Interview with Cody Hackman

Cody Hackman has spent most of his life in the world of martial arts, whether training, competing, or performing. Cody began perfecting the art of karate when he first walked into a local Canadian dojo at the age of eight and has never let one single challenge or obstacle stand in his way.

Since then, he’s become a 5 time world karate champion, and frequently found himself crossing paths with and competing against some of the best and most renown karateka in the world, among them Taylor Lautner of the “Twilight” franchise and his own best friend Nick Bateman!

Later, Cody found a new passion in the form of acting, and dove head first into mastering it as diligently as his martial arts pursuits. In the meantime, he would meet up with filmmaker Allan Ungar, and drawing great influence from “The Karate Kid”, one of the biggest inspirations of Cody’s life, the two set about crafting a coming of age MMA drama in the form of “Tapped Out”. Today, he joins us at KFK to impart his martial arts wisdom and experience acquired so far.

International Trailer for Tapped Out

Hi Cody, great to have you with us!

Nice to be with you guys! I’ve seen your site, Kung-fu Kingdom before, and I really like all the interviews with martial artists and the reviews you’ve done of martial arts movies, including the classics. Even I didn’t know who some of the people you’ve featured were!

Thanks so much Cody, glad you enjoyed what you’ve seen so far! Can you start by telling us about your background and teachers?

Yes sure my first teacher was Pete Daypuck, who held a third degree black belt in Shotokan Karate under the Japan Karate Association (JKA), the same organization that Lyoto Machida was under. He still teaches today. I’ll stop in his dojo every now and then today to teach some of the kids or just to sign autographs. I was very fortunate to have trained under him, as he’s one of the best karate masters in Canada. Martial arts is a lifestyle for me. I’ll still be doing it when I’m one hundred years old.

Can you tell us about a bit about your training?

I first started training in Shotokan when I was eight. These days, I’m not training so much to compete anymore. I’ve won five world championships in karate, and along the way, I met a lot of great martial artists who came from tournaments and competition and who are now movie stars.

I cross train a lot, these days. I’ve trained in Muay Thai and I’ve dabbled in Jujitsu. I’ve trained with Jean-Jaques Machado, who’s a big Jujitsu coach in L.A. I had gotten the buzz going and I was actually thinking for a while about entering the UFC, since I was coming from the karate world like Lyoto, or maybe I should act. And I chose the acting world because the UFC is a new sport, but I’ve trained in martial arts since I was eight, so for me it was kind of nice for a change. I thought I’d try to keep my face a little bit! As far as I’m concerned, acting is as much an art as karate.

Cody-perfects-the-techniques-of-Shotokan-with-Lyoto-Machida!

Cody perfects the techniques of Shotokan with Lyoto Machida!

Now, moving on to “Tapped Out” – the movie, can you give us an overview?

“Tapped Out” is much more of a gritty fight film than people will expect. One of the big themes of the film is that no one does karate anymore. Today, we have a lot of “McDojos”, where you’ll walk in and they’ll hand you a black belt when you’re five years old. Our school wasn’t like that. It took me about seven years to reach black belt, and our karate is as pure as it comes. That’s why there’s a guy in the movie, Lyoto Machida, kicking the shit out of people in the Octagon and knocking them out with one shot, because our style is so effective.

One thing I loved about the script of “Tapped Out” is that the film is all full circle. There’s the training sequence where Lyoto Machida is teaching me the front kick, which is the same technique he knocked out Randy Couture with. We always wanted to bring in things from “The Karate Kid” without having it be clichéd. So we didn’t want to have the crane kick be the finishing move of the film, but wanted to have it come back and be used in a fight in the film. And it’s not just a technique in a movie anymore because someone (Lyoto Machida) actually did this in real life, which is pretty incredible. We try to make it very authentic. Krzysztof Soszynski did a big studio MMA film called “Here Comes the Boom”, and he’d mentioned that he thought the fight scenes were better in “Tapped”.

It’s great to have the makiwara in the film and just all the old school drills and such to show how karate can be effective. But also, you can’t just be a karate fighter anymore, and that’s where the Anderson/Lyoto angle comes in. You have to be well-rounded. Lyoto Machida wouldn’t be Lyoto Machida without also having his Jujitsu background.

Can you tell us more about your character and training involved for the movie?

I play Michael Shaw, a disgruntled high school student who watched his parents murdered as a child. He ends up going on a bad path in life, and doesn’t want anything to do with martial arts. It’s his old passion, but he feels almost like it’s the reason why they died. Michael Shaw was a great character to play, since he goes from being almost an unlikeable character, and by the end of the movie, you feel for this kid. It was definitely an emotional role. It might sound really weird, but pretending to suck at karate, for me is almost like pretending to not walk properly.

I look at training for movies like training for a fight. Even though you’re not really fighting someone else, you’re training to be in the best possible shape that day. Before “Tapped”, I was actually pretty jacked. I’d been doing me normal routine, but when I began training for “Tapped”, I wasn’t training a lot of weights, I wasn’t really training to get super-ripped, or I probably would have just juiced like everyone else (laughs.) I really wanted to be someone everyone could relate to, with a little tone and a little muscle, but basically the average kind of guy. It’s actually probably the worst shape I’ve ever really looked in my life, since I’m used to training for a professional level.

Setting up the makiwara!

Setting up the makiwara!

What else would you like to say about the fight scenes?

“Tapped” is really a drama with action in it. It’s a movie with MMA in it, as opposed to being an MMA movie. If I was in “Tapped” or not in it, I’m a fan of it. There will probably be movies that I’ll be a part of that I’m not a fan of and it’s just a payday, but “Tapped” I’m very, very proud of.

Krzysztof smacked me around pretty good, and I took a few kicks to the ribs. There’s a scene where he throws me right over his head, which is over six feet in the air. At first, he was actually dropping down to his knees to throw me, but it wasn’t looking that great, so we just decided to have him throw me over his head. And that hurt a lot! There’s also a shot where he has me in a choke, and I said to Krzysztof that “the camera is right in my face, so choke me until I tap” and I kind of started blacking out, and I was out cold in three seconds. Krzystof has some huge biceps.

What’s your favorite fight in the movie?

Not to rearrange the question (laughs), but my favorite shot in the film is the way they captured the crane kick in the face. I thought that looked pretty awesome. My favorite fight scene is everything to do with Krzysztof. That was all a lot of fun. Scary, but a lot of fun!

Also, the whole point behind the reverse punch in the qualifying match was about what I had said about the film being full circle. That was actually something that was inspired from my first degree black belt test, when I landed a reverse punch on this guy and almost knocked him out from a body shot!

What was it like working with your fellow fighters and what stood out about each?

Cody-and-Anderson-Silva-get-ready-for-action!

Cody and Anderson Silva get ready for action!

Anderson Silva

He’s just so smooth and he’ll just hit you from any angle. He was actually sparring with an extra one day and really showed him some memorable moves. I do know that he is coming back to the UFC for sure.

Krzysztof Soszynski

With Krzysztof, it’s really his stature.  He’s just enormous. The guy had something like a $500 a week grocery bill to maintain his build!

Lyoto Machida

He’s incredibly humble. It doesn’t get any more pure than Lyoto Machida. The guy is a true martial artist! He sleeps and breaths martial arts. Martial arts is not just a physical thing, it’s also a mental thing, and he has that down.

Michael Biehn

Michael, of course, has done some of the biggest action movies of all time, like “The Terminator” and “Aliens”, was he was really used to handling fight choreography. He and I had a lot of fun together. He really didn’t even have to act. He just is that character.

What are your movie plans after “Tapped Out”?

The next movie I’m doing with Allan Ungar is called “Gridlocked”. It’s an action-comedy. Allan actually wrote this for me specifically. I play a troubled movie star who you could reference a bit to Justin Bieber, and I end up running into some trouble. Basically, I end up with a choice of either going to jail, or doing a ride along with an injured SWAT leader who’s played by Dominic Purcell, and the guy just hates me. Neither one of us wants to be there, and we both have to learn to deal with each other. It’s a little bit like “The Hard Way” with Michael J. Fox mixed with “Assault on Precinct 13”. The movie is really about two unlikely characters in the most unlikely of situations, and it’s really funny.

Moving on then to other topics, who are some of your inspirational figures in the martial arts movie industry?

Jackie Chan is amazing, Tony Jaa obviously is incredible. I was always a big fan of Jet Li, and I’ve always watched the Van Damme’s and the Steven Seagal’s. The guy is a legit 5th Dan Aikido master, and he really knows his art! 

Can you reel off your 10 favorite martial arts films?

  • The Karate Kid
  • Bloodsport
  • Out For Justice
  • The Undisputed series
  • Warrior
  • Enter the Dragon
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I don’t care if I get made fun of!)
  • Never Back Down
  • Double Impact
  • JCVD

I also really like “The Raid” movies and as I said, I am also fan of “Tapped Out”!

Preparing for the final match up

Preparing for the final match up

What are your thoughts on “The Karate Kid” remake?

The new one that came out was entertaining for kids, and Jaden’s Smith’s family is awesome. But it should have been called “The Kung Fu Kid”.

What kind of training do you do nowadays?

I do a little of everything. I target my muscle groups. I try to hit the gym for at least an hour a day. If I’m training for a movie and I want to get jacked, then I do a lot of heavier weights, but if I’m just trying to get toned, then I take it down a notch. I think people shouldn’t be afraid to step out of their comfort zone, either. I also play a lot of soccer and stuff, too, just to have some different sports to mix and match the cardio up. Have some fun working out, too!

What are some of your favorite techniques and training methods?

I really love sweeps. It’s something that Lyoto Machida does a lot, but you don’t really see a whole lot of sweeps done in MMA. I usually like to kick to the head a couple of times so that they think the next one is coming there, and then go for the sweep. I think if you’re amazing at one thing, then you have a better chance of winning a fight than being okay at a few things.

Do you do much stunt work?

Not really. I did a lot in “Tapped”, and I thought it was going to be a good idea to try to do a lot of the stunt work myself. But then when I started to get hurt, I started letting the stunt guys do more. I have total respect for stunt men, and I’ll probably never try to do that much stunt work again! But I did have a great stunt double, Neil Davison. He’s worked on “300” and a lot of different big movies.

What was your most daring stunt?

Krzysztof talks some smack to Cody before their final duel!

Krzysztof talks some smack to Cody before their final duel!

Just from training in martial arts, you get the odd broken nose or injury. But I think one of the biggest stunts I’ve ever done is just getting thrown six feet in the air by Krzysztof! And the floor of the cage isn’t like a wrestling ring that has tons of give to it.

Do you follow any particular diet?

I think a lot of people don’t realize that the nutrition part is really the hardest part about being a fighter. When I’m training for a movie, I try to eat a lot of chicken and fish, and also a lot of spinach, and I try to eat throughout the day to keep the metabolism going. When I get a couple months off, I’m not going to lie, I binge! I eat whatever! I don’t drink coffee, actually. Pizza is probably my biggest “binge” food. I can eat a whole pizza. And I’m not an alcoholic or anything, but I like to work hard and play hard!

What’s one geeky thing about you that nobody knows?

I just recently bought a new house in Canada, and I have a knack for interior decorating. I like to paint and I like to design stuff, I can pick out pretty cool furniture and I just bought a mirror from Ikea! (laughs)

If you could be a superhero would you want to be?

Probably Batman. I think he’s awesome, he’s so sleek. I’d probably be a better Robin (laughs), but I’d really want to be Batman.  On Ben Affleck as Batman, I think that people should give him a fair shake. I respect anyone who’s in this industry. I’m curious to see how it’s going to turn out. I was a huge Christian Bale Batman fan, although Michael Keaton’s my favorite Batman overall.

What hobbies do you have?

I don’t really relax! All I do is work! (laughs) When I’m back in Canada, I like to play hockey with my friends. These days, I’m busy enough that it’s kind of nice to lay around and do nothing, or be at home and relax with my family. I like walking my English Bulldog Eddie around a lot, too. He’s like a bull! He actually knocked me down when we were running together the other day! He’s not one of those fat lazy bulldogs, he really muscular. He’s like a tank.

What’s your favorite music?

Taking-a-low-blow

Taking a low blow

Rock music. I don’t want to call it California music, but I really like the California style a lot.

Favorite movies outside of the martial arts?

I’m actually a huge Tom Cruise fan. He’s another guy who gets a bad rap, but he’s a talented, hard-working dude. It’s hard to think of a bad Tom Cruise movie. He’s researches his roles, and he’s really physical. I’m a big fan of the movie “Casino”. Robert De Niro is probably one of the best actors of the last hundred years, and Joe Pesci is hilarious. And I’m also a huge fan of Liam Neeson.

What are your likes and dislikes?

I dislike negativity. I don’t like negative people. I don’t like excuses. Negativity is something I try to keep out of my life. My grandfather was a big influence on me. He got me into martial arts, and he was also my first acting coach. He owned a drama school. His philosophy was basically “Take less time to criticize others and more time to better yourself.”

I like the mystery about life. I’m always trying to evolve as a person and figure out what we’re doing here. The mysteries that life presents are really fascinating to me. I wouldn’t call myself religious, but I am spiritual. I think that the Bible was made as a set of laws, Don’t hurt thy neighbor, that sort of thing. And I think that martial arts is the same thing. If you can live like Gichin Funakoshi or any of the great masters, then you’ll live a really good life.

What’s your proudest accomplishment so far?

I really wish that my grandfather were alive to see “Tapped Out”, but I got to take my grandmother (who unfortunately was just diagnosed with cancer) to the red carpet premiere. That’s something that I’m really proud of. She loved the movie, and it was something that was great to share with her. Lionsgate has actually be advertising “Tapped Out” with the tagline “The New Karate Kid”, and that was something that was really flattering to see happen.

What’s are you looking forward to achieve in the next five years?

I really just want to hit the industry straight on and go all the way with it.

What’s your advice to those considering taking up martial arts?

When you start basic martial arts, it’s very repetitive, and it can feel kind of boring for beginners. But definitely stick with it, because the end result is worth it.

What would you say to martial artists entering movies and TV?

Being a martial artist in film is completely different. You really have to learn fight choreography, because you’re so used to punching with proper technique and having it be so clean, and you really have to tone it down, because it doesn’t always translate well on camera. A lot of newer guys coming in will be letting out big “kiai’s” and it looks so bad on camera! Jackie Chan is a great martial artist, but he also knows all about fight choreography, and all kinds of tricks and angles.

L-R: Krzysztof Soszynski, Martin Kove and Cody Hackman at the red carpet premiere of Tapped Out

L-R: Krzysztof Soszynski, Martin Kove and Cody Hackman at the red carpet premiere of Tapped Out

What’s your message for readers of Kung-fu Kingdom and your fans around the world?

I really hope that everyone enjoys the movie as much as we all enjoyed making it, and hopefully, that they can find something about it that they can relate to.

What’s one warrior quote that’s shaped you into who you are today?

No mercy! (laughs) just kidding. There’s a great quote by Gichin Funakoshi, get back on it. For me, I think it’s just don’t be afraid to evolve. It’s a lot like what Bruce Lee would say about having a cup of water. If it’s already full, there’s no more room for anything else. You’ve got to empty your cup. When I cross train in other schools, even when I think I’m better than other people, there’s still something to learn from them. Be humble.

It’s been an absolute pleasure to speak with you, Cody. All of us at Kung Fu Kingdom greatly anticipate seeing “Gridlocked” and everything you have in store for us in the future! If you’re a fan of MMA or martial arts films, be sure to give “Tapped Out” a look and check out our review of the film here.

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From the earliest days of childhood, Brad Curran was utterly fascinated by martial arts, his passion only growing stronger after spending time living in the melting pot of Asian cultures that is Hawaii. His early exposure developed into a lifelong passion and fascination with all forms of martial arts and tremendous passion for action and martial arts films. He would go on to take a number of different martial arts forms, including Shaolin Ch'uan fa, Taekwondo, Shotokan Karate and remains a devoted student, avid and eager to continue his martial arts studies. Brad is also an aspiring writer and deeply desires to share his love for martial arts and martial arts movies with the world!

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