Fighting, arguably the most instinctive feature programmed into the human reflex system, has made a recent comeback into mainstream society in the form of a television documentary series aptly named ‘Fight Quest.’
Back when our ancestors skinned wooly mammoths for loincloths and used stones to spark fires, fighting was a way to protect territory and to demonstrate who the most qualified male was to lead the pack. Once laws and civilized communities spawned, the urge to fight soon signaled immaturity and barbarianism.
The rise in popularity of the Gracie family’s ‘Ultimate Fighting Championship’ allowed fighting to leak its way back into mainstream society and gave rise to National Geographic’s ‘Fight Science,’ The History Channel’s Human Weapon and the Discovery Channel’s ‘Fight Quest.’
While ‘Fight Science’ utilizes the scientific method to determine which martial arts are more deadly, and ‘Human Weapon’ focuses on the history and roots of the arts, ‘Fight Quest’ holds its own by illustrating the process through which fighters are made.
Airing on the Discovery Channel, the show shadows Doug Anderson and Jimmy Smith around the globe as they attempt to reach a proficient level at arts they encounter, including Kung Fu, Karate, Krav-Maga and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Fight Quest unveiled itself in December 2007 to eager viewers with the discipline of Kung Fu.
Each episode follows a routine formula. First, the show opens with an introduction to the art (Kung Fu in this case) with a montage of exciting clips to hook viewers. Second, viewers see a staged Kung Fu fight between experienced practitioners to get the adrenaline flowing. The audience is then introduced to the masters who will be teaching the hosts.
What makes ‘Fight Quest’ different from ‘Human Weapon’ is that the hosts, Doug and Jimmy, are split up and undergo different training regiments with different masters.
Once the training begins, viewers are given the hosts’ points of view in asides. One will start to notice that each host has his defining characteristic.
Doug, an Iraq veteran and amateur mixed martial artist, who is perseverant and eager to fight, complains about his master’s ‘sadism.’ It’s not hard to see why he always says, ‘I’m definitely convinced that [this master] is the most sadistic person I’ve ever met.’
His master often commands him to perform tasks that even fear would be scared of. In the Kung Fu (Chinese art) episode, Doug had to break bricks with an open palm strike. In the Krav-Maga (Israeli Defense Forces fighting system) episode, Doug fought five fresh opponents one at a time consecutively. The most memorable was when he stood in as a human punching bag during the Karate (Japanese martial art) episode.
Jimmy, a former math teacher and holder of a 6-1 Mixed Martial Arts record, almost always take his pain threshold beyond the limit. In the Savate (French art) episode, Jimmy took a hard kick to the liver area, which feels like a wave dragging you down to the ocean floor then scraping you on the coral reefs below.
In Krav-Maga, Jimmy took repeated low kicks to the back of the leg and thigh, an area with a high concentration of sensitive nerves.
In both instances, Jimmy yelled as if he knew how a dog felt like to be neutered and in both sessions, his instructors told him to endure it.
Not only do the over-the-top training tactics boost television ratings, but they also serve the purpose of preparing the mind of a warrior for an actual fight. As Doug states in the Karate episode, ‘The only thing anyone is scared of in a fight is taking the hits, so when we spar with bare-knuckles, you’re used to taking the hits and the fear is no longer a factor.’
After training is complete, both hosts, as a rite of passage, are required to fight a seasoned veteran of the chosen art. Understandably, Doug and Jimmy rarely ever win, but it is entertaining to watch them try every single time.
The show targets primarily an audience that has no background in martial arts whatsoever and is informative for those who do practice some fighting discipline.
As a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Krav-Maga and some Taekwondo, I enjoy comparing different styles to see which I would like to learn next. It is also beneficial to see differences in spiritual doctrines, training routines and the practicalities of each art.
I can also testify that the show, although staged somewhat in order to get the right shots and angles, is legitimate in its portrayal of the amounts of effort, patience and endurance that goes into each art.