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Read two original reviews of The Art of War by Legend Productions

The Art of War -  DVD Review

Originally released in 1988, this DVD series was met with excellent reviews and an excited audience. Now in 2006, many things have changed in the world of karate, some for the better, and others not so. This is the reason Ged Moran decided to revisit this acclaimed collection and re-edit and re-present it to today’s audience.

Since the beginning of The Shotokan Way, I, and my team have been exposed to the many great productions by Legend, and this re-edit contains the vibrancy and atmosphere that Legend has become renown for. This series is a celebration of Shotokan Karate, but is also set in place to raise certain questions about the direction that karate is following. Although there’s little narration, the footage speaks for itself and you only have to watch the Past, Present, Future element of the final DVD to start thinking about what Karate-Do is really about, and what it will be in the future.

Interestingly enough, if you don’t want to dig deep and think about the real meaning of karate and wax philosophically, you can simply enjoy the footage for what it is, and it can be served excellently with a bucket of popcorn and a cold bottle of Bud’.

This DVD series compiles some of the greatest footage in karate documentation, and through this excellent archive footage, Ged hopes to educate those who have not been exposed to the brilliance of the KUGB, but equally hopes to share some memories with those who were there. Although sounding rather nostalgic on paper, the DVD really does capture the very essence of what made the KUGB so important and effective. You only have to watch the great Frank Brennan score with a perfectly controlled ura-mawashi geri to see the spirit of the KUGB, or watch Sensei Enoeda perform kata in his powerful and focused manner to get enthused about karate again if you’ve been through a bout of indifference.

Excerpts of Sensei Tanaka in competition beautifully highlight the sense of spirit that should be ever-present in Karate and you get an insight into why he gained his infamous reputation. This is very inspirational, especially when backed by footage of Master Nakayama, Asai and Lida, who all demonstrate spirited karate.

There is also very interesting footage from the 1999 Funakoshi Invitational Trophy, and for those with a sharp eye, you will find footage of the modern Legend Richard Amos, who fights both with spirit and great attitude. Again, although the faces at this tournament are not quite as well known as those in the older footage, you do get a real sense of what shobu-ippon competition is really about. When you watch these fighters, you sense their nervous energy, which is very exciting to watch. When these fighters attack, without gloves, or shin pads, or foot protectors that can be found in the final DVD, you know that if they make contact someone is going to get hurt. This changes the dynamic of the fight, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not this type of fighting sticks closer to the spirit of Karate-Do.

The first three DVDs of the series are a celebration of Shotokan, it’s great figures and the excellence of karate from the past many decades. The fourth DVD however takes a different approach, and is designed to demand questions of the audience.

When I asked Ged why he decided to make this Past, Present, Future DVD, he commented ‘My hope is that The Art of War, especially volume 4 (the WKF stuff) will show clearly that one has a profound philosophical meaning to it, and the other is a sport. There is room for both – just as there is room for ballroom dancing and ballet.’ This I thought was an interesting way of looking at the differences of Traditional Karate and Sport karate. Just as ballet has a certain code of conduct, ballroom dancing can be fun and worthwhile too, both can exist together and be followed by the supporters of each.

When you watch the features of Future Karate though, with the foot protectors, shin pads you do want to raise an eyebrow. Then I pull it back down again and think to myself ‘Hell, I’ve hurt my shin on someone’s elbow a million times, why not protect it’. Question is though; does this take away that ‘Fear Factor’ that made fighters so effective? Yet another question for you viewers to consider.

The one thing about the Future Karate that did irritate me was the footage of a young man with a shaved head. At one point in the fight, it gets a little heavy (as many fights do) but he steps up to his opponent toes to toes, nose to nose in an aggressive manner, offering his opponent to a brawl. This is very sad, something you can quite easily witness in any rough nightclub. I must point out though that his opponent did nothing to antagonize him further, so it would be unfair for me to say that WKF karate is bad all because of one idiot. This can easily be compared though to the footage of Brennan where after yame his opponent continues to punch him to his face. With total control, Brennan accepts the guy’s apology and then goes on to win the fight in the best way possible. This is the real spirit of karate, yet again posing further questions for the audience.

I can sit here writing all day, but for you to fully understand why I applaud Ged and Legend Productions, you need to watch this DVD. Although I would have liked to have seen a broader amount of WKF footage, this DVD really does achieve what it sets out to achieve: presenting you with wonderfully vibrant footage, whilst enabling you to raise questions and come to your own conclusions. For further reviews of Legend DVD’s visit www.theshotokanway.com and to purchase the DVD’s visit www.legendtv.co.uk . Hope you all enjoy…

Shaun Banfield

Art of War

Legend Productions

I have watched the two DVD set from Legend productions called the art of war; these DVDs’ are a testament to karate in Great Britain during the 80’s. To some who have been practising Karate for only a couple of years these clips and outtakes will appear both brutal and savage, even the ladies are a force to be reckoned with (no sexism intended). This is Karate as I remember when I did Tang soo do, there was no such thing as protective equipment such as gloves, shin pads or gum shields. This is apparent as in one particular fight on disc one a member of a club is hit in the mouth and in the slow motion replay you can actually see his tooth flying through the air. As the DVD progresses through the years you start to see some personal protection being used due to new rules.

It is no wonder that these guys ruled the European circuit throughout the eighties and in to the nineties, they fought with a ferocity and speed the like of which is very hard to equal nowadays. Most of the moves that these people applied would get you removed from the competition today for over aggressive fighting, although if you managed to tone down some of the moves they would be very effective in today’s environment of competition. I would strongly recommend that today’s Karateka take a look at these DVD’s to give them an insight into the fighting ways of previous Karate greats in the competition arena.

Garry Watters

10/12/06