By: Fast Eddie

I am back! I suffered 3 herniated discs during my last lesson in humility with Luke Stewart. The things I sacrifice for the readers of PROMMA. Due to that sacrifice, I have been unable to write, work, walk, or anything else that starts with a W. Alas, after physical therapy and a lot of pain medication, I have returned to health and to PROMMA. Now on to the subject at hand.

David Mamet’s latest work, Redbelt was recently released on DVD, and gives us a look into the life of Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor Mike Terry. The focus of this movie is the struggle that Terry faces between his belief structure as to what a fighter and martial artist should represent and providing for his family at the expense of those beliefs. To Mamet’s credit, he has studied BJJ for roughly 5 years under the tutelage of Renato Magno is Los Angeles. Magno is the first black belt under the legendary Rigan Machado. On top of that, Mamet is a well-respected writer in Hollywood circles and is known for his use of symbolism. It is this aspect of the film that I found very interesting.

There are several scenes in this film that reflect past events in the history of the Gracie family, as well as the creation of the UFC by Rorion Gracie and Bob Meyrowitz. The entire concept of the redbelt appears to be a tribute to Helio Gracie [founder of Gracie Jiu-jitsu] to me. Mike Terry’s character is a film version of Rickson Gracie. Terry’s ideals reflect similar thoughts of Rickson with regards to fighting, competition, and the importance of upholding the honor of an academy. Rickson is someone Mamet consulted with prior and during the production of this film and actually credits him with the idea of the handicap concept during the fight scenes. It is widely known that in order to improve his skills, Rickson Gracie will routinely train with either one or both arms tied within his gi. This idea is mirrored by Mike Terry in the film stating, “You never know when you might lose the use of a limb in a fight.”

Rodrigo Santoro (Bruno Silva) plays the brother of fighter John Machado (Ricardo Silva). Santoro is also one of the promoters of the fictional MMA event in the film entitled the IFA. This storyline closely resembles that of Rorion and Royce Gracie. Rorion Gracie was one of the founders of the UFC and chose to have his brother Royce fight in the first event, bypassing his other brother, Rickson. At the last minute, Rickson was replaced with Royce. The thought process behind this decision was that Royce would better illustrate the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-jitsu due to his scrawny stature. The main difference in this film and real life is that Ricardo was to lose the main event in order to build a rematch. Rorion would never allow anyone in his family to throw a fight for monetary purposes. I also found the casting of Ricky Jay as promoter Marty Brown great. The physical similarities Jay and Bob Meyrowitz share are uncanny right down to the beard. The only thing missing is Bob Meyrowitz’s aspiring career as a magician.

Mamet’s team did a wonderful job of casting this movie with actual MMA fighters and trainers, such as the aforementioned John Machado, Frank Trigg, Enson Inoue, Randy Couture, and Rico Chiparelli amongst others. There was also a cameo appearance by Ed O’Neill who also happens to be a black belt under Rorion Gracie.

Overall, the film was thoroughly enjoyable and put an interesting perspective on the origins of MMA as it pertains the Gracie Family. I highly recommend watching the film with the commentary which is provided by David Mamet and UFC heavyweight champion, Randy Couture. Mamet discusses these and several other topics that provide insight to his thought process.

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