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'I pity the Fu'

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I finally sat down and watched some of MTV2's Final Fu program and immediately regretted it.

It almost made me physically ill and gave me yet another reason to despise MTV.

Hosted by Ernie Reyes Jr., a member of a famous martial arts family whose own claim to fame was appearing as the martial arts stunt double for Donatello in the three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, this "reality" show started July 17, according to the official Web site.

An IGN.com article claims "Final Fu will feature some the most brutal and intense action ever dedicated to a reality television program."

Brutal? Intense? Only if you consider a game of grade-school playground tag without the running-away part to be "brutal and intense."

According to one Internet poll (by Diana Davila at martialarts.about.com) 51 percent of the 480 votes believed the show to be a joke on the martial arts, 33 percent loved it and 14 didn't care either way.

In my opinion, this show highlights the very worst of point-style karate sparring.

The rules include extremely light contact, continuous rounds, and no kicks allowed to the head.

Being a student of Korean martial arts, not allowing kicks to the head is an immediate negative in my book. ("I'm gonna take this right foot, and I'm gonna whop you on that side of your face." -- Billy Jack in the 1971 martial arts flick, "Billy Jack.")

Continuous rounds with only light-contact allowed simply tosses reality completely out the door. Not allowing head kicks removes the opportunity to display hard-earned skill and control. It essentially becomes a pitter-patter slap fight as each competitor ignores incoming strikes in favor of trying to tap the other person the most times. Why bother to block? It only slows down your point-scoring tags.

Continuous rounds only work with a medium- or full-contact set of rules in which strikes have the potential to disrupt the balance of the other person.

Watching contestants who supposedly have third-degree black belts get teary-eyed from "excessive contact" while Reyes deducts points from their opponent is nearly enough to make me break out in tears.

While full-contact martial arts contests give a great indication of which strikes would truly stun or stop a tough opponent, point-style sparring highlights the speed aspect of stand-up fist-and-foot fights.

And make no mistake: on the street, a single well-placed martial art strike very often ends the fight.

While I personally prefer well-rounded, traditional martial arts, if you want to see point-style sparring at its best in this area, turn off Final Fu and go check out Woodrow Speed's Karate of Champions.

A well-known competitor in the tournament karate circuit in the late '70s and '80s, Speed received his black belt from Bill Morrison in 1973 and has since then trained dozens of black belts who excel in point-style competition, many of whom have gone on to teach at his school and at other locations in this area.

In the 1980s, Speed was the No. 1 contender in point-style karate for about two years.

"I just beat about everybody," Speed recalled, listing the Battle of Atlanta and the Diamond Nationals in Minnesota as among the better-known tournaments he won. "There weren't too many tournaments back then."

Speed's students and instructors are known to be fast and tough in the point-style ring, and consistently do very well on the point-style karate circuit.

I'd put my money on one of Speed's first-degree black belts over any of the second- and third-degree black belts shown on Final Fu in a real point-style karate match.

But in the kiddy slap-fight rules of Final Fu? I think a snare drum or bongo player would have the best chance. Maybe a tap dancer if they can lift their foot over knee high.