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Goju Ryu Technical Series - Part VI
by Morio Higaonna



This must be the single most successful karate video series ever produced, and it's not difficult to understand why. The author is widely regarded as the most talented living karate instructor, and the shows are well-researched, beautifully produced, sensibly priced, and widely distributed by the world's premier martial arts video company, Tsunami Productions. We have seen them in stores all over the world, including Japan and Okinawa, and they daily dominate the karate video departments of Amazon.com and Yahoo.com.

The first parts of this series (Volumes 1-5) were filmed in a studio environment which allowed the lighting and sound to be recorded under controlled conditions. Part 6, in contrast, was filmed on location at the Suiho En dojo which is more difficult and costly as it takes much longer, and control is largely in the hands of Mother Nature. However, the effect achieved here is visually beautiful as to be difficult to describe adequately in words.

Suiho En is a Japanese garden of 6.5 acres in the middle of which, on the edge of the largest lake, sits the dojo used in this program. A facsimile of a 16th century samurai mansion it is just about as perfect a location as you could find for a martial arts video. Extensive use is made of the entire garden in this video and some of the views are literally breathtaking. One scene, a bird's eye view of the garden with large dark storm clouds as a backdrop, was particularly memorable.

Morio Higaonna has a style of his own that always comes across in his videos. He is anxious to share his extensive knowledge of karate with the viewer, and the director wisely lets him get on with it. He projects an enthusiasm, a love of his subject that is impossible to resist, while cramming so much technical material into the 55 minutes that it's a little overwhelming on the first viewing.

Technically speaking neither his performance nor the production can be faulted. He performs Sanseru at full speed then in slow motion. This is followed by the bunkai-and he relates each one to a movement in the kata-which he demonstrates at half and full speed with an "unfortunate" assistant (Mirko Buchwald). He also explains in great detail the things the eye does not see; the tension of a muscle, the subtle change of balance that makes a technique work, the precise direction a punch must follow to do the most damage.

Many of the most common faults are shown as he takes his partner through the kata explaining as he goes in great detail the finer points. This is particularly useful as many are not obvious and would normally go unnoticed.

The concept that karate has no grappling techniques has always amused me. Having seen Morio Higaonna close up on a number of occasions teaching kakie I have thought to myself, if this is not grappling what is! Harry Cook (a student of Morio Higaonna at the old Yoyogi dojo) commented once that if he (Morio Higaonna) took hold, you were in trouble. This is made very clear as he demonstrates the bunkai dynamically with a partner to show how they should be used in practice to subdue an opponent, or make him take the full force of a blow by restraining him as it is delivered.

As with all Tsunami videos the show moves along quickly and covers a lot of ground. Repeats are limited to slow motion segments (they assume you have a rewind button), everything is clearly captioned and the translation of Higaonna's lectures by Tetsuji Nakamura is accurate and a model of clarity. The sound track features classical Oriental flute and shamisen music and is as appropriate as it is enjoyable. The quality of the sound on videos from this company has always been very good but in this show it is exceptional. The way in which the music and location are used is a touch of genius by the show's director which powerfully supports Morio Higaonna's superb technique.

Any dislikes? None! It's unfortunate that this is the last of the Goju Technical series of videos simply because the entire curriculum has now been covered (if you include Power Training from the same company), but I am sure that there will be more Goju Ryu videos from this author as his knowledge is clearly immense, and the demand, I am sure, tremendous.

Goju Ryu Technical Series Vol 6 "Sanseru" by Morio Higaonna from Tsunami Productions. Running time: 55 minutes, stereo soundtrack, recorded on location at the Suiho En dojo, directed by Paul Moser, translations by Tetsuji Nakamura.

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