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Bringing Tekken To Real Life - Interview - Two Left Sticks
Tekken

Bringing Tekken To Real Life – Interview

Seeing a video game go from the polygonal world to the real world is always interesting.  At times the transition doesn’t work out for the best due to a particular element not making the leap properly.  Yet in other instances, it’s surprising to see how seamless and well executed a shift a video game can make into real life.  One example of such perfection is the Tekken In Real Life videos from Eric Jacobus.

READY FOR ACTION

A veteran martial artist and stunt performer, Eric Jacobus decided to combine his passions, martial arts, and video games, to do something different. In 2015 Eric began his Tekken In Real Life video series. In this series, Eric completely recreates a character move list from an entry in the Tekken series.  The reception to these videos were overwhelmingly positive thanks to the amazing skill level displayed by Eric. But what motivated Eric to start bringing Tekken to the real world?

“I made a video reel that cataloged 200 different kicks called The Kicktionary in 2014.  And for the second one, the Tekken move lists were such an ample source of new kicks that I figured I could just do an entire character and stylize it like the Tekken games,” said Eric Jacobus in an interview with Two Left Sticks.

 

RESEARCH AND PREP

While not as fantastical as Mortal Kombat, stringing together moves performed in Tekken seemed like something only an elite few to do. Though in Eric’s videos he makes what was believed to be complex moves look like a near cakewalk.

Recreating these moves were, of course, not an easy task. On the topic of research and the high skill level involved Eric said, “Most Tekken moves were done by martial artists and stunt performers in motion capture suits and then recreated in 3D. So those moves are already part of the language of stunts. But some moves and combos are hand-animated, so nobody ever did them in real life.”

“Those require a lot of planning (and lots of takes). If it’s physically impossible to do then I’ll go for a comedic gag. Or I’ll cut it out completely, like Baek’s Hunting Hawk. People think that move is possible in real life, so I like to put the challenge out there and say, “If it’s possible, somebody do it and post it.” Nobody ever does it.”

BREAKING POINT

As can be seen in his videos, Eric at times may do a minor slip up when replicating a move. This, of course, is to be expected since replicating moves from Tekken isn’t an easy feat. But has Eric ever been on the verge of a breaking point and wanting to quit? “I had a hell of a time with Raven,” said Eric. “His move list is massive and full of weird combos. Lei Wulong was a different kind of challenge. Lots of his move involve falling on the ground, so even though his moves were feasible, after doing ten of them I wanted to call it a day.”

A TRUE FAN

For Eric, Tekken wasn’t just an easy way to make a video and capitalize on what players desire. A lifelong gamer, Tekken is something special for Eric due to what it represents.

On what Tekken means to him Eric said, “Tekken was what introduced martial arts to a lot of us at the arcade. It was the first time we could participate in a variety of iconic styles. Most of us never really had a grasp on Capoeira until we played as Eddy Gordo. Playing as Tekken characters brought a new appreciation of martial arts. Reenacting them in these move lists has multiplied the effect.”

REWARDING FEEDBACK

The feedback Eric receives from Tekken fans and players across the world is of course what drives him to continue.  Eric has also received feedback from none other than the man behind the Tekken franchise – Katushiro Harada.

Being a long time Tekken fan, this was a rewarding moment for Eric. “When Harada-san retweeted the Bob IRL video it was a huge honor. I’ve partnered with him, Michael Murray, and the Tekken team at Bandai-Namco doing a panel at Comic-Con.  Hopefully, we can collaborate some more. It’s such an exciting time because fans can repurpose their favorite media, get the attention of the owners, and partner up to create new things,” Eric said.

THE YOSHIMITSU NIGHTMARE

So far Eric has provided a wide array of Tekken videos, some of which matches the look of the character. But it’s none other than Yoshimitsu which has Eric stumped at the moment. Not only is it’s Yoshi’s unique appearance that’s proving difficult to match, but it’s his extensive move list as well.

“I have nightmares about doing Yoshimitsu’s move list. Finding the right costume, holding a sword the whole time, and doing the acrobatic moves won’t be easy,” said Eric. “Plus I have to finish all the other characters first because his suicide move will put me out of commission for a while. Can I collect workman’s comp for that?”

FUTURE TEKKEN

As it stands now, Eric has a nice relationship with the Tekken team and the folks over at Bandai-Namco. Could this perhaps result in Eric doing some official videos once Tekken 7 finally arrives on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One?

“We’ve had talks, but it’s not something I can get into at the moment. However, I should have an Akuma IRL move list done by the release date,” Eric said on the topic of potential Tekken 7 promo videos.

Besides Tekken 7, players are also patiently waiting to see what’s next for Tekken in the world of cinema. A 2010 live-action Tekken film failed to take advantage of a talented cast and accurately depict the lore.  That failure was then followed up in 2011 by a computer animated film, Blood Vengeance, which was produced by Bandai-Namco.  Despite staying true to the source material, Blood Vengence still left fans hungry since it only contained a fraction of the large Tekken cast.  Being a fan and filmmaker, Eric, of course, has some things he would like to see in a future Tekken movie.

“I’m not sure what the legal situation is with Tekken live-action media rights.  But I’d love to play Paul Phoenix in an origin story, with him and Law training in Chinatown.  Lei Wulong as an undercover cop, and the lot of them going off to this secret tournament and entering this insane world that takes them by surprise. It’d be like a new Enter the Dragon. That’s my ideal. But, legally speaking it might not be possible.”

THE WORLD OF MORTAL KOMBAT

Known to players for his Tekken videos, Eric also dabbled in the world of Mortal Kombat.  In 2013, Eric portrayed Kurtis Stryker in the second season of the popular Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series.

For Eric, his time on Legacy was enjoyable despite the rather hectic production schedule. “Season two was shot so quickly,” said Eric of his Mortal Kombat: Legacy experience. “I think they did the whole thing in 12 days. We had 30 minutes to shoot my fight against Liu Kang (Brian Tee). They didn’t even have time to kill my character off. I’m disappointed not many people saw the series because it wasn’t bad. People responded well to the first season taking on a dark tone, and the games themselves have darkened in tone since MK3, but maybe Season 2 of MK Legacy was too serious.”

Eric Jacobus as Stryker

Elaborating on the serious tone Legacy had Eric continued, “There’s a tendency lately to “adult-ify” media by ditching humor. That’s a mistake. We need humor more than ever because things are so tense everywhere. The Tekken IRL videos have funny moments, like the Catastrophic Cat Cameo in every episode, even though Tekken itself rarely ventures into comedy.”

MARTIAL ARTS CINEMA

Working in the industry as a performer and choreographer, Eric has a deep knowledge of martial arts cinema. While the Asian film industry has inspired the direction action choreographers to take in Western efforts, there’s more immediate inspiration for everyone to outperform each other. This at times, however, can lead to muddled results which fail to capture the proper essence of a fight scene.

“Chinese martial arts films are mimicking the Hong Kong style, but they’re caught up in making it look more Hollywood with tighter angles and faster editing. It’s a total reversal now because American action directors like Chad Stahelski, Clayton Barber, and J.J Perry coordinated with Yuen Woo Ping, Sammo Hung, Corey Yuen and all these HK expatriates. They took that same Hong Kong style and Americanized it. John Wick is a better example of the action we love than Ip Man 3 or SPL 2.”

Eric then continued, “Thai cinema exploded when Panna Rittikrai and Tony Jaa created a no-bullshit style that felt like martial arts Jackass or some crazy YouTube video.  That fell apart when the talent went overseas and with Panna’s passing. So the production teams try to sell action with camera angles and editing, which never works for long. They’ll need to find their style or their films will become more insular again. South Korea, by contrast, has found a flavor that mixes big Hollywood style with arthouse and grit.”

Eric, however, does feel that indie filmmakers, such as himself, are helping to keep the industry fresh.”The indie action market in the US and Europe keeps innovating with action, which is a great way to impact the mainstream market. These folks are the ones who keep upping the ante in Hollywood. They’re the filmmakers who showed what was possible. That’s my personal motto – stop complaining and go make a movie.”

“If I have one note for the indie market, it’s to focus on making story drive the action. Test fights are great to show coordinators and get jobs, but story is king. If you start with story, and craft the action to that without letting your biases in, then you’re a master of action.”

THE NEXT CHALLENGE

While Eric will continue making Tekken videos, he also has other projects in the works. Already having created a series of short films such as the Jackie Chan inspired Rope A Dope, Eric has another film in the works inspired by a classic.

“We’ve got an exciting short film coming out soon called Blindsided, in which I play a blind Zatoichi-like martial artist who thwarts a mafia shakedown at a friend’s (Roger Yuan) store. We did our homework so we could recreate the Zatoichi character in modern day America. I spent time blindfolded with a blind athlete in San Francisco, who helped us craft the story and character in a realistic way.”

Tekken

Blindsided has major talent involved, one of whom was responsible for a standout hit last year. “Blindsided is directed by my business partner Clayton Barber, who choreographed Creed,” Eric stated.

“As a team, we live and breathe action, so we knew we had action covered. It was Clayton’s hand that really drove the story forward, which makes it stand out as a martial arts film. Blindsided should be out around early 2017 after it runs the festival circuit.”

A PERFECT TRIBUTE

Over the past year, Eric provided videos that aren’t only fun but pay tribute to the Tekken series. Not only is it cool to see something from a video game created in real-life, but it’s also captivating to see Eric’s skill as a martial artist. With Tekken 7 on the horizon, it’s certain that Eric will have a busy time ahead of him as he continues bringing Tekken to real life.

 

Ian Fisher
A Chicago native, I'm a six year veteran of the game press industry with a deep passion for smaller indie games and all things Sony.

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