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`Human Weapon' is ready for a fight, and some travel

July 20, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

For anyone interested in karate, judo, savate ("savage French footfighting") or other brands of martial arts, "Human Weapon," the History Channel series that debuts tonight, will definitely be a kick in the pants.

Jason Chambers, a "total fighting" welterweight champion, and Bill Duff, former wrestler and pro footballer, are roaming the world looking for new and old techniques for pummeling your fellow man.

The unspoken theme is that real men fight with their hands (and other body parts), not with store-bought weapons. Different cultures have put their own stamps -- and bruises -- on the martial arts.

Episode 1 concerns muay Thai, Thailand's contribution to the martial arts pantheon. Chambers and Duff come off as aging but engaging jocks, eager to trade kicks and punches. Good guys to have on your side in a barroom brawl.

Their admiration for muay Thai and its adherents -- some 65,000, they say -- is enormous. Muay Thai, Duff says, "is about hurting the other guy as bad as you can." What's not to like, right?

Muay Thai is also known as the "science of eight limbs," emphasizing knees and elbows, shins and hands. "Human Weapon" uses computer graphics to explain how much pressure and pain can be applied with the right twist of the shoulder or rotation of the hips.

"This guy has crushed dudes who have trained to crush his skull," Chambers says of one muay Thai champ.

The heart of "Human Weapon" is the fighting, but there is also some travelogue coverage into rural Thailand and some decent history on martial arts through the ages.

And it does not avoid the brutality -- one fighter is shown being carried bloody and unconscious from the ring -- or the exploitative aspects of the sport -- young boys training in hopes of fighting their way out of poverty.

Duff and Chambers are respectful of their hosts, but they are also semi-boastful Americans. They go into the jungle on the Myanmar border to witness muay Thai training amid the ruins of a Buddhist temple.

"I'm sure he's tough as nails and chews on dirt, but I'm not going to back down," Duff says as he prepares for a bout with a master.

How this format will wear in coming weeks as the boys travel to the Philippines (eskrima), Japan (judo and karate), France (savate), Greece (pankration) and Israel (krav maga) is unclear.

The camera work of the fighting is close up and vivid. Anyone prone to feeling sympathetic pains be warned to keep a heating pad and liniment close to your easy chair.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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`Human Weapon'

Where: The History Channel

When: 10 tonight

Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)

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