Introducing the Black Belt Channel on Jungo Plus
Photos Courtesy of Jungo Plus

As you read in our most recent issue, Black Belt has teamed up with Jungo Plus to create the Black Belt Magazine Channel. The joint venture has launched, and it has hours of streaming content available for free viewing right now. To mark this partnership, we’re debuting this column, which will give you an in-depth look at the movies and shows as they premiere.

In this and future installments of this column, we will bring you highlights from the video interviews that are done with martial arts masters in hopes that some of their know-how will assist or inspire you in your martial arts journey. Those interviews form the basis for a series called The Master’s Way. Every Thursday, a new episode featuring the likes of Olivier Gruner, Cynthia Rothrock, Ernie Reyes Sr., Keith Vitali and Tayari Casel will premiere. (See below for excerpts from Gruner’s episode.)

Another Jungo original is Black Belt Theater. Running the project is none other than Cynthia Rothrock, who’s joined by Stefan Johnson, a social media celeb. In each episode, they focus on a classic film. Available now are shows that focus on Return of the Dragon with Bruce Lee, No Retreat, No Surrender with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kung Fu Chefs with Sammo Hung, Revenge of the Ninja with Sho Kosugi and Showdown in Manila with Gruner — with new titles being added every month. Rothrock and Johnson’s commentary is guaranteed to give you a new perspective on the classics you love.

The Black Belt Magazine Channel also features plenty of programming that’s not movie-related. It includes the following:• The Combat Show: A new episode is scheduled to go live every Friday. Available now are episodes with Michael Jai White, Tito Ortiz, Morgan Plowden, Mike Sawyer, Billy Blanks and Jeff Smith.• Mano a Mano: New episodes air on Thursdays featuring more masters than you can shake a kali stick at. Among the first are Ernie Reyes Sr., Damon Gilbert, Richard Plowden, Nate Quarry, Dennis Brown and Mike Chat.• The Next Gen: New episodes are released on Saturdays. They’re designed to keep you up to date on the rising stars of our world, people like Bailey Murphy, Alex Mancillas and Sammy Smith.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Go to jungoplus.com to browse the complete listing, then enjoy the free programming.

Up Close: Olivier Gruner

Featured on: The Master’s Way
Background: French special forces, action-movie star
Martial Arts: Kickboxing champion in 1984, 1985 and 1986
See Him in: Showdown in Manila (on the Black Belt Magazine Channel, of course)

When you started to get into kickboxing, was it an extension of your military career?

Olivier Gruner: I started training when I was younger [because] I was inspired by Bruce Lee. Obviously, a lot of people did — a lot of martial artists. The Chinese were really popping out martial arts movies, and I was fascinated by the guy [because] he was small, he was skinny and he could beat up everybody. I wanted to be like that. Everybody wants to be like that.

When I went to the military, it was different. We used weapons and we used knives. It was not really martial arts anymore because in the martial arts, what is really important is the philosophy. [In the military], we try to forget about this. But the philosophy is really important. It gets you to focus on taking your time to achieve perfection.

When you see judoka, especially older people, and they grab a guy, they are so smooth. The way they move, it’s beautiful to watch. It’s an art. A lot of people, when they watch some fights, say, “Oh, the guy’s throwing, he’s the best in the world.” Well, I understand. It’s great to see, but it’s not really the winning that’s important. It’s watching somebody with smoothness and how beautiful it is. That’s when you’re inspired.

And as you know, sometimes that strength and power really hides technique that isn’t there.

Gruner: Absolutely. That’s why jiu-jitsu is big, especially for women. If I had a girl, I would say, “You’re going to take jiu-jitsu.”

Striking also is good, but striking is a little bit different. Perfection of striking is like everything — you have to do so many punches. [It’s about] the end of the punch and the rotation of your hips and your feet — the biomechanics behind it. I love martial arts because there’s so much to learn.

With your military background, what was your mentality in kickboxing?

Gruner: My thing with the [military] is, we don’t give up. We know pain, we all have pain, but we don’t give up until we drop. And if we drop, if we can still breathe, we can get up. For survival, what we need is oxygen, water and food, but really the main thing is oxygen. So if you still have oxygen and you can still breathe and you still have the oxygen going through your muscles, you can still keep going. So the mentality is like, it doesn’t matter who’s in front of you. I know there’s fear. …

If somebody doesn’t have fear, they’re not ready.

Gruner: You’re not ready. Plus, you can use [fear]. It gives you extra energy and extra power. I had a friend named Freddy, a huge guy. I mean, he was a monster. He used to fight in MMA, and he won all his fights. He had a gym here in Vegas. One day, he said, “Olivier, let’s go and spar.”

I said, “I don’t want to spar.” I was an actor at that time, so I didn’t want to spar. Freddy was huge, and he scared the crap out of me.Then I said [to myself], “OK, fine. We’re going to spar. Something’s going to happen, and it’s going to escalate, and I’m going to get hurt or he’s going to get hurt, and it’s going to be bad.

”But I didn’t have any choice. So I said, “OK, we’ll go easy.” And, of course, he’s like [bang bang bang] with that speed. And I say [to myself], “OK, cool. Now I will relax.”

I put myself in a trance and waited. As soon as he came [within] reach of my kick, I unloaded my psyche. It was so powerful. He crossed the gym and fell on top of a bench. All the weights fell, and all the guys from the office came out to find out what happened. At this point, I knew I had him. Again, it was the fear.

In the military, it doesn’t matter which mission you go on; you always have fear. You can control it. The first time, it’s scary. But when you go from one [mission] to another mission, you see where you have to be careful. That’s why sometimes fear is important.

When you made that transition from the military to kickboxing and then someone said, “Hey, kid, do you want to be in a movie?” what did you think?

Gruner: The first time I arrived on the set, it was for a film called Angel Town. Usually in the military, you’re supposed to be a tough guy. When people started to put makeup on me, I’m like, “OK … are you sure?”[The person said], “It’s for the camera, you know. You’re shining — we don’t want that.” So I said OK.This is a totally different world. [For example], I’m sitting down on my chair. Eric Karson is on my left, and I see that the set is moving. You know, the scene is moving. So I get up and try to move my chair. I want to move just a couple of feet away.“Oh no, no, no, no, no! Don’t touch it. You’ve got somebody to move your chair. Do you want some coffee?”So you go from being a warrior suddenly to being pampered. It’s like, “Oh, my nails are done, everything is done. I don’t have to do anything!”

It was a transition. That was interesting.

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