Sunday, 23 November 2008

Festival of Martial Arts - DVD Review

So I’m walking past my local video shop one day (well, I say video shop, but he sells mobile phones, cameras and telescopes now), and I see a DVD in the box outside the shop entitled “Festival of Martial Arts”. Well, as it was dirt cheap, I thought what the hey, and decided to give it a look see. So when I got home and popped the DVD into my player, I found out what the festival was exactly - a collection of matches from various disciplines including shoot boxing, muay thai, mixed martial arts, karate, kick boxing, and professional wrestling, all brought together in honour of the memory comic book writer and artist Ikki Kajiwara in April 1988.

After the initial introduction, it was on to the first contest, with shoot boxing the discipline, and a fight between Cardinal Champion Koichi Otsu and Katsumi Omura. This is actually the first time I’ve seen a shoot boxing contest, and I have to admit I found it very enjoyable to watch. I could see just how some of the aspects of this discipline have made it into the MMA stylings of today, where fighters use boxing and kickboxing tactics to start off with, before taking their opponents down with various throws and slams, with the difference being that once someone is down on the mat, the fighters are both brought back up to their feet. However, normal boxing and kick boxing knockdowns were still subject to a referee’s count. As for the fight, the judges awarded the one round contest to Omura by five points to two.

Then it was on to a shooting demonstration, featuring the first ever Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama and some of his students. After putting his students through a couple of drills, Sayama demonstrated a number of throws, many of which I’ve seen numerous times during MMA fights. He also gives a kickboxing demonstration, before showing off numerous submission holds, before two of his students get into the ring to show their skills.

This is followed by a muay thai demonstration, featuring Sagat Pongtawin against Rochotal Muangsurin. As I’ve seen countless muay thai fights before, this isn’t a new experience for me. Although there’s only highlights from this one, it was obvious that Pongtawin was the dominant fighter here, scoring a few knockdowns before the referee called a halt to the fight in the third round.

The second muay thai fight was between Samorn Sak Muangsurin and Padam Luengborai for the Thailand Featherweight title. Again, only highlights were shown here, but the fight looked more even than the previous one, with Luengborai being declared the winner after the fight went the distance.

The mixed martial arts match was next, which, back in those days, meant having a professional boxer, in the form of Isamal Changany, fighting a professional wrestler, in the form of New Japan’s Yoshiaki Fujiwara. I have no idea if, like Ali v Inoki, if the outcome of this match was pre-determined or not. Changany went into this one wearing traditional boxing gloves and without boots, while Fujiwara was in traditional pro wrestling garb. This one confused me a little, mainly because the rules were never explained. All I could determine was that Changany was allowed to do things that Fujiwara couldn’t and vice versa. It had it’s moments, but if I’m to be honest it wasn’t that good, and the fight went the five round distance, and was declared a draw.

The Karate Real Champion tournament was next. This involved sixteen fighters from around Japan in a single elimination tournament. The fights here were quick, but very technical, and very interesting to watch, and was eventually one by Toshiyuki Yanagisawa in a final that went into double overtime.

Then it was on to what was described as a martial arts demonstration, featuring Yoshiji Soeno, Ahmen Abhar Zaher and Walid Hassam Merje. This saw those involved demonstrating various techniques, including the old trick of smashing breeze blocks and kicking planks of wood. Not bad, but it’s the kind of thing you’d see on countless episodes of the old Highlander television series.

The first of the professional wrestling segment followed, focusing on women’s wrestling, courtesy of Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling, with Miss A taking on Harley Saito. No pouting divas involved her, thankfully. Sadly, it’s a heavily clipped match, and even though the action is very good, the editing makes it hard to follow the storyline of the match. In essence, it’s just a series of spots, with Saito getting the win with a roll-up after blocking Miss A’s spin kick. The second match saw Cutie Suzuki face Rumi Kazama. It’s basically the same as the first match editing-wise, which is again a shame, with Kazama pinning Suzuki with a bridging back suplex.

The wrestling continued with action from All Japan, with a young Kenta Kobashi and Masanobu Fuchi. Again, heavily clipped, and disappointing form my point of view because I’ve never seen a young Kobashi in action. Fuchi got the win here after a piledriver.

It was then kickboxing’s turn, with three fights. First, Michiaki Yamazaki took on Kenji Ueda. Yamazaki looked good in this one, far better than Ueda, who was Japan’s featherweight champion at the time. Yamazaki won the decision. The second fight saw Noriyuki Takano fight Yutaka Koshikawa in lightweight action. Another good demonstration of the art here, with Koshikawa bloodying the eye of his opponent and earning the decision in the process. The final fight saw flyweight action, with Toshihiko Hayashida challenging Toshihiko Matsuda for the Martial Arts Japan Flyweight title. Matsuda was the clear winner in this one, scoring the early knockdown and eventually winning the fight. It was a shame that all of these fights were heavily clipped, as it would have been nice to see them develop in a natural way.

Finally, it’s back to professional wrestling, courtesy of All Japan, with tag-team action, as Giant Baba and Tiger Mask face Abdullah the Butcher and George Skaaland. Again, the action is heavily clipped, which, again, makes following the action difficult, although we do get to see the Butcher at his brutal best here, although it’s not enough to get the victory as Tiger Mask gets the pin on Skaaland with a body block from the top ropes, although Baba and the Butcher did have a bit of a set-to after the match.

In conclusion - this is a very enjoyable DVD, and well worth the £2.99 I splashed out for it. It allowed me to view some of the martial arts disciplines I’ve never seen before. However, I was a little disappointed at the editing of some of the fights, but then again, I suppose you can’t have everything, especially at just £2.99.

“Festival of Martial Arts” is available, well, in loads of places. Just Google Festival of Martial Arts DVD, and you’ll find it!