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Web Video / Fighting in the Age of Loneliness

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"For the Rest of your life; Go out, touch gloves...and fight."
Fighting in the Age of Loneliness is a 2018 Web-Documentary about the history of MMA, written and narrated by Felix Biederman and directed/produced by Jon Bois. It is divided into 5 chapters that trace the sport's entire history, both proud and not-so-proud, throughout the ages; It's origins across a number of martial arts, the early stars and villains, and explains why it became and has remained a part of the cultural touchstone regardless of or because of the parties who make the sport happen, and the forces outside it that give it shape. How a sport about weirdos and creeps can managed to find an audience and find magic, even in a world that feels like it's falling apart at the seams.

Fighting in the Age of Loneliness contains examples of these tropes.

  • Artistic License – History: Enough to have its own page.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts:
    • The documentary claims ancient jujutsu heavily required size and athleticism before Jigoro Kano reformed it into judo, which is actually an overstatement, based on a popular misconception about how much the style really changed through this process. While Kano certainly did a favor to smaller men by emphasizing deeply the concept of unbalancing or kuzushi (which the documentary mentions, though not by name), the instrumental principle of "soft technique" behind the techniques themselves remained virtually the same, which is the reason why both arts' names share the ju part (it means "gentle", "soft" or "yelding"); there was no necessarily more usage of force in one after another, and the penchant to muscle into throws that the documentary attributes to old jujutsu is hardly unknown in judo competition.
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    • Oddly, FAL claims the choke known as gogoplata was "literally invented as a joke". It is always difficult to talk about the "invention" of fighting techniques in the long history of mankind, but the gogoplata in particular was first present in judo books in 1954 and was not labelled as a joke move at all.
  • Badass Family: The Gracies. They may have been MMA's old money, but Gracie Jiu-Jitsu did it's job, and it seems like every other family member picked up a new way to cause punishment.
  • Badass Normal: Maurício Rua, who is described as "looking like a podcaster who goes to the gym", but he went ahead and won the PRIDE 2005 Middleweight Tournament by being able to outfight everybody.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Very bitter. MMA grows from weird and scattered underground movements to a worldwide mainstream sport, at the cost of becoming another sanitized corporate product. The final monologue is unsparing in its contempt for the ever-increasing corporate influence of daily life; Even the most extreme forms of entertainment and sport will be exploited to wring all the capital out of you, including a bloodsport that was nearly banned by the US Congress. Things suck, and it doesn't look like things are gonna get better... but finishing the fight is what you absolutely can do. Put on your gloves and go out there.
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  • Blood Knight: Carlos Gracie would take on all fighters he could find. His father gave him to judo master Mitsuyo Maeda to train him up, but his desire to fight never went away.
  • Boring, but Practical: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in comparison to the balls-out style of Vale Tudo
  • Broken Ace: Points out that all of the great aces of fighting tended to not just fade, but usually get clobbered before their retirement. which made Anderson Silva's match against Chael Sonnen so amazing. He got beaten down and looked a fool, but won regardless.
  • Determinator: Helio Gracie, whose matches would sometimes last hours.
  • Drugs Are Good: Felix calls steroids outright "awesome", but there's a practical purpose to it; the human body just isn't meant to be fighting like MMA fighters do without breaking down, and needs at least a little chemical help to continue doing so. And Steroids; something that helps a worn down, muscled body heal and gain further mass, is what keeps it going. Whether or not the morality of it is good is up to the viewer, but ex-MMA fighters stated almost 70%-90% of fighters juiced up as part of their training regiments.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Gracie Jiu Jitsu was relatively still like the martial art that came before it, but paved the way for MMA.
    • Early MMA, or Vale Tudo, was mostly a no-rules no-holds-barred contest before rules got added.
    • Pancrase is an early MMA promotion that preceded UFC in a few months. Instead of the brutal no-rules UFC, Pancrase was a weird Pro-Wrestling/Real fighting where fighters used thigh-high boots and had to strike with open hands.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Characterizes the UFC and their president Dana White as trying to be like a normal sport, to the detriment of the product they were once putting out.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: PRIDE got a real reputation for being a yakuza front just because plenty of people who were known to be yakuza showed up to events, the president lived in a building ran by the yakuza and several other in-hindsight fairly obvious connecting points.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Discussed and Downplayed. The documentary credits The Ultimate Fighter reality show for dispelling the myth of MMA fighters being savage killing machine akin to a Terminator. MMA fighters may not exactly be nice people and are often deeply flawed in their own right, but are nonetheless relatable human beings pushing their bodies to the limit for the sake of their sport.
  • Moral Guardians: Discussed and also a Deconstructed Trope, as the documentary claims that their efforts to shut down the sport were not motivated by morality, but from seeing the rise of MMA as a threat to their business interests, specifically citing US Senator John McCain's boxing investments in contrast to his efforts to curb MMA.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Invoked deliberately to make a point about why the alienation of the 90's helped MMA: it's not Political Correctness at all; but rather HR Culture made by gigantic corporations (defined as standards that were created that protected the vulnerable, but with stringent rulesets that only benefited the company that didn't care either way) that created the alienation that many felt because now, if those rulesets were broken, the person in question could be out of a job for a good long while.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Many of the tracks used in the documentary as background music can be heard in Jon Bois' work.
  • Secret Art: Martial arts of all kinds were considered this for some time, but as time went on, eventually people began inventing their own and proliferating it all to the public.
  • Self-Deprecation: While discussing the plight of undercard fighters, Felix describes a host of injustices the now sanitized UFC puts them through:
    Felix: He had to train for two months, and will get to fight three more times at the absolute most, if he wins all four, which is highly unlikely, he takes $28,000 note  for getting CTE, for not getting the licenses and skills for the other jobs he'll need after the decade of fighting he can do at the very most, and shithead podcasters making fun of his haircut on twitter during his thankless task of filling the undercard.
  • Similarly Named Works: Invoked. Luta Livre and the pro-wrestling style Lucha Libre are pronounced quite similarly, however both styles of combat couldn't be more different. Interesting enough, both have origins in Catch Wrestling.
    • Luta Livre can also mean the Olympic Freestyle Wrestling (Although sometimes refereed as Luta Livre Olímpica) and also an alternative name for Pro Wrestling.
  • Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism: Firmly on the side of Cynicism. However, that same cynicism is elaborated on as a reason why people grew to love MMA like they did and do; in an enormously complicated world that was no longer set up to care or support people, it became a release from all the trying problems of the world and the alienation of a changing society.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Luta Livre. The Gracie family dominated Jiu-Jitsu with wealth, power, and promotion, but Luta Livre could be practiced by anybody and was about as hardnosed as any bloodsport gets.
  • Start My Own: Basically the story of Judo; Kano Jigoro was too small and inexperienced for Jiu-Jitsu, so he basically created an art based around throws and grapples so he could win bouts against large competition (or so the documentary says, as the real history is a bit different), which unintentionally set the stage for one of his pupils to go on an exhibition across the world, which led to Gastao Gracie asking him to train his son, which eventually led to the creation of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
  • Training from Hell: The way a fighter in The Ultimate Fighter managed to drop 20 pounds in under a day, where he essentially locked himself inside of a sauna to ride an exercise bike for hours to the point that he couldn't move his legs getting out of it. And then did it again when he was just a few pounds over. Naturally, the guy won his next fight handily.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: Invoked. A driving thesis of the documentary - especially in later chapters - is that MMA, both in fighting techniques and as bloodsport, has been fundamentally shaped by world events and social attitudes through the decades. The last two chapters drive this home, drawing a close link between the events of The War on Terror and the rise of MMA into the mainstream.