One of the things that bind us as human beings is that no matter where you go in the world (East or West) is that every culture has a style of fighting unique to its own. From Russian Sambo to Japanese Judo, Israeli Krav Maga, Korean Taekwondo and Filipino Eskrima (stick and knife fighting), the way we fight says a lot about who we are. While the schoolyard was the subject of many conversations about which style would win out in a fight, and the sport of mixed martial arts has developed as a hybrid of many disciplines, the History Channel for one glorious season decided to send two guys with actual fighting experience across the world to study the various disciplines and compete in them at the end of each episode.
Jason Chambers (a former MMA fighter and current commentator for Bellator Fighting Championships) and former NFL defensive lineman Bill Duff (a professional and amateur wrestler) were given the task of fighting specialists in each discipline after exploring the history of each discipline. Going to Thailand to learn Muay Thai in the premiere episode, for example, and eventually fighting a master in the discipline we get to see Chambers and Duff train and learn about the martial art first hand. This isn’t a strict academic look nor is it a cursory glance over it; Chambers and Duff provide a practical application and get their hands dirty.
The show itself is amusing but it’s only half of what it really could be. Part of it is that everything feels remarkably staged. From the interactions to some of the fights, the intention is to make Chambers and Duff walk away without being completely humiliated going from various disciplines they’ve barely immersed themselves in. They may be in the ring or cage with experts but everyone is clearly holding back from their absolute peak performance. It’s much more of a show than it is a fight, which kind of defeats the purpose. We don’t want to see an inexperienced newcomer against a master at half speed and present it as a full-on sport.
There is something to be said about exploring various fighting disciplines, and their history, but this isn’t the right way to do it. Chambers and Duff are good sports in taking some legitimate beatings at the hands of some bad men, all things considered, but it’s sad to see them trying so hard and acting like they’ve accomplished something when it’s fairly obvious they’ve been given the kid glove treatment in a glorified sparring session.
The actual fighting disciplines are given short shrift in terms of seeing them in action but the one thing the show does well is explore the history of various fighting disciplines. There’s a concentrated effort to find out all the nuts and bolts of how a martial art developed over time into what it is now. It’s always interesting to see how time and circumstance forged a martial art into what it eventually became, and the masters behind it, and the History Channel touch is all over this as this well developed and well researched material.
There’s a reason why this series didn’t hit 20 episodes and it’s mainly because it’s not that good of a show.
The History Channel is known for first rate everything and this is no exception as the show looks exceptional. There’s a lot of color and the various settings across the world; they all come through cleanly and clearly.
There’s something inherently interesting about martial arts and fighting disciplines that Human Weapon seizes upon but can’t quite capitalize with. It’s worth it as a rental for the history lesson on the disciplines but isn’t something that screams the need to be purchased.
The History Channel presents Human Weapon (Season One). Running time: 752 Minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD and Blu-ray: November 23, 2010.