Video Review: The Lost Channan Kata
Reviewer: Mark Groenewold
Date: February, 2004
You might have noticed that this site has been in the midst of featuring and promoting Dr. Elmar Schmeisser's latest book, Channan: Heart of the Heians. When I had first saw the book, in its various parts and pieces, and read through Dr. Schmeisser's analysis, recording, and development of the Channan kata I was blown away. The pages and images themselves really spoke to me and the project has been very exciting to work with. Even before the Channan book was organized and put together, the cover lovingly designed and prepared, I knew that I had a rare opportunity to work with something very special.
So you can imagine my astonishment in finding out that there are also VIDEOs that go with the book! Dr. Schmeisser didn't initially mention that these videos existed, I think perhaps out of a sense of modesty, or perhaps thinking that I already knew, but when I heard that they were available I knew that I just had to see them. I contacted Tony Annesi of Bushido-Kai and asked for review copies. I would have begged the man, but thankfully it never came to that. Annesi-Sensei was kind enough to oblige my request and when the tapes arrived I stayed up late for two nights viewing and reviewing this astonishing material.
Dr. Elmar Schmeisser is a masterful instructor. I knew that already by reading his books, and seeing how he laid out his ideas so succinctly and articulately. But in the videos I also had a chance to hear the man's voice, see how he stands, how he gesticulates, and how he expresses his thoughts and organizes his teaching. The man is truly an excellent teacher, and his style, sense of humor, ability to engage and keep the attention of his students was obvious from the first few moments the tape started rolling.
We are taken through the two kata, Channan-Dai and Channan-Sho, step by step, sequence by sequence, the bunkai articulately and deliberately explained and explored. Dr. Schmeisser takes each movement of each kata in bite-sized portions and instead of limiting how the kata must work (in terms of exactly how a completely passive recipient of karate technique must offer which arm or which leg and stand immobile) he offers principles in close-range combat. In the bunkai, one's opponent may be grabbed by either arm, attack from different sides or angles. The karateka may grab an arm, an elbow, an ear, a handful of hair, the back of a neck, the throat, the collar of a coat, shirt or jacket. The attacker may try to grab with the right or left hand, try to kick with the right or left leg. It doesn't matter. The bunkai is the same. The principles that govern self-protection, and also responses to attackers are universally applicable.
Dr. Schmeisser does not simply blast through the kata, with little or no explanation. There is almost three hours of material on these tapes. That is a LOT of material, and every moment is interesting. The setting for these tapes is a seminar that Dr. Schmeisser taught for the Bushido-Kai. The participants are regular karate teachers and students and the cameraman goes in and around them filming the teacher and students working together through these two kata. A well produced piece of work, extremely well organized and edited, this seminar was recorded and reproduced on very high quality video. The video is extremely bright and clear. With professional production all the way through, you can see that this was a labor of love. All of the people involved in this production deserve to be commended on their excellent work.
One of the guiding principles behind the efforts that I have poured into this website is to, as strongly as I might, impress upon students that the single most important thing that they need to do to get the most out of their karate education is to find a good teacher. Above all, find a good teacher. It doesn't matter if he teaches in a park, a basement, a parking lot, a stairwell, or in a field of dandelions. Good teachers are worth their weight in platinum.
Here is a simply superb teacher.
Read the book. See the master instructor in motion.