Don’t tell them to break a leg
Remember when you were a kid and you used to talk shit about Jean-Claude Van Damme? You swore you could kick his ass in real life because he was just a ballerina and probably French. Well, you were wrong on two accounts — he’s Belgian and a former middleweight full-contact Karate fighter. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t have kicked his ass though; traditional martial arts back then had very little connection to so-called real fighting (i.e. my brother grabbing my wrists and making me hit myself).
This current era of mixed martial arts bodes something different, however. Now if a Hollywood type tells you he/she trains in martial arts on the side, whether because they genuinely love the sport, did it for a movie role, or is a douchebag, you have reason to be worried. Under a decent trainer, even the most sometimey weekend warrior has the ability to knock you out or put you in a toehold. Hell, BJ Penn never even trains and he’s a goddam UFC champion.
But if everyone from Morgan Freeman down to Zac Efron is potentially dangerous, how do you know when to tread softly? To help, here is a list of my favourite celebrity-types you shouldn’t challenge to a bar fight:
It’s not surprising that playwright/filmmaker David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Untouchables screenplay) would be fascinated with martial arts. His work is filled with tough-as-nails talk and often examines themes of modern masculinity. What is suprising is that Mamet himself, 61 years old, holds a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. That bit of news came to light when Mamet was doing promo for his MMA-themed film, Redbelt. Check out his piece for the Guardian, where he waxes poetic about MMA and capitalism, claiming the sport to be “the true marketplace of ideas.” Mamet’s the type whose shit talking makes you feel dumb while he’s tapping you out. “I grew up in a tough neighborhood and we used to say you can get further with a kind word and a gun than just a kind word,” he says. Jesus.
Rakaa from the Dilated Peoples
MC Rakaa Iriscience has been training at the Gracie Academy in Torrence, Cali for a decade now. Listen to his rhymes and you might hear a punchline or two about armbars. Who knew with all the vids floating around of underground rappers punching each other out, that it would be the cuddly Care Bear from the fucking Dilated Peoples you really had to worry about? “The Gracie family has also welcomed me in and always made me feel at home,” he says. Which, if you know anything about the Gracies and their sense of home, means smoking a big joint and then beating the shit out of each other. When Rakaa says his peoples come first, now you know who he’s talking about. Just look at the floor when they pass by and you should be OK.
Yeah, yeah, duh. Rogan is nowadays best known as a UFC colour commentator, so it’s no surprise he’s well versed in the combat arts and studies under the very innovative Eddie Bravo (creator of “the rubber guard”, the biggest development in ground fighting since, well, Gracie jiu-jitsu). But let’s take a moment here to remember that Rogan, even before he landed his gig as a second-rate Jeff Probst on Fear Factor, was this guy on the wicked ensemble comedy Newsradio. Back then, Rogan was nothing more than Newsradio‘s version of Joey from Friends. Now he’ll sooner plum you for knees than perform a pratfall. Too bad he never got to fight this guy:
Once upon a time me and some friends were attending a Sunny Tang tournament here in Ontario. And who did we spot in the rafters right in front of us? None other than Wesley Snipes, chilling alone with his bodyguard behind him, sitting in freakish concentation as he watched the contestants. Anyway, a big story back in 2005 was that Snipes was gonna throw down in the octagon with Joe Rogan. Which would have been awesome. Snipes has been a practicioner for years, showing a preference for practical traditional arts such as Shotokan karate, a stlye that has recently regained popularity due to UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. But 2005 was also the jumpoff for Snipes’s various legal and financial battles; the fight never happened and the batshit crazy actor disappeared. I like to think he went bankrupt, moved to the woods and spends his days still in character as Blade, practicing double-leg takedowns on grizzly bears. Everybody’s got to have a dream, and that’s mine.
Ron van Clief
After Jim Kelly established the archetype of jive-talking kung-fu black dude in Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, Ron van Clief took the baton and ran with it. Known to fans as “The Black Dragon”, van Clief became a staple of 70s blaxploitation flicks, with later work as a fight choreographer (the awesome cult film The Last Dragon) and doing voiceovers for the more recent Kung Faux series. Van Clief, a Goju-Ryu and Wing Chun kung-fu master, proved that your dad is a pussy when he enterd the Ultimate Fighting Championship at the age of 51 (still a UFC record), back when it was pretty much pit fighting and everybody was just trying to kill each other. He was the only action movie star to put up or shut up. He lasted almost four minutes against Royce Gracie, which is saying alot considering back then Gracie was tapping younger dudes out in under half that time. What did he do after that? Why he worked for the UFC, then won the All American Karate Championship at age 60. I repeat: your dad sucks.
Jason David Frank
A personal hero of mine best known as the original Green Ranger on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Frank recently inked a deal to compete in MMA (that’s him in the the pic up top). Which is ballsy, because who doesn’t want to punch a power ranger in the face? Yeah, especially you, Billy. But Frank is the real deal. He was a blackbelt before he lost his virginity (unless he lost it at 11, I dunno. Can I get a fact check someone?) and over the years developed his own style of karate called Tose Kune Do based on the principles of Bruce Lee. Which sounds like he just ripped off Lee’s Jeet Kune Do and gave it its own name, but whatever. He gets a pass because he totally got with the Pink Ranger, right? Am I right? Hi-five. He’s tatted up, he’s worked on his ground game, he’s got weird facial hair, he’s ready to go. I kinda hope whoever his first opponent is mockingly enters the ring like a putty monster, only to have Frank knock him out with a mean right cross, followed by a missile from his Dragonzord. Everyone’s got a dream, ok? That’s my second one. Oh and please visit the homepage of his clothing line, “Jesus Didn’t Tap”, so you can hear their awesome theme song, “Jesus Didn’t Tap.” Hot shit.
About a decade ago, Elizabeth picked up an Israeli martial art called krav maga while training for a movie called Tomcats (snicker). She loved the art so much she continued to train even after the film had wrapped. I’m not sure whether or not she still trains, but either way she’s dangerous. Krav maga doesn’t mess around, focusing on vicious groin strikes, eye gouges, anything to get the job done effieciently and without fuss. It was developed to train the Israeli military quickly and easily, specifically with the idea in mind that someone shouldn’t have to train for years to learn how to fight properly. Aside from all that, Elizabeth is like twelve feet tall. Did you see her on Dancing with the Stars? She’s not just a tomboy, she’s a monster. You can read GQ’s account of what it’s like to roll with Elizabeth here.
Forever better known as Al Bundy from Married With Children, O’Neill earned his black belt in brazilian jiu-jitsu in 2007. At age 61, O’Neill became one of a relatively small club of Gracie black belt practicioners — you can watch his belt ceremony here. O’Neill embodies what this here list is all about. Make whatever jokes you will, he can probably kill you if he wanted to. Just look at the grin on his face as he slides his hand down his belt like the Bundy days of yore. He’s daring you to laugh. Laugh, Marcy Darcy. Go ahead. Let’s see what happens. Just ask sport legend and UFC founder Rorion Gracie: “Ed has…great execution of the techniques and does them with a certain level of ease. We’ve worked this guy every single week for 15 years.” Good to know the National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood has some real muscle behind them now.