DVD Review by Dr. R.W. Stone
As I have mentioned in previous articles I have an extensive collection of martial arts training tapes and DVD’s. There was a period in my life when I believed I could bypass the traditional training systems and speed up my martial arts prowess by entering the world of visual technologies. Like many, I fell prey to the ads that were popular about ten years ago with titles like “Learn the Secrets Other Shaolin Monks Won’t Reveal” or “This Tape Will Turn an Old Overweight Executive into a Navy Seal In Two Weeks Without any Exercise!”
It took me a while and quite a few bucks to realize that when I tried these self taught techniques in class they always seemed to result in getting my butt kicked by my instructors. I finally I realized is that there is no quick fix and no way to learn the touch and feel necessary for most techniques to be truly effective. Learning form a tape with a bad camera angle or a superficial discussion of a pressure point can be the difference between successfully applying a devastating or incapacitating grip and having your opponent laugh just before he decimates you.
Over the years I have seen truly professionally produced videos that sadly featured unqualified want- to- be media stars, poorly produced videos using improper filming techniques so the viewer can’t benefit from truly talented artists, and videos that purport to offer valuable instruction while wasting the viewer’s time with long-winded unsubstantiated theory and unabashed lies about the artists credentials.
Every now and then however a truly valuable tool is produced that can be of benefit from both a practical and theoretical standpoint. These are videos from practitioners with years of experience, filmed by professionals and offering just enough techniques to learn in the time allotted. One such DVD I just finished watching and reviewing is Dynamic Fingerlocks volume 1 featuring Sensei John Borter, available from Single Step Productions. Sensei Borter is a senior instructor of Modern JuJitsu and holds the equivalent rank of 5th dan. He also pays homage to the influence received while training in Small Circle JuJitsu.
Some of the qualities I like to see in a good martial arts video are
1. A short but thorough explanation of the technique followed by
2. A practical demonstration at normal speed
3. A slow motion demonstration of the technique with repeated explanations
4. A change in camera angle to view in slow motion the technique from all sides and above
5. Demonstrating the technique with the other hand or leg
6. An explanation of the errors commonly made while attempting the technique
7. Finishing with a repeat of the technique in full speed real time.
8. Limiting the number of techniques taught to an appropriate number for the time allotted.
9. Limiting instruction on film to valuable techniques and tools, not just filler material.
This fingerlock DVD filled those requisites very nicely and even added some subtitles for emphasis which was a very nice touch. Anyone who might question the value of such techniques has merely to see the first one demonstrated to realize how devastating and painful they can be and to realize the control they afford the practitioner over his or her opponent.
I would like to take this opportunity to explain how I now view the use of such DVD’s. I no longer believe their principle value is as a rapid replacement for traditional training. I especially resent those who would use them as a quick way for a pseudo master to learn techniques to teach in a daily lesson plan. I believe that martial arts videos have a useful purpose as a reference tool to help the student review techniques already learned or as a way of exposing the student to the variety of other options available to be learned in the future.
I realize that many traditional martial arts schools have a prohibition about students requesting to be taught specific techniques or requesting that the instructor demonstrate something they want to see rather than merely following the prescribed course. This might (in my humble opinion) be one area where the traditional philosophy might bend a little. Exposure to new technologies is not a bad idea and perhaps such requests shouldn’t always be frowned upon. After all the instructor can always refuse by explaining that such a technique is above the students pay grade (to coin a phrase) Sensei Borter is articulate and obviously talented in his area of expertise.
I would highly recommend this DVD to anyone’s library. His explanation of the importance of the techniques and of the history of how he came to learn them was interesting and brief. I could not fault any of the graphics, cinematography or technique choreography, except to say that I felt sorry for the recipient (or uke) of all those finger locks. He must be double jointed.
If there were to be one area of critique (and it wouldn’t be a fair review without some criticism) I would recommend the occasional use of humor and energy to hold the viewer’s attention. I also think that some scene changes in an instructional film can be important for holding one captivated. I realize it is difficult to go on location but it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. Interjecting a scene change or even adding some simulated background can make a world of difference.
While I can certainly learn from a video filmed entirely in a dojo, (and this one was as good as it gets), demonstrating one or two of the real world defense techniques on location in perhaps a parking lot or a crowded restaurant can mean the difference between a good lesson and a spectacular one.
That said I have added this DVD to my library and intend to continually review it as I am sure the techniques taught will give me a decided advantage.
Dr. Ron Stone