Believe it or not, there are some parallels between being a profession Mixed Martial Arts fighter and being a professional anything else.
Clearly, the consequences can be different, but there are things in common. One evident commonality comes from the mouths of fighters themselves. One example who is always pretty candid is Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. He has said on more than one occasion some version of, "I didn't want to be there." He can be colorful when he says it too. Such as when he says in that same context (upon losing to McGregor at UFC 246), "Donald showed up; Cowboy wasn't there." Everyone knows exactly what that means. And it is probably true that everyone relates to what that means.
Yes, the similarities with most vocations and literally fighting for a living are probably not extensive, but this area is one all probably have experience in. Maybe it goes back to little league when you choked in an at-bat. Maybe it is after an interview where you seemed to say all the wrong things. It would probably not take people much time to look back at times when they just did not show up. As perplexing as it may be to imagine fighters spending weeks and months at a time preparing for the moment the enter the cage under those lights only to not feel right about being there, it is actually way more sensible than they probably get credit for. A little empathy can go a long way here.
One possible reason we love fighting – and probably competition in general – is the apparent super- human ability of our heroes to rise above and overcome. To face impossible odds, perform, and come out on top. But the fact is, however insane the proposition is that fighters, well, fight for a living, they are after all people. Very special people, but people. And people have bad days at work. People are emotional and can be affected by stress and difficulty. It is amazing when fighters have bad performances how fans can be quick to draw conclusions about them. And it's that quickness here that is the critical thing to consider. It is very meaningful and worthy of note when introspective fighters reconsider their direction upon lengthy reflection in loss. But fans can be quick to interpret a bad day or two as someone no longer being who they once were. As though it is a foregone conclusion that one is just supposed to be the very best they can be at a scheduled moment - always.
Maybe fighters need to be more self-aware about their exit plan and set measurable goals and strategize so as not to stay too long at the party and keep a bad night from defining them. But fans would also be well-served to empathize with a fighter who just could not get up for going to work and performing. Evaluate one of your own bad days or poor performances. If it is not the sum total of your work, ask if maybe you would rather not be graded on that particular outing. Cowboy is a legend. This writer though, fully understands when it is Donald who shows up too.
Donald Cerrone talks heartbreaking loss, what’s next after #UFCVegas26 | ESPN MMA
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, ranked the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world by Ring Magazine, stopped Billy Joe Saunders Saturday night before a record crowd to add another championship to his collection. Despite the ongoing pandemic, 73,126 fans flocked to AT&T Stadium in Texas setting an American indoor boxing mark for attendance as they watched the Mexican icon stalk Saunders for eight rounds on Cinco de Mayo weekend.
Holding his hands high, Alvarez hunted Saunders throughout much of the bout occasionally drilling strong punches to the body. Though Saunders appeared to be coming on a bit in the prior couple of rounds, Alvarez landed a thudding right to the body followed by a left uppercut to the head midway through the eighth which had the British fighter holding on. As Saunders right eye swelled, Alvarez continued landing hard shots to the head and body.
Despite losing fighters from the card due to everything from rough weight cuts to COVID, the Ultimate Fighting Championships was back on ESPN again Saturday night from Las Vegas with some entertaining match-ups headlined by Marina Rodriguez's unanimous decision over Michelle Waterson. Though both women are ranked strawweights, the match was contested at flyweight where Rodriguez appeared to be the bigger, stronger fighter landing some hard punches and muscling Waterson in the clinch to garner the win.
The co-main event saw popular veteran Donald Cerrone continue his losing ways, eating looping right hands from Alex Morono until the referee stopped the welterweight bout toward the end of the first round. Cerrone is now 0-5 in his last six bouts with one no contest. The undercard had probably the most talked about performance of the night as lightweight Gregor Gillespie set a frantic pace of constant takedown attempts and ground scrambles to simply run Diego Ferreira out of gas in the second round of their fight.
The Art of the Sword and the Silver Screen
There can hardly be a more iconic action scene in an action film, but especially in a Samurai action film, than Tatsuya Nakadai in Sword of Doom (1966) as he walks purposefully along a misty path, eyes forward, as if in a trance, a death-stare, and methodically slices and cuts all the opponents in his way (scene below).
Samurai action films are a genre that brought actors like the aforementioned Nakadai and Toshiro Mifune to prominence in America, but the artistry of the flashing steel is actually an art in and of itself. The art of Tate (Tah-tay) is the well from which most of those amazing sword battles were drawn.
What is Tate?
Tate is not just another martial art, but rather a martial art with a specific purpose. Literally translated, Tate means choreographed sword battle. Although the techniques can be used for fighting, Tate is meant to be theatrical, and so it is intended to adorn the stage and screen.
Enter Tate swordmaster, and actor Yoshi Amao. Amao is an expert practitioner of Tate and explained the difference between the cutting techniques of traditional arts like Kendo and Iaido and the art of Tate. Amao tells, "We needed to add something different. It's not a realistic way to fight, but it can look gorgeous, amazing, dramatic, or funny." While fighting stresses the economy of motion and effectiveness of technique, choreographed combat seeks to embellish with elaborate and beautiful flourishes.
Yoshi Amao wanted to be an actor. And so he left Japan for New York in 1990. It wasn't until years later, at an audition for a film, that his planned course would take a detour into the martial arts. Teaching the choreography for his audition was legendary actor Mako Iwamatsu "He showed me some movement with the sword, and then he handed the sword to me and said, "OK? You do the same thing." I tried to do the movement like him, but I couldn't do it. I was so disappointed. I felt like it was something I really wanted to learn. It's very beautiful, and as a Japanese actor, I felt I should learn to do this. That was my inspiration."
As destiny sometimes provides, an actor friend, with knowledge of Tate came to New York. Amao asked if he would teach him privately. Eventually, a class on Samurai sword was established drawing actors, stunt people, and sword enthusiasts alike. At first, Amao assisted, but eventually, he began teaching the class with his teacher's blessing. Wanting to learn more, Amao went to Japan to study, and after a couple of teachers ended up as the disciple of Master swordsmen Waki Tahei Sensei.
As spectators and filmgoers, many of us have likely seen Tate and never realized it. There are some classics of the genre, specifically the aforementioned, Sword of Doom and also Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961), with Yojimbo being quite possibly the most borrowed from (note: not ripped-off) film ever made. The entire film was remade twice, first as A Fist Full of Dollars (1964) and then in the 90s as Last Man Standing (1996). The cantina scene in Star Wars (1977) where Obi-Wan cuts off the gangster alien's arm is lifted directly from this film, as is the ending of The Warriors (1979) where Swan throws the knife into Luther's gun-wielding arm. Clearly, Tate is not so unusual or theatrical as to make it inaccessible, but rather it adds the warrior spirit to conflict in a visceral way that the viewer understands intuitively.
Sword epics are hard to come by these days, but hopefully they will return and the art of Tate will live on in film and on stage bringing new practitioners and new masters.
To find out more about Yoshi Amao's Tate classes and more, click here.
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