Bo Kata Help?

Discussion in 'Japanese Martial Arts - General' started by Drakanyst, Jul 12, 2011.

  1. Drakanyst

    Drakanyst Yellow Belt

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    I am from a traditional Korean martial arts school. When our instructor gave us an assignment to learn more bo techniques, he told us to go to the source (namely, Okinawan practice). We have recently begun to train in Okinawan Bo Kata, however, I would like to try to find a "dueling" Bo Kata, if possible. Can anyone help me with this? Does a form like this even exist?

    Thank you.
     
  2. harlan

    harlan 2nd Black Belt

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    Funnily enough, I just gave my first workshop to a TKD class about kobudo. :)

    In my school, we refer to the pre-arranged two-person bo exercises/kata/fighting as bunkai. Might not be technically the correct term. We only practice two different sets, but the idea is basically to have a kata with 'the other side' worked out. The kata switches from person to person during the drill, so at times one is performing the kata, and at other points is the adversary. Here is one example that I found looking for 'bo bo fighting'

     
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  3. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Isshin-Ryu has three bo katas: Tokumine no kun, Shishi no kun, and Urashi no kun. All are one-person katas. However, like our empty-handed kata, we perform our kata with the 'backside' as well as the kata. That is, one person provokes the kata, which is the response. This can take the form of bo-bo kumite or bo-sai kumite.

    This is very much like the one we practice in our dojo:



    Note the repeated series - low attack/block, middle attack/block, high attack/block. J-hook parry, pool cue strike, overhead strike, evade low strike. Just the basics.

    I'm still struggling with my first bo kata, so I'm no expert. But I hope this helps.
     
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  4. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hi Drakanyst,

    Well, where to start? First off, as you have put this in the Japanese Martial Arts section, let's look at that. The examples shown are examples of Okinawan methods, which are different to Japanese methods. Okinawan usage of a Bo tend more towards holding the hands each one third of the way up the staff, and keeping them there. Additionally, due to the Chinese influence, one of the primary methods to teach it is a solo training drill, refered to as a kata (which means "shape", or "form", implying that the method keeps the same form as it is repeated, without deviation). They then can be examined by looking at the application of the solo movements against an attacking partner, which is what is shown in Bill's clip above (this is what is refered to as "Bunkai", which basically means "application"). The other one (from Harlan) is a stunt group, rather than an actual martial system, for the record.

    For what you are looking for (Bo versus another weapon), that is done in many of the Japanese systems, in their form of kata (which, particularly in the older systems, is a paired exercise, with one partner being the "reciever" - the person having the technique done on them - and the other being the "performer"). Many will utilise the Bo against a Sword, others against weapons such as Naginata, or another Bo, and so on, depending on the system itself. It should be noted that a Japanese method of using a Bo is fairly different to an Okinawan usage, with the hands moving from one end of the Bo to the other freely, taking more advantage of the range of the weapon. Some examples are as follows:

    Tenshin Hyoho Kukishin Ryu

    Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu (as taught in the Genbukan)

    Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu Omote no Bo

    A rare one... Katori Shinto Ryu Gogyo no Bo (Bo versus Bo)

    Yagyu Shingan Ryu Taijutsu Bojutsu

    It really should be noted, though, that if you are looking at Okinawan methods, then Okinawan methods tend to not have these type of kata.
     
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  5. Drakanyst

    Drakanyst Yellow Belt

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    Thank you, everyone! This is very informative. Sadly, bo is still fairly foreign to me, so I am trying to learn as much as possible. I appreciate all the links and descriptions!

    @Chris: You are absolutely right. I believe the deviation in my message is between what we started with, and what I personally had in mind for the demonstration team that a few fellow instructors and I are taking part in. We were first told to seek out Okinawan practices regarding bo staff, and we have learned basic strikes and forms for this style. However, in the past I had seen a few Japanese representations and figured that would be more appropriate for a weapons demo. Thank you for the distinction in style, I am going to spend the next couple of days researching these.
     
  6. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Cool. Remember, though, that the movement of the Japanse systems is unlike the movement of your Okinawan-sourced usage. The best idea may be to just use what you have, and create a Bunkai (application) style demonstration form, similar to the one that Bill Mattocks linked. Some of the better demos I've seen show the solo pattern first, then the "paired" application afterwards, which could be an idea.

    The only thing I'm going to say as a definate no-no (not that I think this is what you may do, though) would be to try to copy the movements/patterns of these systems. That is one of the most unpardonable sins when it comes to traditional martial arts, especially with things such as the Koryu systems I've presented.
     
  7. harlan

    harlan 2nd Black Belt

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    To Drakanyst: good fortune on the journey. Martial arts is a diverse field, and one can spend many lifetimes and still not learn everything. I know that TKD didn't bring any systemized weapons training along with it, and think it's great when teachers support supplemental studies. What I have learned is that most empty hand arts taught along with a weapons system tend to share basic ideas on movement, and that is why most teachers of styles with no weapons wait until their students are proficient in the basics of movement - they don't want the new studies to mess with the primary practice. 'So, the question becomes...what weapons form might be best for me to integrate into my studies? Or that is so different that the training won't 'bleed over' into my empty hand?' Just something to think about as you go forward. And as Chris noted, 'Japanese' and 'Okinawan' traditions of weapons schools are different, so you might want to clarify with your teacher as if he was specifically pointing to Okinawan traditions.

    I would also like to address some points made in Chris post (below):

    You posted in a Japanese section. Although a distinct culture that is the result of Japanese, Chinese and other influences, it IS considered part of Japan.

    In defense of my youtube post, it was a quick search meant to give a visual on the idea of 'bo to bo'.

    As for points regarding Okinawan studies, such as bo kept in thirds, solo kata, etc. I'd posit that the biggest difference between 'Japanese' weapons systems and Okinawan is accessability and the degree to which it can inform one's art.

     
  8. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    All absolutely seconded.

    Completely agreed (which is why I was saying that the examples with bo versus other weapons, being mainly Japanese, may not be the ideal source for your research).

    I'm not quite sure what you're getting at here; are you talking about the Korean arts, or the Okinawan (being part of Japan)? Okinawan methods and movement is far more influenced by the Chinese than the Japanese cultures, for the record (when it comes to martial traditions).

    Ha, no defence needed, I just wanted to clarify for Drakanyst that it was not considered authentic or accurate usage of the weapon. Similar, but not the same. That's all.

    Sorry, you lost me again. Not quite sure what you mean by "the biggest difference... is accessability". The differences are technical, tactical, distance (ma-ai), and more. And they are pretty big differences at that (you should see what I'm like watching a "martial art" movie with friends... "That's not how that weapon is used!" "They're Chinese, why are they moving in such a Japanese fashion!" "What on earth, where did they pull that insane move from?". My friends usually tell me to just go in another room at that point....).
     
  9. harlan

    harlan 2nd Black Belt

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    Sorry, was writing while thinking...not always a good combo. ;)

    Accessability. On three levels, 'Japanese' schools, as I think you mean it, tend to be harder to find. I could be wrong, but with the plethora of karate schools (good and bad) that have started in the USA over the last 50 years, many came with some basic Okinawan bo studies. When I first started looking into MA, I wanted to study jodo. It was impossible to find near me. The second level is that this TKD student's task is to learn bo. I'm going on the assumption that a two person form for bo-bo is the best use of time as both students learn bo (against bo). Please correct me if I'm wrong, but trying to study bo-jutsu in any 'Japanese' school would only be a small slice of the curriculum; most bo studies...are they not against a different type of weapon? So, that entails learning TWO weapons. And lastly, this is a TKD school. Not saying it HAS to be so, but for the most part, the weapons study they look for relates to their empty hand; there is an 'ease' of transition to basic bo/tonfa/sai Okinawan studies.

    As for some of the other things you mention, depending on the robustness of the school, all things are variable. (Ex: Just because a beginner trains a bo in an Okinawan tradition in thirds, doesn't mean students stay there.)

    As for the degree of 'Japanese-ness' and 'Chinese-ness' of movement...I've gotten slammed for bringing that up! :0 'What is 'Chinese' movement'. And my reply is 'flowing and circular', and 'more internal power'...which has been pointed out to me are both wrong assumptions. (Perhaps that is another discussion. )
     
  10. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Ha, cool.

    Right, onto the first thing. Japanese schools that teach Bo can be much harder to find, and will tend to be Koryu or Koryu related. Most don't specialise in Bojutsu itself, but have it as a supplementary teaching (the Kukishin Ryu has a high emphasis on Bojutsu, and is found in the Ninjutsu-related organisations, as well as a few other groups, and a "mainline" group, the Tenshin Hyoho Kukishinden. As a result, yes, the Bo will be learnt against other weapons, such as sword, typically due to the sword being the main weapon already learnt. Interestingly, I was talking with a Jodo instructor recently, remarking on the hallmarks of Katori Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu that are apparent in the weapon usage....

    Next, the idea of both partners learning different sides of the Bo patterns, well, that'll depend on the system itself. I'd say that, if your concern is the speed with which the students learn, then solo patterns are the way to go.

    On the last point, agreed completely. I'd be looking far more towards an Okinawan/Karate Bo form than any of the more Japanese systems out there for these and other reasons. The biggest thing to be cautious of, though, is the amount of people I've come across, especially in TKD/Karate it seems, who have absolutely no idea of any real weapon usage whatsoever, yet think that their experience/skill in the unarmed system translates across. It doesn't.
     
  11. harlan

    harlan 2nd Black Belt

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    Qft!

     
  12. Grenadier

    Grenadier Administrator Staff Member

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    Before training in a bo vs. bo exercise, it's best to have a working proficiency with the bo, first. Your best bet is to talk to some of the local instructors in your area, and see what kind of kobudo / kobujutsu they offer.

    Many Karate schools teach Okinawan kobudo as a supplement. For example, my dojo teaches Shotokan Karate, but also Yamanni Ryu kobudo, even though the two systems are significantly different from each other. While it's not typical for someone to come in and only train in kobudo, it does happen at various schools, especially at places where the highest level instructors have their dojos.

    In general, you're going to find that there are three major systems of kobudo out there. You have Matayoshi kobudo, as well as Ryu Kyu kobudo, both of which differ significantly from the third system, Yamanni Ryu, which uses long, flowing strikes, and continual motion. Matayoshi and Ryu Kyu tend to favor short, staccato strikes instead.

    I'm not about to argue which is the best, since it's going to vary from person to person.

    There's also Kenshin Ryu, which is mostly taught at some Shito Ryu schools. Unfortunately, I cannot provide much insight into Kenshin Ryu, since I have never trained in it, and haven't seen it in action.

    Regardless of which you choose, as the others have stated, it's best to learn from a live instructor, and then use videos to supplement your live instruction, instead of using primarily video as a teacher.
     
  13. Black Belt Jedi

    Black Belt Jedi Blue Belt

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  14. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    The first one:

    is another example of the Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu posted earlier (this time it's the Sugino-dojo, rather than the mainline [Otake] or Hatakeyama that I put up), showing the Omote no Bo.

    The second one:

    is very much an example of the Okinawan use of Bo (as opposed to the Japanese) that I was referring to earlier, with the hands kept very much in the one position. Not fond of a couple of the actions, but not a bad clip from an Okinawan view.
     
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  15. Orange Lightning

    Orange Lightning Purple Belt

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    These sorts of videos of staff katas have always confused me. They just look.....impractical. Like the original purpose for most of the movements where forgotten or embellished on over time. And bo is my favorite thing to practice! Is it just the katas that look this way? Are they meant to teach principles and not necessarily simulate actual fighting? Especially when compared to HEMA, it really looks like there are pieces missing.
     
  16. donald1

    donald1 Senior Master

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    I know this stuff:)! Im not sure if I know how to put in words and I cant tell you anything about Korean bo style. but I do practice several goju bo forms and they are decent (not great but decent)
    My favorite bo kata is tokumine no dai

    What specificly are you looking for?
     
  17. Orange Lightning

    Orange Lightning Purple Belt

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    Just some insider knowledge. :) I'm not looking for a particular form or anything.
    All the videos of bo katas that I've seen just don't look quite right to me. It looks like they were made to certain principles or moves, and aren't actually supposed to demonstrate what a fight might look like.
    Have you done any bo sparring? I haven't, for the record. But, if you actually try to hit something with a staff....it just doesn't look the same. It's hard to explain.







    I'm not saying these people are bad at what they're doing (despite them being a bit dramatic :p ). It looks like they can certainly work a bo well enough. It's just, when you actually hit a target, you need less delicate alignment, and moves that don't cross your arms so much because it gets caught up against things. There are many moves where I don't understand why they used at all, or why they switched from one move to another. I don't know what system they practice, but it seems to be pretty common problem I have with these sorts of videos.

    Compare it with this HEMA quarterstaff technique demonstration. I'm not trying to say style versus style here. I'm just talking about how they position their arms and body for good striking leverage. You can do the same thing with the Japanese type of bo stuff I've seen, but they don't for some reason.



    I actually looked up that kata you mentioned, and it doesn't have this problem at all.



    I guess I'm wondering if a lot of people teach bo in a traditional sense, and aren't that connected to the understanding of it's combat applications. Maybe it got watered down over time because there is very little sparring? If ever? Or maybe just haven't seen many good practitioners? Maybe it's more stylized for demonstration, like wushu is, but the techniques would still make sense in context? What do you think?
     
  18. Orange Lightning

    Orange Lightning Purple Belt

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    Failed at the videos. Sorry. Here they are.







     
  19. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I cannot comment on the actual kata as I've not trained in them. However, if a kata is teaching principles, vs. simulating actual fighting (as you put it), it's going to have much more value. You cannot simulate fighting in a kata like this. You just end up choreographing a dance routine and that's not real fighting. However, if you train and understand principles, and understand technique as it expresses principles, then you can do anything with it and that is much more valuable as a training tool than trying to simulate or mimic a fight.
     
  20. Orange Lightning

    Orange Lightning Purple Belt

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    Don't get me wrong. I'm not putting down the concept of teaching principles without simulating fighting, or kata. That's perfectly fine. I'm just concerned with the principles being taught. Or rather.... a lack of a specific mechanic that's being taught.
    You know how using a sword is different than using a stick of same weight and properties just because a sword requires edge alignment? Edge alignment isn't necessary with a stick, so it isn't implemented. You can roll your limbs in a slightly more liberal way. With these staff videos, I'm concerned with how the body can generate force and then keep leverage. And when I see videos of people doing staff kata, they just don't look like their body is producing the necessary force, or keeping the body alignment to keep leverage. Not all of them, by any means. It's a somewhat subtle difference.

    Take the Kyle Montagna video for example. Most of the time, that guy isn't actually striking. He's moving his body and staff to next position really quickly, but without impact. His body maintains the technical leverage it would need for the blow to contain force, but doesn't but force behind it. It's the same thing as twirling the staff back and forth. It looks fast, but without leverage, it doesn't matter. There isn't anything super wrong about the moves themselves though.

    The traditional bo staff video has the opposite problem. That guy is trying to put force into his strikes, but his body doesn't have the leverage to make them land well.
    Aside from that technical problem, I am personally a little confused about some of the moves in these videos. But that's a contextual style thing, and is outside my beef zone.
     
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