My Isshinryu was forged on the floor of Tom Lewis’ dojo, in intense training.
My Isshinryu was forged on the dojo floor with Charles Murray in intense training.
At no time was I handed a book or a movie and told to learn Isshinryu there.
(ok, there was one exception to that the time Charles Murray had borrowed Mr. Lewis’s Shimabuku movie and he had me teach myself Chia Fa from that movie.)
And that was truly hard work.
But with that exception my Isshinryu was what they shared with me.
That time I did see that Shimabuku movie, I noted there were differences from his kata performance to what I had been shown. But I always followed what my instructors taught.
While there were movies I had access to none of them.
Later video tape started to become available. Charlie even sent me one of him doing kata, a bit different from what I was shown.
But that was not what I was taught, and continued to keep to the way I was trained.
Then video tapes of kata became the thing. And I was curious and bought many, Not to study from just to see. I never shared them with students.
When I restarted my program in Derry, the local Boys’s and Girls club bought me a video camera to use. I did film my student’s efforts. But more for my reference than sharige video with them to study.
I had made video record mostly of my own training in system not Isshinryu.
I had made video records of my students progress.
Then the Big Event, for a decade I was privileged to study a bit with Sherman Harrill. He permitted me to film his clinics to retain the vast study of Isshinryu applications he studied on his own, and was sharing at his clinics. Furthermore I gained further understanding from his student John Kerker, who was very unique in his own right.
Hours of video tapes, and for the most part far beyond my ability to watch much of them.
For one thing watching hour after hour of their showing applications is far above human concentration for the most part. I only find I can view them in extremely small doses. Abet very useful extreme doses.
What I experienced was way more material than I could usefully use. But what a treasure trove to dive into from time to time.
What I did learn from watching those movies, VHS tapes, DVD, and eventual YouTube videos, was it was most important to realize how you were viewing what you watched.
When I realized what I was watching when I viewed kata video tapes was not just was I seeing what other systems were doing. I was seeing one slice of a kata study. I was not seeing the layers of a student moving towards that performance nor was I seeing where that performance would lead the study of that karate-ka years down the line.
To me kata was a tool, shaping the beginners capabilities, then a tool to hone those developed capabilities. For example around a decade into that study the body relaxes while performing that kata (no matter at what point the kata is studied – 10 year). And as the body relaxes it’s center lowers, which as the body lowers into the performance, the body increases the power it releases with that form. Of course the time can vary for an individual, but on the whole one begins to move toward maximum power about the 10 years point of study.
And that is not the end, as one becomes more used to moving relaxed, one begins to tap into what the whole study is about.
No doubt many of the kata performances on video are fine in and of themself. But they often to not snow where that performance is ultimately leading towards.
Through your own effort you can find solid (great) performance of an instructor made decades ago, and then later performances of that same instructor doing the same forms decades later, You can see the difference, time moves many things. Things not hinted at on a single videotape.
I have been trained by 8 individuals each of which is a powerful technician. Undoubtedly there are many extremely skilled individuals. Perhaps not equally skilled, but more than one person can count.
If I have learned anything there is no absolute limit to what human capability is.
The only purpose to training for me is to build students whose ability exceeds all others ability. And to build instructors who continue to let the same paradigm guide them. It matters not whether you succeed or not, but that you make the effort continually to do so.
In such light videotape of the best performance is but a step to train students to move through and then to work to exceed.
At the same time it is possible to learn a form at one showing in a clinic or from repeated viewing of a video tape. Providing you understand what you have is just what you have perceived the form is. Even 20 years or more work on that form can’t change that reality. It may be sufficient for you, but because there are those things you did not perceive, the result will be different too. You decide how important that is to you. Just as long as you understand what that effort represents.
You determine the value of a videotape. Now that YouTube has made them so instantly available, it takes little effort on you part to view them. What use you put that viewing is also up to you.