Pavel Tsatsouline's "Russian Kettlebell Challenge" was the first DVD produced by Dragondoor.com.
For those not familiar with kettlebells, they are basically an iron sphere with a handle, ranging in weight anywhere from 9lbs all the way up to a monstrous 88lbs. They can be used for both strength training as well as for aerobic conditioning, with the capability to condition one in both areas at the same time. For more information, visit the kettlebell FAQ page located elsewhere on this site.
I have to say that I was not sure what to expect... on the one hand I was afraid it would not be of the best quality, considering that "The Russian Kettlebell Challenge" (RKC) was the first Pavel Tsatsouline video released by Dragon Door. I worried that the transfer of the original video to DVD would not come off looking any better than the quality of the original. On the other hand I have never known Dragon Door to put out a product of less than excellent quality.
On to the DVD review.
RKC is a must see for anyone who is considering purchasing one or more kettlebells. I have never read the print version, but in my opinion there is nothing like actually watching a master like Pavel performing the exercises. Let's face it, if you don't know what you're doing with a kettlebell, you could really hurt yourself. It's not like your usual piece of home fitness equipment. :-)
The shots are simple, but effective, more often than not giving a full head-to-toe view of Pavel as he performs the kettlebell exercises. The same exercise is shown from more than one angle at times, which is helpful as some of the exercises will seem rather strange the first time you see them done.
Pavel has a very engaging style which makes the DVD easy to watch. He puts on a bit of a "Russian boot camp instructor" persona, but it's obvious his tongue is firmly planted in his cheek, and you can almost see the grin hovering just out of site. He explains things in a very thorough and easily understood manner. His deep experience comes across completely and you will not mistake him for some of the current fitness gurus hawking their wares on infomercials.
A variety of basic exercises are covered, including cleans, jerks, bent-presses, windmills, military presses, swings, and snatches. There is plenty here to keep you busy for 6 months of training.
Nothing spectacular here, but it's not like you're expecting surround sound from an instructional video, right? What you do get is audio that is crisp, clean, and clear. There is no popping, hissing, or any sort of "muffled" sound.
Here is where I was very surprised: The picture quality is excellent. I own the original version on VHS and maybe it's because I was an early adopter of DVD (since 1999), but to me the video quality on the VHS version seemed quite poor. The content was so good however, that I thought it made up for the lack of video quality.
I don't know if it was originally shot on digital, or if there was some sort of program used to digitally clean up the original video. Whatever the case, the video on the DVD is very clear and sharp. A vast improvement over the original. I did not notice any artifacts or bleeding of colors.
I'll start out with what bothered me, which wasn't much, before I get to something I thought was unexpected, but very cool. I'm hoping that this will be taken as feedback for subsequent DVDs.
Recent DVDs give you the ability to skip past the FBI warning and any other "pre-menu" items. The FBI screen doesn't last long, but the standard disclaimer screen is up for what felt like a very long time. The ability to skip past that would be an excellent addition, and would not affect liability since it *is* present.
Once you get past that, the main menu actually has animation (of a sort) and looks really cool coming together. The images look very professional, but the text on the screen could stand to be of a higher resolution. It looked very "jaggy", especially on my hi-def big screen. Perhaps on smaller analog screens this is not so noticeable.
There is a chapter menu, as one would expect, and is very helpful to have on an instructional DVD. What you won't expect is that when you select one of the options (Cleans, Jerks, Presses, etc.), each of those categories takes you to a sub-menu listing each exercise individually! This goes way beyond what I (and others) were hoping for as far as being able to navigate the DVD. Huge kudos to whoever thought that extra step up, and to John DuCane (owner of dragondoor.com) for including it.
I didn't really expect anything in this department, but there is a Pavel Tsatsouline biography similar to the one available at the Dragon Door site.
There is also a menu which leads to clips advertising a number of Pavel's other videos, including "From Russia with Tough Love", "Forced Relaxation", and "Power to the People". Being a long time fan of Dragon Door's products, I would have liked have seen some of the more recent products, but I understand the choices shown since they lay the groundwork for a lot of the later products. It's a great overview for the uninitiated.
This definitely gets a "thumbs up". Even if you already own the original, I highly recommend purchasing this. It's a great DVD, and even if you're a long-time girevik, watching it again, you may pick up some techniques that you have forgotten. There's nothing like going back to the basics!
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