Bridging that gap is FIGHT QUEST, the latest reality martial arts series to hit cable, where two willing participants travel the world to experience the pain of real martial arts training and sparring for our pleasure.
FIGHT QUEST is similar to another martial arts reality series called HUMAN WEAPON. Both have two hosts learning new moves from various martial arts disciplines to be used competitively in the ring.
The difference is that in FIGHT QUEST hosts Doug Anderson and Jimmy Smith take it a step further by being fully immersed in the culture and fighting style they are focused on. Each man training with a different master, they take that brief experience and attempt to apply what they have learned by competing with a different local opponent.
The fighting arts explored are varied and intensive. The first few episodes, which began airing on The Discovery Channel in December, include wushu and sanda in China, Kali knife and stick fighting in the Philippines and Kyokushin karate in Japan.
Although Doug and Jimmy have their own backgrounds in martial arts, they are challenged to apply themselves exclusively to these specific fighting arts and so far it doesn’t look like their instructors are holding back much if at all. Clips available on the official web site show them getting choked out, knocked practically unconscious, pummeled mercilessly, and pushed to their physical limits of endurance and pain tolerance.
One of the biggest challenges that stunt actors like Wu Jing face is trying to control their attacks so that their onscreen opponents are not hurt or even hit at all. There is no such quarter given for real martial arts training in preparation for full-contact sparring. Without the fortitude and endurance to take a beating, all those fancy moves go to waste.
This is where the FIGHT QUEST hosts almost seem like masochists because there is no time to master a fighting art but plenty of time to get bruised and bloodied while being schooled on the rudiments of a combat system that’s new to them.
Doug Anderson is a 25-year-old Iraq war veteran with experience in Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai kickboxing, and Western boxing. Jimmy is a veteran of professional mixed martial arts with five wins under his belt. He also has a background in Jiu-Jitsu. These guys are obviously no creampuffs and yet the show constantly puts them in compromising situations that leaves them winded, stunned or wincing in pain.
For viewers, FIGHT QUEST provides a great opportunity to preview different martial arts styles from practice to application. There is a limit to how much can be shown, either by lack of time or because of the severity of the traditions associated with a martial art.
In a scene that couldn’t be shown on TV, Doug uneasily witnesses black magic traditions associated with Pencat Silat in a rural village of Bandung, Indonesia. A practitioner begins slicing his tongue with a sword as a show of pain tolerance. While that’s taking martial arts way beyond practical application, the hosts still allow themselves to be subjected to some less extreme exhibitions such as having bricks stacked on Jimmy’s chest and smashed with a sledgehammer.
Beyond the entertainment value, FIGHT QUEST, like martial arts movies, provides yet another accessible window into different cultures around the world and how each culture has adapted universal methods of fighting into unique and sometimes spiritual martial arts.
In a TV landscape filled with reality programs about dating, makeovers and 15-minute celebrities, it’s a welcome sight to see martial arts from around the world given an opportunity to be exposed to viewers in all its rugged and pain-induced glory.
FIGHT QUEST currently airs weekly on The Discovery Channel. Hopefully, those of us without cable or satellite service will be able to eventually download episodes from iTunes or similar online services.
Fight Quest Pencak Silat Episode details:
Location: Bandung, Indonesia
Masters: Rita Suwanda/Dadang Gunawan
Features: Hands, feet, throws, weapons
Premiere: Jan. 25, 2008 (Hey! That's 2 days away! Somebody watch it for me and give me a review! Jeff? You got cable?)