Michi Online :: No. 4 / Fall 2000 :: Review of Taira Shinken: Father of Ryukyu Kobudo
Reviewed by H. E. Davey
Taira Shinken: Father of Ryukyu Kobudo,
Kansha Productions (http://www.kansha-productions.com/),
VHS Video, $59.59
Taira Shinken is one of the well-known figures in Okinawan kobudo, which are the classical and older Okinawan martial arts. Like much of the kobudo of Okinawa, Taira Shinken: Father of Ryukyu Kobudo emphasizes the traditional weapons of Okinawa (a.k.a. Ryukyu). But more than this, the video is a documentary of the life of Taira Shinken Sensei. (Also featured in the video are Akamine Eisuke Sensei and Devorah Dometrich Sensei.) According to Kansha Productions and the U.S. Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai, this is the first in a series of technical and historical videos about Okinawan martial arts.
Taira Shinken: Father of Ryukyu Kobudo features a biography of this noted teacher and kobudo historian. Viewers should bear in mind that Taira Sensei was the founder of the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai, whose U.S. branch produced the video, and as the result, the biographical material presented probably doesn’t contain much in the way of “controversial material” or unorthodox interpretations of his life story. This said, the video’s pictorial biography is interesting.
Of particular interest to scholars of Ryukyu kobudo is the never before released footage of Taira Sensei performing the kata (prearranged, formal exercises) of Okinawan weaponry. While such rare footage is undoubtedly attention grabbing, the average viewer should realize that the old original films from which this material was taken were clearly not always in the best condition, and viewing quality is compromised on more than one occasion. Nonetheless, serious students of Okinawan martial arts may be fascinated to see actual film footage of this historical figure.
Also included is film footage of the Taira Shinken Embu Taikai, which are martial arts demonstrations held in honor of the seventh, thirteenth, and twenty-fifth anniversaries of this teacher’s death. The film quality documenting these celebrations is variable.
My personal interest is in Japanese kobudo, with an emphasis on jujutsu, and therefore I’m not in an ideal position to judge the historical and technical accuracy of Taira Shinken: Father of Ryukyu Kobudo. However, for Michi Online readers with an interest in Okinawan martial arts, in particular for martial artists who have never seen Taira Sensei in action, this video will be worth checking out
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Updated: October 11, 2000