How to understand a kata

Discussion in 'Karate' started by Curlykarateka, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    It depends how kata is taught. Keep an open mind regarding the practical uses of kata. Why would you think the early Okinawan karateka spent years learning just one kata if it had no practical use in real life fighting? :asian:
     
  2. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    Exactly. OTOH, if the instructor meant that we don't in a situation use the kata exactly as in the form (stances etc.) but use the principles in kata and modify what we do slightly to adapt to the situation, then I agree with him
     
  3. enthusiast

    enthusiast Yellow Belt

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    This is what I meant. He told us that the kata is our FOUNDATION for kumite. He explained kata to us because most of his students are absent in karate sessions(I train shidokan).

    Btw, I am new in karate and as a kid, I hated karate because of kata but I am now seeing it differently :)
     
  4. chinto

    chinto Senior Master

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    Exactly!!!
     
  5. sopraisso

    sopraisso Blue Belt

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    I believe the adoption of kata practice as a kind of performance art/sport (like, for example, artistic gymnastics) may have contributed greatly to a major misunderstanding of the function of kata. Beauty and millimiter precision of form has become an end in itself -- while in the truth kata would only be a mean to record, transmit and train a plethora of fighting principles and techniques -- not something meant to be "beautiful" or visually artistic. I see instructors talking about beauty of kata performance like aesthetics was the most important aspect of the practice. That, added to the fact that the majority of western instructors nowadays don't have a clue about kata meanings, principles and bunkai, has lead to the current situation. The well-informed answers I see people provide in this thread sadly don't reflect the overall situation of most dojo I've seen.
     
  6. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    Probably that played a role also, but I think that the biggest reason was the focus on competitive kumite. People started to train only with the competitions in mind and kata became a burden.
     
  7. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    I think it happened as a natural consequence when karate began to be taught in mass classes rather than in small groups of 1-4. Then graduates of that method in turn started teaching themselves.

    In the USA, a lot of military servicemen who brought back MA when their tours ended really only has meager amounts of study themselves and due to the language barrier, there's a good possibility that their instruction consisted primarily of monkey see, monkey do.
     
  8. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    Yes, that is most likely another major factor.
     
  9. SahBumNimRush

    SahBumNimRush Master of Arts

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    As I have been told, much of the early TKD instruction, even from Korean instructor to Korean student, was still a lot of "monkey see, monkey do." By that I mean very little talking/explaining, and more a teacher demonstrating a technique, and then the students working diligently to replicate it.

    I have no idea how this relates to JMA or OMA.

    But I agree, commercialization in every sense of the word has changed martial arts and kata. That said, if it weren't for the commercialization of martial arts, I would've never had an opportunity to train!
     
  10. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    Don't know about Korea, but as I've understood it, this is still the case in many Japanese dojo, probably even on many Okinawan dojo as well. On the other hand, from what I've heard, at least in Okinawa when western students ask questions, the sensei will probably explain. I don't know if the local students ask questions.
     
  11. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    I have made arrangements to train at the Jundokan in a few months. I have been assured that the teachers holding class would welcome my questions during class if they are brief, and it will be open season during my solo sessions.

    On the flip side, I know I have read interviews with students of (say) Miyagi Chojun Sensei, and they state that he was very strict and did not allow discussion during training.
     
  12. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    Maybe the sensei understand that westerners are different. I don't know, I've been to Seibukan dojo twice, but since both times were during big events, we didn't get much chance of asking questions. Mind you, I didn't really have any, I was just happy to be there :)
     
  13. sopraisso

    sopraisso Blue Belt

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    I've read quite a few quotes supporting this, including by major Miyagi Sensei's student Toguchi Seikichi, who also stated that Miyagi Sensei advised him not to make public the teachings he received about kata analysis/interpretation.

    It always amazes me that whole karate styles/systems may have possibly been founded without proper or sufficient understanding of the meaning of karate kata by the founders of those styles. I do believe to see a handful of hints suggesting that this did happen, leading to changes in techniques or in forms, in those styles, mainly due to a possible misunderstanding of how those techniques should really work.
     
  14. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    Indeed. We're also missing context to an extent, many of us anyway, due to a difference of language and cultural norms. I try not to be a martial arts snob but in many styles I think there is value gained in studying the parent culture of the art and correspondingly from a skilled and studied teacher that came from that culture.
     
  15. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    Or, at the very least, you should have access to such a teacher
     
  16. teekin

    teekin 3rd Black Belt

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    I was doing Karate, Gojyu Ryu, and like it a fair bit. What drove me Crazy was the lack of information I could pull out of the teachers. I Must Must understand the concepts behind what I am doing or I can not learn Anything, anything! I finally learned how to do an armbar and the offangle armbar where the shoulder is hyperflexed so the arm breaks ( ala Rhonda Rousey) because I had the concept explained to me by Loyyd Irvine. ( didn't I like try to show that to someone like 3 years ago? Nahhhh.) Now I can see an armbar coming and can defeat it 99% of the time and God Help you if I can get your shoulder off the ground because I will find a way to have you tap. Once I have the concept it's just looking for holes in YOUR game I can jump on.

    So Kata. I hear what you are saying about sanchin but to me it is just a jumble of meaningless unconnected motions. I have no idea off what the "ideal" is, what the concepts Behind kata are, why the motions are made the way they are, what is suppose to be achieved, what is suppose to be concentrated on, what is the "right" way, what is a fault, where this leads, in short What the Hell I am doing. I loved the repetition and speed drills in bunki, in fact it very quickly was an innate response. I have trouble boxing sparring because I can't not block, I just do. There is NO thought, it just happens faster than I can think "don't block". Remember I am a Dressage psycho, a realy picky French Classical dressage psycho and it doesn't get much more anal than that. If I understood the concepts behind Kata I bet I would excell at it but as of now it is un excercise in screaming frustration. Can anyone just Explain WHY am I doing Kata!
     
  17. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

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    Post the link here so we can find it. I have some thoughts on Seisan that might be of interest.
     
  18. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

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    This is a problem of teaching, IMO.

    I've found that learning the kata and looking into it on your own is an inefficient way of understanding the nature of the applications for the kata. You can do that, but you'll end up wasting a lot of time chasing dead ends. That said, here is how I've come to understand how the kata used to be taught in order to pass on the applications and understanding of it's nature.

    Students would begin practice with conditioning so that they would be physically fit enough to defend themselves. Some styles of karate specifically trained in weight training and you can find the old photos of the old masters in their students lifting clay jars with their finger tips, using barbells with concrete weights, and doing regular calisthenics. Some kata are actually designed to be performed with weight training implements! All of this physical training depended on the teacher. Some teachers valued it more than others. Then, they would move to learning basics and conditioning the body to perform the basics. Makiwara training was part of this, but also so was learning how to fall, and stay balanced. Then, students would start learning simple attack and defense routines in the form of drills. They would practice these drills while the teacher watched and the teacher would help each student perform them in such a way so that each student could use his own physical attributes. After a while, the teacher would start to introduce some new concepts and new responses that could be added onto the simple drills they learned so that they could start to see options and follow up techniques. Then, the teacher would provide the students with opportunities to improvise on these concepts against partners who would resist to varying degrees, letting the students see what worked and what didn't, allowing them to go back to training in techniques/concepts that needed improvement. Finally, the student would be taught the kata. When the teacher felt that the student had a good understanding of all the movements and techniques, they were given a single person exercise that helped them remember everything they were told.

    Think about this method as you train. I think it's important to understand how your training diverges from this order, especially as you become older and more experienced. As you start to become more independent with your training, you can start to form your own training regime that will start to fit this. Or, perhaps you can go out and find a teacher who teaches like this. It's up to you.
     
  19. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    If you had read the thread and followed any of the links you would not be asking the question this way. Perhaps, for a start, chase up Iain Abernethy's website then we could have further discussion. There is a lot already written and we have just completed another thread involving the reasons for kata that started under similar circumstances then went for 60+ pages, that I would really not like to do again. :)
     
  20. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Maka, I agree that in the beginning learning the kata and looking into it on your own is inefficient and you will not get any understanding of kata application. However, at the other end, with training and experience it is the only way you will advance unless you rely completely on the incomplete knowledge of others, because I don't believe anyone has complete knowledge.

    I have never seen kata designed for use as in; "some kata are actually designed to be performed with weight training implements!" Where did you find those?

    I have spent the past ten years pretty much studying kata full time and my understanding is about as far away from your explanation as it could go. What you have described is exactly the training the early guys did but that training is nothing to do with kata IMHO. Maybe that's a little harsh because you do say that it leads up to being taught the kata but I have seen nothing to suggest "they were given a single person exercise that helped them remember everything they were told." No kata contains everything and these guys generally only learned one or two kata. They spent many years on each one, maybe a lifetime of training.
    :asian:123
     

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