Can I go hand to hand with history’s fiercest fighters?
By Harmon Leon
DR. ARMAND DORIAN LOOKS AT ME for a moment. “What warrior in history do you think you’re most suited to be?” he asks, very seriously. I am ready for his question. “Sun Tzu, because he was cunning. [Pause] And I liked his book, The Art of War. Or maybe a ninja because I’m lean and wiry,” I add, emphasizing this by doing a few improvised ninja moves. “Yeah, a ninja.”
My true inner-killer combatant is about to be revealed as I undergo a personalized warrior assessment from the chief physician of Spike TV’s Deadliest Warrior—the show where civilization’s most skilled military fighters are pitted against one another to determine last warrior standing: Vikings clash with samurais; Green Berets skirmish Spetsnaz; Maoris collide with Shaolin monks. Deadliest Warrior mixes History Channel’s nerd fac tor, MMA-induced testosterone, and MythBusters’ let’s-buildit ingenuity, as a team of experts analyzes every facet of these warriors’ unique combative skills. Dr. Dorian’s role is to assess the damage weapons can render to the human body, examining the warrior’s physicality to dissect a comprehensive breakdown for the final Deadliest Warrior fantasy battle showdown.
We’re at LA Fitness in Van Nuys, California, where he’s putting me through a series of physical tests to determine which group of warriors from history I’m most likely to fight alongside—to the death!
“Attila the Hun would drink the blood of his horses to be intimidating,” Dorian explains, with an invigorating enthusiasm usually seen in cooking-show hosts. “Sure, it would freak people out, but it’s a bad diet—it causes diarrhea, which would slow you down in battle.”
“Okay, no blood drinking!” I pledge as he measures my diet, build, strength, and stamina. Remembering
junior high gym class, I do eight pull-ups to test my potential to kill an opponent on the battlefield, like William “Braveheart” Wallace (whose roguish crew of Lowland Warriors last faced a fantasy DW showdown against Shaka Zulu).
“This is to simulate the environment. You might have had to pull yourself up through trees before striking.”
“Okay,” I grunt.
Immediately dropping to the ground, I pick up a large metal bar and swing toward the cheap seats for accuracy—simulating a mighty Claymore sword at the Battle of Falkirk.
“Do you have the ability to kill with one swing so your opponent can’t come back at you?” Dorian asks. “A big weapon can lop a head off, but if it misses, it pisses him off—that’s a huge factor.”
“What’s your favorite weapon in history?” I ask.
“I think the coolest tool was used by the Rajput warrior—the knife-and fork combo. He had a blade that sat on top of the arm, so the arm became a sword.” His eyes light up. “His other arm had a draw that turned one blade into three.
“Some of these weapons have not been built for hundreds and hundreds of years—and they are actually building them in our basement right now.”
The Deadliest Warrior prop depart ment builds everything from Revolutionary War cannons utilized by George Washington to medieval catapults that William the Conquer or used to hurl carcasses of plague-infected people over castle walls—the first documented biological weapon.
“The mental game is important,” Dorian says, “being able to understand your opponents and having them not understand you.”
Dorian pulls out a huge, authentic samurai katana sword with dangling red tassels. He has me draw the sword
from its sheath, demonstrating that a shorter sword is sometimes best, as it allows the warrior to get to his weapon first.
“There’s a huge art to this—the art of war,” Dorian says as he swings the sword, the red tassels hypnotizing
my senses. “You become distracted and your eyes immediately go to the red, as opposed to where you want them to go.”
He hands me the sword, along with a shield that acts as an extension of my forearm. Japanese body armor is put on a human-size dummy sitting in a chair at the center of the exercise room.
“It’s your job to infiltrate the tent,” Dorian says, adding that my mission is to kill the human-size dummy with a singular strike of my sword. He points to some giant, heavy bags. “But first you have to make it through multiple different warriors. I want you to make sure you hit every single bag—then rush in. You have one opportunity to kill this guy. Try to think where you would strike.”
“I have an idea,” I say, getting sword and shield into position. With a burst, I go all Jackie Chan, punching and drop-kicking my way through the heavy bags. Adrenaline pumping, I strike the dummy with my samurai sword John Belushi–style, knocking its head to the floor. I pick it up and drop-kick the head across the room, screaming, “Take no prisoners!”
The assessment: First, be careful of the props. Second, once I hit a warrior, I should focus ahead and already be thinking about killing the next warrior. Also, with the width of the samurai blade, it takes an immense amount of force to fracture the ribs and pierce the heart. But with a simple twist, the weapon simply goes right under the ribs for an instant kill.
Dorian says, “The beauty of this blade is, it has a curve so it allows you to come right around his armor, and boom—it slices through the left chest into the left ventricle.” He gets almost giddy: “The cardiac output of something like that will literally make the blood squirt and hit the wall. In five seconds his blood pressure would drop to where he’d be unconscious.”
“Wicked!” I shriek.
The doctor adds insight gathered from his day job at a real-life hospital trauma room: “I’ve seen so many slash victims and they all make it—I have my interns suture them up and they go home that day. If you can’t get into the chest cavity you’re going home.”
Time for my final warrior test: “I want you to tag that bag, tag that bag, tag that bag, then see if you can thrust your sword into the heart.”
I take off, sprinting five times across the room.
Like one of an attacking Mongol horde, I again lunge toward my human-size-dummy target, this time jabbing my implement into the kill zone again and again and again, until I’m told to stop.
“I think he’s dead.”
Now the moment I’ve been waiting for: Which warrior from history will I be? A lean Spartan, a pillaging Viking, or maybe a crafty Knight Templar?
“I would put you in the French Foreign Legion,” Dorian says. “They are the elite of European Special Forces. They’re the bad boys. They’re all rebels and the most intensely trained. They’re a band of brothers; the only reason they have to fight is for each other. The French Foreign Legion is a different breed of warrior with a rebellious attitude.”
I beam with pride. A bad-boy warrior—I can live with that. Maybe drop-kicking my opponent’s head was the extra effort that did it?