If you thought the martial arts was just Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, well think again! Follow Roland Osborne as he travels around the globe to explore the wild world of martial arts up close and in your face - Go Warrior-style!
Each episode of Go Warrior is history, reality and adventure all wrapped up in one - fighting has never been this fun!
Go Warrior takes audiences to Korea, Japan, Brazil and Russia for an overview of some of the world’s martial arts.
A departure from regular martial arts fare, Go Warrior is dynamic in both a contemporary and traditional way. The series aims to appeal to everyone - whether you’re a black belt or someone with a mild curiosity about the martial arts.
If you can’t tell the difference between one martial art from another, and wanted to find out - or if you thought Jackie Chan was all there is to know about martial arts, well - take a closer look!
Brazil: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Go Warrior lands in Brazil, the land of Carnaval, the Amazon rainforest, gorgeous women, and some of the toughest street brawlers in the world.
When Carlos Gracie accepted jiu-jitsu lessons from a Japanese emigrant called Count Maeda back in the 1900s, little did he know that he would soon create the world's fastest growing and more feared martial art.
That's no small claim. Today, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is considered the champ of martial arts, the one art that popularized ground fighting and takes its opponents down using a variety of submission techniques. In short, it is every other martial art's worst nightmare. When the fighting art hit the U.S. in the 1990s, it changed the way fighters looked at their sport forever.
Down in Rio, though, Roland begins to uncover the fascinating story of how Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) moved away from its Japanese roots and refined its art in the street.
He meets the world's foremost martial arts dynasty - the Gracies, who have defined and, not surprisingly, dominated the sport. The Gracies earned their skills the hard way - through brutal no-rules fights and public challenges, taking on all comers. One's weight and size didn't matter. One ability to fight on the ground - where most fights end up - was the key factor to victory.
Royler Gracie, the cool, happy but intense Gracie legend of Rio, gives Roland a quick into the world of BJJ, and a tour of his world.
Two hours from Rio on a farm in Itaipava, Helio Gracie, the 91-year-old patriarch of BJJ, shows Roland why he's still feared and respected. In over 76 years of fighting, he's been hardly beaten. In his time, he was Brazil's national hero, and even today, he's ready for anybody, including Mike Tyson. Roland hangs out with the world's oldest fighter and experiences the beauty of the Brazilian mountains.
BJJ has been called the science of submission. Unlike striking arts, such as karate, BJJ doesn't rely on punches or kicks. Its unique vocabulary centres around grappling - think arm locks, knee bars, heel hooks, and positional strategies such as the guard. Truly an art of survival, Roland gets an insight into the tough living of the Brazilian streets and meets the fighters who have made good.
Roland's exploration into Brazilian jiu-jitsu becomes a journey through the heart of Brazil, a country that has been through tremendous conflicts, yet where the people continue to survive.
With his Brazilian hosts, he visits the Favelas, or Rio's shantytowns. Beyond their stereotypically dangerous image, Roland finds that they are in fact fascinating towns that reflect Brazil's people, character and resilience. Many are learning BJJ to get off the streets and hopefully into the lucrative world of professional Vale-tudo (AKA no-holds-barred) fighting.
Finally, it's time to hit the beach, as Royler reveals his other passion. Like many a Brazilian male, he's also practically a pro surfer. After conquering the waves, Royler invites Roland to his version of a jiu-jitsu contest on Prainha Beach, where several jiu-jitsu guys fight together in friendly combat. Will Roland endure the challenge and come out tops?
Tokyo is the city of sensory overload, but hidden beyond the neon bustle of Shinjuku lies the Yoshinkan aikido dojo, the Zen sanctuary of the land's most esoteric martial art. Roland arrives to learn more about this often misunderstood martial art. His mission is to figure out how aikido works and whether it DOES work as a fighting art. Just why have scores of foreigners been coming here to pick it up? And what do they leave with?
Aikido has been called everything from a spiritual cult to that thing Steven Seagal does in movies. Though born out of the budo 'warrior' philosophy, aikido is known as the world's foremost pacifistic martial art. Its practitioners take a Zen approach to life and self-defence, and Roland must adapt his upfront fighting style to do the same. But what a challenge: just how does one learn to defend and be gentle at the same time?
To get some answers, Roland is here at aikido's spiritual home, the aikido hombu dojo - the place where all come to seek aikido nirvana. Roland meets Ueshiba doshu, the grandson of the founder who believes in promoting harmony through aikido.
But, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of aikido is its technique. Aikido enables smaller Oriental dudes to thwart bigger attackers, not unlike judo or jiu-jitsu but with more grace nd style.
To validate this, Roland goes on the beat with an aikido-trained detective. Can aikido really help a person to anticipate attackers? Roland investigates while getting a tour of the city.
And for those who say aikido is for sissies, he checks out the Yoshinkan aikido school, where aikido is officially taught to Tokyo's riot police. Their schools are known for dishing out hard knocks and represent one part of aikido's evolution beyond the philosophical. Roland finds himself in the hardest training class of his life. How could a gentle martial art be THAT difficult?
Also during his trip, Roland makes a sojourn to Yamanashi, a town near Mount Fuji, to meet Takeno Sensei, one of aikido's legendary instructors. Takeno Sensei only 'lives and breathes aikido', but Yamanashi is also an old samurai town with its own rustic charm.
Korea is the land of kicks! From soccer to taekwondo, the Koreans are known for their flashy footwork. That's where Roland finds himself in this episode meeting some of the most respected Taekwondo masters in the land and ready to rumble with Korea's world champions.
To find out more about taekwondo's history and to see if he has what it takes to be a taekwondo expert, Roland journeys beyond Seoul to temples, ancient villages and military camps. See Roland learn the ropes of competition taekwondo, break roof tiles with his bare hands and perform his signature somersault kick with the Korean National Taekwondo Demonstration Team.
The Korean martial arts story is shrouded in upheaval. Years of war with neighbouring countries Japan and China brought about dramatic changes in their martial arts evolution. Known for their fierce warrior heritage, the Koreans first established Su-bak as their own fighting system, then underwent a philosophical period during which all martial arts were abandoned. Fighting arts were later revived in the 20th century after Japan's occupation of the country. Following years of suppression, the Koreans established taekwondo as their national martial art and sport - with a vengeance.
Today, taekwondo ('the way of kicking and punching') is the most popular martial art in the world. In Korea alone, at any one time, 500,000 students are practising kicks of every imaginable nature. Worldwide, 30 million people practise taekwondo. From the roundhouse kick to the ax kick to the spinning back kick to the horse kick and more, Roland gives us a whirlwind look at every conceivable kick known to man.
Roland also checks out some history with the Taekkyon Conservation Authority. Taekkyon was a Korean folk martial art that preceded taekwondo. Roland has a good time playing kicking games with them and gleans some insight into taekwondo's early influences.
As his mission of discovery nears the end, the Go Warrior faces his ultimate test: a battle with three taekwondo champions who are also Black Berets, members of the elite Korean Special Forces.
Russia: The Systema
Fade up on a Russian MI-8 helicopter speeding toward its destination. Inside, Roland, in army regalia, prepares to drop into the heart of a Russian military training camp in Moscow.
The Russians welcome Roland to the System, the martial art developed by the Spetznatz, the Russian Special Forces. Previously classified as top secret, the System turned ordinary men into killing machines. Today, it's evolved into a self-defence technique that doesn't waste time in getting down to business.
Roland meets the authority on the System, Vladimir Vasiliev, former Soviet officer and human lethal weapon. In Vladimir's hands, everything is a possible shield or weapon. With lightning speed, he executes a blinding array of techniques a la the Bullseye character from Daredevil. Together with Colonel Mikhail Ryabko, special consultant to the Ministry of Justice, Vladimir shows Roland the ins and outs of Moscow living and the tricks of their trade.
Russia's martial arts evolved from its long warring traditions. Faced with different enemies in varied circumstances, the System was created to bring non-military people up to speed. Many peasants serving under czars had to learn how to condition themselves to deal with all kinds of attacks in battle and thus the System evolved. Roland gets an insight into the special instincts developed by the System's practitioners and how they promote a keen self-awareness of the human body in order to condition themselves for punishment and fighting.
To find out more about the origins of Russian martial arts, Roland travels south to meet Jenya, a former Spetsnatz. Here, Roland uncovers the Cossack origins of the martial arts, and learns how to dance and fight like a Cossack. But that's just the tip of the iceberg - there are other folk fighting styles that Roland gets a chance to explore, each one contributing to a component of the System. At the same time, Roland bears witness to their stunning swordplay and horse riding skills. And how to chop watermelons, Cossack style.
Along the way, Roland visits Russia's monasteries to gain an insight into the country's warrior-saint tradition. He learns how the Russian Orthodox Church has played a major role in helping Russia's defences against repelling invaders.
Finally, Roland gets a taste of the System's Jedi Knight-style training by fighting blindfolded and picks up the Russian specialty of knife-throwing, all while enjoying a customary Russian swig of beer and vodka before training. He emerges from his crash course certifiably ready for the streets.