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Television Programs

I have a love hate relationship with the martial arts on Television.  I love the exposure it brings, but most of that exposure is negative or counterproductive.  There are a few gems out there, but they are few and far between.  I understand that Hollywood believes that most viewers aren't savvy enough to appreciate reality, but realism (at least in his fights) is what made Bruce Lee so popular.  C'mon Hollywood, give us some credit.

On this page we will evaluate currently running, or rerunning, television programs relating to the martial arts.


Fight Science
National Geographic Channel.

This program is another attempt to measure martial arts’ techniques scientifically. A great concept, but like most attempts, the program gets lost in the spectacular feats of a few and misses the reason why most people practice the martial arts. It was interesting to see the power that can be generated by punches and kicks, but after that the program lapsed into the same tired speculation of which ancient weapons were most effective. Overall, a disappointment.  I give it three kiai.


This program is now being expanded into a series on several different topics including MMA, Special Ops, Self-Defense and the original program.  Based on the MMA program, I see some of the same issues as the first episode.  While the program features martial artist, I don't believe the writers are martial artists.  There is a strong tendency to generalize.  They describe shin kicks as being unique to mixed martial artists and punching from the ground as unique to boxers.  These are both found in most striking martial arts.  If it weren't for these and other erroneous comments, I would give this show five kiai.  As it is, I give it four kiai for the expanded content.

Fight Science Home Page

Fight Quest
Discovery Channel.

Two guys travel the globe immersing themselves in local martial arts for a short period of time and face off against members of that art, sound familiar?  If you've been following the "Human Weapon" below, it should.  It's exactly the same premise.  While one of these channels is definitely copying the other, it only means more info & entertainment for us viewers.  After only the Kali episode, it seems to be every bit as good as its predecessor.  The two hosts seem just as likeable, humble and open minded as Jason & Bill.  The biggest differences are that this show doesn't have the quasi scientific breakdown of techniques, but the training and fight seem to be much more intense.  Also, the hosts split up at the beginning of the program, so we get two perspectives of Kali training.  Basically, it's just as good as the "Human Weapon" regardless of which came first.  It also gets five kiai.

Fight Quest Home Page

Human Weapon
The History Channel

I can only hope the remainder of the series is as good as the Muay Thai premiere.  Whereas "Deadly Arts" was more of a spiritual and intellectual journey, this show had elements of that while immersing the viewer in the art to a much greater extent.  It also did an excellent job of exploring the history and techniques of the art.  Furthermore, Human Weapon adds elements of "Fight Science" but tests the theories in the ring instead of with scientific measurements.  In essence, it's entertaining, exciting, and educational.  Human Weapon is everything I ever wanted in a martial arts show, and must be given five kiai.

Human Weapon Home Page

International Fight League

International Fight LeagueI suppose it was only a matter of time before MMA would be turned into a team sport.  I'm sorry, but the ultimate one on one sport does not make a good team sport.  Additionally, the IFL has taken two giant steps backward.  It is fought in a ring instead of a cage, and the ropes and corners come into play way too often.  Also, they've outlawed elbows to the head.  To me this goes against the concept of "no holds barred."  Fighter safety is a concern, but this is a major weapon for martial artists, and the injuries usually caused were spectacular, but not terribly dangerous.  Lastly, the teams are not compelling.  If it weren't for the announcer's constant reminders, I would forget there were even teams involved.  Despite the other drawbacks, the fighters are top quality.  For this reason alone, the IFL gets three kiai.

IFL Home Page

Deadly Arts with Josette D. Normandeau
Fit TV, Military Channel

This is an outstanding exploration of six martial arts throughout the world. The series focuses on Karate, Aikido, Kalaripayattu, Savate, Capoeira, and Muay Thai. Martial arts programs seem to be of three types: historical views, scientific views or (the rarest of all) first person views. This falls into the last category, and gives as much of a taste of what it’s like to train as a one hour television program can.  I give it four kiai.

Deadly Arts on the History Channel

The Ultimate Fighter
Spike TV

This is a reality show in the world of mixed martial arts. Sixteen fighters in two weight classes live together and fight in an elimination format to vie for a contract in the UFC. While I am morally opposed to harming others for material gain (the basis for most prize fighting), I find the insight learned through no holds barred fighting to be invaluable. This is undoubtedly the most realistic fighting inside a ring. And in the interest of disclosing my hypocrisy, I enjoy watching the fights on a visceral level as well.  I give it four kiai.

The Ultimate Fighter Home Page

The Final Fu

Final FuArgh! Another huge step backwards for the martial arts. I love it when kids come to the dojo wondering when we’re going to do the obstacle course carrying buckets of water on our shoulders. Been training most my life and never seen or done that. Truth be told, I kind of like the challenges, and the martial artists seem very talented, but the fights drive me to a level of frustration like nothing else on television. No strikes to the head! It’s supposed to be a show about "martial" arts. The only reason I can think of is that most of the contestants seem to be working their way towards Hollywood, and don’t want their "head shots" to be altered. Oh well, creating unrealistic expectations seems to be the goal of most of these programs.  I give it two kiai.

Final Fu Home Page

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