Redbelt: Possible Spoilage (If you haven’t seen it..)

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I have mixed feelings about “Redbelt.”  First, I must state that my wife, who often tires of hearing me talk about Jiujitsu, said it was “really good.” My wife even waited for me to walk by her in the theater and then tried to grab me around the neck like the main character, Chiwetel Ejiofor, did to the attorney character.

It is a good movie and was written by someone (David Mamet) who was truly interested in the art. I also believe he stayed true to his vision and I am grateful for him creating the first “major” motion picture devoted to BJJ.

The film was geared more toward the self-defense aspect of BJJ and pragmatic ways to react toward violence. It also focused more on the honor and tradition more characteristic of Asian martial arts. From listening to Mamet’s interviews on the Fightworks Podcast  and other interviews on Youtube and elsewhere this was intentional.

I guess this is where I felt the twinge of longing while viewing the film. The focus was on the training of people who would use the techniques for a living (policemen/bodyguards/movie extras). The regular Joes and Janes, who I believe constitute the majority of participants in the U.S., received minimal focus. My wife argued that the movie was “a call for returning to the basics” and that things (like promotions) can turn into a “zoo” otherwise. I guess that was highlighted by the idea of tying up body parts and blind folding fighters in a state sanctioned fight. It was legitimate as a tool to help train police officers in how to properly react to defiant handcuffed prisoners but a retarded theme for a professional fight.

In my experience, BJJ schools have never been as serious as the academy in the film and I don’t know if the academy was portrayed in this fashion for the purpose of the movie or what Mamet and other “elders” in the art would like to see as a new direction for BJJ training. I must also state that even though I do not view BJJ in the traditional Asian martial art sense, it still has many traditions and values that are expressed and must not be violated just as in the more traditional arts (e.g., Karate, Tae Kwon Do, etc.)

But I cast no apersions against David Mamet. I enjoyed seeing what I love to do being addressed in a serious way.

Post note: I thought it was hilarious that he was reviewing knife fighting techniques the night after he was “stabbed.”  

5 thoughts on “Redbelt: Possible Spoilage (If you haven’t seen it..)

    Kath said:
    May 10, 2008 at 4:49 am

    You say your better half often tires of hearing you talk about Jiujitsu, well you need to get her more involved and because the sport is very rewarding who knows you may start to tire of what she has to say. She will love it.

    Jiujitsu365 said:
    May 10, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I doubt that she will ever become interested (she has suffered through my boxing and judo days too.) but she has always been a good sport about it.

    I have learned to tone it down over the years. Not suprisingly, the blog helps a lot too.

    Steve said:
    May 11, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Well, I saw it and enjoyed it. I had some problems with it, but they were different than yours.

    It’s clear that BJJ is the root of the self defense style that Mike Terry teaches in the film. That said, I don’t know about you, but we don’t “spar” full contact without protective gear like they were doing in the opening scene. There were parts of the movie that were very authentic to me, but Mamet made many concessions for the sake of cinema.

    In my opinion, Mamet used a convenient shorthand familiar to a viewing audience by encapsulating things like hard work, honor, respect, courage and all of that into the a samurai code model. Was it necessary? I don’t know… certainly not to the degree he took it.

    The brazilians in the movie were all villains, which I thought was unfortunate. The only one not a villain was the grandmaster, who looked every bit the Japanese Samurai, thick, strong looking and stern (in unnecessarily stark contrast to Helio).

    The ending was a little ridiculous.

    Overall, I thought it was a terrific popcorn movie, head and shoulders above what we can expect out of hollywood in this genre. But it won’t win an academy award, and certainly had some fatal flaws.

    Jiujitsu365 said:
    May 11, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I concur Steve.

    Full gear is the norm (where I have trained) for sparring as they did in the opening scene. I would walk out of the door if it weren’t because it would be too dangerous and I can’t have shiners, missing teeth and a nose like Rich Franklin in my line of work.

    I think it did place Brazilians in a bad light, especially as promoters.

    The ending was a little “Hollywood” and making people believe they can succesfully defend against knife attacks and beat up multiple assailants with any martial art will get a lot of people hurt or worse.

    But, hey it’s a movie……

    christian said:
    May 19, 2008 at 3:34 am

    I agree the film was a little over the top at times but I found it really entertaining. And it is ironic your wife likes it too, because I had to almost subpeona the wife to go see it, the old “you picked the last one arguement.” and in the end she said we need to buy it when it comes out on DVD, I almost choked on my nachos. however, I find it funny that she doesn’t count movies she watches with friends as her choice.

    Anyways, I would of liked to have seen more BJJ and less kciking and punching. Maybe a movie plot like this, guy moves to U.S., and swears his style is the most effective fighting form. Holds a tourney and invites all types of fighters, boxers, karate, sumo, shoot fighters, wrestleing. And brings in the family shrimp to decimate the competition. Come to think of it that was UFC 1 huh.

    But that grand master was insanato. He comes to Jax all the time and holds siminars are Just FYI. But is still the best most professional clean and technique strict school around. My .02. then again I am a biased opinion and proud of it!

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