The Facts of Kata
By Patrick McCarthy [ website ]
Originally posted on http://www.cyberdojo.org/
I'd like to present some common facts about kata for those of you interested in better understanding this historical & cultural phenomenon.
Fact: Kata are the time capsules of karate whose technique, when properly understood, reveal practical responses to the habitual acts of physical violence which have plagued the human race from the very beginning.
Fact: Kata has "traditionally" served the principal vehicle through which the "secrets" of karate have been handed down over the generations
Fact: Kata are a geometrical collection of defensive & offensive technique.
Fact:: The defensive themes & corresponding application principles intertwined within the technical myriad called kata unfolded only after untold generations of empirical observation and practical experience
Fact: It has always been the human body, its unique function and common anatomical weaknesses which have ultimately dictated how personal tools of impact, ways of seizing and methods of transferring both low intensity & higher velocity kinetic force impede motor performance; Knowledge of this “UNIVERSAL TRUTH” (or lack thereof.)
Fact: Based upon this universal truth, man (Chinese, Okinawan, American etc.) has continually pursued different ways through which to learn and improve these infinite principles.
Fact: Chinese spiritual recluses in monastic sanctuaries, dedicated to living in harmony with nature and their fellow man believed that if and when the human condition (EGO) could be harnessed, the need for physical violence could be reduced to pure chance.
Fact: These reclusive architects ultimately identified and catalogue no less than 36 different defensive themes. In an effort to address each of these random yet habitual acts of physical violence, that plagued the plebeian society in which they dwelt. With continued study as many as 72 different variations were meticulously systematized. Ultimately, eighteen individual exercises (called hsing/kata) came to represent a total of 108 defensive themes and application principles. Historically, this phenomena represents the foundation upon which the kata of *Okinawan* karate unfolded.
Fact: Kata are comprised of 5 principal sets of tools.1. Punches, 2. Kicks, 3. Blocks, 4, Stances & 5. Strikes.
Fact: Historically 6 kinds of exercises were used to facilitate the development of kata. 1. Techniques of punching, 2. Kicking methods, leg maneuvers & and associated practices, 3. Posturing, 4. The use of the empty hand, 5. Corresponding tools of impacting & 6. Checking, trapping & blocking.
Fact: The 12 fundamental defensive themes intertwined within kata include:
1. Seizing nerves
2. Attacking blood passages
3. Twisting bones
4. Attacking tendons
5. Joint locks
10. Counter attacks
11. Impacting anatomically vulnerable zones
12. Digging into the cavities of the body unprotected by the skeletal structure
Fact: The 4 fundamental categories of application principles into which these defensive themes fall include
1. Techniques of restraint
2. Neurological shut-down
3. Attacking the respiratory system
4. Methods of stunning.
Fact: Kata is like a song in a foreign language; "Unless you understand the language in which the song is sung, its words will forever remain a mystery."
Fact: Long ago, before written language, the ancient tribes of man passed their knowledge on through physical emulation; the very roots of the kata phenomenon. This living phenomenon not only served as an excellent vehicle through which to impart existing knowledge, it also provided the very platform upon which more progressive learners could extrapolate and interpolate more improved methods of studying infinite principles.
Fact: The fundamental concept of kata is not the commodity of any one specific culture, but rather the product of humanity. As civilization evolved, language developed, and the tribes of man took on individual characteristics, so too did his rituals reflect such changes. Built upon ancient customs, profound spiritual conviction & disciplined social ideology, the kata of Karate-do is a microcosm of the austere culture from whence it comes.
Fact: If not balanced by moral philosophy & spiritual Introspection Kata is little more than a physical pursuit. One can never get beyond the immediate results of physical training, without looking inward. Kata (which is karate-do) teaches that the source of human weakness is internal, not external. Hence, the journey must always be inward, not outward. Discovering that the source of human weakness lies within reveals the location where our personal battles must be first fought and won before inner-harmony can ever be achieved and the living of daily life improved. Karate-do cannot exist without a body of moral philosophy to govern the behavior of those who embrace its empowering practice. Learning kata without its corresponding philosophy creates a terrible imbalance, which is usually reflected in attitude, character and behavior.
Fact: The fundamental principles upon which the theory & application of kata rest can be explained in both Western science & Eastern tradition. (Please be certain to look out for the IRKRS & DSI forthcoming publication outlining this pedagogy.)
Fact: Kata can be an interesting alternative to conventional Western physical fitness, 2. Practiced as one part of a rule-bound sport, 3. A conduit through which defensive themes and corresponding application principles are imparted. 4. Meditation in motion.
Fact: Ritualized practices are invariably reinterpreted to meet the numerous and varying demands of that generation's more progressive teacher/learner. When such a phenomenon occurs, the interpretation invariably leaves a signature residue representing the understanding of the person(s) responsible for it.
Fact: Aims & objectives must always be supported by corresponding training methods. If kata was forged to be used against a fighter in an arena, warrior on the battlefield or any other kind of MUTUAL confrontation, its configuration and training method would be diametrically different to the way they are. This does not preclude that application principles cannot be used against the said adversaries, but only suggests that they were originally developed, and constantly improved upon, for the expressed purpose of being used by average people against someone who had little or no understanding of such application principles.
Fact: In an attempt to establish teaching curriculums for the body of knowledge possessed, various kata were brought together by various Uchinanchu (Okinawans) in an effort to produce a personal delivery system.
Fact: I spent years in the field at the source(s) collecting and analyzing the oldest versions of *Okinawan* kata and studying how and what anthropological forces effected their growth and subsequent direction.
Fact: I amassed a plethora of accolades from Okinawan & Japanese karate masters alike testifying to the extent of my research.
Fact: I am completely confident in the knowledge that I presently command and have worked diligently to produce an easy but effective & systematized way through which to imparting such knowledge to any and all like-minded people interested in learning. The kata I teach, (Taisabaki 1-6, Happoren, Chokyu, Nepai, Hakutsuru, Ryushan, Rakkaken, Wando, Yara Kushankun, Matsumura Passai, Aragaki Seisan, Aragaki Niseishi, Aragaki Sochin, Aragaki Unshu etc.) their corresponding defensive themes & application principles are among the oldest traditions in Koryu Uchinadi and trace their lineage back to Kojo Taite (1837-1917,) Aragaki Seisho (1840-1920,) Xie Zhongxiang (1852-1930,) Wu Xianhui (1886-1940,) Tang Daiji (1887-1937,) Higashionna Kanryo (1853-1917,) Kiyoda Juhatsu (1886-1967,) Hanashiro Chomo (1869-1945,) Miao Xing (1881-1939,) Oshiro Chojo (1887-1935,) and Kinjo Hiroshi (1919.)
Fact: In today's segregated international karate community there are a plethora of 'standards' and no end to indiscriminate learning.
I wonder what French Mathematician & Philosopher Henri Poincare knew about karate when he wrote (in his "Hypothesis of Mathematics," 1905,) Science is built upon facts in the same way that a house is built with stones, but, that the mere collection of facts is no more a science than a pile of stones is a house."
Understanding kata is simply a matter of facts.