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A look at AUGMENTATION - One Jean Claude Van Damme film. One album by a German synthesizer wizard.

The Outsid/In journal is an exercise in connections. We start with (and will always return to) Jiu Jitsu, as it’s the thing that connects us. But, in an attempt to stretch the limits of our art, we choose different one-word contexts and see how BJJ connects (or doesn’t connect) to that context.

This week’s word is AUGMENTATION, which was explained beautifully in last week’s interview with Joshue Ott. Simply put, AUGMENTATION is using a piece of technology to enhance potential. In this case, human potential.

 

CYBORG (1984)

Dir: Albert Pyun

CYBORG is not a Jiu Jitsu film. If anything, it’s a kickboxing film (maybe?) as JCVD’s signature achievements always come through the use of his legs...how hard he can throw them and how far he can split them.

But between the kicks, there is evasion. Nearly every fight involves blades, and in the world of CYBORG, evading slashes is almost as important as dramatically absorbing them. JCVD’s approach to redirecting energy is pretty solid and fun to watch here, sending his opponents flying into harm’s way (meathooks, etc) or simply finding ways to create enough room for a patented roundhouse kick to the face.

Regarding AUGMENTATION, there’s only one true Cyborg in the film, a woman who is technologically augmented with robotic eyes and a machine brain, as a kind of post-apocalyptic messenger. She sets out to retrieve an information download in New York, and return it to Atlanta, where there are (allegedly) scientists working on a cure for a plague that has decimated humanity.

It’s actually the most boring kind of AUGMENTATION in the film. The more interesting kinds involve hiding blades inside of other blades, or in JCVD’s case, inside a boot. So, long before his roundhouse kick became a cliche, he was already innovating on it, augmenting it to increase lethality and to fit the setting of a future where advanced technology exists, but you’re still more likely to die by blade or barbed wire than by bullets or laser beams.

And hair extensions. 90 percent of the CYBORG cast has their hair augmented. Of course, it looks funny, especially in the case of the hulking henchman who chases JCVD and dies between his legs in a sewer. But beyond being funny to look at, the budgetary and creative constraints of this film necessitated some creative AUGMENTATION.

Originally, Cannon Films had built sets for a MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE sequel and believe it or not, a SPIDER MAN film. Both films were scrapped, but director Albert Pyun and his producers (noted schlock experts Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus) were determined to squeeze a film out of the leftover sets and crew. So CYBORG was shot on a ridiculously tight schedule, with a limited cast. Actors, especially big bad Fender’s henchmen, had to play multiple roles. And between masks and hair extensions, augmentation saved the day, allowing one actor to divide themselves, becoming two or three performers who could (through magic of editing) tackle multiple roles simultaneously.

The result is a classic, but not because it’s a “good” movie. But because we get Jean Claude Van Damme right as he was building his superstardom, and looking through his career, there are very few instances of him roundhouse kicking his way through a grubby post apocalyptic cheapo exploitation film. So it’s worth watching for that fact alone.

 

CYBORG (1973)

Klaus Schulze

Klaus Schulze does not do Jiu Jitsu. At least not that I know of. But he does know a little something about Mastery. He has been recording music across five decades, and has released 60+ albums, all centered around the artistic capabilities of analog synthesizers. 

CYBORG is only his second album, but ask anyone who tracks this kind of thing, and they’ll tell you that the 26-year old Klaus had already mastered synthesizer technology. In BJJ terms, he was experiencing that “blue belt peak” that most of us go through soon after we commit to our training.

It would be reductive to call this music “cocky”, though. The music is just confident. If you stream CYBORG (and you should - great for rolling or stretching or working out), you’ll hear a man augmenting himself with an airplane-hangar-sized network of modern electronics. Every musical thought that comes from Klaus’ organic human brain here must pass through a piece of technology before it is expressed. So the album title is apt. You are not just hearing a man make music. You are hearing a man augment himself, using technology, to make a kind of music that had never really been heard before. You are hearing a Cyborg.

Thanks for rolling with us in our efforts to connect AUGMENTATION and our shared art of BJJ. See you next time.