And no, unlike the rest of the internet, I’m not posting about how hot Gina Carano aka new American Gladiator “Crush” is (then again, I guess I just did). I’m posting about how beautiful her technique is.
There are a million fighers out there that are amazing fighters, but they aren’t beautiful. Chuck Liddell comes to mind right away as an incredible fighter who also happens to be a really ugly fighter. He’s flatfooted, he moves his arms weirdly, and he often leans away when punching. Sakuraba, one of my all-time favourites, is also an ugly fighter. He uses this to his advantage, psyching his opponent out with odd, unpredictable movements, but still: ugly ugly fugly.
Carano, on the other hand, is balanced, calm, and her strikes snap sharply. I don’t know how to explain it, but the trajectory of her kicks, their lines (to steal a term from dance), is one of the things that puts the art in martial art. Fighters such as her are a treat to watch.
Alot of fighters seem to have beautiful technique in their training reels, but then look sloppier during a match. It makes sense — a non-compliant opponent is not the same as a training partner holding pads. The distancing is different, you lose the impeccable timing, your equilibreum shifts.
Carano does have a tendency to let her power get the best of her — when her shots start landing she just lets loose, sometimes throwing the same punch more than once in succession if she lands it the first time (similar to how Jet Li’s character fought in Unleashed). But on average, she is one of those rare fighters who moves pretty much the same while fighting as she does training.
I’m supressing the urge to make a comparison between martial arts and dance because I know nothing about dance. But it’s the closest thing I can compare it to, in terms of movements with a partner. But of course, a fight isn’t choreographed. Keeping appropriate distance and timing in combat — with a non-compliant ‘dance partner’ who is trying to either crash the distance or create a bigger gap and hoping to fuck up your sense of timing — while keeping your movements accurate and purposeful, is a much different skill.
And I think makes it all the more aesthetically pleasing when such a skill level is achieved.