ronda rousey

Martial artists often think, If only my style could get into the Olympics! Seldom do they consider all the implications. In this story, two judo veterans weigh in on how being in the Games has changed their art.

In case you live in a cave, here’s a news flash: 2016 is an Olympic year. The 31st Summer Games are scheduled to take place August 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro. Whenever the world’s premier sporting event rolls around, we find ourselves reflecting on how the Olympics have affected the martial arts. Part 1 of this article examines whether the Games have been good for judo. For input, we interrogated Gary Goltz and Hayward Nishioka, prompting them with questions and hoping they’d offer opinions on other topics that are of concern to them and practitioners of their martial art.

— Editors

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Teshya Alo competes in 3 grappling sports, and as proof of her prowess, she owns 21 national championships in wrestling and 30 titles in judo and jiu-jitsu. The secrets of her success? The right attitude and supportive parents!

When I attended the 16th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival, which showcased more than 130 entries from 15 countries, I was pleased to learn that the organizers had included three must-see martial arts-themed movies: • The Assassin — From Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, this highly anticipated movie could redefine the wu xia genre. • Deadman Inferno — This Japanese flick pits Yakuza members against zombies. • Winning Girl — This is a wonderful dynamic documentary, one that’s perfectly timed considering last year’s defeat of UFC champ Ronda Rousey. Directed by Kimberlee Bassford, Winning Girl documents four years in the life of a 16-year-old, 125-pound wrestling and judo champion from Hawaii named Teshya Alo. As such, it includes plenty of training, trials and tribulations. The film opens with a mention that since she was 6, Teshya has won 21 national championships in wrestling and garnered 30 titles in judo and jiu-jitsu. That’s impressive — but not as impressive as the maturity the teenager shows. “When I went to my first national wrestling tournament and lost, I was very sad,” Teshya said. “I remember watching the girl who won. She was like a celebrity. I used my loss as motivation, went home to Hawaii, trained really hard, and two years later, I beat the same girl to win the nationals. “I realized that by working hard and beating that girl who was older and stronger than me, that if I keep working hard, one day I could make it to the Olympics. My dream is to win the Olympics in judo and wrestling.” Teshya knows it won’t be easy. “To get to the Olympics, I have to win the world championships in both sports and beat adults who are much older and more experienced than me,” she said. “So right now, my goal is to represent Hawaii and the United States at the world championships and win.” Throughout her childhood and early teens, Teshya built a solid reputation as a force to be reckoned with — by defeating boys, girls and women twice her age. Part of the film is the coming-of-age story that takes place from age 12 to 16, which is when we get to witness the challenges and struggles she had to face to advance in two combat sports that people her size and gender rarely participate in, much less excel in. As Teshya moved up the judo ranks, her signature technique — which she still uses at tournaments — was tomoe nage, the circle throw. But after she won the judo nationals at 16 and represented America at the World Judo Championships, she faced an opponent who constantly countered her tomoe nage attempts. Teshya ended up losing. “I was confused and became paralyzed — [I] didn't understand the concept of strategy,” she said. “But I'll learn from the loss.” It reminded me of the UFC 193, which saw Black Belt Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey lose to Holly Holm. Rousey attempted to use her trademark armbar but was repeatedly foiled by Holm, who was trained by Black Belt Hall of Famer Greg Jackson. When the armbar failed, Rousey either forgot or abandoned her strategy. In its place, she seemed to fight with anger. Meanwhile, Holm appeared to remain calm. Check out the Greg Jackson Mixed Martial Arts Core Curriculum from Black Belt! Stream lessons to your digital device and start learning how to incorporate MMA tactics and techniques into your current art. When Teshya, then 15, represented America at the World Wrestling Cadet Championships, she lost her opening match against the former world champion, but she battled on. After a quick succession of follow-up matches, she won the bronze. A year later, she bagged the gold and became the world champion. Ultimately, Winning Girl is about empowering young women. It shines a spotlight on the specific challenges associated with Teshya’s quest to become a champion wrestler and judoka while living in Hawaii, while learning about her heritage and while being forced to raise funds to attend the big tournaments. The refreshing part is that throughout the film, we see that for Teshya Alo, the keys to success in competition are belief in oneself and the support of one’s parents, who ideally use positive reinforcement to power the athlete’s drive to win. (Photos Courtesy of Making Waves Films LLC) Go here to order Dr. Craig D. Reid’s book The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s: 500+ Films Loaded With Action, Weapons and Warriors.

Cristiane Justino Venancio Santos is a Brazilian MMA fighter who's been called the biggest threat to Ronda Rousey's dominance in the UFC. Find out who she is and where she comes from.

To her fans around the world, she’s a near-invincible fighter called “Cris Cyborg.” To her friends and family, she’s known as Cristiane Justino Venancio Santos. Either way, she’s an MMA killing machine with a professional record of 10-1-1. Even while growing up in Curitiba, Brazil, she exhibited a love of competition. In high school, she built herself into a nationally ranked handball player. During a 2004 championship, she earned the attention of another competitor’s parent — that man turned out to be Rudimar Fedrigo, head instructor at the Chute Boxe Academy. Chute Boxe is a renowned MMA gym in Brazil that started life as a muay Thai school. It’s cranked out some fearsome fighters, including Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Thiago Silva, Gabriel Gonzaga and Anderson Silva. Scoring an invite to train there, especially from the head instructor, was an honor Cyborg didn’t fully appreciate at the time. In an interview, Fedrigo was asked why he invited the teenager to his academy. He said that while watching her play handball, he was struck by her athleticism — she appeared much stronger and better-conditioned than everyone else. All that potential was too much to resist, he said, so he invited her to take a free muay Thai class.

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Read the conclusion of our film critic's examination of the martial arts in the latest installment in the Furious franchise.

In the first part of my Furious 7 blog, I noted that action-based movie franchises that feature martial arts have a tendency to act like the month of March: Enter like a lion and exit like a lamb. In other words, each sequel usually has fewer and fewer fight scenes, with the Taken and Bourne films being prime examples. However, since the release of Furious 5, this franchise has made fantastic fights and awesome automotive duels a staple. The formula seems to be working — Furious 7 became the fastest film in history to earn $1 billion globally. Photo by Scott Garfield/Courtesy of Universal Pictures For those who came in late, in Furious 7, villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) and his family, along with CIA agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), for what they did to his brother in Fast & Furious 6. An explosive early scene in the latest movie pits Hobbs against Shaw — two military-trained he-men overflowing with self-confidence — in an all-out test of strength, technique and mental acuity. Being athletic and in possession of profound pugilistic skills, Johnson and Statham were committed to perfection during the filming. "When it comes to fighting action, Jason brings authenticity to this franchise,” Johnson said. “He’s a pretty tough guy, and he’s legit. He's all about wanting to make every scene incredible, and with the action sequence put together, I was happy. It’s Jason showcasing his well-versed martial arts and me inflicting Hobbs’ very straightforward, hard-core way of fighting." Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures One of the most challenging fights in Furious 7 is set inside a speeding, out-of-control bus. It features Paul Walker and Tony Jaa — a tricky task for Jaa because running, jumping and flipping are integral parts of his style. On the subject, fight choreographer Jeff Imada shared the following: "My goal was to utilize the tight confines and give audiences a feeling of great action and have Tony show off his signature moves. It was nice to use traditional techniques but to also allow improvising while incorporating their precarious environment.”

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The box-office numbers for Furious 7 indicate it's not disappointing the public, but how does the latest film in the franchise stack up when it comes to action and martial arts?

Martial arts-rich TV shows are a lot like a Fourth of July fireworks display done in reverse. The crescendo of explosive action usually comes at the beginning. It’s followed by the constant rhythm of ground and air displays, then ends in a way that often exemplifies Macbeth’s soliloquy: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more." Sadly, this plight also afflicts film franchises. The Taken and Bourne movies are good examples. In each installment, audiences were treated to fewer and fewer fights. (Photo by Scott Garfield/Courtesy of Universal Pictures) And then there’s Furious 7, the latest entry in a series that started in 2001 with a flute of champagne called The Fast and the Furious. With the release of Fast Five in 2011, the franchise increased in potency even more. Thanks in part to nonstop martial arts action, it’s now a veritable 100-proof bottle of Scotch with a Corona chaser. (Photo by Scott Garfield/Courtesy of Universal Pictures) The fight-fermentation process took off with the addition of Dwayne Johnson as CIA agent Luke Hobbs in Fast Five. His job was to track down and capture Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel). Since that flick, which boasted more over-the-top car chases and featured the wicked WWE/MMA/LA-street-brawl Dom-vs.-Hobbs matchup, hand-to-hand combat and wacky automotive duels have become a staple.

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