The Many Styles of the 'Human Weapon'

When Jason Chambers signed on to co-host the History Channel's new show "Human Weapon," the show's producers conveyed the excitement, telling him about the adventure and exotic locales.

What they did not harp on, according to Chambers, was the fact that he was "going to get punched in the face by a lot of Asian men."

"Human Weapon," premiering tonight on the History Channel, takes Chambers and co-host Bill Duff around the world in search of the history and tradition behind 13 martial arts styles, from French Savate streetfighting to Cambodian bloodsport Bokator.

Each episode focuses on one of the fighting styles and will culminate in a hand-to-hand fight between one of the hosts, who has had a week's worth of training in the discipline, and one of the school's masters.

"The show is about finding why these arts started and where they started from," said Chambers, who is a mixed martial arts fighter that has been training in some form of martial arts since he was 6. "But basically, it's also going to be a whole lot of me just getting my butt kicked."

Necessity Is the Mother of Flying High Kicks

After filming nine of the show's 13 episodes and delving into the history of each discipline, a slightly worse-for-wear Chambers has found one thing shared among all styles.

"All these arts have evolved from war; all out of necessity," Chambers told

"For instance, when Ferdinand Magellan came over to the Philippines, the Spanish took away all the people's machetes. So they used what was around: vines, branches and tree sticks. That's how Arnis [Filipino stick fighting] was born," he said.

John Whitman, a fourth degree black belt in Israeli Krav Maga and president of Krav Maga World Wide, believes this is why the styles vary from one part of the world to another.

"The systems were developed with specific things in mind. Tae Kwon Do today isn't so practical," Whitman told, referring to the leaping and high kicking that characterizes the discipline, "but the reason it was developed in Korea is because oftentimes foot soldiers and peasants had to deal with trying to hit soldiers on horseback."

More recently, the harsh Israeli street fighting known as Krav Maga was developed in the 1960s to combat the very real and growing danger of war with its neighbors.

"There's no pretty stuff in Krav Maga," explained Whitman, who's been involved with Krav Maga for 16 years. "The thinking was losing is not an option. So if someone attacks me I need to be aggressive as hell. That's reflected in Krav Maga."

While some ancient arts, like Tae Kwon Do, are willing to sacrifice practicality for tradition, "Human Weapon" will also look at those, like practitioners of Krav Maga, who literally fight to stay alive.

Building to Building, Hand-to-Hand in Modern War

In a world of satellite-guided missiles and cyberterrorism, proficiency in hand-to-hand combat seems less and less necessary. According to Whitman, however, with many armies switching their focus from purely military to policing actions, the need for martial arts is greater now than ever.

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