Turn on the Martial Arts Channel

By Gene Ching

There's been a lot of talk about a martial arts television network recently. Cable networks offer all sorts of specialized channels like golf, soccer, health, military, and Asian programming; with an estimated 21.7 million martial arts practitioners in America alone, a martial arts channel seems a natural. Despite all the right intentions, the bulk of the previous attempts to establish such a network have been amateur at best. Standing above the rest is the Martial Arts Channel (MAC), which made their second showing at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) annual trade show held in April at San Francisco's Moscone Center. None of the other proposed cable networks have made it this far. Dubbed "the National Show," NCTA is a mandatory stop for any serious contender for cable airwaves. Some 17,000 industry people participate, and it's not open to the public. With cable giants like Steve Burke (President of Comcast Cable Networks) and Glenn Britt (CEO of Time Warner Cable) at the helm, any niche channel, such as MAC, has to get out here first and work it.

And work it they did. Amongst the hundreds of exhibitors, MAC boasted one of the largest schedules of activities, including demos of lion dance, kung fu, yoga, tai chi, wushu, breaking, kali, muay thai and TaeBo?. Billy Blanks (and daughter Shellie) made an appearance, along with Shaun Baker of VIP. As kiai shouts and grunts mixed with duck calls from the neighboring Outdoor Channel booth, complimentary issues of Kung Fu Tai Chi were offered as freebies to curious conventioneers. Master Dennis Brown and his beauty-pageant daughter Symone worked the crowd beside MAC founder Anthony Cort, MAC marketing Claude Wells and MAC programming director Mike du Monceau.

Given the magnitude of the martial arts lifestyle, there's an incredible wealth of content just waiting to be televised. While every movie rental place has an extensive catalog of martial arts films (indeed, many of us have fond memories of watching late night kung fu movies in the days before cable), Cort has a broader vision. By expanding into the health and fitness world, Cort sees a wide appeal - thus the inclusion of yoga into programming. On hand at NCTA for a demonstration was MAC's in-house expert Robin Downes of Yoga Flava?. With an estimated 17 million yoga practitioners, and the inclusion of kickboxing, TaeBo? and yoga in health clubs across the nation (some 36 million members), yoga cross-over is a popular venture for all martial arts businesses.

Will the dream of a martial arts channel finally become reality? Cort is confident that they will succeed very soon, if not by the end of the year. He's already mastered the demanding production standards of Cable TV to produce DVDs of the 2004 US Capitol Classics and Joe Corley's Battle of Atlanta. For live events, MAC does a seven-camera shoot, raising the bar for martial arts coverage to that of other professional sports. MAC's aggressive campaign has attracted a board of advisors that includes several renowned figures in the martial arts today: Billy Blanks, Master Dennis Brown, Eric Chen, Richard Diamond, Irving Fryar, Master Alan Goldberg, Zosia Gorbaty, Chuck Jeffries, Jef Naayers, Master Ernie Reyes, Grand Master Jhoon Rhee, Master Don Rodrigues, Cynthia Rothrock, and Michael Jai White. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, we look forward to tuning in and turning on MAC.

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