Us as Experts? (oh, come on) - We don't claim to be "THE EXPERTS". And should you ever here someone say they are in every possible martial art, or technique, I say run as fast as you can the opposite direction. I'm sure along the way some people are not going to agree with our opinions, and some might possibly be offended. We're not blind to that. Just like a couple of famous movie reviewers often give their opinion of a movie (i.e. "two thumbs down"), and actually sometimes take shots at the director, actors and movie stuido, keep in mind that whatever assessment we give a tape it too is just our opinion, and not some sort of absolute. Maybe at times the actual truth lies somewhere between our assessment and the overwhelmingly positive self-serving advertising many of these guys use. Maybe at times we're completely wrong, again we're simply providing an opinion, and well, there's a saying about that ;-)

But in attempting to put everything in perspective, let me first ask this. How could someone come in, attempt to do what we are, and not possibly offend some individuals or companies? That being the case, let us go ahead and get apologies out of the way right now, "We apologize if anyone becomes offended in this process".

We feel that once everyone understands our overall intentions, hopefully they'll feel more at ease. And to further try to make those reasons explicitly clear, we'll briefly go into the whys one last time.

As mentioned before there are a lot of video choices on the market for the martial arts consumer. And that number seems to be growing weekly. The purpose of these reviews is to give the martial arts consumer some unbiased additional information on which they can base their decision in regards to these products.

Our second goal is to help those companies with high quality product. It's our opinion that many of these companies, even if they don't realize it now, might eventually be faced with high levels of market saturation, that they, and the martial arts consumer, will both be uncomfortable with. There are many reasons for this opinion, although it seems that the internet itself may be one of the most obvious.

As we mentioned before, it seems that anyone with a camcorder, black belt, and access to the internet, can inexpensively make and sell tapes. And the sad part is it doesn't seem to matter whether they're any good or not.

Prior to the internet, the only effective way for these companies and individuals to make themselves known, and market themselves, was through various martial arts magazines. In the past, if these companies and individuals didn't have $500-$1000 or more each month to run ads, the idea of marketing tapes for many was too cost prohibitive. Now anyone willing to spend $20 a month for internet service, which with many companies now includes the "web space" needed to advertise, and an additional $40 for a web page/design software program, can figure out in a few days, on their own, how to put themselves on the internet, and sell us anything they want too. Many people it seems have already figured this out, and have started. It seems that this will probably continue to be a rapidly growing concern, for all martial artists and companies alike.

To sum it all up, the financial barriers to enter the instructional video market, and target the martial arts consumer, have been lifted. Hopefully everyone can see how this trend could continue to thoroughly saturate the market, and become a problem for ALL PARTIES involved. I like good training tapes just like everyone else, but how do we decide what to buy now, and even more importantly how will we decide in the future should the amount of product continue to grow?

And just so everyone understands why we feel that way, lets look at and address the numbers that we feel substantiate the possiblity of this trend. The National Sporting Goods Association recently estimated that there are roughly 4,000,000 martial artists in the United States. I've been told that the average martial arts magazine has a monthly circulation, and of course it depends on the magazine, between 50,000 to 100,000. So it's apparent that these magazines aren't reaching all 4,000,000 martial artists each month. Their 100,000 reaches less than 3% of the martial arts community. I suspect that most of the martial arts video companies that pay attention to "the numbers", realize this too.

It's been estimated that by the year 2000, 1 year from now, that half our population will have access too, or be on, the internet. That being true, that should include roughly 2,000,000 martial artists. At that point where will all these martial arts video companies then go to get the most bang for their advertising buck? Will they continue to focus on advertising where they can reach 50,000 to 100,000 martial artists a month for $1000, or where they can reach 2,000,000 a month, for $20? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. And once every black belt instructor out there does too, what's to prevent all of them from borrowing a camcorder, and spending a little time next weekend making some tapes, connecting a couple of VCR's together to make copies, spending $20 a month on intenet service, and $40 on some software so they can put themself on the internet? If I was one of the companies selling or marketing these products, I'd be very concerned !

I would say that with 2000+ choices that the industry has a lot to offer right now. But should that number double or triple, how will we decide? Anyhow that's our purpose and reason for doing this.

Now for the grading system.

This was hard to construct in some respects, yet simple in others. We wanted to come up with a uniform grading system. It had to be generic enough that it could be applied to ALL TAPES, no matter what their content or subject matter was. In writing a list of the various criteria to grade by, our list became rather lengthy. Not only was it lengthy, but in reviewing all our notes afterwards, we noticed that some criteria couldn't even be applied to certain types of tapes. What we ideally wanted to do was come up with 10-20 criteria to base our overall score on. Then assign a value to each of those criteria. We wanted those numbers to add up and make sense. So we looked at either choosing numbers between 1 and 10, or 1 and 5, so that a perfect score would add up to 100, based on 10-20 criteria. This seemed like a logical way to come up with a standard grading system that would make sense to everyone.

By the way, don't look for a bunch of 100's. Grading won't be easy, maybe it's the martial artist in us, but it'll have to be earned. And rest assured that a high score will really mean a lot coming from us. It's going to be EXTREMELY TOUGH to get 10's in each and every category of ours. So to put the grading in it's proper perspective, 9's straight across the board, which will probably be pretty common on good products, will have anyone starting out at a score of 90. And if you score one point lower than that on any other criteria, you're in the 80's. So don't look at this exactly like you would grades in school, look at a score of 10, for any criteria, as a indication of TOTAL PERFECTION. Maybe it's the martial artist in me that prevents me from easily giving away perfect scores.

Here are the "MAIN CRITERIA" that we will be looking for on all tapes:

1. Overall production/tape quality score
2. Score for the instructors demonstrated skill level
3. Score for our ability to easily and thoroughly comprehend the material shown
4. Degree to which this material will make someone a better martial artist?
5. Company's score on their ability to deliver vs. their hype
6. Degree to which we would recommend this product?
7. Wasted time on tape. Fluff/too many repeats/too much talking vs action or instruction/over excessive repeating of techniques. (The lower the number, the more fluff)
8. Playback Score/Would we watch it over and over again?
9. Would we purchase more of this company's products?
10. Overall grade based on cost vs. value

In addition to the main criteria listed above, here are some "SECONDARY CRITERIA" we will attempt to point out in the "Summary" section. This information seemed important, however in some respects, unfair or impossible, to use for grading purposes on all tapes.

1. Cost per tape
2. Number of moves/techniques per tape as it compares to the cost
3. Student classification: How would beginners, intermediate, or advanced martial artists possibly perceive the information.
4. How long might it take to benefit from the information shown.
5. Experiences in dealing with this company/individual.
6. Warranty/Guarantee policy.
7. The need to buy additional tapes to understand one tape.

And after all this, there will be an overall summary.

Click here to see our sample "Grading Sheet" !

This seems to be the best overall grading system we could come up with. We thought, and brain stormed, over this for many days. It was important to us that the grading criteria needs to apply to ALL TAPES, and that the TOTAL SCORE for all criteria, if it were to all be TOTALLY PERFECT, should add up and equal 100. Our hopes are that we will approach this process much like we do the martial arts, our goal will be constant improvement.

April 2005: Tapes will now have a total of 3 scores:

1. Percentage score (0-100)
2. Recommendation of Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good or Excellent
3. Stars - we will be using a 5 star grading plan (0-5 stars), with half star increments, much like what you see used to grade movies and TV shows.

I want to get away from the old scoring method. Many times we had tapes that might have been in the the 70 percent range, but in actuality needed to be in a much lower percentage. Many of you noticed this and thought that was confusing. The new 2005+ reviews, and their PERCENTAGE scores, will be more inline with the "Recommendation" next to it, and the "Stars". I know this may confuse people with the old PERCENTAGE score (pre-2005 reviews). If it does, PLEASE READ the comments and REVIEW throughly to better decide on a tape, until we can find time to go back through and re-grade all tapes. Or, if it's a pre-2005 review, and you're really confused, ignore the PERCENTAGE and look at the Recommendation and Stars shown. The intent is to go back and re-do all 300+ reviews to reflect the new scoring method, but that might take awhile, as there are other priorities. Please be patient about that.

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