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Martial Arts

Iain Abernethy’s Interactive Fitness Drills


Iain Abernethy has long been at the forefront of Karate, especially in the field of kata interpretation and application. His investigative powers and martial arts prowess have long been coupled with Summersdale Production’s high quality videos and hi-def DVDs.

Most recently Iain has been working on a highly innovative and interactive DVD. This DVD allows you to design your own workout on the fly with Iain giving helpful advice. For further details see the review of the DVD.

Hearing about this new project, Combat decided to have a chat with Iain and find out more about how it came about.

How did the idea of an interactive DVD come about?

It was when we were filming some of my DVDs on kata application that Nick Atkinson put the idea to me. As most people reading this interview will know, Nick is the manager of Summersdale Productions and they are on the cutting edge of martial arts DVDs. Nick told me that he felt that the technology of DVDs wasn’t being fully exploited and that the drills I use in my training and teaching would lend themselves very well to an interactive format.

Prior to this DVD, marital arts DVDs have always been something you sat down and watched, or they contained a single workout; which may or may not match the needs and level of the viewer. However, DVDs can be so much more than high quality “video tapes” and it makes sense to move things forward and fully exploit the technology.

The thing that most people don’t appreciate is that a truly massive amount of work goes into writing, filming, editing and producing a DVD. After spending ages getting everything ready for the kata application DVDs, I was looking forward to a break from DVDs after the filming … and then Nick goes and puts this idea in my mind just as we finished filming. We hadn’t even packed the cameras away! Nick is a great guy and I quickly forgave him. I thought it was a superb idea and my mind was instantly buzzing with possibilities. I found myself constantly thinking about how such a DVD could be structured and all the things you could do with it. All very exciting; but it did mean my “break” from DVDs only lasted a few minutes!

How long did the process take from conception through to production?

It was around two years from when Nick suggested the idea to when the final DVD was produced. Most of that time was spent with me coming up with ideas and then drafting and redrafting the script and flow charts for the DVD. Nick and his team were constantly on hand to tell me what was and was not possible with the DVD format and we agreed early on to be as ambitious as possible and really push the boundaries.

The final document I produced was pretty lengthy. Nick gave it the OK and his team confirmed that programming for the DVD was challenging, but entirely workable. From that point it took a few months to make a test disc and then just one day, albeit a long day, to film. Summersdale then took a couple of months to edit all the footage together and to produce the final DVD. It’s been a lot of hard work from a lot of people, but it was all well worth it because we have produced something truly unique. I was overjoyed to see the finished DVD and to see it function exactly as we had envisaged.

Do you have to do extra training in order to be fit enough to do the DVD?

No. As I said earlier, this DVD is fully interactive and hence it is totally up to the viewer what any given workout contains, how long it lasts, and how hard it is. It really is a world apart from the exercise and training DVDs that readers of this interview are familiar with. You can make any given workout as hard or as easy as you want.

The wide variety of drills on the DVD, and the numerous options within each drill, means that it can match all levels of skill and fitness. There is stuff on there for relative beginners right through to the super fit. We deliberately designed the DVD that way.

What do you think makes this DVD stands out?

The DVD truly is one of a kind. No one else has made a DVD like this and I truly do believe it to be revolutionary. It’s an incredibly versatile training tool and is completely different in nature from all existing training DVDs.

Its nature means that it provides all the instruction, timers, counters, motivation, etc. for a fun and beneficial solo training session. It can be used by all styles and fitness levels and it is constructed such that you need never to do the same workout twice!

The DVD includes a whole host of sections including Warm-Up, Repetition Drills, Shadow Fighting Drills, Will Drills, Lower Body Conditioning, Upper Body Conditioning, Exercises for the Abdominals, Back and Neck, Flexibility Training (basic and advanced) and Mental Training. Not bad for a single DVD!

The visuals and soundtrack are of the high quality that people have come to expect from Summersdale and I think people will be impressed from the first instant they put the DVD in their player. The DVD also requires no partner and no equipment other than a DVD player, its remote and a little space.

As I say, no one will have seen anything like this DVD and it is difficult to communicate just how unique it is. Once people get to see it though, they will quickly realise why I say the DVD is revolutionary. As you can probably tell, I’m really excited that the DVD is finally being released!

Do you think that this DVD will be the benchmark for all other DVDs?

Not really. There will always be a need for straight instructional DVDs and not all DVDs need to be of an interactive nature.

I’m certain that when people use this DVD it will become a real talking point in gyms and dojos; hence other people may consider producing DVDs of a similar nature. However, to produce a DVD like this really does take a huge amount of work and needs the input of highly skilled programmers. It’s not something that can be produced on a home computer by an amateur and – seeing this is how most (low-quality) martial arts DVDs are made – I therefore don’t think we will see a spate of similar DVDs.

This DVD is an entirely different beast from anything previously and hence you simply can’t compare it to others or use it as a benchmark. What this DVD will do though is show what is possible with martial arts DVDs and perhaps it will encourage other producers to raise their game.

How many workout combinations are there on the DVD?

There are an infinite number of possible workout combinations on the DVD. As I say, the viewer need never do the same workout twice. The DVD is split into ten main sections and it is up to the viewer to choose which of these sections they wish to include in any given workout. In these sections there is a wide variety of differing drills, and again it is totally up to the viewer which of these they wish to do. Most of the drills also have options within them so the viewer can choose how hard to make the drill and how long they want it to last. The shadow fighting section also includes randomly selected guided rounds which further adds to the variety. There is no way to know what is coming next in that section.

The DVD is constructed such that I will ask the viewer to make selections from the on screen menus as I guide them through each workout. It is therefore totally up to them what each workout consists of. Nothing like this has ever been done before in the martial arts or fitness worlds

What can people expect to get for their money?

For £19.99 people can expect a one of a kind cutting edge training tool that will provide an infinite number of workouts relevant to all styles, abilities, and training goals. I know it may sound like I’m going out of my way to encourage people to buy the DVD, and that’s because I am! Christmas is coming and I have three kids! Joking aside, I’d challenge people to check out the DVD and see if they disagree with anything I have said. I’m certain people will love using it. A lot of work has been done to produce a unique training tool and I really am delighted with the end result.

Is this geared towards everyone?

Yes. We made it so that is not style specific and so that anyone can do the drills using the techniques and methods of their own style.

Volume 1 is used in the title, what can we expect from Volume 2?

We came up with many ideas long the way whilst producing this DVD and some of these ideas may very well find their way in to subsequent volumes. However, it took two years to make Volume 1 so people should not expect Volume 2 anytime soon!

What’s your favourite exercise on the DVD?

The DVD is made up of many of my favourite drills and exercises. However, if forced to choose, I guess my favourite bit would be the Shadow Fighting section. I love the way the random guided rounds work, and the visual and audible cues. It’s a lot of fun quickly processing those cues and then making the required motions. Great fun!

Who came up with the exercises?

The drills on the DVD and the way they come together in each workout are my creation. However, within them there are some classic exercises (i.e. press-ups, squats, bridges etc.) and plenty of things that have been taught to me over the years by all my various teachers and training partners. There are also a few drills that have been a longstanding part of my teaching and my students have obviously helped me refine them. The DVD contains a good mix of the things that I have found to be most productive and effective.

Is this based on your own workouts?

The DVD contains many methods and drills that I use in my own workouts. However, it is up to the viewer what any given workout consists of and the DVD is constructed such that the viewer can use the methods of their own style; which may or not be the same way I do things. Hence I couldn’t say if the viewer will be doing a workout similar to my own as it really is their call. It will entirely depend upon what the viewer wants from any given session. What I will say is that I’ve been making a lot of use of the DVD since I received the very first draft! It’s a little weird for me being told what to do by myself, but I’m getting used to it.

About mattsylvester

Father of two beautiful daughters and married to the beautiful Karen, Matthew has been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since he first read the Hobbit at the age of 7. Matthew was Features Editor, Technical Consultant and regular columnist for magazines such as ‘Fighters’, ‘Combat’, ‘TKD & Korean Martial Arts’ and ‘Traditional Karate’. These are the four leading martial arts magazines in the United Kingdom. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed 'Practical Taekwondo: Back to the Roots', which has been sold around the world. With regard to his martial arts background he has been studying martial arts since 1991. In 1995 he hosted Professor Rick Clark of the ADK and since then has been studying pressure points and their uses in the martial arts and on the street (initially as a Special Constable and as a Door Supervisor). All of this practical hands-on experience means that he is uniquely placed to write fight scenes that are not only plausible but some of which are based on personal or anecdotal experience. Matthew has had a number of short stories published by Fringe Works, KnightWatch Press, Anderfam Press and Emby Press.

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