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Kendo Contributes to New Book

Renowned professional photographer, Katinka Herbert, spent 8 years travelling Mexico making the arrangements to photograph the "Luchadores", the acrobatic and visually spectacular masked men of Mexican wrestling. What would be the best way to introduce a collection of exquisite portraits of these amazing masked men? Why, a foreword from probably the most famous masked wrestler of them all, Kendo Nagasaki, of course!

Here's Katinka's portrait photograph of Kendo

A small section of Kendo as photographed by Katinka Herbert for her book, 'Slam'

Here's Kendo's Foreword to Katinka's book:

"As Kendo Nagasaki’s flamboyant spokesman, Gorgeous George Gillett, once famously said, “There is more to Nagasaki than meets his eye!” This statement is true on many levels – there is much hidden behind a wrestling mask, which can only hint at the complexities of wrestling.

In addition to the training and skills required to compete at the highest level, the best wrestling is inevitably theatrical, but often in surprisingly subtle ways. Masked wrestlers in particular sublimate their identities to the characters as whom they wrestle, their costumes conveying aspirational, ideological, and cultural themes. Championing these, the characters compete in an arena for dominance over challengers representing alternative forces, and the Mexican “Luchadore” wrestlers are an excellent example of this richly theatrical tradition.

Kendo Nagasaki represents cold, crushing power – imperious and faceless, a dispassionate dealer of death, akin to the indomitable alien robot, Gort, whose will is delivered with the disciplined inscrutability of a samurai warrior. Sir Peter Blake’s painting and Terence Donovan’s photographic portrait of Kendo Nagasaki skilfully capture and depict the depth and menace and power of the character, and both have been heralded as an iconic examples of popular art.

Whilst a strong image in its own right, Kendo’s actual invincibility in the ring added genuine menace to the reputation of the theatrical character, reinforcing the point that the outcomes of the battles ultimately rely upon wrestling skills and how a wrestler hones them. Kendo’s skills are based upon experience as a submission wrestler as trained by the famous Billy Riley at the legendary Wigan gym, like other such great exponents of the art as Billy Robinson, Ernie Riley, Billy Joyce, and Karl Gotsch. Of course, I also benefited from my experience in the oriental combat disciplines, under the personal tutelage of Kenshiro Abbe.

It was in Canada in 1971 that I first encountered a character as colourful as Kendo, but with a sharply contrasting wrestling style, when Kendo was billed against Mexican masked wrestler, Super Hawk. An admirable ambassador for his theatrical tradition, a great showman, and very flamboyant, Super Hawk was nonetheless unable to out-wrestle Kendo – managing to anticipate and block all of Super Hawk’s skilful and theatrical acrobatics, we ultimately ruled the day.

In the light of this background, I was not surprised when in the late nineteen-nineties Kendo was asked to open an exhibition at Agnews’ London gallery of Peter Lloyd’s prints of Mexican masked wrestlers. The spectacular prints in themselves were a metaphor for the blank canvas which the wearing of a mask facilitates, upon which each wrestler creates the rich and detailed and culturally-significant elements which form his character.

In these traditions, SLAM is a unique and valuable collection of portrait photographs of Mexican Lucha Libre Superheroes, exhibiting the diversity of this fascinating theatrical combat culture. Each of Katinka Herbert’s stunning photographs places the subject in a fine art context, the perfect canvas upon which to showcase the richness and diversity of the exquisite theatre of wrestling – I heartily commend it to you."

 

Katinka Herbert's's excellent book is widely available from many bookshops and online stores, but also online from the publishers directly, To Hell With Books.