The Jim Norton Show
Meet the British Grandfather Who Taught Brazil’s Riot Police How to Fight
The Brazilian police don’t have the best reputation when it comes to dealing with their public. Mostly because their way of doing so seems to involve a lot of firing tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters. Understandably, that’s not an image Brazil’s government is keen to maintain; hyper-violent police are pretty embarrassing, especially when the world’s media is watching. So ahead of the World Cup—which Brazilian protesters weren’t best pleased about—they decided to do something about it.
Steve Costello, a 72-year-old grandfather of 11 from Bolton, has been teaching karate in Brazil for 20 years. In the mid-1990s he was recruited to teach police non-violent suppression techniques, presumably so they could deal with threats without adding to theiralready massive civilian death toll. Ahead of the World Cup he was asked to give Sao Paulo’s riot police a few lessons in his brand of karate. I gave him a call to see how that went.
VICE: Hi Steve. So how did you get into training Brazilian riot police karate?
Steve Costello: It first started in 1996. I was the first English instructor to do a karate course in Curitiba, a city on the coast. I was teaching kids, but the chief of the riot police was present. He asked me to do a training session with the police forces, and after that I got invited over to Brazil on several occasions to train with the Command Operations Elite, the mounted police, firemen and the state cavalry troops. There were also a lot of training sessions organized with the military police in Curitiba and other cities. They even invited the riot police over from São Paolo to Curitiba to join the sessions.
What was it they wanted to learn?
I taught them the technique of Ryūkyū karate, which basically employs the use of pressure points, grabs and restraints when fighting against an armed opponent. It’s more about controlling and defusing a situation efficiently with minimum injuries on both sides, rather than turning to the use of lethal weapons.
Is that so different to what they usually do?
Ryūkyū karate is a combat style, but it’s based on street survival. The police commanders who saw my training liked the fact that it’s less violent than other techniques. You give your opponent bruises, but you don’t seriously hurt them. During the year leading up to the World Cup I even taught the cavalry techniques of how to survive in close combat, in case they have to fight on the ground. When I was growing up in Manchester as a young boy I naturally got into fights with the Teddy Boys and the skinheads, which taught me to be street wise.
Did you use any weapons during the training?
Yes. The police used a certain type of baton to defend themselves against knives—small pieces of wood that can be extended with a telescopic button.
Bare-Knuckle Boxing in the UK
Once regarded as something that happens exclusively in Guy Ritchie films and on Gypsy sites, bare-knuckle boxing is fast becoming a thriving scene in the UK—the ultimate British bloodsport.
When Clive Martin embeds with the bare-knuckle boxing elite, what he discovers is not dissimilar to Fight Club: IT technicians, builders, lifestyle coaches, and even a lawyer, all throwing their unprotected fists into one another’s faces. It’s a subculture of honor, pride, and violence.
As the UK prepares to play host to the first US-vs.-UK bare-knuckle title fight in 150 years—the biggest event the scene has known since it went underground in the 19th century—Clive tries to find out whether violence is a cause or effect for these angry young men.
"I’m not sure Polish people understand what pro wrestling is. Their history is full of wars; they were always engaged in a battle with someone—so the very idea of fighting, even for sport, is a very serious deal to them. In general, as a nation, they are very serious. Americans can chill out a bit. We understand that this is just entertainment. It’s still a sport, as everything that happens in the ring hurts quite a lot, but it’s strictly for the enjoyment of the audience."
Is the Military About to Allow Transgender Soldiers?
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel caused a bit of a stir over the weekend when he said that the US military’s ban on transgender soldiers “continually should be reviewed" during an appearance on ABC’s The Week. In addition to reminding everyone that Sunday talk shows aren’t just several hours of teeth gnashing and inhuman wailing, Hagel raised a few eyebrows among LGBT advocacy organizations, as his remarks come in the wake of a March report issued by the Palm Center that estimated some 15,000 transgender people are surreptitiously serving in the armed forces right now in addition to 130,000 or so trans veterans in the population at large.
But does Hagel’s vague promise to take another look at the issue—coupled with his forthright declaration that “every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it”—mean the Pentagon is actually going to change its policies? One encouraging sign came Wednesday when military officials announced they were considering a request from Chelsea Manning, the former intelligence officer charged with leaking troves of classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010, to be transferred to a civilian prison for gender treatment therapy. Indeed, the latest report suggests Hagel has already approved the request and it’s just a question of working out the logistics. More broadly, transgender advocates and military observers I spoke to are actually quite optimistic about the prospects for reform, even if the timeline remains cloudy at best.
Molls: Australia’s Female Douchebags
Earlier this year, two young women in Queensland, Australia, were filmed verbally and physically assaulting an old man on a bus while shouting slurs about aboriginal people. The resulting video introduced the world to Australia’s one truly unique contribution to the global taxonomy of douches: the moll. Most countries have loud, irritating, and offensive youths, but only we have the special breed of scrag capable of committing a violent racist act while wearing $40 shoes, $300 sunglasses, and a cocktail dress.
The moll shares several things in common with her male counterpart. She loves drinking and her friends, is not above punching someone in the face, and spends eons getting an outfit together. Her dresses resemble those worn by early-2000s Latin Grammy Award winners. She gets her tan from a can and works in places with names like Ice, Magnetic, or Xposed. At times, she’s indistinguishable from any other young woman. What sets her apart is the pure primal aggression with which she lives her life—she controls every situation through a terrifying mix of heightened competitive sexuality, simmering violence, and a confidence derived from a dozen or so watermelon Cruisers.Before dark they stalk suburban malls in tracksuits and $40 worth of makeup, calling shop assistants bitches for not sharing their staff discount at Cotton on Body [sort of the Aussie equivalent to Victoria’s Secret]. When night falls they shed their fleecy skins and emerge as screeching and bedazzled butterflies. It’s maximum impact with zero body hair.
The cornerstone of all their social interactions is alcohol. In the early evening they pre-game with friends on the back decks of their parents’ houses. Living at home has its advantages: You never have to learn to do laundry, you get to use your dad’s good stereo to listen to Jason Derulo, and you can pour the savings into drinking alcopops with your BFFs every Friday and Saturday night.
They have highly complicated female friendships which were formed in the first few days of high school and have been tested by years of online passive aggression. You’ll know who they are before you meet them because of the thousands of selfies they post every time they come within 15 yards of a bathroom. You’ll also know what all their friend’s bathrooms look like (spoiler alert: purple towels). These are the women they get shitfaced with before going out to meet the guys they will drink under the table. Drinking serves several purposes: It limbers them up enough to both flash the party photographer at the club and, if the mood strikes, punch someone in the face.
The Mike Tyson Interview
Last week, I sat in a dark room in the New York Public Library to hear an author read from his new book. Although a screen on the side of the stage advertised an upcoming event with Pulitzer Prize winners Toni Morrison and Junot Diaz, I wasn’t there to see a literary novelist read about the postmodern condition. I had come to the library to see a a heavyweight champion best known for his facial tattoo and the night he bit off another boxer’s ear. Yes, I was at the library to hear Mike Tyson read from Undisputed Truth, his new celebrity memoir co-written with Larry Sloman.
While it was a bit odd that Mike was standing on the same stage Toni Morrison would speak from a few weeks later, he was full of profound (and also stupid) statements. He schooled the moderator on ancient history and said, “A room without a book is like a body without a soul.”
Yes, several minutes later he said to that same moderator, “What are italics?” when asked why he wrote a passage in italics, but it was clear that both at the library and on the page, Mike’s story is more moving than any novel written by some jagoff from the literati. He openly discussed the effect of having a prostitute for a mother, how the legendary boxing coach Cus D’Amato discovered him and gave him a real home, then died a few years after his career took off, and how he burned through millions of dollars thanks to cocaine.
The critics agree. “Parts [of the memoir] read like a Tom Wolfe-ian tour of wildly divergent worlds: from the slums of Brooklyn to the high life in Las Vegas to the isolation of prison,” Michiko Kakutani wrote in a rave review in the New York Times.
Regardless of what you think of Mike Tyson as a person, it’s impossible to deny that he has led a tremendously interesting life. I called him this week to talk about his obsession with ancient history, how his pet pigeons turned him into a fighter, and whether his is a story of redemption or the story of a troubled man struggling to turn his life around.
VICE: Why did you decide to write a memoir?
Mike Tyson: My wife, Kiki, told me people were going to write a book about me anyway. If they’re gonna write a book, why not have people hear if from your own mouth instead of somebody else’s mouth?
At your recent book reading, you talked about your obsession with the history of ancient wars. Why are you interested in ancient history?
A long time ago, I was at the table, sitting down, and either one of the boxers or Cus said something about Alexander the Great. He said Alexander was 6’ 6”. He must have been a giant back then. This struck an interest in me, but then I found out Alexander the Great wasn’t a giant—he was really a runt. In real life he wasn’t tall, and since then I’ve read about men of war. I relate to the psychology of war. Tom Cruise said when he’s performing he’s like a soldier of war. Men of war are really deep guys, really hardcore people, as far as humans are concerned.
HOW TO LAND A WARRIOR MAN –
RELATIONSHIP ADVICE FROM UKRAINE’S AMAZON QUEEN
Katerina Tarnovska is a Ukrainian preschool teacher, a kickboxing world champion and a self-proclaimed descendent of the legendary warrior women of the Amazon. In 2002 she founded Asgarda, a martial art exclusively for women that is inspired by the tribal traditions of the Scythian Amazons. In the past decade, more than 1,000 ladies have been entrusted with the teachings of the Asgarda, which Katerina says is the only fighting style specifically tailored to the female form.
Katerina’s influence extends well beyond teaching women how to turn their bodies into deadly weapons. She has written instructional Asgarda books, composed countless Amazon-themed folk songs, and produced aerobics videos in which the 34-year-old looks like a cross between Jane Fonda and Tank Girl, boxercising to what sounds like a Ukrainian version of Rammstein.
I recently joined one of the Asgarda’s training sessions in the Carpathian Mountains, which was a bit like an all-girl summer camp but instead of arts and crafts classes the ladies learned how to hack attackers with sabers, axes and scythes. Before meeting Katerina I imagined that we would mostly be discussing things like what it’s like to be a woman in Ukraine’s patriarchal society—the country’s parliament is more than 90 percent male, and domestic violence is a major problem. But she was more inclined to talk about how to win a warrior man’s heart in order to realize her eerie nationalistic plan to breed a new generation of Ukrainian warriors.
VICE: How did the Asgarda first begin?
Katerina Tarnovska: When I learned that Amazon women once existed on our territory, I came to the conclusion that their spirit has been genetically passed on to the Ukrainian women. It was the spirit I was born with. Ukraine’s warrior caste was destroyed, very little of it is left. The rebirth of this caste depends on women’s capability of raising boys to become warrior men. That’s what brought about the whole idea of forming the Asgarda. As a person who is professionally involved in martial arts, this is my warrior path.
But didn’t Amazons hate men and want to kill them?
No. Men who were afraid, specifically ancient Greeks, wrote those myths about cruel women because Amazons often fought them, and there are even myths of the Greeks losing. If you research the historical sources, you’ll find that the Amazons loved men and got married and had children with the Scythians. I can, with confidence, say that I am an Amazon woman and that doesn’t interfere with me falling in love and having children.