French have a saying, "Vive La Difference" which means, just in
case you don't have a good grasp of French, long live the difference, or if
you prefer, it's good to have a choice. Until recently we had no choice when
it came to martial arts videos. They were poorly made, they were boring, and
they rarely featured great martial arts talent. This all changed when in late
1994 Tsunami Productions launched a new martial arts video experience entitled
"Power Training," by Morio Higaonna which they described as "ninety
minutes with the master." Well it was, and he is, and this started a
revolution which continues with the recent publication of a video on Okinawan
karate by Eihachi Ota, entitled "Once A Secret." Driven by the urge
to see how they produced their videos, I finally managed to get an invitation
to visit the new Tsunami Productions facility in Oxnard, California. I wanted
to see the new equipment they had made such a fuss about, and also to preview
the production they were putting the finishing touches to.
the appointed day I presented myself at the reception desk of the studio and
was promptly ushered into the womb-like interior of the new edit bay. To say
that I found myself in strange surroundings would be an understatement. To
one who is only now adjusting to computers, to sit in the darkness surrounded
by banks of humming tape decks, blinking monitors and flashing lights is both
exciting and unsettling. I was, however, determined to see the new video I
had heard so much about, and therefore tried to settle down and adjust to
the unfamiliar surroundings. Tsunami videos are produced by a small but dedicated
group of individuals, all of whom are multi-talented.
the helm, as it were, is Paul Moser the director and motivating force behind
the project. With his hands hovering above the controls, descending occasionally
to twist a switch here and slide a handle there, the monitors and speakers
came to life, and the show began. The title of this video, "Once A Secret,"
comes from the concept that not so long ago karate was a secret, and a closely
guarded one at that. This video by Eihachi Ota, a senior Shorin Ryu stylist,
takes one back to an Okinawa long since seen where the men were tough and
the karate tougher. But it's not just the karate and weapons training that
are fascinating, the show is actually a martial arts experience that will
intrigue even a casual observer.
they wouldn't thank me if I gave everything away, but I can say that several
famous figures from history are involved, the music is simply wonderful, and
the images stunning. I watched the whole show several times, and with every
viewing saw something I did not see before. Perhaps my eye became keener with
each viewing, or perhaps my brain simply needed more time to efficiently process
the wonderful images the video presents. It really is captivating. The blend
of eastern and western culture, the images, the color, the music--a moving
experience rather that simply a thing to look at. And in the centre of it
all is Ota Sensei. Implacable, his face showing absolutely no emotion, as
he circled his body with a razor sharp kama at the end of a cord less than
half an inch away from serious injury. His karate is of the old time-fast
and relaxed yet powerful and destructive. His apparently relaxed punching
and kicking techniques, at the point of impact, become cruelly focussed for
a second then just as quickly relax again.
is this more evident, to the untrained observer at least, than when he breaks
a pile of wooden boards. Unlike those who seek to please a crowd or recruit
students with these antics, Eihachi Ota is as relaxed and inexorable as before.
He simply piled up the pieces of wood a few inches off the floor, without
spacers or other similar "helpers" and broke them with a fast, but
apparently relaxed punch. The truth of it could be seen from the slow motion
shot of the impact. As the knuckles came into contact with the wood, the fist
tightened, twisted very slightly, and just as quickly it was gone. The whole
thing lasted only a few frames, but I suspect that there was more than one
secret of karate contained within that deceptively simple movement. Eihachi
Ota was known in Okinawa as a man with an extraordinarily strong punch-one
that could, and often did break dojo makiwara. Watch it-you may see something
that I missed!
lack the eloquence to describe to the reader the feeling one gets when watching
a program of this quality, and can only suggest that you invest a few dollars
to experience it first hand. The eye is engrossed and the pulse races as the
brain processes these strange and wonderful images. I personally found both
the introduction and the ending breath takingly emotional, thought-provoking-what
can I say.
see the author performing his incredible kama techniques with the ocean rushing
in behind him looking, as it boils and surges in the setting sun, like a cauldron
of molten gold is sheer visual poetry that even the most talented film maker
frequently fails to capture, but which Paul Moser and the "Gang"
did! As one would expect from karate talent of this calibre, the kata, sparring,
weapons training and demonstrations are first class. This is Okinawan karate
at its best and it shows.
as you will have gathered, I am not one of those who worships at the alter
of technology but I can tell you this, when you see videos like this one that
are made in the Betacam SP format you will notice the difference. On the professional
studio monitors at Tsunami that probably cost the same as a small car, the
color saturation and clarity is excellent, as is the sound. On my office TV
set, which costs about the same as a pair of sneakers, I was astounded to
find that the quality was little changed from what I had experienced at the
studio. Clearly the magic is in the video tape technology and not necessarily
the hardware that it is played back on. The first video from Tsunami, "Power
Training" by Morio Higaonna was in a class of its own. So far Tsunami
has not put a foot wrong. They have recruited the very best talent from the
worlds of video production and martial arts, put them together seamlessly,
and with care, and come up with products that are in a class of their own.
The days of the back yard martial arts video are, hopefully, over. Vive La
Difference. Vive Tsunami!
A Secret by Eihachi Ota. 40 mins running time, color, music and commentary.
Filmed and professionally edited entirely in Betacam SP. Includes an historical
perspective, kata, sparring, weapons training (bo & kama) etc.
ship within 24hrs.)