MAN AT ARMS: ART OF WAR – Season 2: Cutting Loose with Marko Zaror

Photo courtesy of El Rey Network

Photo courtesy of El Rey Network

Back in 2017 when EL REY Network's MAN AT ARMS: ART OF WAR was assembling the cast, one of the showrunners was surprised that I was a longstanding fan Marko Zaror. I had been watching his movies for a decade already. Dedicated fans of martial arts movies know Marko. At 6’ 4”, he really stands out among the rest. I told my wife that Marko is my stunt double because we have "almost the same physique." Yeah, I wish. His guns are bigger than my thighs. But beyond his height, he’s startlingly agile and can deliver aerial kicks like gymnastic trickers that stand a foot shorter. Most people his size can’t grab that much air unless they are in the NBA. And even then, you don’t see many basketball players that can do backflips with the practiced grace of Marko.

Hailing from Chile, Marko has fresh cinematic sensibility for action films. His early works like KILTRO (2006) and MIRAGEMAN (2007) revealed an invigorating vision with a Chilean accent, quite unique for the hackneyed martial arts genre. He fought against our cast mate Danny Trejo in MACHETE KILLS (2013), playing "Zaror," a villainous clone in a role tailor-made for him by director and mastermind behind the EL REY NETWORK, Robert Rodriguez. Marko will be under Robert’s direction once more with the upcoming ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, slated to premiere on Valentine’s Day 2019.

Between takes on MAN AT ARMS: ART OF WAR, I chatted with Marko for this exclusive interview.

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Photo courtesy of El Rey Network.


GC: So, how is Season 2 of MAN AT ARMS: ART OF WAR going for you so far?

MZ: Good, man! It’s been very exciting for sure. You can see that it’s a much better setup, more experience of the team. And the tests are more challenging. They’ve been cool. I’ve been having a really good time.

GC: How's it feel compared to last season?

MZ: Last year was a lot of improv. I kind of didn’t know what was going on, but this year, of course because of the past experience, we were more prepared. And the tests were more challenging and I think they were better. We had more toys to play with, definitely.

GC: I'm curious about how all the cutting is going for you. I mean, the stuff you do for movies is choreographed without sharps and you have to pull your punches. Do you find it different from what you usually do in movies?

MZ: It’s part of the choreography. I’ve been training martial arts all my life and basically I try to train making my body do what I want, not just train one form. I’ve been training all my life different styles, different ways of kicking, acrobatics, so when I create a form or choreography for a show or a movie, it’s always new things that I have to adapt. So basically I try to have that flexibility when I’m working, you know? If you’re doing a fight scene, if you have to hit, or you don’t have to hit, you got to be able to be ready to tell your body what to do.

GC: You got to choreograph a sequence for this season. It was a delight to watch you work.

MZ: That was fun. That was cool. I’m happy and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turned out. It was a lot of fun – the ASSASSIN'S CREED obstacle course – it was pretty cool to be able to play and to be an assassin. It’s a really cool video game. Like REDEEMER (2014) too, of course.

Photo courtesy of El Rey Network

Photo courtesy of El Rey Network.


GC: We were talking about movie weapons earlier – how movie props are often made from chromed polypropylene. Is wielding real edged weapons different for you?

MZ: Yeah, of course. That’s part of it. They’re real. They’re steel and they’re heavy. When you’re swinging the thing, it’s heavy. So man, if you calculate wrong or do the wrong technique, you’re slashing your face. You got to be very careful. Even when people see that you’re doing just a regular cut, man, there’s adrenaline going there. Even if it’s a simple cut because you can sense the danger of what you’re holding. It’s pretty crazy.

Photo courtesy of El Rey Network

Photo courtesy of El Rey Network

GC: I’m sure our readers who train are dying to know – what’s your secret for martial arts training?

MZ: For me, something that I will leave there for the readers is the importance of nutrition and the way we feed ourselves, especially when we train. We’re aiming for longevity and performance, and health. We understand that training – what we do – is not natural. We’re not built to train and to do this type of stuff and keep pushing through life. So it’s very important. And for me, of course, it changed my life when I discovered the way that I should eat to perform and to be healthy and better. To make it very quick, I did a big change from the traditional diet that everybody knows, with a lot of carbohydrates, rice and pasta for the glycogen storage, and all that, heavy protein, a lot of animal protein like chicken breasts and steak and like lean meats and stuff like that. I transitioned to the totally opposite, something that all my life I’ve been told that it was wrong.

I was getting to a point that my body was breaking down. I was developing a lot of inflammation after my training. I had knee pain. I had acne. There was something my body was telling me and I couldn’t realize because in my brain, I was eating clean. I was eating no fat. I was eating carbs, steamed rice, steamed broccoli, steamed chicken breast, everything clean. And I was getting to a point where I didn’t have any type of energy in my body, like I’d just train and then I was crashing all day. And then I switched this around. I did some research and I started on high fat, low protein and very low carbs. And this changed my life, man.

I have the need to talk about this, and to encourage people. Sometimes you can have a problem and you don’t even know that you can fix it with nutrition. That was my case. I’ve never had more knee pain. I was ready to get surgery. I’ve never had more back pain. Never had more acne. My face, I was developing acne in my forehead. It was crazy. I was like "why?" And my energy levels – I’ve never felt sleepy again. I’ve never had that little like crash in the afternoon. Before I literally could be driving and falling asleep and I couldn’t beat. It was something in my body happening. And when I did the switch, energy levels, sleep great, no more acne, no more inflammation in knees. I didn’t have to do surgery on my knees. I stopped the surgery. It was so powerful to me that I went deep into it and I study it. And now I adapt and I’ve been finding the best way that works for me.

But I just want to leave that to the readers to think about that. Analyze what you’re putting into your body because basically that’s what your cells are getting to create new cells. Remember, we are new person each eight months. All our cells of our body are rebuilt. They’re remade. They’re different. We’re different totally human being every eight months. Every cell of our body is replaced so if the cells of our body don’t have the voltage and don’t have the nutrients to create a healthy new cell, every time you go through that time that the cell is dying and creating a new one and all that process, that cell is creating not such a good cell because it doesn’t have the materials to create a new cell. So this is all about nutrition. And we all the time are eating worse and worse – fast food, all this crap food, processed food. So this is much more important than what we imagine. It’s not about just getting my calories, getting my protein. The quality of what you are getting is from where you are getting it. For me, I transitioned for different things, but now I’m basically doing a high fat, more plant-based oriented diet.

Photo courtesy of El Rey Network

Photo courtesy of El Rey Network

GC: Are you vegetarian then?

MZ: I don’t call myself any name because I do sometimes have meat. I love meat. I love steak. But I understand that now I do that for pleasure, right? I was like one year and a half without touching a steak. I haven’t eaten chicken or fish for like two years already. So I’ve been doing this diet for four years but I started with an animal protein approach – high fat – but then I transitioned into a plant-based approach. The only animal product that I still eat is eggs. So this is very big because, before, I thought, "Oh, if I don’t eat my chicken breast, I’m not going to perform. I’m not going to develop muscle mass." And that’s all not true. You can get all your amino acids that you need. But you got to study and you got to do it right. If you just jump in to start doing a high fat diet or reducing animal protein and you don’t study it and you don’t do a little bit of research, you might feel not good. And you’d be doing more harm than good.

GC: So basically, this is a Keto diet, right?

MZ: For me, Keto diet, I don’t call it a diet because a Ketogenic metabolic state – a nutritional ketosis – is when your body do the switch and you use ketone bodies as fats, as fuel. So then there’s a transition that your body needs to do. For me, it took four months. You enter ketosis in like three weeks. But then to get your body to adapt to that and perform, it takes longer. As an athlete, it took me four months to recover my strength, to recover all that, because I lost strength. I lost weight and all that. But you build the enzymes. You build all the systems and mechanisms in your body to be able to optimize your energy. And when you’re in a ketogenic state and your body adapts to use ketones as energy, then the glucose you’re going to use for your training, it’s going to be the minimum possible. You’re so efficient. So you’re running in ketones and fats, a big percentage, and just using sugar because remember when you burn sugar, that’s toxic. When you eat sugar and rely on sugar, you raise your insulin. You develop free radicals. You develop more toxins so you develop a little more inflammation. So what happens when you switch your body into a ketogenic state, the inflammation in your system goes down. So that’s why I didn’t have to have surgery on my knee. That’s why my back pain is no longer. You recover faster from your training. You can have a really strong training and you recover faster, man, when your body has already adapted to this. To adapt and all that, it takes time and you got to do some research. And you need to find your way. Maybe for you, it is good using some dairy and it is good using animal products. In my case, I found out that the less amount of animal product, it’s better. I need to have a balance between saturated fats and mono-unsaturated fats and all that. I cannot go heavy, heavy on saturated fat like cheese and butter and all that. I need to stay away from all that. I need to do more olive oil. I need to do more plant-based stuff.

And maybe once in a while, as a pleasure, maybe once a month, it depends, if I have the opportunity to eat a good steak, I eat it. I got to live life. But it’s no longer any more like okay I got to eat my protein. It’s not part of my daily needs. That’s something that martial artists need. It can change your training. Actually, my flexibility – I’m able to do the splits now in the chairs and all that. I was not able to do that, not even when I was in my 20s. And today, I’m able to do that because I have less inflammation. I recover faster so there’s less pain in the hips, you see? So it improves your overall performance once you adapt good.

New episodes of Season 2 of EL REY Network's MAN AT ARMS: ART OF WAR are telecast on Wednesday nights except for Thanksgiving on EL REY Network. STAY SHARP!

Photo courtesy of El Rey Network.


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