Video Game Teaches Pro Fighter 'Cool Moves'
Uriah Hall competed in the 17th season of "The Ultimate Fighter."
In your average fighting game, you can uppercut your opponent into the air, flying kick him across the screen and launch a fireball at him. They're not exactly the most realistic simulations, but one Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contender didn't let that stop him. Newcomer Uriah Hall learned the basics of martial arts from the video game series "Tekken," and so far, it's led him to victory.
"I'd never trained before," said Hall in an interview with mixed martial arts enthusiast site Fightland. "I was embarrassed to say 'I play "Tekken" all day.'" Hall, a native of Jamaica, came to New York as a teenager but didn't find the transition easy. After initially taking refuge from bullying in martial arts video games, Hall decided to try the real thing. With many years of training (and "Tekken") under his belt, he holds a middleweight championship title.
"I'd copy the moves," Hall explained. "I'd have the computer spar me back and forth, almost like regular training. I'd keep playing until I see something I'd do or I liked, and I'd just pick up on it." Even though "Tekken" has its share of unusual characters (men with wings, metal warriors and giant pandas, for starters), they move and fight in a fairly realistic way.
Characters in "Tekken" settle their differences with punches, kicks, grabs and throws rather than bizarre weapons (like in the over-the-top "Soul Calibur" series) or lightning blasts (like in the ultraviolent "Mortal Kombat" series). Furthermore, many characters use variations of real martial arts styles, including karate, taekwondo and kung fu. While the moves are exaggerated, there's little that the average martial artist couldn't mimic with a bit of practice.
Learning by imitation is precisely what Hall did. "Every time I would see a cool move in 'Tekken,' man, I would just practice it," he said. Having an arsenal of tricks from a video game proved to be useful, although vexing to his fellow martial artists. "When I'd do [a 'Tekken' move] in training, they'd be like 'what the hell is that?'" [See also: 10 Great Games You're Missing]
Grandmaster Tae Sun Kang, 9th Dan black belt and owner of the T. Kang Taekwondo schools in New York City, remains skeptical about video games as teaching tools. "To truly learn a technique, I guess it depends on how realistic the game is," he told us. "There's always a chance." Kang explains that since fighting games rely on motion capture actors to animate gameplay footage, players are likely to see some good techniques.
"Do I think it's the proper way to learn it? No," Kang clarified. "Maybe you get a general move, but how will you generate torque or energy or momentum? You get a general visualization of how the move's supposed to look, but to get the exact detail and how to perform it the right way? I just can't see that being done."
Hall's techniques may not be canonical, but his record speaks for itself. After competing in 14 major mixed martial arts showdowns, Hall emerged victorious from 11. Recently, Hall competed on the 17th season of "The Ultimate Fighter," a reality show where mixed martial arts competitors train with and square off against each other, on Fox Sports. Although he lost to Kelvin Gastelum in the final bout, Hall exhibited superb technique throughout the program. Online, both fans and critics have him pegged as a promising contender for future titles.
Despite the prevalence of motion-tracking controls (like the Xbox 360 Kinect or the Nintendo Wii remote), game developers have yet to make a realistic hand-to-hand combat simulator. "Maybe as technology improves, they can show more detail of how [a] technique is done properly," said Kang.
If games with traditional controllers like "Tekken" can breed champions like Hall, there's no telling what a more immersive experience might do.