The Protector, reminds me of what I miss about being a kid. As the youngest of Generation X, I lived in the golden age of martial arts media.

I witnessed the ninja fad permeate pop culture, watched Chuck Norris on Walker, Texas Ranger, and paid to see Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme kick butt in theaters. But since the turn of the millennium, things have changed. Jet Li has reportedly retired from wushu movies, and Jackie Chan has returned to Hong Kong and now rarely makes Hollywood flicks.

Fortunately, a relatively unknown actor—at least unknown in Western households—is generating some genuine buzz for martial arts movies. His name is Tony Jaa, and he stars in The Protector (called Tom Yum Goong in Thailand and the rest of the world). Tony Jaa is basically a walking stunt reel the likes of which we haven’t seen since Jackie Chan in the 1980s. His mix of flashy muay Thai, aerial taekwondo, bone-busting grappling and high-flying gymnastics is revolutionizing the genre.

Relive the golden age of martial arts media with our FREE guide—Our Bruce Lee Movies List: Little-Known Trivia From Bruce Lee's Pictures.


Tony Jaa plays Kham, a young elephant herder who tracks a Vietnamese gangster to Australia after Kham’s father is killed and his elephants stolen. In Australia, Kham has to take down dirty cops, the thug’s henchmen and a Chinese syndicate before he can rescue his pets.

Like most films of its ilk, The Protector is predictable, with a cliché-riddled script. The characters are cardboard cutouts with nary a motivation. Thankfully, Tony Jaa’s on-screen fights more than make up for the flaws.

In the first big set piece, Kham knees one opponent’s roundhouse kick, sending him flying, then delivers his own elbows, knees and kicks that propel more thugs through the air. Later, he brawls with a capoeira expert, a wushu stylist and a hulking wrestler. It’s devastating choreography that uses familiar muay Thai moves in innovative ways.

Not all the fight staging by Tony Jaa and stunt mentor Panna Rittikrai is flawless. At the climax, Kham battles dozens of bad guys, taking them out of commission with awesome aerial kicks and brutal joint breaks. The scene is breathtaking the first time, but after he snaps an ankle, elbow and wrist for the 10th time, it gets tedious. Later, when Kham straps elephant bones to his forearms to defeat four hulking strongmen, the movie plummets into an illogical cheese fest.

Prachya Pinkaew’s direction has vastly improved from when he filmed 2003’s Ong-Bak (which also starred Tony Jaa), partly because of his growing knowledge of Hollywood and Hong Kong aesthetics. In one Brian De Palma-inspired scene, Prachya Pinkaew has Kham busting into the thug’s hangout, climbing up a huge spiraling staircase, destroying furniture and throwing guys over banisters—all in a single, apparently unedited four-minute Steadicam take.

It’s a shame, though, that the fight between Kham and the villain is so short. The main heavy is played by Johnny Tri Nguyen, a former U.S. Wushu Team member and a Spider-Man stunt double. With stunning spin kicks and growing acting talents, he should have more screen time and a more developed character. Still, he and Tony aa do the best they can with the script they were given.

Overall, The Protector’s illogical moments shrink in comparison to Tony Jaa’s amazing stunts and killer choreography. This is definitely a film worth watching, and hopefully it’ll revive an age of action cinema that hasn’t been seen in years.
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The UFC returned to American network television for the first time in more than two years Saturday on ABC while former featherweight champion Max Holloway returned to his winning ways following two straight losses, earning a unanimous decision over Calvin Kattar in Abu Dhabi. Holloway showed he still has plenty left as a fighter dominating Kattar from the opening bell of the main event with a mix of punches and low kicks.

It appeared as if the former champion might stop his opponent in the fourth round landing a series of vicious body blows followed by hard elbows to the head as a bloodied Kattar sagged against the fence. But Kattar somehow survived managing to keep himself upright through the fifth stanza as well, only to lose a lopsided decision. After dropping his title to Alexander Volkanovski and then losing a controversial rematch, Holloway may have put himself in position for one more crack at the championship following Saturday's impressive performance.

The Legendary Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame has never before been documented in a single location. Now, you can learn about all the icons that have achieved one of the greatest honors in all of martial arts.

Black Belt Magazine is proud to announce the NEW Member Profiles feature for the Hall of Fame. At the time of this article, the online records account for every inductee from the inaugural year of 1968 all the way through 1990 (upwards of 200 martial artists). The page will be updated continuously and will include every inductee through 2020 in the near future. For now, you can enjoy images and facts about the legendary members for each induction they received before 1991. Take advantage of this never-before-seen opportunity to learn about many of the martial artists who contributed to the lifestyle, culture, and community that every martial artist experiences today.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE BLACK BELT HALL OF FAME

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When it comes to grappling arts most people have heard of Judo, Ju-Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, and Sumo. The dynamic art of Shuaijiao, though it is not as well known as the others, should be.

What is Shuaijiao?

Shuaijiao (also spelled Shuai-Chiao) is a Chinese martial art that is approximately four thousand years old. Shuaijiao was born in a time of warfare long ago when to fall on the battlefield meant likely to never get up, and in that spirit, the curriculum of Shuaijiao focuses on throwing in a variety of ways. It is a standup grappling style, meaning that although there are hip throws, leg sweeps, and hand techniques, like many other arts, there is no ground grappling. The goal of Shuaijiao is to end up in a dominant position standing.

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ONE Championship's first event of 2021 is on the horizon as the company returns to the Singapore Indoor Stadium for ONE: Unbreakable on January 22.

In the main event, bantamweight kickboxer Capitan Petchyindee Academy challenges ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Champion Alaverdi "Babyface Killer" Ramazanov for his crown.

The Thai challenger has a chip on his shoulder for this contest. Capitan mentioned that he wants to prove all of his doubters wrong with a title-winning performance on Friday in a video detailing the matchup.

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