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Retro Magazine RoundUp: Black Belt

Welcome to the 2nd edition of Retro Magazine Round-Up, where I explore the pages of old school periodicals and boy do we have something special today. From the decade where Ninjas ruled supreme in everything from movies to imaginary playground battles and especially toys, it's Black Belt magazine, haiiiiii! I picked this up at a local thrift store and its contents do not disappoint.

The publishers sure knew how to grab our attention with their cover images. But I gotta ask, why did that guy in white bring a bo staff to a katana fight, that was never going to end well. Notice how eclectic the article titles are as they name drop both Bruce Lee and Rodney Dangerfield in the same issue. I'll let you draw your own conclusions as to which big screen star caused some 13 year old to pick this up in 1989. Black Belt is definitely not appropriate for kids, but you know that's exactly who was scraping together $2.50 to take it home.

Now you may be asking, what exactly is Black Belt magazine filled with? If you guessed important tips on how to mortally wound your opponents using their vulnerable arteries, then you get a gold shuriken. I always thought Martial Arts was self-defense based, but as we'll soon find out, Black Belt is under the impression that Martial means "the art of awesome killing". Still, now I know to protect my wrists with 3-4 inches of solid steel if I'm ever up against an armed Ninja, speaking of which...

Do you feel the need to become a dark agent of death, but just can't find a supplier? Asian World of Martial Arts Inc has got you covered! Hand and foot spikes for scaling walls of your local stone castle? That checks out. Blo-Gun for knocking out guards with poison tipped darts? I'l buy that. But what Ninja is sporting a butterfly knife like some kind of urban gangbanger? That's pretty low-brow for a skilled assassin. Personally, I'd be all about that throwing spike set, if I had seen this ad in '89. The side of my backyard playhouse would have been a daily target for sure.

If you ever wondered where Jean Claude Van Damme gained his ability to make you ache just by watching him gratuitously doing the splits on the silver screen, look no further than this ad for "Stretching Scientifically". To really get the point across, shouldn't these guys be wearing lab coats and splitting over lit Bunsen burners? The claim that using this VHS tape will "cause a 267% GREATER INCREASE in flexibility" is charming in how specific that number is. It's as if they were literally measuring the results in a lab, "Gentleman, we were aiming for 100% increase, but through your hard work and determination, I'm proud to announce we've hit 267. Congratulations to you all."

Now I have to imagine that when you saw Rodney Dangerfield's name on the cover you never expected it would lead to a guy named Don cosplaying as the WWF's new superstar "Sexy Dracula", but here we are. In actuality this interview is about Don "The Dragon" Wilson (better not let Ricky Steamboat get wind of that name) getting respect for his impressive accomplishments in the world of kickboxing, a sport I feel I haven't heard a thing about since 1997. But to be fair, Don Wilson did go on to have a long running direct to video movie career with the Bloodfist series, even making his way into larger productions like Say Anything and Batman Forever.

While we're on the subject of movies, where do I find a copy of NINJA? With a title like that, it's got to be the definitive exploration of Ninjitsu on film. Just look at that guy with the  machine gun and the legendary ninja helicopter you've heard so much about. Plus, if you can prove your dedication to deadly combat, the film is "DISCOUNTED To Martial Artists ONLY $59.95 Includes A Free T-Shirt" and that's $20 more you have to spend on butterfly knives! I'm not gonna lie, that painted graphic belongs a neon tank top, like now. On a side note, the production company for Ninja was located in Newport Beach, CA just a few miles from where I grew up, so I'm surprised my Karate class didn't go on a field trip to the set at some point.

Back to the informative articles. Let's explore to how to react to a true life threatening situation with these 9 Steps To Courage. I'm sure you're getting held up at knife point in broad daylight by "crouching mugger, hidden mullet" every time you wait at the local bus stop, right? Well, according to this handy guide, "The Antidote For Fear" is to go limp. Basically, "You should be in a mentally relaxed position where you expect nothing, but are ready for everything." Mm-hm, just as I suspected, keep my mind blank and I'll be just fine. Riiiight. Not so sure this is something I'd clip out and send to my buddy, The Cowardly Lion, but our next ad would definitely bring a smile to his face.

Chuck Norris knows that drug dealers, international terrorists and Joe Piscopo lurk around every corner of suburban life and that's why you need, ACTION JEANS! Obviously you need a pair of these denim bad boys "developed by Chuck Norris for stunt fighting in action movies" because you never know when Don "The Dragon" Wilson will decide to start shooting the climax of Bloodfist 12 behind your local laundromat and you want to be ready for some on-site extra work. Seriously though, you see a guy walking towards you in a pair of Action Jeans, you better cross the street pronto, 'cause that dude is primed for a fight. Just sayin'.

As we flip to the back cover let's never forget the true purpose of Black Belt magazine, to outfit the Urban Ninja with as much supposed Japanese weaponry as possible. This is insanity. There was a kid in my 4th grade class who claimed to own actual ninja stars and I laughed him off at the time. Now I know how close I came to death in doubting his ability to order razor sharp metal projectiles from the back of magazine for as low as $1.50 each. That's right, for less than the cost of this magazine you could have seriously injured a chosen target from 10-12 feet away. It was just that easy in the 80's!

So besides our own NLogan, who I'm pretty sure is registered as a Lethal Weapon in 5 countries, which of you out there came across a copy of Black Belt back in the day? Did you ever try the moves? Order a weapon or wear a pair of Action Jeans to your high school prom? I gotta hear about it.

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mickyarber Posted on Feb 14, 2018 at 04:10 PM

I just love going through old magazines, and you seem to have found a real winner here my friend. I never picked up an issue to take home, but I did flip through these on the magazine rack at the grocery store since they were right beside the wrestling magazines.

Don "The Dragon" Wilson was also a commentator on some of the first UFC shows. He was part of the three-man team, and his role was to tell you just how dangerous each of the moves were being used by the fighters.

jkatz Posted on Feb 14, 2018 at 01:18 AM

This article brought back memories of the martial arts classes that I took from the 6th to the 10th grade. My instructor had stacks and stacks of these magazines, as well as other cool magazines like Wizard and Heavy Metal. He had all the equipment mentioned here wouldn't surprise me if this is where he ordered it from!

I sure would like to see that Ninja movie advertised in the offer, but with such a generic title and no listed director, tracking it down will be tricky.
I did find Douglas Ivan on IMDB though. I think.

NLogan Posted on Feb 13, 2018 at 11:28 PM

The greatest thing about the Chuck Norris action pants is that they were a blend of denim with a spandex like gusset in the crotch for your head high kicks without the blowout problems of other jeans. For when you need to kick some sense into people but don't want to split your pants. Classic.

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