches. Mechanically, they have invented a less effective version of classic Karate ‘hard blocks’. When you ask them to get on the mat and demonstrate this blocking system while you throw punches at them they start to get skittish. They make the assertion that the classic covering position in boxing will just result in your own knuckles bouncing off your head. You might then show them how to modify the classic cover position so your wrists are on your head or you use open palms on your head (every boxer ever knows this). Having no reasonable response, they tend to trail off after that.
The internet age mixed with everyone having a camcorder in their phone makes a video of almost anything available. Google “monkey rides backwards on baby pig”. There are two different videos of two different sets of animals doing this. Do you understand how crazy uncommon it is for a monkey to ride backwards on a baby pig?! And yet it was filmed on two separate occasions. That is how much stuff is being filmed. Every time two middle schoolers get in a slap match someone pulls out a camera phone. Now try to find video of someone applying the goofy ye old boxing stance. I’ll wait. Not ONE video, huh? This stance ISN’T a real thing. This is confirmable. Even with common sense, video evidence, and reality disproving these men’s claims, they persist.
In a strange way, these men actually inspire me. This level of reality-defying confidence is tough to come by. If I had this type of confidence I think I would have grown up to become the president or something. These basement dwellers really think that they are going to defeat a bigger, stronger, faster athlete, who practices nothing but punching and kicking against other guys who spend all their time practicing punching and kicking, armed only with super secrets that they discovered by looking at hand drawn illustrations from a time when people smoked cigarettes to “open up their lungs”
Without a doubt this is one of the oldest (and by far silliest) debates in Jiu Jitsu circles. Both Gi and No Gi claim to be more effective for self defense, while usually declaring the other to have a glaring flaw that makes it useless in “the streets.” They are both right and totally wrong at the same time:
While both sides are arguing about which is better for self defense, every layman watching the argument is thinking “Do either of these groups practice their ground fighting while the other person is trying to hit them? Like every single person will try to do in a real fight” and “So they start already on their knees? Are they any good at takedowns?” These are the real areas that are important to round out if you want your jiu jitsu to work for self defense. Working ground and pound drills (both top and bottom) as well as incorporating takedowns and some form of boxing/kickboxing. While you don’t need to be an expert at takedowns and boxing, having at least a working level of experience at both of these is essential for real life defense. It is also important to throw in a little bit of personal safety/ situational awareness style self defense training. This is the pre fight/lead up to the fight training, basically how to avoid getting sucker punched. Learning to recognize the warning signs that someone is going to attack you is just as important as knowing what to do once the fighting has started. It doesn’t matter how many stripes you have on your belt, if you let someone else get in a position where they can blindside you all your BJJ training might be for nothing. Good pre fight references are:
Fight Logic by John B. Will
Pretty much anything by Peyton Quinn
Jackson’s MMA: The Stand Up Game (Self Defense Section)
“Do you EVEN roll, bro?”