Getting Your Kicks (and Punches) in LA

Ransom Riggs

I'm sure this holds true for other parts of the country as well, but in my city especially, people like to relax by watching combatants battle one another inside a ring. But it's not what you'd expect: sure, you can check out a boxing match while you're here, or even an Ultimate Fighting bout (no thanks), but we tend to prefer our fights, well, strange. For instance:

Kaiju Big Battel

An American phenomenon that has taken on the mantle of Japanese pop culture (hence the intentional "Engrish" misspelling of "Battel"), Kaiju is a hybrid of professional wrestling, in all its parodic theatricality, and the tokusatsu kaiju movies of Japan -- literally, "special effects" movies (think Godzilla and other absurdly large creatures). Costumed wrestlers with names like Atomic Trooper Robo and Steam-Powered Tentacle Boulder duke it out in the ring, the meta-story being that if these Earth-destroyingly large creatures don't get their aggression out in the ring against one another, they'll start crushing Tokyo and San Francisco again -- and we can't have that. (Photo by Steve Lipofsky.) Check out this video of a particularly surreal Battel between Kung Fu Chicken Noodle and Robox:

Lucha Libre

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Roller Derby

Once a bygone phenomenon of the 70s, female Roller Derby has taken hold again, and has an especially strong following in the city of Angels. Teams of intimidating women roll against one another to screaming capacity crowds on a tricky banked track near downtown LA, rolling at speeds up to 30 MPH and taking hits that would make Hulk Hogan wince. Theatricality is an important part of the show (notice a theme here?), with every player adopting crazy-tough alter-egos with names like like Tara Armov and Venus de Maul'r -- each one commanding their own rabid base of fans. Matches are fast and exciting, and medical staff are always on hand (and generally kept busy) tending to cuts, bruises, fractures and limbs that aren't supposed to bend that way. Here's a kind of lame but informative local news report on my favorite team, the Derby Dolls:

Also, next year keep an eye out for Whip It! -- a movie about female roller derby starring Ellen Page.