Friday, 8 August 2008

Budo: The Art Of Killing - DVD Review

Imagine the scene if you can (and I know this won’t be difficult for you), I’m sitting at my computer, browsing e-bay and looking for martial arts DVDs, and one of the first I stumble upon is called Budo: The Art Of Killing. Within seconds I had put in a bid, and two days later I won the prize!

When people see a DVD called Budo: The Art Of Killing, and find out it’s a martial arts documentary, the first thing that they’ll think is that there’s going to see some heavy duty killing here. Well, let me tell you this now - the title is a tad misleading.

Originally released in 1979, directed by Hisao Masuda and produced by Arthur Davis, this film had apparently achieved cult status among martial arts diehards, even though the great majority of them had never seen it, because it was very difficult to get hold of a copy. Then it was finally released on DVD in January 2005, and the world got to see what all the fuss was about.

The film focuses on various Japanese martial arts styles - karate, judo, aikido, and kendo. The format is quite basic, looking at the various styles. There are some scenes that were staged for the film, and these are very good, and very well laid out. They are supplemented with footage from various training sessions. For instance, in the karate segment, there’s very scenes of a karate master honing his skills breaking bricks and having pieces of wood broken over him. He then increases the strength in his hands by first hitting a tree, and then a stationary steam train.

In other segments we see a judo practitioner choking his opponent into unconsciousness, while an aikido master chops and throws his opponents to the floor. Later on we see a blacksmith forging a katana sword, the likes of which were recently seen in a certain Tarantino film.

But perhaps the most powerful scene is the opening one, in which we see two feudal era samurai taking part in the seppuku, or samurai suicide ritual. It certainly gives you a taste of what went on way back when. (I feel I must point out that this scene was staged, and not real! In case anyone was wondering!)

Budo: The Art Of Killing is definitely a film of it’s time, made just a few years after Bruce Lee’s classic Enter The Dragon. But if you’re expecting instructions on how to perform the various moves shown here, then this isn’t the film for you. Although beautifully filmed and staged, it’s really just a basic introduction to Japanese martial arts, and even though it contains some outdated racial stereotypes, it’s a joy to watch. If you remember that it was made nearly thirty years ago when you set out to see this, and don’t go into it thinking you’ll be able to find out how to kill someone with just your little finger, you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Highly recommended for all you martial arts buffs out there.