Jarrah Loh- An interview with an Australian Martial Arts Editor and Author
So I thought I'd branch out a bit for y'all and include something rarely seen on Bullshido.net; an interview with someone who has a positive effect on our passion, martial arts. I've been in contact with Jarrah Loh for a little while and as the editor of the Australian martial arts institutions, Blitz Magazine and Inside MMA, among others, as well as author of ULTIMATE: The Complete Guide to UFC and Mixed Martial Arts, I was extremely happy that he agreed to an interview with me. As an added bonus, he let me know that he and his office are fans of Bullshido.net, holding the website in high regard and respect.
Me: ULTIMATE: The Complete Guide to the UFC and Mixed Martial Arts is a great introduction to new Aussie fans and a fantastic read for seasoned fans alike. The growth of this sport in Australia is phenomenal; per capita I understand we have one of the highest rates of interest. Just three years ago it was a struggle to find a venue showing even a major UFC, now local bars have it on as a matter of course. Your book is well timed, Aussie oriented and comprehensive, giving an insight into some of the techniques that often baffle the newcomer. For that, I want to thank you, I have bought my mate a copy because he loves the sport but is always confused by those techniques that many of us with experience take for granted.
JL: Yes, Australia does in fact have the highest ratio of supports. Thank you for the feedback on my book, I’m glad because that is exactly what I tried to do. I’d never seen any book that explained the techniques to a fan, only instructional books for those learning. I wanted it to be something that people kept going to and using as a reference. I have had a lot of good feedback and I know that for some it has become their bible. Which is very flattering.
Me: What was your main inspiration behind writing the book?
JL: Obviously, I have been a huge MMA fan for a long time, and a writer, and basically there was no book like mine. Naturally, UFC released a very similar book the same month I did. They’d even seen my book back to front long before it was released…but that is another story! There was the MMA Encyclopedia, but that was only black & white and was more opinion pieces than history and facts. I wanted to make a true guide and resource for fans. The biggest inspiration had actually nothing to do with MMA. I had a book when I was a young teenager about NBA. It was much like my own book. It had all the player profiles, the history, the moves. Everything. I loved that book and I ate it up. I remember I loved reading about all the old legendary basketball matches and they seemed so mythic and made me want to explore and find out more and more. I know we only have a young sport, but I have heard directly from people that my book had this exact effect on them also – sending them into research about the Gracie’s or Pride etc. So I couldn’t have asked for more.
Me: Where do you currently train?
JL: I only train privately now, and simply for fun. I have several friends that have been training martial arts for most of their life like myself, so we train together when we can. I realise the irony that the more success I’ve found in writing about martial arts, the less and less I actually have time to train it. But my body is happy for the fact [laughs].
Me: What is your martial arts background?
JL: I started in a small time karate offshoot when I was eight or nine, and have trained in many disciplines ever since.
Me: Most fond martial arts memory?
JL: It’s cliché now, but around the time I began to discover BJJ was so exciting. Like most of us growing up in Australia, I knew nothing about grapping and ground fighting. Those first couple of lessons were mind blowing to me. I thought it was probably the coolest thing I’d ever been shown. I wish it were around here when I was a kid; I would have loved it more than anything. I loved wrestling with my brother and my mates and I can only imagine what it would have been like if we’d actually known some technique. I still think it is the most fun you can have while fighting.
Me: Considering you know of Bullshido.net and I’m assuming our primary directive, what is the worst example of bullshido (fraudulent practices/ claims/ etc by martial artists to sell their services to an unsuspecting and uneducated public) that you’ve ever seen?
JL: Working for Blitz, International Kickboxer and Inside MMA magazine, you can only imagine the kind of ridiculousness we see on a DAILY basis. I don’t want to get a molotov cocktail through my window, so I won’t mention his name, but there is an Australian MMA fighter that has achieved a fairly high status in world MMA among strong allegations of fight fixing and other dodgy activities. His father is a reportedly powerful underworld type and there are many more accusations attached to his name. He once advertised in Blitz years before I was here, claiming he was the world no-rules champion or some crap and that he could teach you the secrets etc. Then years later he was almost knocked out on Bully Beatdown by the bully [laughs]. Now he is back and about to fight Rolles Gracie, so that will be interesting. If you know Aussie MMA, you know who he is.
Me: Indeed. I have been a regular reader of Blitz since I was a teenager and Inside MMA since inception (and have been printed in both) and it seems you are expanding upon expanding. Can you give us any insight into future publications?
JL: We are expanding into the digital realm more and more. The magazine is now on iPad and we are setting up a web TV channel. There are some big changes for Inside MMA magazine this year, but I will keep it on the downlow for now.
Me: Being that many of your publications would rely on advertising dollars, have you ever decided against printing an advertisement or article because you thought it was too bullshit? Is there any McDojos you wouldn't advise anyone to visit?
JL: In the early days before the internet I’m sure several dodgy advertisers got through, but certainly over my tenure we have been very strict. We truly do hold our standards very high and I don’t think you will see any that fit into those categories in our magazines. We will not take money for anything – we don’t just write martial arts, we live it. And even though it is our livelihood, we often reject advertising. So much so that these kind of businesses don’t even come asking anymore. Even big organisations, like GKR, which is the biggest karate club in Australia – you will not see advertising from them in our magazines. And while you may see a small and budget looking advert from a small time trainer, we prefer to help them because we know they are the real thing, as opposed to simply all show.
Me: Bravo! Australia’s biggest bullshido artist?
JL: Off the top of my head: Robert Wilesmith. It aint the ‘90s anymore. You can’t claim rubbish world title belts and think no one will notice.
Me: Who would you say are the Aussie/ New Zealand up and comers to watch out for? Any predictions on a first Aussie UFC champion, or any advice for up and comers regarding management, etc?
JL: There are loads of guys coming up. I wouldn’t want to favour someone, but we have a New Blood section in Inside MMA every issue. They’re all in there.
If you can convince him to manage you, Justin Lawrence has probably been doing it longer than anyone in this country.
Me: With the Olympics on at the moment, there is talk on social media, including proponents of Muay Thai, BJJ and MMA, that an amateur level should be included in the Olympics? Thoughts?
JL: I know that Muay Thai has been pushing hard, but I can’t see that ever happening. It would be amazing if it did and full power to the WMC for trying, but I think it is a very long shot. I don’t see why BJJ couldn’t. Maybe they should scrap judo and wrestling (blasphemous, I know!) and have a grappling competition. That would be great to watch. As for MMA, it makes sense if you see the sports that are already involved. I can’t see it happening for a long time, but I don’t care either way. Mainstream acceptance doesn’t necessarily improve a sport. It is ironic than pankration was the seminal sport of the ancient Olympics though.
Me: I like the idea! The Asian MMA markets seem to be kicking out more promotions again, maybe in response to the UFCs declaration they want to move into that market. Which promotion is the one to watch over there?
JL: One FC is definitely the one to watch. Legend FC is also great, but One really have a fire under them now.
AHEM, BATTLEFIELDS' SELF AGGRANDISING NOTE: http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=117200
Me: Where do you see the Australian fight scene in the next five years?
JL: I think UFC interest will settle a little and the huge peaks will go, but I think MMA will be much more popular across the board, in terms of simply a legitimate sport and a martial art for training. We simply need to keep it squeaky clean and presentable to people. The further we move away from the dirty and dodgy activities linked with homegrown fight promotions of the past, the better it will be for everyone. And I do see that happening. I believe the next generation of fighters is less linked with bikies and the underworld and more associated with good health and training.
Me: Totally agree, some of the promotions used to appear as little more than promotions for dog fights, I'll also not mention any names for fear of a molotov cocktail [laughs]. What do you have planned for the future?
JL: My book has done well and I will soon be releasing an MMA fiction book series entitled Cageside Chronicles. It has been building for a while and I have had a lot of interest. Follow me on Twitter at JarrahLoh or go to www.jarrahloh.com to keep up to date. Always loved the Bullshido – keep up the important work!
Me: Right back at you, Jarrah. Thanks again for your time, I look forward to working with you again in the future.