Friday, June 18, 2010

DVD Review

Today's review will be on Christian Tobler's new DVD “German Medieval Martial Arts Vol. 1: The Poleaxe” available from Freelance Academy Press. As the title suggests, this is the first in a proposed series on German Martial Arts.

First off, the production quality is excellent! As someone who dabbled (briefly) in the video production world, I can appreciate the obvious hard work that Speaking Window Productions put into this DVD. There was only one point during the Drills section where the sound editor missed an audible “cut” - and I only caught it because I was paying very close attention. Wonderful job guys! The music adds a very nice ambiance to the video without being too distracting.

The DVD opens with a re-enacted judicial duel, which is just great fun!

Following this is the Introduction, a mini-documentary detailing just what a poleaxe is, the etymology of the word, as well as interviews with Christian Tobler, Dr. Lee Jones and Dr. Jeffery Forgeng.

This is followed by a section covering the Guards and an overview of what can be done from each guard. In this section, Tobler finds the perfect medium between being too brief and going into too much detail. The participants are in period clothing and armour (of which there is a wonderful variety!) which adds to the experience. Each guard is shown simultaneously in a side and front view, which is very helpful, and all the actions are clear and precise.

The Drills section covers handling the axe (i.e. being comfortable moving the axe around and using both hands as leads) – I would have liked a mention of the importance on practicing this while wearing gauntlets, because gauntlets do change things about how you grip (and Christian is shown wearing gauntlets during this spot). Then the DVD moves into paired drills for practice, which highlight in greater detail the actions shown earlier.

The Special Features include the trailer for this volume, as well as a video trailer for Tobler's book “In St. George's Name” (my review here) and a quick video about the Selohaar Fechtschule. Also, be sure to check out the Special Features menu very carefully ;)

This is perhaps the best instructional DVD I've ever seen – clean, concise, & informative without trying to do too much. It is a great volume for beginners and long-time WMA students. For those well-versed in the axe, don't expect any ground-breaking, brand new techniques here – a poleaxe is a poleaxe after all. That said, fighting from Nebenhut is a little different than anything in the Italian system (although you could use Vera Croce the same way).

The only negative I have about the DVD is the massive amount of “toy-envy” I developed after watching the copious amounts of beautiful arms and armour parade across the screen!

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