Friday, March 11, 2011

Tenacity and the Existence of Bad Motherfuckers

The greater warriors of our species have long filled the annals of our history. Written accounts of leviathans with unfathomable prowess litter both fiction and history, and for a long time, I considered most accounts to be embellished. Surely, with how easy it was to find yourself on the wrong end of a blade in ancient times, legends like William Wallace, Leonidas, and Musashi Myamoto could never have demanded the attention of entire nations on their combat skills alone. I used to believe that the exploits (or the men themselves) could have been entirely fictional, and as some form of nationalistic pride, were added to the histories of nations. Especially in antiquity, as the victor's scribes wrote history.

I used 'believed' in the past tense for a reason. Over the last few years, my studies of martial arts have shown me that these mountains of machismo and brawn could not only exist, but it was quite probable that their exploits were more than legend. Now, lets break it down.

The Fiction

Let me take a brief moment to clarify this. I'm talking about martial arts, savvy weapon masters, and speedy rogues. I'm not trying to convince you that some jerk off in a bad outfit can shoot bolts of lightning out of questionable orifices. This post is more about The Goddamn Batman, the Marv's of the world, and just to avoid being called sexist, Beatrix Kiddo.

Their place in fiction and literature is simple: they'll take whatever you've got. You can't break them, you can't even hope to contain them. They will wreck your dastardly plans, they will have their vengeance, and they will probably stop to have a beer in the process. All of those expensive mooks you hired to watch your club? I hope they have health insurance, because, as Jack White once said, if you could hear a piano fall, you could hear them coming down the hall.

When the smoke clears, could the carnage Roland's guns lay down be possible? Is it even plausible that a crusader could slice his way to infamy? The real question is, are these characters rooted in fiction, or could the potential for their brutal heroism be a much more real?

The Unbreakables

I know the title is a M. Night Shyamalan reference*, but stay with me for a moment. In the movie 'Unbreakable', Samuel L. Jackson's character is seeking superior, even indestructible humans. Jackson has a condition that makes his bones as brittle as a presidential promise. His character believed that if someone existed with the condition to be so weak, someone could exist on the opposite side of his spectrum. Someone who could be considered unbreakable or invincible. I originally chalked this up entirely to fiction, but recently realized that someone wouldn't have to be paranormally different, just a little bit better.

*It was one of his earlier movies, and I really enjoyed it. Shyamalan may have made some mistakes, but this certainly wasn't one of them.

We already know from conventional sports that the human body is capable of incredible things. Watching an angry mongoloid slam his body into another makes for quality entertainment, but in relation to everything else that is happening on the field, it can only seem so impressive. In a football game, we have 22 men, all specialized for the sport, roughly on an even keel physically and mentally. Every once in a while you will find a player that stands above the rest, but if it were measurable, this athlete would only be marginally better than the others. 

Compare the same superior athlete to the average NFL viewer, and you have a mismatch of astronomical proportions. Not only are the athletes in peak physical condition, their bodies are also attuned to taking absurd amounts of punishment. They could get up and walk away from accidents that would leave a person hospitalized, simply based on the long term adjustments their bodies have made. Sure, their brains might not make the whole trip into old age, but that doesn't stop them in their prime.

Now imagine that we took these superior athletes, and gave them the most evolved, advanced, and best combat training that our species has ever seen.

Enter the Mixed Martial Artist

What? You were expecting Jack Bauer? If you've ever seen a mixed martial arts fight (or, sigh, a UFC fight as seems to be the common nomenclature), then you know exactly what I'm talking about. These men and women, every single day, beat the living piss out of each other, honing their destructive craft. Every aspect of their game has to be perfect. The fighters must know as much about how to rip your elbow from its socket as they do about striking. They have to know how to defend, and they certainly have to be able to take wicked barrages of strikes.

The old adage that iron sharpens iron is in full force here. With each sparring session, they alter their bodies slightly more. Microfractures are suffered on the bones, which causes them to get thicker. Each well trained punch, which is perfected over thousands of hours, creates more tensile strength, speed, and accuracy. 

Still not convinced of their badassery? Lets look at the physics. Each kick and punch is thrown with the full force of the body behind it, Their strikes literally start at the base of their feet, twist through the body, and slam through the end of the first. Sports science shows have repeatedly shown strikes that surpass 2,000 pounds of force, and in a focused area the size of a fist or foot.

In a very literal sense, that could kill the average human being in one strike. This isn't even counting the forces behind a choke hold, or the various other submissions. I've seen arms snapped, dozens of people passing out, and ankles dislodged from these techniques. All of this has happened as pro against pro as well. If a laymen were to fight nearly any professional fighter, regardless of weight, these trained titans would end it in seconds, and thats if they were being nice.

Now, if you haven't seen it, I would greatly encourage you to check it out. There was a fight a few months back between Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung "The Korean Zombie" Jung. This fight will teach you everything you ever need to know about grit and toughness. These two men fought till they resembled hamburger. I'm not sure I've even seen in movies where two men gave each other such a beating, and both men were still smiling at the end.

Even with all the training and specialization that goes into mixed martial arts, you have nearly unstoppable champions. Men and women that tower over the crowds below them, and hold dominion over their weight classes. Humans of that caliber are capable of almost unworldly actions. Watch Anderson Silva against Forrest Griffin and tell me that he doesn't pull some straight up Matrix action.


When you add together the elements of technique, style, strength, and training, it is easy to see how a human could ascend to the level of an elite warrior. It becomes more plausible, that facing down hordes of lesser skilled enemies, that they could rip through them. This lends credibility to both the chance of a real life vigilante hero, and to the fictional heroes across all media. Sure, there will still be times where the physics of the story doesn't make sense, or the main character is just too good to be realistic, but that is poor research. All I'm saying here is to believe in the power of those scrappy characters and villains. Don't dumb down their ability to kick ass, or to take a punch, just because someone else doesn't understand the true potential of humanity. Write that bastard out, and then cut him loose.


  1. I really enjoyed writing this post, though it may be a bit rushed. It's also not entirely horror or writing related, but hey, its my blog and I dig it.

    What do you guys think? I have more to say, but it will have to be a second posit. This one ran a bit.

  2. Tony,

    I think you would really enjoy my friend, Christian Cameron's novel, Killer of Men. It is the story of a Greek warrior who rises above others to become a truly feared warrior-- a Killer of Men.

    Most soldiers do their duty, fight hard, and pray like hell that they'll get home. But some are different. They are only truly alive in the glory of battle. They revel in it.

    I also do mixed martial arts. I've done it for a long time and have earned my black belt. I'm reasonably fit, reasonably strong, but like most of the students in our school, I am no Killer of Men. I work hard and do my best. In a street fight I hope that I could give a reasonable account of myself. As good as I am, I tremble at the thought of what my sensei could do to me, and he's not even the best in the organization.

    I think those legendary heroes definitely could have existed. They still exist today.


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