Way back in 1998 is when I first saw a documentary on A&E simply titled The Martial Arts. Narrated by George Takei (of Star Trek fame), it blew me away in terms of how much ground it covered in such a short amount of time and in how well it covered that ground.
Martial arts masters from around the world were interviewed about their styles of martial arts and how they originated. The result is an amazing peek into the practice of martial arts and its Eastern influence on Western culture. This documentary approaches martial arts from not only a historical, physical, and commercial perspective, but a spiritual one as well, containing some wonderful teachings from different martial arts philosophies.
I’ve never been able to find this documentary anywhere, except on YouTube (unless you count the phone number given at the end of the video to order a VHS copy). Unfortunately, the person who transferred it from tape to digital felt the need to artificially present it in widescreen, cutting off the top and bottom of the original 4:3 picture. Still, it’s very watchable and very much worth watching. If you’ve got a spare 96 minutes and have even a passing interest in martial arts and/or philosophy, I fully recommend giving it a look.