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Video Review : Title: Zach Whitson – Kenpo CounterPoint

Instructor : Zach Whitson, assisted by Derek Hibben
Reviewer: Bob Hubbard

Cost: $49.95 + $3.50 S/H

Ordering Information:
Zach Whitson
380 Pine Orchard Road
Buttler, TN 37640

Mr. Whitson is an 6th degree kenpo black belt and holds a guru rank in Pekiti-Tirsia. The Kenpo CounterPoint system is his adaption of the Pekiti-Tirsia ‘flow’ drill to the techniques of Ed Parkers American Kenpo. Mr. Whitson developed this to aid his students fighting ability by presenting them with multiple open-ended ‘what-if’ situations, and to improve upon their ability to respond and instinctively counter their opponents. This tape covers 16 kenpo-counterpoint techniques and some of their variations and combinations.

For those who want to skip to the end, here is the summary. Content wise this tape provides well over an hours worth of quality instruction, marred only by some minor technical glitches in the reproduction. It is well worth investing it and making a regular part of your training regiment. I’m going to get the bad out of the way first as the positives outweigh the negatives, and I like to end things on a good note.

At my request, I was sent a copy to review. I’m going to look at the whole ‘package’ as it were, rather than focusing solely on the tape content. I’m also going to nitpick a little bit on the ‘production’ aspects. When ordering mail order, it is often times hard to know what you will be getting. My package was securely packages to avoid damage to the tape. In addition, it was sent in a hard plastic ‘book shell’ type VHS box, which further protected it through the riggers of the postal system. The box contains a color sleeve (insert type) with a flowchart on the back outlining which techniques will be covered. Also included was a brief flyer with additional information. The tape was professionally shrink wrapped and labeled.

Upon loading the tape into my VCR, I hit the first of what will be several very minor hiccups. The disclaimers (which most people ignore) went by at a rate that wasn’t consistent, and didn’t allow me to fully read some screens. This is a nitpick.

Audio
More glaring is the change in the audio ‘volume’ between techniques early on in the tape. While you could still hear everything clearly, the change was noticeable. The only major audio error occurred at the very end during the “Bringing it all Together” section where there’s a short overlap, then the voice over is out of sync. While still watchable, after this point impact sounds were out of sync with the video. Thankfully, this happened at the very end, and does not otherwise harm this review. My biggest complaint about the audio is the music during the section introductions. The abrupt cutouts were a bit more intrusive that I cared for. A fade out at the end, rather than the cut out would allow for a more graceful lead in, and smoother transition. The music itself was rather soothing, of an asian/tropical variety.

Video
More glaring was the video issues. Of minor note, there were a few ‘stutters’ in the video (but not the audio) which didn’t find to be too noticeable. My biggest complaint about the video was that many of the scenes seemed too close. By this, I mean while you could see most of the techniques motion, you missed the top of a head here, some footwork, the motion of a strike. The most glaring seemed to be during the “Thundering Hammers” section, where Mr. Whitson was instruction on how to do the counterpoint techniques. It is very obvious that this was shot with a hand or shoulder held camera, rather than a stationary tripod. The shakiness and cutoffs detract a little from an otherwise fine product.

Ok, so don’t buy this then? You ask. No, buy it.

I said I was going to nitpick this, and I did. That is all that I could find bad with this tape.

So, whats good?

The audio and video despite the issues above, are clear and crisp. I’ve seen some tapes where it sounds like a high school project, and this is pretty darn good. The other thing is, you’re not buying this because of pretty pictures, and music, but because you want to learn something. On this front, Mr. Whitson delivers the goods.

The techniques are gone over in great detail, and from multiple approaches. This, combined with the constant repeats of the techniques at a slowly increasing pace allows both the beginner and advanced student easily follow along, and get up to speed. The video has a very intimate flavor to it, almost like a private lesson rather than a lecture. Variable finishes or setups are covered adding to the depth of the instruction. Repeatedly, Mr. Whitson returns to the core techniques such as Raining Claw, showing the kenpoist where to pull it out of, and how to apply it in particular counter-situations. Those familiar with the Filipino arts, or some Chinese arts will see many familiarities with their techniques. For example, the opening section on Crossing Talons reminded me of a Chi-Sao sticky-hands drill, that had been applied to Kenpo.

This tape does require some familiarity with Kenpo to be truly effective. A beginner will find some value in it, however the most use will be found by those approaching black belt and beyond. As with all training, repeated review and practice will improve what you will discover on this tape. The first viewing will only wet your taste for more in my opinion.

Scoring this video, it comes in at a 9.5 out of a possible 10. The minor glitches in the audio and video keep it from being a perfect 10. Despite the small flaws, I have no problem recommending this tape to anyone looking to further their studies of American Kenpo, and it will be in a prominent place on my video shelf. Mr. Whitson succeeds here with his kenpo-counterpoint program, and I look forward to seeing his next release. As always, a video is no substitute for qualified personal instruction, so be sure to see him on the seminar circuit this summer, information on which can be found at the website listed above.

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Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts portal site MartialTalk.com. A student of all the arts, he is currently studying Modern Arnis. Bob can be reached at kaith@martialtalk.com

Originally published in MartialTalk Magazine July 2003
Copyright ©2003 Bob Hubbard - All Rights Reserved