Film Review: Force of the Spirit

“Fighting over 200 opponents is incredible. Fighting them with only 1 hand is impossible!”  From start to finish the tagline of this Jean Jacques Machado documentary pretty much sums it up.  The film is chock full of footage of his struggles and victories as a top jiu-jitsu competitor despite a birth defect that crippled his left hand.  The first twenty minutes or so provide explanation of his handicap and how he overcame it and are inspiring enough (no magic, just hard work and some ingenuity), but interviews with his students (several of whom are also disabled) show Machado’s strength and generosity as a teacher and as a friend.  The beginning of the documentary is a great story of how he has shared his success on the mat to inspire others to seek their dreams.

The rest of the movie builds on this theme and become rather repetitive.  Melodramatic traveling and training montages mix trippy videography with music that you’ll want to mute.  Still, there are some redeeming qualities: at one point, the narrator steps in to discuss slow-mo clips of Machado losing position and missing submissions due to his vestigial left hand.  I wanted to cheer when he recovered from moments in which his opponents capitalized on his weakness, often to sweep and quickly transition to a win.

While this movie is somewhat sappy, it does a great job depicting the drive and determination Machado used to win so many major BJJ and submission grappling championships.  If you catch yourself making excuses to take a day off from training, just watch this quick clip and you’ll haul your butt to the gym!

Thanks for reading.  Now that summer vacation has started, I hope to review more martial arts movies and training DVDs.  Let me know what you think of this one and if there are other films I should check out!

About moaimartialarts

Lucky enough to grow up with the martial arts, I have felt their positive influence throughout my life and am especially interested in sharing these experiences with others. I enjoy working with youth and adults to give back some of what I've received. If you would like to learn more about Uechi-Ryu/Shohei-Ryu Karate, or if you want to find people to train with, please contact me. I am the head karate instructor for the Meriden Martial Arts Club.
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