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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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A few weeks ago I received a copy of the ‘Mark Carroll Kata Appllication’ DVD Series, and here is my review of this excellent set of thought-provoking DVDs.


When we think of the karate world, there seems to be a gulf between the ‘Traditional’ based approach to Shotokan – with utmost emphasis on kihon and fundamentals – and the ‘Reality’ based focus.


Mark Carroll joins an impressive and exciting line of instructors such as Dave Hazard, Vince Morris and Patrick McCarthy who are working to bridge this gulf – retaining the values of a fundamentally ‘Traditional’ study, whilst always putting it within the context of ‘Reality’, so that a full and rounded system is practiced.


This DVD series brings forward Carroll’s interpretation on the vital link between kata and fighting, relevant and necessary for the street.


Each DVD takes the format of a lesson (Each DVD is dedicated to one kata), where Carroll teaches the kata and his ideas to a class of enthusiastic karateka. Anyone who regularly reads any of my reviews will know that DVDs with a similar approach are some of my favourites, as you get a vivid insight not only into the approach of the instructor, but also their personality. This is essential as I truly feel the personality of an instructor has a huge impact on how people learn.


The Kata of each DVD is demonstrated by Graham Palmer, who demonstrates the personality of the kata with exquisite form. Palmer’s technically excellent execution is the ideal model to illustrate the finer points of the kata, finer points that are explored, explained and emphasised in great detail by Carroll.


I like Carroll’s relaxed, informative style of teaching. He effectively uses his clear influences of the likes of Geoff Thompson, working the applications from Thompson’s famous ‘FENCE’, and interestingly brings each sequence of the kata back to the vicious truth of blood and guts.


I was once told by a renowned Shito-Ryu Instructor that he felt the kata was a ‘story’ with application being the ‘handwriting’. Developing your own insight into how the kata should be applied against an opponent is very personal, so therefore it would seem perfectly logical that they reflect your personality. I always liked this idea, and here within these DVDs you get a real sense of Carroll’s handwriting, full of personality, and thoroughly committed.


As I have already touched on briefly, Carroll is a part of line of instructors who are bridging the gulf between tradition and reality. It is a shame that there is such a gulf, but it’s there all the same. One of the points traditional karate gets criticized for is - to some extent with many groups - its total emphasis on air training. Neglecting impactive training is simply dangerous as you need this in order to pressure test the techniques that could potentially save your life at some point. This is one of the major positives of these DVDs, as they place huge emphasis on hitting and striking to pads and bags. Each sequence of the kata, as led by Carroll or the other instructors who teach on the DVD, are pressure tested against a pad or bag. This I think is a major step forward for Shotokan!


The other revelation of these DVDs is the ‘STREET KATA’. I don’t want to discuss this at any great length for a number of reasons. The first reason is that I think the DVDs would give a better insight into this training that I could give, and secondly because I will be asking Carroll to possibly write an article on this training tool if he would be so kind. Needless to say however, this training tool, is one that I think will, if adopted by many Shotokan karateka, become something that could be invaluable in making the step forward from the practice of kata for kihon and kihon only and taking it into the fighting realm.


An effective traditional kata application suited to develop street based fighting is typically one that is based on the instinctive rather than the cognitive. They should adhere to the fundamental principles of the movements in the kata, whilst not being difficult to make work. If they are difficult to make work against an attacker high on drugs and/or sloshed out of his brain, then they don’t have value within this realm of training. Carroll’s teaching in my opinion, the applications he uses, and how they are applied make sense and highlight Carroll’s clear investment in understanding the reality of violence, and what is needed to bring traditional karate into a place where it can really work.


I really liked these DVDs. I really like how informal they are and how they do the job they set out to do. When you look around the class on the DVD at the likes of Kayhan Sefat and many others, you can clearly see that investment in such training most definitely has its real benefits!


Be sure to order yourself a copy of the Series!


Shaun Banfield


To purchase the DVDs please visit www.dominoproductions.co.uk