Beginning and Advanced versions of forms/kata

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Cayuga Karate, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. seasoned

    seasoned MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    You have used this term "schoolboy karate" in the past and I assume with good cause from reading your earlier posts. In defense of many of the pioneers of karate, military personal, returning to the states in the 50s and 60s, they did for the most part bring back a glimpse of an art of self defense. But, also what they did bring back was an adherence to a training mythology unmistakably, and unknowingly, ingrained in them.
    The Okinawan's freely taught and demonstrated their kata, and made it a point, to assure that everybody that trained at that time, in their dojo, adhere to a strict regiment of technical form of body placement where kata and drills were concerned.
    Granted, a lot was left out, a lot was not explained, but what was taught, was, correct. You see the Okinawan's taught the kata exactly the way the kata was given to them. They were sticklers for proper technique and would, to the point of abuse, correct bad technique.
    Now, fast forward to the returning service members, the pioneers, the ones that opened dojo across to country. They had a base of technique and kata that they in turn taught to their american students. Some made what they learned unrecognizable, but, other taught exactly the way it was given to them. Some made a lot of money, some just got by.
    My point is, the ones that practiced and stayed true to what was given them, had a light turned on, years later when they discovered that those boring kata they stayed faithful to, took on a whole new appearance, once, their eyes were opened.
    My instructors were among the ones that stayed true to what they learned, and sadly they have both passed. But, I could never hold any ill feelings toward them, because they taught me exactly what they could, and I look at it as a gift.
    By the time my eyes were opened to the riches within those boring kata, I was already 20 years into doing the techniques right, all I needed was a different pair of glasses to see better.

    I feel this post, is relevant, for this thread, and at this time. :asian:
     
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  2. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Isn't that the truth? And I agree totally with the sentiment of the time not wasted, that our techniques are sound and our kata true .. but, wouldn't it have been great if our eyes had been opened a few years earlier? :)
     
  3. chinto

    chinto Senior Master

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    as you train and go back to say a kata you worked on a year ago, you should see things you missed the first time. A throw, a lock, a brake, a strike or what have you. Over time you will find what you see as far as advanced techniques in a kata will change. the kihon is still there, but you begin to look deeper, see the not so obvious applications when you practice bunkai on a regular basis. Kata has it all in there, you just have to learn to look for it and then see it.
     
  4. ballen0351

    ballen0351 Sr. Grandmaster

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    I think the biggest thing to help my Kata be more advanced is training in other arts. For example a Kata that simulates a throw but we dont really train throws in my dojo So I started training 1st in Aikido and when that school closed Im now taking Judo and learing proper applications for throws makes my preformance of the kata more advanced.
     
  5. seasoned

    seasoned MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    And this is what cross training is all about. Not learning another art, but, supplementing the one you have with better understanding.
     
  6. Cayuga Karate

    Cayuga Karate Orange Belt

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    Never-A-Reflection wrote:

    I suppose there is no chance that you could point to any of these movements being executed this way on-line, or could videotape yourself with a partner, or in the absence of a partner, walking through the movements, in air, describing the location of the attacker, which foot of his is forward, where his hands are, what are his hand doing.

    I remain unconvinced that it is very productive to write short descriptions in text of useful descriptions fighting, based on the complexities involved. It can be done, but requires a fair amount of text. You have made little mention of the specifics of the attackers movements and position (1a - deflecting the attack (grab or punch), 1b - No description, 1c - Countering a cross-body wrist grab, 2a - No description, 2b - No description, 2c - No description, 3a - No description, 3b - Someone grabs you from behind in a full-nelson-type hold, 3c - Someone grabs you from the front.)

    I believe most fighting systems are fundamentally concerned with the opponent's attack. Fighters with any training will be mobile, have their guard up, and often strike to the head, and can do so in multiple strike combinations. In thousands of karate and taekwondo schools around the world, attackers step in, freeze, and strike a single blow to the abdomen. Moreover, they leave their heads completely unprotected. It is a fallacy that these kinds of attacks in any way reflect the kinds of attacks one should anticipate in an actual fight. (This is not a complaint with Never-A-Reflection's application comments above, but a more broad criticism of how divorced much application practice is from the way fighting actually occurs. In fact, Oyata's students long ago adopted a more "fight-oriented" posture and attack in partner work.)

    There are a number of ways in which the applications of kata movements in many traditional karate schools do not map to the way actual fighting occurs. For example, it is quite common in traditional schools to have the attacker use passive attacks. If the attack is a grab, the attacker often does not try and resist the lock. In reality, a trained fighter knows how easy it is to let go before getting put in a lock.

    But the bigger concern I have with the focus on escapes from grabs is that the grab is an attack, and generally not part of an attack. In other words, the grab-attack is just not that threatening. I am far more concerned with a grab, followed by a head strike. And the knowledge of an impending head strike with drastically constrain the options I have in addressing the grab itself.

    Let's consider the application in 1c, above. First, I believe that well trained karateka are not going to let their wrists be grabbed. But let's leave that aside for a moment. More important, if the attack is truly a threatening attack, it is not the wrist grab from a passive attacker that is the problem. It is the punch from the non-passive attacker that follows the grab: that's the problem. The application you described has a response to the grab of a kick to an ankle. That kick shifts, for a moment, your weight to one foot. While on that one foot, your ability to deflect a punch, or retreat is severely hampered. You need two legs on the ground to effectively do either.

    Let's consider this in a bit more detail. The attacker begins an attack with a grab, his right against your left. His second movement is a left strike to the left side of your head, using the natural push-pull of karate strikes that pulls your head towards his rapidly incoming fist. It should be noted that he has both feet on the ground, and is hitting a target that is very difficult to block due to the momentary immobility of the grabbed left hand, combined with the weak stance of one foot off the ground. Considering these variables, there is a very significant chance that even in the event of a flawless kick, the attacker would wind up in a far better position after this exchange.

    I brought up the opening of Passai (It is clearer in this video - :08 to :10) to illustrate an interesting problem with certain kata sequences. To apply this movement in an effective fighting sequence, you have to add more movements. This sequence, can't, by itself, take out a bigger attacker. There is just too little done in the direction of the attacker. There are two steps forward (Left, Right, Left) then the left foot retreats. And it defies any sense of fighting that the hand sequence shown would end the fight against a larger attacker.

    I do not claim that Okinawans didn't achieve great power in their strikes, and that they did have "knockout" capability in the punches. But this opening to Passai does not utilize the typical push-pull Okinawan punch. Both hands start fully extended, and down, and both move together to the target in a stance that may be balanced, but does not prevent the impact-recoil that a strong forward stance does.

    I think that if anyone charged at an attacker of any experience, with both hands down like that, they would likely be quite surprised at the effects of receiving a head strike while charging forward both hands down and back.

    IMO, to evaluate what the kata movement can do, one needs to first define the position and direction of the attackers movements. They can be stationary, they can be advancing, and they can be retreating.

    Let's start with the challenge of distance. At any given point in time,

    1. The attacker is at arm's distance, and remains at arm's distance. The defender simply cannot use three steps forward. The attacker is in the way.

    2. The attacker starts at arm's distance and moves forward. Same as above. The attacker is in the way of proceeding forward.

    3. The attacker starts at arm's distance and retreats. Then the three steps could be completed.

    4. The attacker starts at a distance. Then the three steps could be completed.

    In this Passai opening sequence, the defenders hands begin down low, touching each other. They remain touching throughout the sequence. First they are drawn back to the waist on the left (a chamber) and then, after three steps forward, they are drawn out shoulder height, but neither are fully extended. At that point, they pull away as the body retreats backwards.

    Now, there are lots of possibilities at what these hands could do, but each sequence needs to be considered in light of the four options described above. If the situation (described in 3) has the attacker retreating, then this is a chase. But it is a short one, it has limited distance going forward. If the attacker is beyond arm's distance (4 above), this is an attack, not a defense. I think most fighters with any training would consider the risks of this kind of an attack quite high. The head is wide open and charging to the assailant.


    So how do karateka make sense of this movement in a self-defense situation? Simple, they change it.

    1. First the problem of distance needs to be addressed. If steps give you too much distance against an attacker at arm's distance, remove them, or shorten them.
    3. Second, the problem of not enough meaningful counter strikes/kicks has to be addressed. The solution, add more counters. I doubt many would believe there is enough "striking" in this sequence to end an attack from a larger hostile attacker determined to hurt us. You have to add more.

    I will take the time to consider the other sequences as well, but I would be grateful if you could mention whether you can provide any video first.

    One final note. I need to once again reiterate that I believe many kata sequences lend themselves to effective fighting. I also believe that others... well, not so much. Contributors here and elsewhere often describe their belief that all movements in kata can be used for effective empty hand fighting.

    I encourage those contributors to help with the discussion by posting video of the effective use of some of these "hard-to-understand" sequences.
     
  7. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    I think that what you have convincingly demonstrated is that along your martial arts journey is that the schools and people you have trained with have only given passing attention to kata. In the past I have been in the same position and my teaching reflected that situation. Early in my career I failed totally to see the relevance of kata apart from the fact that it was a big part of competition and back then two of my instructors were regular members of the Australian team. Later I began to realise there was a lot in the kata that I had overlooked in the past. So, I started trying to make sense of the kata but because I had no idea of the kata 'rules' my understanding remained pretty basic. Once you start to read books on kata you start to understand more and more. Now, I reckon about 90% of my teaching involves kata and the remaining 10% relates to kata.

    Until you find a teacher to help you answer the questions you are asking you will not progress. No one is going to give you the information you are seeking in a forum. My studies have cost me thousands of dollars and involved years of research. I don't mind sharing snippets and helping some one to understand something that is not clear, but you seem to think that people will fall over themselves to post what you want. It just isn't going to happen sometime soon.

    I also feel that you are ignoring a lot of what posters are saying. It seems you will grasp what fits your understanding and reject as non credible anything outside of your understanding. Keep an open mind and start to explore things for yourself.

    :asian:
     
  8. chinto

    chinto Senior Master

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    yes the throws are there in the classical Kata but so many do not see them. Okinawan Karate has locks, brakes, throws, strikes and grapples! its all there, but so many just do not know how to see them and find them.
     
  9. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    I was just reading some articles on Iain Abernethy's website when I came across this ...

    That pretty much mirrors what I said and what I believe. :asian:
     
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  10. seasoned

    seasoned MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    And, it is this understanding that takes years to cultivate.

    Learn the kata
    practice the kata
    understand the kata
    own the kata...........................:asian:
     
  11. chinto

    chinto Senior Master

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    yes and that is why you go back and look at the kata time and time again and your understanding changes over time.
     
  12. Never_A_Reflection

    Never_A_Reflection Blue Belt

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    My desktop computer (which has the software for my video camera on it) is in storage at the moment, so it will probably be a few weeks before I could get video uploaded, assuming I remember by the time I get to the dojo--I'm afraid I tend to be a bit scatterbrained.

    Fair enough, but I believe that these are concepts that can be applied in multiple situations.

    Your description of a "fighter" is correct, and also not at all what karate was intended to combat. I do not disagree with your criticism of the "step in, throw a single strike and freeze" method of training--it's really only good for starting people out on having attacks thrown at them. I do believe that a relatively untrained attacker (which I believe was the attacker karate is intended to be used against) is more likely to over-commit to their attacks, however, which makes follow-ups slower and sloppier than a trained "fighter."

    Techniques like that are concepts--most adults don't find themselves being grabbed as an attack alone, that is true, but a grab does not need to happen in isolation to use these types of techniques. That's the goal, anyway.

    You haven't done much grappling, have you? How an opponent grabs you, or how you grab them, can be a MAJOR influence in how the fight turns out. As I said, a grab doesn't have to happen isolation--I have frequently used techniques from kata against grabs while grappling and, just like stances, they are just moments in time.

    A well trained karateka should never let themselves get sucker punched, either--wouldn't it be great if we lived in an ideal world like that? As far as that particular example, have you tried throwing an effective punch while having someone lock your wrist and kick your ankle so that it rolls? I've tried to hit my instructor when he does this and I can't manage to land anything effective, if anything at all, and while I am no expert I am certainly better trained than your average attacker. Also, untrained people who punch someone while grabbing their wrist don't typically pull on the arm--they just try to hold it down so it can't hit them.

    I can't watch YouTube from work, so I'm not entirely certain which movements you are referring to at the moment, but I get the idea. Your problem is that the kata isn't giving you the final solution, correct? Is it not possible that the kata is teaching you how to get into a good position (or at least, get out of a bad one) so that you can employ the myriad skills you possess from there? Finishing the attacker is the easy part where your basic striking abilities can be put to use. I will also mention that I gave multiple applications for a reason--if this one doesn't work for you, that's fine, because there are other options.

    The "typical push-pull Okinawan punch" is actually very uncommon in older, traditional kata, and even less common in "a strong forward stance"--these are features of Itosu-esque simplified kata. In fact, the only older, traditional kata in our system that I can think of that has them is Chinto, and even then they are shizentai-dachi, not zenkutsu-dachi. Kata aren't for teaching you how to apply basic punches and kicks--if they were, there would be a great deal more parallel between kihon practice and kata.

    I never suggested that anyone should do that with, perhaps, the exception of my example of using that movement as a bodyguard--which is my preferred application, honestly. If you question why a bodyguard would move into an attack with their hands in a position like that, I would like to refer you to the United States Secret Service and their "hands ready" position:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    If that is the way you want to look at kata, that's fine, but I see it as teaching concepts so it isn't necessary for me to define those things. In reference to your points, I will say that I can certainly use three steps forward if those steps take me past the attacker--just because I take the steps in a straight line doesn't mean that straight line has to be directly into the attacker's body (that would be stupid). If the attacker is moving forward, then obviously that would necessitate a change in how you move your feet--this goes back to teaching concepts rather than exact "If This Then This" responses.

    I believe that I addressed this above.

    Of course they change it--the kata have been changed hundreds of times, anyway, so how to we know that the steps weren't originally shorter? Or longer? Or maybe there weren't even steps? Even if it hadn't been changed over time, the kata is still (the way I see it) teaching concepts, so it may be teaching you the ideal way to do something, even though we all know it doesn't turn out that way under stress.

    As for your second point here, I again refer to my previous statement that kata isn't for teaching the basics--if you have been training in karate long enough to be learning kata application, you should know how to throw a strike when you have an advantageous position without the kata explicitly telling you to. There is no need for someone to tell you the "final solution" if you have the upper hand, because you should be able to figure it out on your own without much difficulty.

    As mentioned above, I will try, but it won't be for at least a couple of weeks.

    Despite my arguments thusfar, in the end if you feel you cannot find an effective fighting application, that's fine--don't teach that part to your students. Karate masters of old changed things all the time because they didn't like them or felt they didn't work well.

    I encourage it as well, but it isn't likely--I really don't think most people are even willing to engage your questions as much as I have. Your posts are exhaustingly long, asking so many questions that it takes an equally exhaustingly long response to address them, and that makes people hesitant (I would highly recommend you try to shorten them to encourage participation). Aside from that, most people who have been training longer than I (remember, I've only been training for 6.5 years, and only about 2.5 of those under my current instructor) aren't going to be so open with the knowledge that has taken them so many years of blood, sweat, tears, time and money to accumulate as to share it for free on the internet to someone they've never met.
     
  13. Uncle

    Uncle Blue Belt

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    In traditional styles of karate the kata are actually much more like the very traditional Kung Fu style they originate from. The forms are not exacting steps of how they are applied. They train your coordination by performing pieces of the movements. You then take the coordination built in the forms and take it to drills. Then the drills are taken into sparring.
    As an example there's one move from siu lim tao which is tan sau -> bong sau -> tan sau. Now rarely if ever would I do that but tan to gan or gan to tan I use regularly.

    So it goes:
    Coordination training for your art's style of movement (forms)
    Controlled training for application (drills)
    Practiced application (sparring)
     
  14. chinto

    chinto Senior Master

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    yes, and kata teaches you movement, doctrine of how to move and techniques. the old kata, the Classical kata of Okinawa have at least 5 techniques for every movement in the kata. they are teaching you some footwork and then some basics and from there it is your problem with bunkai to explore the deeper more advanced meanings hidden in the kata.

    when you find something you play with it, drill it and then perhaps in sparring use it.
     
  15. punisher73

    punisher73 Senior Master

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  16. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    The article is very good but Dan does seem to contradict himself a little at times, then comes back with a little gem that puts things into context.

    Any kata can be classed as kihon, as 'kihon' is the way it is performed. His example of 'taikyoku' kata being simple is spot on. But I would question that Miyagi's Gekisai is in the same bracket, and Itosu's Heian/Pinan are different again. The taikyoko kata I am familiar with are those constructed or developed by Gogen Yamaguchi. To be honest I see little value in them that cannot be taught in other ways. They are combinations of basic techniques that combine into striking, kicking and stepping drills. I'm not saying they are of no use, but I prefer other methods of teaching those principles. Miyagi's Gekisai kata are different in that they are constructed in the same way as the original kata in that one technique leads to the next in the context of using the kata as a fighting system. Itosu's series of five kata are, to my understanding, carefully designed as a complete set of instructional kata with one technique leading to the next, but one kata moving from one level to the next. (Iain Abernethy has a couple of great DVDs of those kata.)

    And that in a nutshell is the difference between beginner (kihon) and advanced kata. Not the actual kata themselves, the exception possibly being the taikyoko kata mentioned previously. :asian:
     
  17. Black Belt Jedi

    Black Belt Jedi Blue Belt

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    Here is the Goju-ryu kata Seiyunchin performed by Morio Higaonna



    Here is the bunkai of Seiyunchin

     
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  18. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    And as has been said already, it is a kihon form of the kata. His bunkai is not the bunkai but Higaonna's basic explanation of possible applications of the techniques. I'm not being critical of Higaonna. I actually have both those clips on my own website.

    Bunkai is a term that has wide meaning. For now, this is as good as any ...

     
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  19. chinto

    chinto Senior Master

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    yes exactly, there are several bunkai for each movement, and your understanding of the kata and what it possibly is teaching you will change as your skill and knowledge change over time. Bunkai is not static for the practitioner, but a learning curve. That said , two practitioners of the same art, and skill level may see different things in the same kata. This is not wrong, just different. Also if you have training in something else, you may not see the same thing as some one who has only the training in the one system. Again this is not wrong, just different. ( also if you are training for self defense or just for tournament, may change what and how you see the same kata too. )
     
  20. SahBumNimRush

    SahBumNimRush Master of Arts

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    Man, I can't believe I missed this thread entirely.. . Great discussion. Thank you.123
     

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