Mark Groenewold

Ged Morgan and Maria Hugh of Legend Productions in Manchester England were kind enough to send me this very fun videotape entitled, "Masters of The Art", a few weeks ago. I have watched and reviewed it several times now and have enjoyed it tremendously.

This video highlights the banner year for the Karate Union of Great Britain of 1986. It was this year that British karate ruled the roost, and after watching this film there is little to wonder as to why this was possible. Filmed in four different locations, this video is a barrage of matches between Britain and the rest of Europe. Carefully edited we can see the decisive points in each match, several shot from different angles. It is important not to blink at any time while watching this film. The action is extremely quick.

In 1986 I knew nothing about karate. I was too busy in a high school haze of making trouble, skipping my classes, and being a basic delinquent. In 1986, Frank Brennan, Ronnie Christopher, Elwyn Hall, and Ian Roberts were tearing the place up in Shotokan karate. Now that I am a little older and wiser I can appreciate the incredible technical abilities this British team demonstrates in karate.

Technically speaking, Frank Brennan and Elwyn Hall are incredible to watch. They are incredibly quick, have a razor sense of maai, and are able to generate laser-beam precision in their attacks. Both use leg sweeps followed by combinations, often resulting in their opponents not only being swept off their feet, but as they are falling down get hit with second and third attacks. Both gentlemen are able to utilize fundamentals in hiki-te (retracting hand) with such quickness that they are able to launch additional attacks at will. So often overwhelming their opponents they are able to draw on a wide variety of attacks, including tobi-geri, uraken, and gyaku-mawashi-geri. Anyone interested in seeing dramatic kumite and to see how funadamentals work "for real" ought to pick up this tape.

This tape was also nice in that is simply showed the matches. There were a few group shots with the karate-ka standing with their myriad trophies, but they were quite short. The tape is a rapid sequence of dozens and dozens of matches. Quite enjoyable. Also, the music used for the background was tolerable, even though I personally would like to simply have no music at all.

One thing that I had noticed with this tape is that during the matches there was a lot of contact between the competitors. Many men seemed to be hit with some force to the face and head, several falling to the floor cupping their mouths with their hands. A certain amount of grabbing the opponent's gi was also permitted throughout. The officials did not seem to give warnings for excessive contact at all, so it leaves me to wonder if this is the common practice today. Kumite training is something that is supposed to enhance both participants, and although there can only be one winner it does not necessarily have to be at the expense of someone losing their teeth.

I liked this tape a lot though. I thought that the production, considering the source material is 15 years old, was quite good. Watching Brennan and Hall dominate the floor reminded me of all the things I keep getting told for my own kumite, "Keep your elbows close", "Relax your shoulders", "Watch your distancing", "Follow up your attack!", "Don't telegraph", "Retract that hand/foot more quickly!" Thank you very much for the lesson gentlemen. The next time someone tells you that "real karate" only comes from Japan, please go and find these men and ask them to teach you what they know about their martial art.

Highly recommended for competitors in kumite.

Mark Groenewold

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