I recently put a post up here about my scepticism behind how much weight people put on martial arts that are supposedly “hidden military secrets” (here). Well, this week I found something else that goes a bit further than that.
Yep, you watched UFC 3 on VHS and you got your Tapout hat on backwards and you watched fight club at least ten times. Sure, time to open up a can of PBR and sit down and write your dudebro fighting tips.
Hey, for most people when you read an article about fighting, it helps to see the qualifications behind it. Geoff Thompson‘s years of door experience and martial arts cross training and reality days perhaps? Or maybe Renzo Gracie‘s lifetime of grappling and top level MMA experience perchance?
Let’s see what this guy writing an article for that time-withered almanac BroBible.com has to say for himself:
Sooo…….Haven’t written one of these for a while. It’s honestly not my fault. It’s just that cinema is offering me various things that are so thoroughly unappetizing or so straightforwardly brilliant that there hasn’t been very much to say. That and I was writing about other things…..and busy….yes, busy….
But, seems like I write about essentially every marvel movie. So, let’s come out of retirement for one more job.
1) Never has a movie been so sold on the studio (“….that brought you the Avengers”) and the name brand (“Marvel”) and never has a movie needed the association less. Let’s face it, Thor and Cap sequels are waaaay more interesting to us because we know they hang out as the Avengers. In fact, the only beef you can have with those films is that they only have some Avengers in them. This movie was fully sold to us on the Marvel bandwagon and had perhaps the largest and longest “Marvel” ident of any of the films so far as if pleading for legitimacy. It didn’t need to. The presence of Thanos and talk of infinity stones very much felt like an afterthought, much less the reason we went to actually watch the film. With no link to Marvel whatsoever, this still would have been a fun and memorable movie with strong visuals and a good sense of humour.
2) So, what’s most to like about this film? Primarily it’s because we meet someone who wants to be a hero. Someone who gives themselves a name and a costume and wants to do heroic things and save people. Call it the Spiderman Principle – trying to be good is hard but the hero tries to do it anyway. It’s that element that is so fundamental to the comic superhero genre that it’s frighteningly easy to forget about it: we aspire to be heroes but heroes aspire to higher values too that are often beyond them. Bruce Wayne always has his parents to live up to but it’s a little bit of a dud open that when we meet him in Batman Begins, he’s already a kung fu master seeking to join a secret society. That’s not much of a story arc, though the trilogy does go on to explore whether or not Batman should publically be a heroic public symbol or a mysterious ass kicker, there’s never a discussion of what he himself aspires to be – his mission is practically innate and unquestionable. Let’s not even try to discuss DC’s latest hero attempts.
It’s something Marvel occasionally forgets too, but has done well enough on so far. The First Avenger didn’t break the mould but it delivered on someone who wanted to take up a challenge and went on a mission that wasn’t always easy to define. One of the best parts of Iron Man 3 for my money is the scene where Tony ignores Jarvis’ calculations that he cannot save everyone on air force one, and by improvising is able to do so anyway. It’s a non-consequential scene but does everything to remind us for all his faults Tony has moved on from being an industrialist who protects only his own property and has embraced being a hero and resists what is easy in order to try to save human life.
This is an ensemble piece but essentially the movie could be called “Star Lord” as we his is the only back story that we begin to explore. The others who join him have their motivations (and his motivation spreads to them too) but the heart of their mission is simply his desire to be a good guy……and hopefully a famous one at that.
3) So what else? Humour, obviously. However, there’s a caveat with this one. Based on the marketing, I think some are going into the film expecting a broad comedy. Instead, it’s more a case of a film that is creative and doesn’t always have to take itself too seriously. There’s not so much a bunch of hilarious jokes so much as a world that seems fun, colourful and unpredictable…..exactly like comic books you might say. Rocket’s joke about demanding prosthetics truthfully isn’t guffawingly funny. In fact, like so much else in the movie (Rocket’s troubled sense of self, Drax’s family, genocide and revenge in general) it’s kind of dark. This isn’t a comedy, it’s just a film that remembers what the Expendables forgot – the “golden age” action movies could be heavy and dangerous but they can be fun too. The characters can surprise you and make you smile.
4) The funny thing about a movie about a team of misfits is how much it reminds me of playing a tabletop role-playing game (if you’re not following me, thing Dungeons and Dragons with no board and more talking). These games succeed or fail as to how well they achieve the idea that
 each member is an individual and there are no blind followers or filler (quick, name all the dwarves from the Hobbit for an example of why that’s important)
 each person has a reason for wanting roughly the same goal that the rest of team wants (remember those two brothers in that shitty Clash of the Titans film who show up, help the hero, then say “but we can’t follow you into the underworld” are the zenith of team members lacking any motivation. Of course, you won’t remember them because it was a completely forgettable film unless it made you angry).
Number  makes sure you actually care about each person but number  means that their alliance is plausible and that even if there are rivalries, they won’t stop every three seconds to try to kill each other and take their stuff. Guardians does this very well and you’re never left wondering why any of the characters are there or the subtle differences in their motivations. Being so colourful and varied, you never forget who is who, which is also an achievement because rather than having clearly defined goals (archer, swordsman, wizard, for example), they are all pretty much soldiers who shoot guns and hit people. Hey, they paired 4 of the same class with an Ent and it still came off as an enjoyable, well written team!
Of course this is a gross simplification but the point is there. Both types are much better than the other common type of instructor, the one who constantly seeks self aggrandizement. I don’t mean to suggest that the “Darwinist” is a bad person, merely that they should be honest that their club is not for everyone and what they are really looking for is amateur athletes or whatever passes most closely to that description in their local area. It is often not recognised that when making the best people better, the process is often to weed out those who will never make it and use those in the middle as sparring partners for the real achievers. I think there are a lot of Darwinist coaches around and so long as the people they are with are happy, I wish them the best of luck.
You can see that my sympathies lie with the Alchemist but there are some dangers here. This is the class most likely to contain a few people who are less up to scratch or in some cases, over-promoted. It is a hazard that when you look for the best in people and set goals based on their potential rather than an arbitrary standard that sometimes it is all too easy to put them on the same level as people who have truthfully reached a much higher standard. However, the existence of this hazard does not undermine the value of the goal. If you can take someone to a level beyond what they themselves considered possible, to me this is the highest achievement an instructor can reach. It’s fashionable if even one slightly below par student is spotted to condemn the instructor but that’s often a very false scale.
Another problem could be whether or not the best students feel challenged with the Alchemist. Because attention is not focused on them, they may feel a ceiling of improvement limiting them that they don’t get with the Darwinist. In fact, at this stage, switching to a Darwinist might seem like a great idea as they will receive more focus and will be challenged by performing in such a competitive environment from week to week with their foundational skills already established with the Alchemist and not having to go through the questionably effective way of acquiring skills as a beginner with the Darwinist. Other Alchemists, especially those with larger clubs, may be able to split their classes more and stave this off.
The trophies in the cabinet prove how good the competitors are. As to how good the coaches and instructors are, that is more of a subjective scale and not so easily answered. In my opinion, sometimes the best instructors receive little to no recognition.