Does “Final Fu” Give Martial Arts a Black Eye?

A Fight to Become the Top Dog

Final Fu, a martial-arts themed reality show, made its debut in July. According to the producers’ description:

Final Fu is an unprecedented series that will pit the best practitioners of their respective styles against one another in an arduous competition of challenges and stand-up, tournament point fighting to determine which art is capable of producing the definitive martial arts champion.

Does this show deliver on its promise? Is it informative or entertaining? Will Final Fu have a positive or a negative impact on the public perception of martial arts?

Final Fu is not K-1

Final Fu Fighters

The format of Final Fu more closely resembles its peers in the reality genre than an authentic martial arts tournament. Winners are determined not only by match results, but also by their performance in various punch-kick obstacle courses. Whether or not these courses have any relevance to martial arts, they are somewhat entertaining when viewed on their own terms.

The matches are tame, even by point-fighting standards. Blows to the head and use of excessive force are against the rules. A light tap earns the same number of points as a powerful punch, and tossing your opponent down or out earns no points at all. The judge immediately interrupts anything resembling a clinch.

Presumably, these rules are in place to produce exciting fights for the uneducated viewers in the MTV demographic. They favor high kicks and flailing punches that few trained fighters would ever use for practical self-defense. These rules may decrease the risk of serious injury, but they also make the matches predictable and boring.

Warrior Ethics

Final Fu is a lousy showcase for the real fighting skills imparted by traditional martial art practice. The display of self-discipline and character, supposedly nurtured by long and arduous training, is also unimpressive.

Competitors have launched illegal and unsportsmanlike attacks on their opponents, through clumsiness or an uncontrollable urge to win. They have cried and berated themselves over minor losses. And they have shown a mixture of fear and impatience in attacking, that one might expect from martial art novices.

A Good Start, Needs Improvement

Overall, I enjoyed the show. Final Fu does not fully illustrate the power of martial arts as a tool for personal development; nevertheless, it may inspire viewers to investigate further.

I hope that, if Final Fu returns for a second season, the fight rules will be adjusted to allow a greater variety of participants, skills and techniques.

What do you think?


  1. Personally, I thought it was a joke, especially in regards to no attacks to the head. I’d rather watch the Ultimate Fighter reality show.

    It’s also interesting to note that most of the competitors seem to be sport karate folks in which flash is favored over practicality.

  2. While the matches were predictable and somewhat boring being that they don’t allow points for knockdowns or allow head contact; I am happy to see this type of program. Hopefully Final Fu will return for a second season and many more seasons after that with some minor improvements.

    Some of the negative comments about the show are coming from people who should lighten up and not take everything so seriously. Sure i’d like to see more realistic matches, but since this is MTV2 and not ESPN, I wasn’t expecting much more than was delivered.

  3. Even the title of the show is off-putting.

    “Who will be the FINAL FU?”

    The sparring competitions come off like a bad joke.

    Some of the ‘fighters’ have attitudes that make the martial arts seem less than desirable.

    Just like other reality tv shows, I suspect some of these people were only out to be ‘seen’. I won’t begin to say how that goes against the spirit of martial arts.

  4. Final Fu was fantastic. The sparring matches are Semi-Contact because they don’t want the competitors getting hurt and being unable to participate in the challenges.

    As a martial artist myself (Chinese Kenpo, Tae Kwon Do, Krav Maga, Aikido), I also enjoy watching the UFC, eve

  5. I personally loved the concept…but after watching 3 shows, it was very dissapointing. I don’t expect UFC type of fighting, but it’s just soooh boring. If Stallone can produce a Boxing show and make it great, motivating, heart felt, etc, why can’t they do it for the martial arts? There’s more discussions on this site:

    I hope they dont come up with a second season of this lame show. I think most of the people who loves it are the ones from the show patting themselves on the back, or their friends and family.

    Looking back…I can’t believe I spent my free time watching that show.

  6. Some of the challenges i saw in the few episodes i watched made me think of Karate Kid or the old Kung Fu (with David Carradine), though i agree that most are just punch-kick obsticle coarses. The Best I think serious martial artists can hope that this show does for our image is make Joe average think to himself “hey, i could do that, and better!” which may motivate them to go to a school to train…okay, so that is far-fetched, but the glass has to be half full sometimes, right?

  7. well, for those who loved, hated, or were waiting for season 2 to show improvements, I’ve got some sad news. There won’t be a season 2 of Final Fu. I found out from a reliable source that MTV2 didn’t greenlight a second season for the show. So this goes down as one of those memorable shows that didn’t last.

  8. i didn’t mind the show. but i didn’t like that all the “challenges” are styled like a gameshow that have almost nothing to do with martial arts except kicking and punching.

    the sparring wasn’t cool at all. although i did enjoy watching jonathan Phan demonstrate different styles.

    but overall this show made me think, ” dude, any black belt from my school could do better than this.” and these competitors were given the title of “best of their styles.”

  9. if they dont want to competetors to get hurt, then they shouldnt have made a fighting show. this shows nothing of real life, nor olympic style of fighting. It reminds me of a bunch of 3 year olds punching at each other trying to not get hurt. semi-conact is a joke if you get in a fight on the street or try to compete, ur gonna get hit in your face, beleive me. im glad that hung-gar guy got disqualified for excessive force, so at least i got to see a 1 good match i guess.

  10. Please allow me to re-word my previous comment.

    The show was fun and interesting, but…

    To be honest, it can be so much more. I will say that the show inspired me to get back into martial arts (to hopefully one day be on it), I’m currently involved in: “TKD, Judo, F.I.G.H.T., Capoeira, and BJJ.” But that’s not the point, just a plus.

    The point is that the show didn’t even encompass the full scope of sparring, let alone full contact. I did like the limited contact however, and I agreed with some of the stipulations of control. But part of the problem was many of the limitations imposed did not allow contestants to reach their full potential. An example would be that a Disqualification not only hurts your opponent, but you as well. What about that many other styles were left out of the equation. Or even that an unbalanced match affected the entire teir system. Now I’m not saying I want to see another unoriginal UFC, but the bar must be set a little higher for us traditional martial artists. This show helps some of the world view us in whatever way you show it.

    Free Recommendations (Whether new or old):

    Points for – Flare (tricks, or things that just wow), sportsmanship, control, sticking to techniques and Martial Arts Styles (Not just points), head (not face), body, legs, back (only if opponent fails to face challenger regularly)

    Instead of DQ’s – just compound point deductions (1 for 1st infraction, 2 for second, 4 for third, 8 for fourth, etc.)

    Challengs that demonstrate contestants techniques and skill

    Limited Match disruptions – With exceptions to contestant injury or emergency. Infraction will be explained during and/or after match breaks

    Final Fu winner challenges Martial Arts Host to an Exhibition match or for a mystery prize.

    Twists, or sense of danger/something on the line – throw in some twists like player’s challenging player’s for point wagers, or challenging host for points, or something/anything that can be used as a wild card to mix up or affect the game.

    the fight system must be re-evaluated – to encompass other styles (whether judo, aikido, or BJJ could be added and how they would be is mystery to me personally), this may include head shots, and limited defensive grabs (such as catching an opponents attack, but then letting them go).

    Finally more pure styles outside of TKD – may make things more intersting, such as an individuals fighting to represent his style in each catagory. Possibly hold competitions were people face off against their own styles until there is only one of each, like all TKD contestants fight each other until there is one player representing the TKD style. And then all Karate contestants face each other until there is one player representing Karate, and and so on until you have the required number of finalists that begin to face each other for title of Final Fu.

    Side note of some represented styles to aim for including:
    Tae Kwon Do (All styles in one category)
    Karate (All styles in one category)
    Kung-Fu (All styles in one category)
    Muay Tai
    American Boxing
    to name a few…

  11. This show was a complete joke. First off the title “Final Fu” just sounds ridiculous. The challenges they had to face were completely irrelevant to martial arts, aside from the fact that they had to break boards. When it came to the board breaking they couldn’t even break most of the boards properly. Cutting up your knuckles from a single punch to a thin board like the ones they used on the show is pathetic. You can tell by the places their hands were cut up that they were not using proper techniques. The fights were the most annoying part of the show. If you dont want people to get hurt then give them a helmet to wear like the ones they wore during certain challenges. If they were skilled fighters then they should be able to control their attacks and not injure their opponents. I participate in semi-contact sparring all the time using nothing but hand and leg pads and i havent seen a single person get seriously hurt in years. The fact that take downs were not allowed gave me a headache. The only reasoning i could think of for that was again the risk of injury, a trained martial atist should learn how to properly take a person down while preventing injury. The person being taken down should also know how to land properly. I have been training for a little over 12 years in various styles (shorinji kempo, kendo, iaido, aikijutsu, muay thai, wing chun, judo, karate, and i am also trained in using bo staff, long, staff, jo stick, escrima stick, and a knife.) and I honestly believe that this show is a disgrace to the name of martial arts.

  12. Final Fu is a terrible show.

    It’s a game of tag. This show doesn’t allow head contact and grappling moves. They have no defense.

    Put MMA fighters like Takanori Gomi, Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Cro Cop, Fedor, and Dan Henderson against them and they have no shot.

  13. Nice idea for a show and a contrast to all the focus on boxing/K1/MMA style Martial Arts.

    Too bad that it became so boring after awhile, especially the fights. I think it would have been much more entertaining if semi-contact to the head were allowed. I don´t think that injury rate wouldn´t increase either. My experience is that collision of legs/knees or blows to the ribs give more lasting injurices that makes training hard (Thai boxing/ ITF Tae kwon-do).

  14. Ok..The only thing i have to say is reality shows that use the emphasis of who can become “top fighter” or in this case “top dog” are kidding themselves each style of martial arts has there advantages and disadvantages but there isn’t a #1 style of martial arts and there never will be…So i find these shows rather pointless, i find the history more intersting and researching where you can find them and study them at in oyour country or foriegn countrys


  15. by the way MMA will never top off martial arts…MMA came derived from BJJ, Boxing, Wrestling styles in one…But MMA can never top true martial artists. For instance but Jet Li(who is a 2 time Wushu Champion of China) against someone such as CHuck Liddel i dought that would be even at all….

    MMA is entertaining but there also more of muscle bound and take down techniques rather then true martial arts. Now Gracie i can say different about i would find that rather interesting.

  16. Hate to say this, Matt, but Chuck Liddel would probably pound Jet Li into the ground. I’m not a particularly big Liddel fan, but Jet Li is far past his prime and… well Wushu isn’t a fighting art, so being the champion of a form competition doesn’t mean a thing.

    And MMA IS true martial arts. It’s more alligned with what martial arts are supposed to be than alot of TMA nowadays. TMA in America has become so watered down, and everywhere you seem to go is a Mcdojo. At least in MMA, its all real.

  17. I think I have found a difference between the two practitioners. MMA fighters will reply, ‘I do MMA and I have trained so many years and have competed in many fights. I am a champion.’ Where as a ‘student’ will reply, ‘ I have been studying for many years, I don’t think I’m that good, how ever please watch me and tell me what you think.’ Students are taught how to be humble. Why is it the total opposite in Final Fu? It is because they are tainted in their own worlds, they all are world champions of some sort and their training to relax their mind goes right out the window when you put a camera on them to show them off. (They dont even have good sparring technique displayed to start with!) They try too hard and lose focus, they are full of themselves, display fear, and even cry at their own failures. Real students and MMA fighters who receive defeat will thank the opponent for improving you as a person and a martial artist. Why be on top all the time? Just because you have won 100 different titles reguardless of martial art, doesn’t mean you don’t lose anymore. You are constantly training.

  18. I thought the show was great, it was very entertaning, and I think it represented Martial Arts well, Maybe not as go as it could have but good none the less and the mix up of styles made for good TV,.

    I would like to see a season 2

  19. Honestly, I thought Final Fu disgraced martial arts. It was in no way like a real martial arts competition. I mean, I thought it was great to see Jonathan Phan, of EMC Monkeys, on there, but that is just more proof to me that they were just actors that new some aspects of martial arts and not really great martial artists in a competition. I don’t believe that “reality television” is reality at all, and to see that Phan was on there(knowing he is a paid actor) kinda proves that this show is fake to me. But hey, that’s my opinion.

  20. I thought the concept was cool. Until I watched the show. I was disappointed that there were about 2000 tae kwon do fighters. Plus the show was so sloppy in fighting. At times it looked like a slap fight. Plus no head shots??? Whats up with that? This is martial arts fighting. Plus could they have gotten a better host? I mean Ernie Reyes Jr. I can’t take him seriously he was is Surf Ninjas. Overall the concept was cool. Just cast different styles, and don’t get such cocky 26 year old jacked frat guys.

  21. I watched the show until there was a sparring match with the tallest fighter (if you can call him a fighter or martial artist) against the smallest fighter (same for HER). I don’t mind mixed gendered fights, but it was judged unfairly. After a while, after I was tired of screaming at the TV about how inept the martial artists were, I switched the channel to Cribs, and I absolutely HATE Cribs. Damn you, Final Fu, for making me have to resort to that…

  22. I can’t remember that particular match…but what do you consider a fair way of judging when the competitors are different sizes?

  23. Well, for starters I wouldn’t penalize the larger fighter for knocking around the smaller fighter. If you’re a black belt in whatever discipline you decide to study you should be able to hold your own in a fight against people of different sizes. Not to mention if you sign up for a competition show, you should probably already expect to be fighting people of different sizes and shapes…
    But this brings me back to the fact that they all fought like amateurs. If I were judging, I would have stopped the match when it became a slapping fight. Which then brings me to the problems with point fighting.
    The design of the point system looks like it was intended to reward the flashy and not the efficient (more points for spinning and higher kicks and punches). It doesn’t allow for any ground work. This point system also doesn’t really allow for strength to play much factor in scoring points. It seems like you could just be quick and ineffective and score more points then a few well placed hits.
    If I was to judge a fight like the one I saw, I wouldn’t have stopped the fight when the smaller fighter tripped to the ground because she was trying to be flashy. I would have rewarded double points for hits to the head. Knockout or tap out would be an automatic win.
    But what do I know, I didn’t start a martial arts reality show that seems to have failed completely and totally.

  24. Every simulation is only an approximation of what is existing, which is why those simulations will fail the person which specializes in one simulation. The training environment is for reducing injury along with rules created to reduce injury, while defeating people within those rules, is also for the reduction of injury.

    A contest which has only one set of skills to be tested, with only one available simulation to do that skill testing, is glorified propaganda. What would be wrong with arming those people with therapy-bats, adding a doughnut-shaped platform with a raised round platform in the middle? That situation would have allowed people to pound on each other, then add in some shock-absorbent armor, to allow safe delivery of high-power striking.

    A generalized perception of what skills people do have, will require a variety of simulations. There are other skill test such as dodge ball, which can transfer into throwing of rocks at other people, along with cushioned long-sticks in a another contest.

    People do desire entertainment, which is why items such as blending kick-boxing with a ring filled with hanging heavy-bags, that would be a show of skill. The same type of simulation repetitiously fed to people, is intentional deception of people, meant to represent the simulation as truth.

  25. All about speed and minimal touching, punch after punch to the stomach and not guarding the head? It get’s a little clumsy when both opponents are attacking at high speed, what happened to the clinch 1..2.. get out with a counter? Many of those competitors are not even using side steps which are really important when you compete on a little square floor like in the FinaFu,
    instead of falling out of the ring again and again by backing from attacks(Clinch, side step).
    I’d really like to see some helmets and kicks to the head.
    By the way, representing a black belt and not being able to fight like one? They probably won their blackbelts in a Corn Flakes cereal box

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