Different 'focus' in forms training

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by _Simon_, Feb 13, 2020.

  1. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    Just had a bombardment of exciting things coming to me.... hope y'all don't mind! Was going to post it in the other "how do you study your kata" thread, but felt it was long and 'rambly' enough for a thread.

    Instead of trying to focus on a different aspect of the form or train it in a different way, realising that every single time you perform a kata, it is different. Literally every time is different, and every kata is actually new. Just like the old saying, a river not being the same from one moment to the next, and is a whole new river, a kata will never be performed the exact same, ever.

    So then working with this, you can perform a kata, and ask yourself... "Okay, what's different about it this time? How is it feeling? How did I feel while doing it? What is standing out today? What's revealing itself?"

    How you perform your form often informs you as to where you're sitting, what you're holding onto, or what space you're in in life. Shoulders tense and raised often means you feel like you have the weight of the world on them, feel burdened; leaning forwards too much (tight calves) can signify an overpreparedness, not trusting the process of life, trying to anticipate too much, be in control, future focused etc.

    There are days for me when everything is disjointed, movements feel disconnected from each other, and it's usually because within myself I feel disconnected from life, others and myself, confused and 'out of step'. And too much tension as well, usually being a lack of trust, believing I need to hold it all together, be on constant alert..

    It then becomes a tool for self-reflection, but this also informs how to work with it in your martial art practice. It reveals limitations you have on yourself, but also positive expressions too, feeling of unity and power in movements can come from a sense of genuine wellbeing and empowerment.

    And having this stuff brought to your awareness means it's already in the process of transformation, and you begin to let it go. Movement becomes freer, and energy flows better.

    It's another dimension of kata I've been exploring :), much along the lines of zazen practice, (there's a saying "Ken Zen Ichi Nyo", Karate/Fist and Zen are One") kata is facing yourself, directly, there's nowhere to hide, as your kata reveals all if you're honest with yourself.

    This clip comes from a longer DVD (which I actually contacted them directly and bought from them as I loved their approach), but along these lines:




    That's all! Obviously you have to know the form well enough, past the memorising stage, but it's been fruitful for me exploring this.
     
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  2. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    Have you explored the Bunkai for kata at all? I've done several seminars with Iain Abernethy as ell as getting his videos and books, the way he explains things and demonstrates really works for me.
    Bunkai - Karate's forgotten 95% | Iain Abernethy
     
  3. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    Ah yeah for sure, I guess I was speaking more on aspects of kata training that aren't often utilised or discussed. Under the surface sorta stuff, especially when only training it solo. In Kyokushin we did very very little bunkai practice, it was kinda fun when we did it :)

    And yeah Iain's great!
     
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  4. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    I use it training solo as well, I tend not to use kata for sorting out stances or any 'spiritual type exercise' etc. For me it's purely practical.
     
  5. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    Ah yep fair enough, I respect that! We all train for different reasons and purposes ay :)
     
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  6. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    I agree, it really annoys me though when there's those, who invariably know little or nothing about kata, state that kata is useless, pointless and outdated. There's a lot to be found in practising kata whatever you are looking for. :)
     
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  7. Yokozuna514

    Yokozuna514 Purple Belt

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    I agree. I think it says more about the person looking at it than it does about the practice of it. A person who wants to find meaning and usefulness in anything will find it if they keep looking. Conversely, if a person doesn't want to find meaning in something, they won't. Is one approach better than another ? Not necessarily, it just means that some people can learn from these set of tools that others cannot. Like a paint brush in some hands can cover walls and in others create the Sistine Chapel.
     
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  8. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    I've never done breaking, for me I don't see the necessity for it but I wouldn't say to those who find value in it that's it is pointless.
    Anything you find that adds value ( to put it that way) in your training and helps you progress then just do it. :)

    Well, within reason …. no chopping off people's heads because it improves your Iaido ( though undoubtedly it would! :D)
     
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  9. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    You can learn vocabulary from a book. More important, you can also learn grammar from that book.

    If you understand the grammar "use kick to set up punch", your kick/punch combo will be different every time you train.
     
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  10. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    If the book is badly written you won't learn grammar at all.

    'use kick to set up punch' tells you very little.
     
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  11. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    I Loved breaking back in the day. I still have a couple block breaks I do at demonstrations on occasion. My "go to" is two stacks of 5 or 6 blocks with palm heels. For me, it is/was the challenge of the 'what if' in breaking. What if I don't break? What if I miss? Will I try again? Am I mentally/physically strong enough? I put it in the same realm as doing a higher max weight lift.
    Most often it is much more of a mental game than a physical game. There is also a good amount of verification in the technique when breaking. Something I always stress to onlookers before I do a break.
    Statistically, it takes about 1000 newtons to break a 3/4" x 12" pine board, 800 newtons to break a 1 5/8" concrete block (less shear force) and 3300 newtons to break a rib. Stacking boards or blocks together has an exponential effect so three boards would be greater than 3300 newtons (approximately). Boards vary in difficulty due to grain and moisture and blocks due to mix and moisture. I always say two boards or blocks are close in comparison to breaking a rib. For most people, breaking blocks are Much more of a head game. Plus they are very abrasive so any slippage in the striking component (hand, elbow, etc...) is likely going to break skin.
    I have had some rough encounters when breaking including a broken hand, toe, and shearing a bone from my ankle. Good times.;)
     
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  12. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    100%!
     
  13. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    Ahhh.. I jump at any possible chance there is for breaking.. very true in that it is very much a mental thing (whilst absolutely a massive test of your technique).

    I just love the intense one-pointedness of it, and getting into that zone. All the doubts come up... "can I break it... what if I hurt myself etc etc...", then there's a decisive moment where you decide "I am breaking this". The courage it takes to approach it, and be willing to test yourself... The focus of striking through it rather than the object itself can even be equated to seeing through the obstacle in life rather than obsessed with the obstacle itself.


    Ahhhhhhhhh so much fun!!!
     
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  14. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Very well said Simon!
     
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  15. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Blue Belt

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    Kata can be a mirror into one's self, but that is a secondary effect. When performing kata, you are practicing combat. Kata is a mirror of your approach to that. Your state of mind/spirit in combat is where the zen is. What is reflected is your commitment, zanshin, confidence, self-mastery and inner calm while in the maelstrom of battle. Just doing movements in kata may reflect your mood or tension during that day, but those deeper feelings will not be revealed without visualizing the combat. To some extent, this is true for breaking as well.

    To visualize combat, you must see bunkai. There may be two or three valid bunkai for a particular combination - you can take your pick, but execute it with full understanding of the application - be in the moment, the moment of combat.

    You can vary the way you do your kata by interpreting the bunkai in various ways. Based on whether you see a technique as a flowing takedown, or as a parry and strike, your body movement, weight shifting, and even breathing, will change as the spirit of the movement will be different. Of course, you can vary your kata in less subtle ways by stressing power, or speed, or snap in your moves, as well as changing cadence.

    These are some thoughts, some of them new to me, that this thread got me thinking, looking back on a half century of martial arts. One last thought -

    Above I used the phrase "valid bunkai." By that I mean applications that faithfully follow the kata's moves. Contorting the kata to make a bunkai fit isn't just interpreting the kata, but changing it. Example: - "This looks like I'm stepping in with a block and reverse punch. But it is really a takedown. How? If instead of stepping in, I just step to the side, elbow instead of blocking, grab his hand instead of punching, add a pivot 180 degrees and drop to my knee, it becomes a takedown." - This is not a new bunkai for the kata - it's a whole new kata!

    While this example is a quite extreme, I've seen bunkai on youtube from various sensei getting close to it. ANY move can be changed enough to become something else. Some of these are interesting, and even effective, but they are not part of that kata. By teaching those moves separately from the kata, the new moves, the kata and the style can all retain their integrity.

    Don't mean to sound preachy, it's just my writing style, but these are some of my beliefs and opinions re: kata.



     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
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  16. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    No no all good, appreciate your thoughts on it all, that's very welcomed!

    And I guess technically Zen isn't limited to any particular aspect or activity, as it encompasses all things. That's why I've found kata to be good for that. But certain activities are certainly conducive to a good practice or space/intention for it.

    I do understand what you mean, but yeah I guess I have a different take on it, and don't 100% agree. Kata to me as a meditative practice doesn't need visualisation. The intensity and spirit of it can still be there without using particular imagination. Even in breaking, I'm not visualizing that the wood is a person or opponent. That mindset can still be there.


    I totally, totally get that. And there is something incredible that happens within spirited sparring that brings something deeper out. But yeah I don't think you can really recreate that feeling exactly doing solo kata, it's just not the same, hence the focus being different. For me that is!

    The Zen of kumite and the Zen of kata to me have different feels so to speak...

    And to me combat is not only with an opponent, but with yourself. I know I know... very cliche, but kata represents overcoming limitations and resistances. And the fact that it is a set pattern, and that it is repetitive is very conducive for self-awareness and for illuminating things within yourself.

    Understanding the idea of what combat is about on an internal level takes it beyond a me vs. an outside opponent.

    In intense kata practice, there are many supposed fights, resistances, combats going on. On different levels. Mentally, emotionally, physically, technically.. and honing awareness and becoming more in tune with what's going on can bring up a great deal.


    I know this is a very rare view possibly, but to me bunkai is secondary. In MY practice that is, not making any absolute statements haha.

    I guess it can also go back to how in Okinawa, karate being primarily a means of self defense, and moving to Japan brought out another emphasis (perfection of character through perfection of technique, a method/path to oneself). I think the practice of Zen also evolved through coming out of India, to China, to Japan etc, from what I've read anyway. The different schools Soto, Rinzai etc also having a different emphasis or vehicle so to speak.

    And it's up to us what focus is important to us.

    Haha yes I totally know what you mean... and there is much debate about this. I'm sort of in the middle about this. I think people take far too great a liberty and like you said, completely change the movement. But I also don't think you literally can stay exactly true to the very set defined movements when applying it on a real person. To me the bunkai teaches principles within the movements, and the application is an expression of whatever principle the kata is trying to convey. So the outside form may differ a little (and especially due to different body types etc), but to me it's about understanding the underlying principles, rather than being too literal about the appearance of the kata application. But yes, I've seen some really wacky and creative stuff too haha.


    Really liked this, and I'll be sure to practice kata with this take in mind.

    Great thoughts, appreciate your input :)
     
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  17. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Very, very well said.

    I have had a similar conversation with others primarily regarding the Kukkiwon form sets in WT style TKD. There is much more depth to them than many (most?) practitioners and even instructors seem to understand. In Korean the term in Boonhae; breaking down a form into integral parts to understand and/or to 'create' a purpose.
    Our GM often says "I give you the information". I think I understand what he means by this which is much of what you just said.

    Very good post.
     
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  18. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Spoil-sport.
     
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  19. Yokozuna514

    Yokozuna514 Purple Belt

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    Although I may not 100% agree with everything you wrote, I do appreciate how well it was written and how it conveys your outlook on kata. I like the idea you present about kata being a mirror into one's self. I never thought about it in those terms but I like the ring of it. I think the part where we differ is in viewing kata as practicing for combat. Although I agree that there are many lessons to learn about combat from kata I wouldn't go so far as saying that it is 'practicing' per se. Combat is far more unpredictable than the strictly defined movements in kata so I feel this 'missing' element wouldn't be a suitable preparation for practice. I do see how practicing kata can allow you to polish those movements so that one can respond to an attack in that manner (or similar manner) but therein lies the limits of kata as the movements are strictly defined for the most part. You've given me something to ponder as I do agree about bunkai changing the 'understanding' of the movement from just the surface element to something deeper. I am not sure it would bring me to think of kata as practice for combat but it is certainly thought provoking. Osu !
     
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  20. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Blue Belt

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    I was just piggy-backing off of Simon's post with a slightly different slant. To be sure, kata is no substitute for sparring. And as Simon said, the zen of kumite and of kata differ - for me too. But I think a goal is to have it be the same. I don't want to overemphasize Okinawan "jutsu" combat bunkai, since the "do" or way, as adopted by Japanese karate, has much value as well. I appreciate everyone's thoughts on this topic and agree that kata can be different things to different people, even different things to the same person at different times. Therein is the beauty.123
     
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