I’m 9, 10 years old. I’ve been training in a form of karate under the tutelage of my father, and I’ve been getting better at it, but I’m a pretty small kid. At this point in my life, it will be some time before I gain full mastery of the martial arts knowledge being imparted to me.
Something I’m always dealing with bigger kids. You know, pushy douchebags with blonde hair, maybe buzzcuts, the type of sociopaths that enjoy just pushing a kid until he breaks. I finally get fed up one day, after taking a lot of abuse from these pricks, and I fight back.
Big mistake. There’s just one of me and two of them, and they’re already bigger than me so what the hell am I thinking? They knock my Trapper Keeper out of my hands, punch me solid in the gut, and after I’ve already hit the ground they start kicking me. I pull and claw at their windbreakers, but I’m done for.
Thankfully another kid steps in and they back off.
After he helps me to my feet, I wipe the blood from the edge of my lip and think about what just happened. My honor has been taken from me in some way. I can feel it. The kid looks at me. This time I needed him, but next time I won’t, I tell myself.
That’s when I make a promise to myself that I will one day fight in a secret underground no-holds-barred martial arts tournament. I will do this, fight in this event where warriors can and do die, and I will do it to honor my father and myself.
I hear a wave of “ooos” all around me. Everything is bright pink to me for a moment and I stumble back. The pain! I had no idea how much pain I would feel!
It’s hot; not just the spot on my bare, tattoo-free chest, but everything. I look around, trying to see through the eyeholes of the spandex luchador mask I’m wearing. I can already feel the sweat collecting in my itchy hair. I can’t even count how many people are in the room. It’s packed. There’s people I recognize as professionals, some people I had met earlier in the day, and an assload of absolute strangers.
No wonder it’s so hot.
I wonder when somebody from the hotel will catch wind of what’s going down, but I don’t think about it for very long, because that pain is still there on my skin.
I jump up and down, shake it off as best I can, do a little dance, and then deliver my own attack.
He takes one step back and nods his head. He smiles. Smiles.
“WHOOOOOOOA,” says the crowd.
Almost immediately he brings his open palm down across my chest again. My back arches and I stumble around. I smack my arms and face on the bed next to me, trying to shake off the searing burn I feel deep in my flesh. I fall to my knees and bite the comforter.
Somebody yells out something in their best Jim Ross voice, but really all I hear is a piercing ringing in my ears.
I stand up, shake my head. He throws his head back and ushers me to bring it.
I wind up and step forward, bringing my much smaller open palm down on his much larger, much hairier chest.
This time everybody hears it, even the guys standing out in the doorway of the hotel room, the real cheap seats.
He nods his head, and wipes his hand across his chest. He smiles, but this time I can tell it’s because he felt that one.
At this point I’ve already lost count of the chops we’ve exchanged. I had started out early attempting Flair-style, backhanded chops, but quickly learned those don’t inflict anywhere near the pain inflicted by the Chief Jay Strongbow-style downward chops. I quickly changed by strategy and was only now feeling like I was catching up.
But that point, I knew there was no chance for me to win. All I could do was draw it out. I played to the crowd. If I was to lose, I’d lose in an entertaining manner, at the very least.
He steps forward, after even a little clap to show me he appreciates what I’m delivering. He’s a good sport. And then he brings up his hand again.
That’s it. I roll around, bang my fists on the floor, try to bring up the strength to keep going after so many hits. Finally, I get back up, I pull the mask off, and I hold up his hand. He is the victor. We hug.
Moments later I would realize that my chest is starting to bleed a little.
But I did it. I went the distance.
One of these two anecdotes is mostly true. The other is pretty much a lie with some truth thrown in. It should be pretty obvious which is which.
I am a liar. As a writer, it’s my job to tell small lies (or big lies) to uncover some kind of truth. All of fiction is lies, for sure, but even in the anti-genre of “nonfiction,” there’s some lying going on.
It’s what got me into Hunter Thompson when I was younger, and why I keep going back to his work. Few writers have been so brutally honest while feeding you bullshit.
The real Frank Dux, who claims to have been champion of the real Kumite, is probably a liar, too. For more than thirty years, from the first time he started telling martial arts magazines in 1980 about the fabled secret fighting tournament he dominated, people have questioned his claims, and it’s easy to question them because of the severe lack of corroborating evidence.
Just because he can’t prove it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it’s still a pretty wild tale to take in.
Like any good liar, Dux has conceded that many elements of the film Bloodsport are fabricated. This makes him more trustworthy in some way as a storyteller.
I don’t really doubt that Dux took part in an underground fighting ring. That’s pretty believable. And hell, I totally believe that he actually broke bulletproof glass with his bare hands, because that’s totally fucking awesome.
In the end, I’m not sure how much of what Dux says about his adventures in Kumiteing is true, and I’m not sure I care a whole lot.
What I do care about is that, as far as Bloodsport is concerned, it’s one of my all-time favorite Van Damme flicks.
What’s not to love? The film is just one massive wedge of cheese stacked on top of another, piled high like one of those ridiculous sandwiches Shaggy and Scooby are always making while Fred is copping a feel on Daphne and Velma is losing her glasses.
CHEESE ON CHEESE ON CHEESE
From the tiny kid declaring out loud, after a run-in with bullies, that he will one day fight in the Kumite; to the delightfully 80s-haired female reporter love interest (seriously, what newspaper is sending their reporters to Hong Kong on mere rumors of deadly underground fighting tourneys in Kowloon Walled City?); to the sleazy Hong Kong guide with the big glasses; to the maniacally evil Bolo Yeung and his ridiculous dubbed-over voice; to the completely useless federal agents (OH HAI FOREST WHITAKER); to the slightly homoerotic stares between Van Damme and his karate master (and that softcore porn music!); to the Stan Bush soundtrack (THAT’S RIGHT, STAN FUCKING BUSH); to the total dude bro love between Dux and Jackson, this movie starts with pure Velveeta and just never quits. You could make a dump truck full of nachos with this flick. AND I WILL EAT IT. I WILL EAT THAT DUMP TRUCK FULL OF NACHOS.
For just one moment, I can buy Van Damme being good at a video game. For just one moment, I can believe that the kid playing young Dux is the same person despite the fact that he looks absolutely nothing like JCVD. For just one, tiny moment I can believe that the ultimate wrestling heel move (SALT TO THE EYES) would be allowed in a real fight.
As far as spirit animals go, you could do far worse than Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb in the role of a lifetime). You might recognize him from Revenge of the Nerds (aka Sexual Harassment, Assault and Rape are OK: The Movie), but here he comes into his own as the ultimate party fighter.
“I love anything full contact. I need a few more scars on my face.”
Classic Jackson. You keep fucking that chicken, dude.
But you know why else this movie rules? Since it’s one half of the double-fisted breakout of Jean Claude Van Damme as a martial arts movie star, it’s got plenty of kicks. And punches. And throws.
To make those kicks even better, each hit is accompanied by some of the most ridiculously over-the-top facial expressions in film history (second only to No Holds Barred).
If anything, I want every single part of this movie to be true. Every. Single. Part. Especially the part where Forest Whitaker accidentally tases Hong Kong police. How many roundhouse kicks are in Lee Daniels’ The Butler? ZERO. THERE ARE ZERO KICKS OF ANY KIND.