Ring Seatsby Brandon Edmonds / 17.05.2010
Who knew Colin Moss, the boy a few streets over from the smarter, taller boy who lives next door, has studied kickboxing for the past 5 years? There I thought he was parlaying his Idols millions into a crisp real estate portfolio, or running a network of underage Venda girls to magnates in Dubai. Nope he was sweating under the grueling tutelage of two-time World Muaythai Champ, Quinton “The Dragon” Chong, who runs Dragon Power in Cape Town, the place du jour for wannabe Bruce Lees. The two partnered up to convince Christian national capitalists MNET to finance Way of the Warrior – a reality show involving slapgat endomorphs with perma-boeps and appalling habits who “through the transformative power of Martial Arts become lean, formidable fighting machines”. Gulp.
DSTV largely bites ass and quality DVD outlets are a way better way to go, so I haven’t followed the show. I’m guessing there was “blood, sweat and tears” though.
Touching moments, personal revelations, contestants learning to trust each other and believe in their own potential. Sad music when someone “goes home”. I’m guessing it was not bad television. I knew none of this, blissfully, when a friend got tickets to the taping of the show’s climax at Grand West Casino.
This was not an “upmarket crowd” though the kind of crowd that would enjoy being called an “upmarket crowd”. Your assistants, receptionists, IT grunts, small business owners, rate payers, tradesmen, the insured and embattled folk who keep Ocean Basket & Nando’s going, in the middle of the middle of the middle class. Women in skinny jeans, kinkily heeled ankle boots and hoop earrings. Women who’ve readily “internalized the male gaze” and could give a fuck about getting to the bottom of a phrase like that. Women who had their hair specially done for fight night. All ass and nails. I was bedazzled. My social circle abjures hooped earrings. Unfortunately.
They were the perfect accompaniment to a beating, these gals, the perfect accompaniment to casino architecture. Everything overblown. Carpeting running for acres. Black staff in waistcoats with walkie-talkies. A concrete statue somewhere in the vicinity of Botticelli’s Venus. A fake blue evening sky in the food court. Twenty buck beer. An apparently famous giant, called Andre, lumbered past. I saw models. There were men with very long ponytails and dead eyes. A rockist dude had on an Axl Rose head scarf, worn without a whisper of self-consciousness, which took a lot more balls than kickboxing, frankly. I want to pickle and preserve him for my grandchildren.
The ring waited lit and iconic inside the Grand Arena. Seated rows reached high into vaulted darkness, appreciably full thanks to the suggestive reach of broadcasting. Colin himself appeared, compact and clean, tie winningly aslant in a two tone suit as if auditioning for a Jean-Pierre Melville re-make. He told us since this was a taped show he’ll make mistakes and “have to repeat things”. That’s why he makes the big bucks – totally upfront about his ineptitude. We sat behind a chatty personal shopper who told us her brother was refereeing. She seemed supercharged by imminent violence. Then the cold blooded murder of geese began.
Well that’s what the music sounded like. Ritual Thai music I imagine. It was as if sitar maestro Ravi Shankar had a set of bagpipes rammed up his ass then force-fed plate after plate of beans. The kind of invasive one note blare psy-ops uses on Guantanamo inmates. It was like being inside the mind of an enraged serpent.
Each muaythai bout is prefaced by a kind of slow motion yoga thingy – the significance of which you can google yourselves. It accomplishes a kind of ambient dreaminess, ripped apart by all-out contact. Children fought with the freewheeling ferocity of coked up gerbils. Girls clashed. Then a local bruiser turned a woman behind us feral. She shrieked his name in disturbing orgasmic transports. He won easily. Quinton “The Dragon” Chong then made a speech. I’m not about to diss a honed martial artist, oh wait yes I am. It was a deliriously vainglorious speech in which he claimed to have “started the hip hop movement” while issuing a litany of vulgar shout-outs to all his sponsors from sunglasses to trainers – his styling corn-rows may be stretched too tight.
On to the Way of the Warrior finale. As Moss put it in an online interview, “Watching these guys when they’re overweight and ungainly is going to be entertaining. We don’t want fighters. We want novices. The theme of the show is transformation.” Mouth-breather, Andrew Koshiaris, a worthy finalist, embodied the quintessential fat novice. His alarming mono-brow and hangdog air made him seem gloomily fated for luckless despair.
He’d be the gormless ape Humphrey Bogart runs rings around in a hardboiled Paramount picture from the forties. My heart went out to him. Up against a younger, leaner, stronger oaf called Glen something. Moss begged us not to tell who won before the show screens. It wasn’t the ape.