King Kong, the Ultimate Fighting Champion

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

I first saw King Kong — the original — at age 14 or so, well before I knew anything about real martial arts. (I believe I had a couple years of strip-mall McDojo kempo under my brown belt.) It struck me as a better movie than I expected, with much better special effects than I expected for a movie from the 1930s.

Years later I found myself at a ritzy party where the host was playing classic movies throughout the house, when I started watching Kong’s famous bout with the T-Rex — and I noticed that Kong had just shot in for a single-leg takedown.

And he circled to take Rex down. He was using legitimate grappling techniques! Naturally I couldn’t stop watching.

Throughout the match Kong ties up Rex. I suppose the head-and-arm tie-up has unique strengths and weaknesses against a dinosaur with very big teeth and very small arms.

At one point he actually steps in and hip-tosses the big lizard.

After taking Rex down with a sagging headlock, he goes for the ground-and-pound, but Rex gets his legs in — classic jiu-jitsu — and pushes him away. (OK, it’s not quite a black-belt’s open guard, but it’s something.)

In the subsequent scramble, Kong hops on Rex’s back and goes for the rear naked choke. (Note: “naked” because it doesn’t use the opponent’s collar or lapel; known as mata leão or kill the lion in Portuguese.)

Finally, after snapping Rex’s jaw and breaking his neck, Kong stands victorious, roaring and beating his chest — just like any good mixed-martial arts (MMA) victor in UFC or Pride.

I recommend watching the whole fight (7.45 MB).

Edit: I’d been wondering how and why that fight scene was so well choreographed. I had assumed that the stop-motion animators were working from footage of pro wrestlers (back when the bouts were fairly credible). It turns out there’s an even better explanation (from IMDB):

Both Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack had been wrestlers, and they acted out the fighting moves for the battle between the T Rex and Kong in the effects studio, before the animators shot the scene.

Edit: A Danish jiu-jitsu purple-belt by the name of Christian Berger Graugart has posted the footage to YouTube — with no reference to this page. Sigh.

Edit 2: Christian Berger Graugart has updated his post to reference to this page. Huzzah!

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