Obsesseo is the latest DVD offering by David Rawlings and the London Longsword Academy.
The DVD looks at the I.33 manual, an early medieval manuscript from the late 13th or early 14th century that depicts combat using sword and buckler. It is not an introductory piece; no time is given to discussing how to hold the sword, how best to relate the sword and the buckler, the context of the manual, how to generate power in the strike, how to stand and step and move; instead the discussion moves immediately to what is shown in I.33 and how Dave interprets the different wards, techniques and concepts in a logical common-sense system. This is not to say that a beginner would not find this DVD useful, but it is clearly aimed at people who already understand the basics of sword and buckler and who want to look at the I.33 system in more detail.
The running time is short, just 30-40 minutes, but Dave manages to cover all the important points and all the plays of I.33 in this short space of time; nothing is missing. The production is of a very high quality throughout. The audio is handled very well, with a clear voice-over and also a pleasant musical score that does not detract at all from the presentation. It fades away into the background when Dave speaks, and when it does play the volume is kept at a reasonable level, never detracting from what is happening on the screen. The audio in this DVD serves to support the visual aspects without ever disrupting the action or otherwise irritating the viewer. The visual aspects of the production are also very well done; the location is stunning, the actors perform the motions comfortably, capably and fluently without making them difficult to see for the viewer. It is almost always easy to see what is going on in the various plays – occasionally the sequence involves moving in such a fashion that an actor ends up with his back to the camera, but each action or sequence is shown from multiple angles, at full speed and in slow motion, so it is never a problem to see what is happening. Matt Galas made a comment on SFI that this DVD has “the best production values” he has “ever seen in a HEMA video”; high praise indeed!
The interface of the DVD is nice and simple. You can play the whole way through or you can choose to select a particular technique/sequence from the list. The terms used to describe the different techniques and sequences are simple and straightforward, in English so that knowledge of the Latin names for the movements is not required. The DVD is listed as Region 2 but we have had reports that it can work on computers with a DVD drive in the US; however, it might not work properly in DVD players in the States.
With regard to the contents of the presentation, Dave has done a spectacular job. He is recognised throughout the country as one of the best combatants and instructors for the sword and buckler style of fighting, and this DVD is a good way to follow his thought process. Every action is logical and makes sense given the circumstance. While of course other groups and other instructors might have a different method for how to interpret I.33, Dave’s method is certainly effective and one could not go too far wrong in learning from this DVD.