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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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Having watched the free preview clips of this DVD on the web, I was very excited to get a copy of the ‘2004 Hoitsugan Seminars DVD’ and after nagging Emma for long enough she caved and finally bought it for me.

 

Set up in 1972 by Sensei Nakayama and Sensei Kanazawa, the Hoitsugan was a place where karateka from around the world could come and stay in the six-room dormitory and train in the dojo. The Hoitsugan to this day continues through the teachings of Sensei Kawadawa and is frequently visited by many from around the world.

 

Over four days, some twenty seminars took place led by those who had lived and studied at the Hoitsugan and even under Sensei Nakayama himself.

 

Such Instructors included:

 

James Yabe

Steve Ubl

Jon Keeling

Leon Montoya

Jeremy Peck

Bob Ehling

Glen Michel

Greg Dubois

Aaron Hoopes

Michael Berger

Erik Passoja

Red Borda

Dan Cook

Brian Thompson

 

As soon as the postman delivered the package, it was a matter of seconds before it was playing in the DVD player.

 

Organised by Jon Keeling, the purpose of the seminars was to carry on the legacy of Nakayama Sensei. Throughout the DVD (102 minutes in duration) you will hear repeated references to experiences and lessons with the Master himself and this to the Shotokan enthusiast is like honey to the bee.

 

One immediate thing that struck me about this DVD before even playing it was the presentation of the package. From the box alone you can tell that this is a quality production with time spent on making it more than just a great DVD. This is good, as we all judge books by their covers unfortunately, but this cover did the DVD justice.

 

The DVD can be viewed in several ways. It can be watched as a whole, by instructor or by day. This makes viewing very easy and all the more enjoyable as you can watch the DVD as you want to.

 

One of the great things for me about this DVD is that as you watch each instructor, you can get a very real flavour of their personality, experiences and Karate approach. This type of personalised viewing lets you fully appreciate the standard of the instructors and the event.

 

As you watch the DVD, as I have already mentioned, you will see the sometimes very specific approaches that each instructor has. Each of the instructors brought something very interesting to the course, but for reading-time limitations I cannot discuss every individual.

 

Aaron Hoopes, someone we recently interviewed, is very interested in yoga and Tai Chi, and his approach to Shotokan is clearly highly influenced by this. Especially interesting is the examples of specific stretches he teaches. The one thing that really caught my attention however was his Zen Kumite, which I feel is a very useful exercise that hones and develops reactions, flow and interesting body movement.

 

To a class of students, the instructor teaches, and the footage is collected from angles around the class. This is fun as you get to see the instructors teach a class rather than teach mid air which you see with many DVDs, so you get a real glimpse at them as teachers and their approach to Shotokan.

 

One of the main highlights of the DVD from an audience point of view was the footage of Sensei James Yabe. He has a strong presence as an instructor, and extremely impressive physical skill. In American Karate his name is one of the most important, and as you watch this footage you can clearly see why, with much attention being paid to muscular relaxation.

 

For me however, the star of the DVD was Sensei Steve Ubl, who before this I must admit I had never heard of. Don’t get me wrong, the name Ubl was one I’d heard from time to time and read about occasionally, but having watched the DVD, I am simply shocked that his name is not more commonly known. His physical ability alone is truly inspirational, but he also has a pedagogical skill that clearly had the attendees in awe. Watching him move, his understanding of Shotokan is undisputed and his use of his hips as he states is something he spent much time considering and working on. While sharing his experiences of Nakayama Sensei and teaching various topics over the course of the DVD, I, like the attendees was also in a state of absolute awe.

 

Writing about all of the excellent instructors from the course would make this review simply too long, so I regrettably will not talk about every single detail that I would love to, but will simply state that each of these instructors did an inspirational job as I’m sure the attendees will agree and I apologise for not giving them all the attention they deserve.

 

One of my favourite sections of the DVD is where all of the instructors sit around in a circle discussing their experiences of karate in Japan. Hearing them all share their vivid experiences is very interesting and makes for brilliant viewing.

 

This DVD and Course is remarkable in the concept as it really is making a great attempt to keep an important legacy alive. The only negative I can find comes in the fact that at certain points in the DVD the sound of the production is not perfect. At some points, you may find yourself turning the volume up a fraction to catch what the instructor is teaching, but to be honest, this is not all that big an issue.

 

In all, this DVD is a great value for money and I would highly recommend to all.

 

Shaun Banfield

 

Watch the Movie Trailer Here: http://www.customflix.com/Store/Trailer.jsp?id=206946

 

For further information on the Hoitsugan Seminars, please visit www.hoitsugan.com