Re: Muay Thai View of Kata
But this is not the point of kata. Kata are practical guides to combat techniques: they tell you what is effective, but they do not, and in principle cannot, make you good at executing it. For example, if you take a very simple kata like taikyoku shodan, you can derive a number of effective fighting techniques from it: e.g., in response to a grap to your arm or the front of your shirt, cover the grabbing hand (call it H1) and rotate your body 90º while pulling H1 towards you, thrusting your other forearm above the attacker's extended elbow (E1), moving your bodyweight into the pin thus on E1, forcing the attacker's upper body down, while twisting the H1 wrist counterclockwise. At this point, you're outside the attacker, you have leverage on both E1 and H1, your attacker's head is in close and low, and you can release the pin on E1 to deliver a very hard spearing elbow strike to the attacker's face followed by a hammer fist to his throat. That's in the first two moves of taikyoku shodan. I've taught this bunkai to students in my TKD classes and have shown them how, competently executed, it allows you to inflict terminal damage on the attacker, that is, physical damage sufficient to terminate their attack on you in your favor. Each kata is a chain of four or five such techniques. If you want balance, practice exercises specifically for balance; if you want power, the same. Kata aren't primarily training exercises for dynamic parameters like power, balance or `flow': they are lessons in sequences of destructive moves which, if you execute them effectively will take your attacker out of the fight.
Originally Posted by Flying-Knee-Strike
But the kata cannot ensure that you will execute the techs they offer effectively, any more than a mathematics text which shows you how to solve a certain kind of equation via a specific method can ipso facto guarantee that you will carry out that method successfully in the face of any given equation of the right kind. That what the exercises at the end of the section, or chapter, are for! In the same way, it's a category error to assume that knowing what to do will enable you to to actually do it. A blueprint does not create a building; you have to actually build it. A method of solution does not ensure that you will actually carry out the method correctly. A recipe does not guarantee a Michelin three-star meal as a result. These things tell you what, in each of these respective domains, you have to do, but in order to become good at doing it—at implementing the method—you have to train the method, in real time, with a noncompliant training partner, and you have to be willing to train at a realistic enough level of violence that you can be sure of your reactions and skills in an actual street attack. That means accepting a certain risk of injury, though this can be offset by a certain amount of protective gear and special conventions, such as a light touch to the eye counting as a full-force, possibly blinding finger strike to an eyeball/eye socket. There is no such thing as magic: even if you know what works, you have to make sure you have the trained skills to carry out what you know.
People seem to think that practicing kata repeatedly is the point of kata, and then complain that kata aren't effective because no number of performances are going to equip you to fight effectively on the street. Well, of course they aren't going to, but the mistake here is in the initial assumption about how to use kata. You aren't supposed to learn the performance of kata, any more than reading a method for solving a type of equation so many times that you commit that section of the book to memory, and can recite it perfectly like a theatrical monologue, will equip you to actually solve a new equation of that type. Kata are to be studied, not performed to perfection; you perform the kata to the point that you know what the movements in it are, but once you know that you have to (i) decode the combat scenarios built into the kata, via intelligent, realistic bunkai, that allow you to understand what combat moves those movement correspond to; and (ii) then go on to train that bunkai under unpleasantly realistic conditions. There is an excellent, condensed but comprehensive discussion of kata from this point of view in the April 2007 Black Belt, pp. 99–103,by Iain Abernethy, who has done as much as, or more than, anyone to recover the combat methods encoded in classical kata. In connection with his own training of the bunkai methods he and his associates have derived from these kata, he points out that `I've bled, broken bones and dislocated joints through my own adventures, so I fully appreciate that heavy contact isn't for everyone. Nevertheless, there are many ways to structure it so it's safe, beneficial and relevant.' The thing is, you can't omit this component of kata training, or you'll be in the position of someone thinking that because they've memorized the solution method, they can solve that equation. It's not enough: you have to actually practice doing it.
I think that's a serious error. I have seen many components of TKD hyungs, in effect KMA kata, in Combat Hapkido, which is only combat techniques and has no kata. The point of kata was to encode the fighting methods of the people who created the kata. There is a huge and growing literature on the combat methods encoded in the bunkai of just one classic kata set, the Pinan/Heian series; if you took a look at Abernethy's DVD on the street applications of the Pinans, you'd see just how effectively damaging the techs involved are. The kata show you how to deflect, pin/control the attacking limb, force the attacker into a compromised body configuration where they're vulnerable to a finishing strike, and finally how and where to deliver that strike. If all you've seen are people rehearsing kata over and over again with no actual analysis, no bunkai—no breaking of the kata down into the five or six combat scenarios they usually contain, and working out of how each of those subsequences takes you from the initial attack to neutralization of the attacker to the termination of the attack on your terms—then you've seen people who don't know how to benefit from the fighting system built into that kata, and you're making the mistake of judging the kata on the basis of misapplication and misuse of the kata for the wrong end—as choreography rather than as a lesson in major anatomical damage.
Originally Posted by Flying-Knee-Strike
All that is really needed to perfect your martial art can be acquired by other means, that are in my opinion not only more effective but quite a bit more fun.
Last edited by exile; 01-05-2008 at 04:58 PM.
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—from Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, Part XI, by David Hume (1711–1776)
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