|Available at Amazon.com|
The basic idea behind Human Weapon sounds like a cool martial arts flick or a Street Fighter-esque video game: two men travel the world learning the various martial arts of different cultures in order to master the styles.
In this case, the two men are Jason Chambers, a former mixed martial arts champion, and Bill Duff, a former football player and wrestler. Both men bring different attributes to the show—Jason is quick and knowledgeable of many martial arts styles, and Bill is huge and tough. However, both share an interest in different combat styles and an appreciation of the history and culture that are intertwined with those styles.
This appreciation of history and culture is what sets apart Human Weapon from the various copy-cats that have popped onto the networks since its introduction, and it’s what makes this show superior to them. Although at times some of the comments the two make about the differences between wherever they happen to be for that episode and the United States seem obvious and maybe even a little ignorant, they approach each episode with a sense of respect for the culture and an understanding that they are strangers in these countries, so there’s no sense of malice or jingoism behind their words. Also, I’m willing to admit that I can be hypersensitive at times to Americans acting poorly in other countries; probably that stems from the brief time I’ve spent in other countries and have discovered that the stereotype of the oafish American is many times well deserved. Thankfully Jason and Bill manage to avoid this most of the time.
Each show can be broken down into the same basic pattern: Jason and Bill introduce us to the country and fighting style, they then find a Master of that style and request to train and eventually fight one of the Master’s star students. After that they set off to meet various masters who teach them specific techniques unique to the style. Along the way Jason and Bill comment on the history of the style, and visit sites important to that particular martial art. Finally, either Jason or Bill is chosen to spar with one student.
This fight at the end is the only other problem I have with this show, and it may come from my relative inexperience with the martial arts and the vague time frame Jason and Bill have to complete their training for the end of the episode match. At times it seems like the two don’t take enough time to adequately train in order to really spar with a master of the martial art style they’re learning that episode, which I think could be considered an insult on the part of the masters. However, I know next to nothing about martial arts, and it could be that Jason and Bill’s previous experiences give them a good base to work from; also, even though the way the episodes are edited makes it look like barely any time passes from the initial challenge to the end fight, in reality the show is rather unclear on the actual amount of time that passes, and this criticism could be based on a misunderstanding on my part.
Those slight criticisms aside, this is a show that has a lot going for it, not only is the in-depth examination of various martial arts interesting, but the contextualizing of them in the history and society of the various cultures that created them make for a unique view on different countries and societies. There’s a lot more going on here than just two men learning how to beat up other people.
Master Fights (cumulative running time: 28:34)
This features official matches between seasoned practitioners of various styles, such as Judo and Pankration. Some of the fights were actually rather boring, and the Eskrima section looked choreographed, which may have been the point; I’m not sure.
Master Moves (cumulative running time: 33:41)
This features a scientific breakdown of each specialized move from the styles Jason and Bill learn in this season, and makes use of computer graphics—as in the regular episodes—to illustrate the principles of physics and body mechanics that go into each move. It’s almost like a cheat sheet for the entire season.
Additional Footage: Krav Maga, Pankration, and Marine Corps Martial Arts (cumulative running time: 8:05)
Obviously, these are scenes that were cut from the episodes, probably for time constraints. While the Krav Maga portion was pretty interesting, this is overall the weakest of the special features because it doesn’t add anything to what was already shown.
Although most people will watch this strictly for the analysis of martial arts styles, the information on the history and culture behind the styles is what really makes this a show worth watching. Recommended.
The History Channel presents Human Weapon: The Complete First Season. Running time: 752 minutes. Unrated. Released on DVD: April 29, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.