Wednesday, October 11, 2017

3.5 Ninja Stars for Hakka Unicorn Boxing DVD

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given this DVD for review purposes

Title: Hakka Unicorn Boxing
Featuring: Tyler R. Rea
Publisher: Tambuli Media
Duration: 45 minutes
Price: $29.95

Edit: There are also digital videos for different aspects of Hakka Unicorn Boxing available at the Tambuli Media link above.

    First off to address the elephant in the room.  Chinese mythology doesn't have unicorns.  European mythology does.  If you are as confused as I was, "Unicorn" is a bad translation.  They do have Kei-Lun (or Qilin; Kirin in Japanese) which do have a single horn, and are thus translated as unicorn.  Not that, that has anything to do with the martial art or the video.  I just wanted to get that out there.
    This is the first, and hopefully not last, instructional video I've ever reviewed, so I'm not quite sure where to start.  This video shows the basics of a Chinese system called Hakkka Unicorn Boxing (Hakka Kei-Lun Kung Fu).  The Hakka people a group of non-Han that lived in Southern China.  Their name means "guests" as they were migratory, at least as part of the story goes.  So put those two pieces together, you get Hakka Unicorn Boxing.  This is not a system I, or indeed many others, were at all familiar with, so I was interested to see what it looked like.


    There are several chapters to this DVD.  When I played the DVD, they just started, but it seemed to me to be out of order.  The first section that played was the introduction to the footwork that is used in the system.  The second was a brief introduction about what Hakka Unicorn style is, and where it comes from.  Then there was a demonstration of the primary form of the system.  This was followed by the basic hand work that is part of their system, including a portion on the different fists they use.  The final section was the Qi Gong used by Unicorn Boxers.


    The DVD was high quality and did a really good job of both focusing on the material being presented and explaining what to look for and practice.  It was clear and easy to understand without seeming too basic or introductory.  The presenter performed the techniques enough times to actually get a feel for what the techniques were supposed to look like.  The backgrounds weren't distracting or so colorful that the viewer got lost.  In fact, no offense to Sifu Tyler Rea, but even he kind of becomes unimportant to the technique.  The demonstrator made the video completely about what was being presented, and I don't think even mentioned his own name once.  Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing, if the goal is about showing the techniques.
    I'm not a fan of using books or videos (or YouTube these days) to start, or learn a martial art, but I think this video does a good job of showing basics of a particular system without saying "In only six short weeks you too can learn...".


    The only thing I think I would have added to the video was an application section.  From the video, you get the basic foot and hand work, you get the first form, but some of the movements are difficult to see their application.  Perhaps a section, showing a demonstration of what the final product, or goal is might have helped.  Apart from that, I have nothing negative to say, only a small critique.  If that was a systematic choice to not include that, I completely understand that as well.


    One of the things that struck me about this system, was that it was similar in body movements, but
not training methods, to a couple other arts I've studied.  The basic footwork movements were very similar to how we move at Atemi-ryu jujutsu.  The hand motions are more similar to PCK Silat that I practiced.  The latter makes sense, as Hakka Unicorn claims to be an originator, at least in part, to both Kumtao, and Indonesian Silat.  Although this is a large claim, I can see the similarities.  Overall, I found this instructional DVD useful, and illuminating of a little known style of Kung Fu.  As such I'm going to give it 3.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  I would have liked to see an application section towards the end, and although it does a very good job of illustrating the basic concepts of the art, if you're not a student of Hakka Unicorn system, I don't know if this will improve your own art.  As I said, I found similarities to what I was doing, and even thought about the training/instructional methods they were using, and may incorporate them into my own training.


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