The fists come at you in shadows. With no time to duck or block, the only option is getting cracked in the nose. Your eyes water, pain shoots down your spine and you lose your balance. Blood flows from your nose like water from a faucet and the swelling begins immediately. Does this sound like your idea of a good time? Probably not, but for the hosts of "Fight Quest" it's business as usual.
Most people go to great lengths to avoid getting hit in the face. The co-hosts of "Fight Quest," Jimmy Smith and Doug Anderson, actually seek it out. On the new Discovery Channel show, the pair travel the globe to train and fight in a variety of martial arts with local masters. They immerse themselves in the local culture and train with native experts for five days before facing off against the toughest competitors the country has to offer. "Fight Quest" blends educational, cultural and travel programming with the hard-edged thrill of actual fights.
Smith and Anderson come from two very different backgrounds. Smith grew up in southern California, training mainly in Brazilian jiujitsu. After spending time teaching seventh-grade algebra, he now competes as a professional mixed martial artist. His current record as a pro fighter stands at six wins and one loss. Anderson grew up in a rough New Jersey neighborhood near Philadelphia. He's an Iraq war veteran and leans on his boxing and U.S. military training for his technique. Doug plans to begin his mixed martial arts (MMA) career with some amateur fights and hopes to turn pro soon.
To shoot the pilot episode, New York-based production company North South Productions placed ads in various martial arts publications and Web sites looking for an "outgoing, charismatic, engaging, smart and inquisitive personality to co-host a new martial arts television series." The ad also stated that "This show will have you push your physical and emotional limits so you must be up to the challenge" [source: Meta Tube]. They received hundreds of audition tapes from fighters all over the United States before settling on Smith and Anderson. The final line of the ad, "must be willing to travel," was quite an understatement -- the hosts and crew went to 10 different countries, from Mexico to Indonesia.
We were lucky enough to interview show producer Chuck Smith, as well as both Jimmy Smith and Anderson as they train at their home gyms for upcoming MMA matches. They were excited about the show and very eager to chat about their experiences.
In this article, we'll learn about the production of "Fight Quest" and how the hosts survived. We'll also explore some of the fighting styles and cultural experiences they encountered, as well as the brutal training methods and fights the pair endured.
When casting the show, the producers sought an interesting dichotomy between the two competitors. Smith wasn't found through the ad -- the producers called a jiujitsu school looking for MMA fighters, and it happened to be the school Smith worked at. He was available and set up a phone interview with show creator Amy Rapp. She liked him well enough to schedule an in-person audition along with five other experienced mixed martial artists. It wasn't his fighting skill that landed him the job, though. Smith says:
"One of the reasons I got it, I think, is because I talked about everything but fighting. Fighters often talk about how tough they are. I knew this was Discovery Channel and that's not necessarily what they're after. A fighter's mentality doesn't always work for TV. We're programmed differently, so I had to consciously stay away from that kind of thing."
Anderson submitted an audition tape that the producers thought was amusing. Show producer Chuck Smith says, "Doug was kind of out of left field. He sent in a tape that was really funny. We liked him immediately." His inexperience and street-wise toughness was a good match for Smith's veteran savvy. Smith says:
"I think it really works for the show. The way we see fighting is totally different. Doug's attitude is so different than mine, I think it worked and you got two contrasting sides on everything."
With the two fighters cast and game for anything, the producers then had to select the countries and fighting styles they wanted to explore. The selections were based on how interesting the local fighting style was and the exoticism of the country. The producers wanted to stick to a format where they split the pair up -- one to train in the city, one in the country. No country turned down their request to film, although some had to be avoided because of civil unrest. All of the master teachers, even the legendary instructors in Japan, were open to the show's concept. It was a chance to showcase an art form that's vital to their culture. The locations and fighting styles were as follows:
- China - sanda
- Philippines - kali
- Japan - Kyokushin karate
- Mexico - boxing
- Indonesia - pencak silat
- France - savate
- South Korea - hapkido
- Brazil - jiujitsu
- Israel - krav maga
- San Francisco - kajukenbo
Once the locations were picked, Smith and his team assembled a five-person crew from New York and lined up a local sound technician and "fixer" in each country. The fixers acted as liaisons to help coordinate the shoot and minimize the language barrier. The crew arrived two days early to each country to shoot additional "B-roll" shots and stayed an additional day to relax and prepare for the journey stateside. They spent a total of 12 days in each spot with two weeks off in between for Anderson and Smith to heal and recharge. Smith adds:
"The two weeks we had at home was pretty much enough to rehab yourself. Put ice on whatever hurts, stay in bed, take anti-inflammatories -- just in time to get up and do it again."
Originally Anderson and Smith were going to fight each other at the end of each episode. After an initial sparring session, the producers changed their minds. Smith says, "I'm way more experienced than Doug and to see me beat him up every week would not have been good. Plus we got along so well, it didn't make any sense."
In the next section, we'll look at the 10 fighting methods explored on "Fight Quest."
It turns out there are at least 10 good ways to take someone down. These are the martial arts explored on "Fight Quest."
- Sanda - This full-contact martial art was originally developed by the Chinese military. Striking, kicking, sweeps, takedowns and throws are all employed in sanda.
- Kali - A weapons-based art, kali uses knives, swords and escrima fighting sticks as striking instruments. Escrima sticks are made of lightweight rattan and used to inflict maximum damage on your opponent.
- Kyokushin karate - Another full-contact martial art, a common technique in Kyokushin is to take the opponent off his or her feet. Kyokushin involves kumites, fights against multiple opponents, to build endurance.
- Boxing - Opponents face each other in an enclosed ring for a determined number of rounds. Punching with heavy, padded gloves is the only method of attack. The final decision is determined by a knock-out or can be made by judges that score the fight.
- Pencak Silat - An Indonesian art that originally used striking weapons. Now, in addition to weapons, fighters use a variety of kicks and punches.
- Savate - Also known as French kickboxing, this art uses hand strikes and a host of kicks to subdue an opponent.
- Hapkido - Merging techniques from karate, judo and aikido, hapkido is best known for impressive body throws and painful wrist locks used to disable attackers.
- Jiujitsu - Perhaps the most versatile martial art, jiujitsu uses many different strikes, kicks, throws, choke holds and locks. Almost every martial art has had an influence on this fighting style.
- Krav maga - The Israeli army invented this fighting style as a practical technique for use in a variety of street style situations. Jiujitsu, traditional boxing and judo all lend some techniques to krav maga. Weapons such as knives and sticks are also used.
- Kajukenbo - Another hybrid art, kajukenbo is an exciting technique that uses take downs, throws and hard striking. Limb breaking is a common method of this brutal fighting style.
In the next section, we'll look at the cultural experience Smith and Anderson enjoyed -- from Buddhist temples to the Israeli army.
The cultural side of the show is an important aspect of the appeal. Anderson and Smith trained and fought in some of the most beautiful settings on Earth. From Buddhist temples in the mountains of China to Aztec ruins near Mexico City, "Fight Quest" was as much about the locations and cultural traditions as it was the fighting. Anderson says:
"I love to experience new things and see new places -- try to understand new people. I think that was really one of my favorite parts about the experience. Not only were we going to new countries, but we were fully immersed into a specific part of that country's culture. I can't think of one country where I didn't absolutely love the cultural experience."
Anderson soon learned that the fighting styles were often a reflection on the country itself:
"Each country's style reflects their mentality in a lot of ways, which I thought was astounding. China was graceful, thoughtful -- not really a violent art. The Korean people were the most peaceful, calm, kind people I've ever met as a whole, and their art really reflects that. In Japan, the fighters were your typical kamikaze pilot. They'd just charge into the fight, giving it everything they had -- die on the mat if that's what it comes down to, but don't give up your honor. To get somewhat of a gauge on the national mindset from the way people punch each other is really amazing."
It was in Israel where both Anderson and Smith had the most unnerving experience. Smith says:
In fact, the only time producers intervened was in Israel during Anderson's krav maga match. He explains:
In the next section, we'll learn about what chicken blood and fire curry have to do with training methods.
Even though Smith and Anderson were trained in various martial arts, nothing could prepare them for what they experienced on their quest. In every country, the master trainers thought that Anderson and Smith were actors first and fighters second. This was something they both worked hard to undo. Anderson says:
Since they trained separately, they typically had drastically different experiences. In the Philippines, Smith trained in a traditional, if rudimentary, gym. Anderson found himself crawling face down through mud pits in what can only be described as a jungle boot camp. While Smith worked out with punching bags, Anderson went through a series of ceremonies and rituals. At one point, he was laid on a cot with his eyes closed while Filipino kali masters beat his stomach and slapped his face. They finished off the session by sacrificing a chicken and drizzling the blood over his face and body. Anderson called it "the most grueling physical challenge of my life."
In Japan, Smith trained in a gym in Tokyo while Anderson headed for the mountains to the north. Doug toughened his knuckles by punching trees and walking up flights of stone steps on his fists with someone holding his legs. Jimmy built his strength breaking boards, ceiling tiles and baseball bats with his fists and feet. He also ate the traditional Japanese "fire curry" which had him and his training partners dripping sweat and guzzling water.
In Mexico, Jimmy lived and trained with Olympians and Golden Glove champions in Mexico City. Doug was taken to ancient Aztec ruins 10,000 feet above sea level. The altitude was one of the most challenging aspects of the training. Doug did squats holding huge rocks and cut through large fallen trees with an axe. While it seemed like Jimmy had it easier, his training sessions with the Olympians were brutal and "bordered on hazing."
In the next section, we'll look at the brutality of the final fights, from broken faces to infected feet.
Fights and Injuries
While Smith managed to escape serious injury, Anderson had a rough go of it and ended up taking several trips to the hospital:
While Japan was tough on him, the most excruciating injury came in Indonesia. Anderson got a contusion on his foot after his kicked was blocked by an opponent's forearm. He explains:
Smith said that the foot looked like "a loaf of bread." Without a medic on that shoot, Anderson was forced to go to a less traditional physical therapist:
If you'd like to learn more about "Fight Quest" and martial arts, please look into the links on the next page.
- How the Ultimate Fighting Championship Works
- How Boxing Works
- How Karate Works
- How Pro Wrestling Works
- How Mexican Wrestling Works
- How Duels Work
- How Ninja Work
- How Samurai Work
- How Sword Making Works
- How Muscles Work
- How Fear Works
- How Exercise Works
- How could someone lie on a bed of nails without getting hurt?
- How could someone walk across broken glass without getting hurt?
More Great Links
- Jimmy Smith interviewed by Charles Bryant Jan. 9, 2008.
- Doug Anderson interviewed by Charles Bryant Jan. 10, 2008.
- Gorman, Jeff. "What is Mixed Martial Arts?" Associated Content, November 16, 2006. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/84219/what_is_mixed_martial_arts_mma.html
- Meta Tube. October 14, 2007. http://22.214.171.124/search?q=cache:0qj4EbfxVrAJ:metatu.be/post/114833/+%22fight+quest%22+%22hollywood+reporter%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=us
- Discovery Channel, 2008. http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/fight-quest/fight-quest.html
- martial-artsinfo.com, 2008. http://www.martial-arts-info.com/