How to understand a kata

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

  1. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

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    I'm not sure I understand your point here. For myself, the teaching method I have described was very different from the way I initially trained when I started karate. We were given moves from the kata and these were called basics. They had the names low block, high block, front punch, etc. Then, we were given the kata and we practiced it without training any of the applications. After this, we worked on one steps that took some of the basic moves they called basics and strung them together in very zen like responses to lunging front punches. Then, we learned the tournament sparring that we were going to utilize at the next competition. Kata were trained for the competition as well. Anyway, this method was utilized in both the Japanese and Korean karate dojos I trained with.

    After subsequent research and training with various Okinawan practitioners on the island, I've come to recognize that what I described above was the actual way karate used to be passed on before it became a modern art. If you read Shoshin Nagamine's book, Tales of the Okinawan Masters, he explicitly relays the training methodology utilized by the masters or founded many of the modern ryu. A number of other masters in their writings corroborate this.

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tales-of-okinawas-great-masters-shoshin-nagamine/1002850947

    Perhaps you could describe how you were trained and compare it directly to what I described.
     
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  2. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    If I could start out specifically with Sanchin. Sanchin teaches a lot of things and incorporates all the principles of Goju. Despite that it actually contains very few techniques. Probably only six or seven, yet this was a kata that was trained for years. If you read what you wrote and apply that to Sanchin it just doesn't make sense. Perhaps we could look at the origin of Sanchin ...

    http://www.traditionalfightingarts.com/karate_sanchin.htm

    As it is performed in Okinawa it came from China and was just part of another kata. Whether it was White Crane or another is open for discussion, but suffice to say it must have been reasonably widely practised for both Higaonna and Uechi to bring it back from Fuzhou, and it must have contained incredible teaching value for it to have the elevated respect among the other kata that it has been afforded and the position maintained in our training.

    But let us leave Sanchin and Tensho out of the discussion for the moment as they are heishugata.

    As you specifically quoted Nagamine I will move to the Gekisai kata that where developed by Miyagi from the Fukyugata that he developed with Nagamine. These were developed to teach beginners but I think they are brilliantly crafted, illustrating that Miyagi and Nagamine had profound knowledge of kata. Taught to beginners at that level they seem like just simple moves to help the beginners get a feel for kata. Underneath, I think these kata are every bit as good as the other kata brought across from China. The applications are just brilliant.

    So let's look at your hypothesis. The students have been learning basics, they've paired up and trained drills, they might have seen what worked and what didn't, although I would query whether anything they were taught didn't work, then eventually they were given the kata to remind them of what they had learned.

    So Gekisai Ich, if we just count one side, contains about 10 or 12 techniques. Hardly a lexicon! Yet those techniques, as performed in the kata, contain some amazing fighting sequences, if someone knows them to teach or can decipher them. Because the kata were designed to teach kids I doubt very many people have ever taken the time to look at the kata that way. But in the traditional dojo, not the schools and universities, the guys there would have recognised the masterpiece that Miyagi and Nagamine had crafted. Could your hypothesis apply? Certainly ... in theory. But in practice, if people had been taught that way the knowledge would have been passed down because those kata were taught to hundreds of thousands of people. It would have been impossible to keep the content of the kata secret ... unless the content was never taught.

    We can then look at the other Goju kata ... Saifa, Seiunchin, Shisoshin etc up to Suparenpei. These are incredibly complex fighting systems with applications on several levels from the seemingly obvious to the lethal combinations. They were never taught in the way you described. Sure, some teachers may have taken one or two combinations from kata to act as drills but that is the exception. Now there are a handful of people teaching kata at a higher level and those guys are rarer and more valuable than diamonds.
    :asian:
     
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  3. seasoned

    seasoned MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    Instead of being a product of the way we were taught, we all should evolve from the way we were taught to a position of understanding. Masters of old all cross trained, but the newer dojo that I was involved with, in the beginning, frowned on it.
    Looking over the thread above I highlighted (2) statements that jumped out for me. This is where my training years have taken me. We could say full circle, but the saying always was, "go back to the basics".
    As was stated, "go back to the origin, and don't change the moves, and absorb the principles of sanchin, "breath, movement and structure" and the kata WILL talk to you...........
     
  4. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

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    Here is an interesting article on the subject. I love the way Miyagi Sensei organized the Goju curriculum with weight training in mind. I think this practice has probably fallen out of practice in most goju dojos. It certainly has in Hawaii. I would be training at a Goju dojo that had all of these implements displayed and were regularly put into use. I find this type of training interesting.

    Anyway, I have to say how impressed I am by the elegance of this system. I wish more karate systems would have preserved this aspect of their training.

    http://www.portaskarate.org/weights.html

    Further down in the article, they describe the actual techniques used to train. As you can see, these training techniques directly correspond to the techniques in the kata and their related bunkai. That is awesome!

    There is no doubt that other karate systems trained in similar ways. Check out this photo.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. teekin

    teekin 3rd Black Belt

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    Thank you all who gave me a place to at least start. I did read the whole thread but did not run down all the references and did not look for previous threads. I am trying to avoid going down blind alleys. There is SO much information presented in just this thread that I don't know what to concentrate on, where the beginning is.
    I will try Ian Abernathy. See how hard it is to get a solid concrete answer? I just don't get it. I know why I do speed drills, I know why I do turn in drills, I know why I do flow drills, I know why I do the sparring kata, even katana kata I get ( adore, adore, adore). What is the big secret of basic sanchin kata that it can't be explained in two sentances?

    As I learned dressage and taught it I found it did not become more complex to explain. It distills down to a few very simple principals that are Brutally hard to execute but can be explained in a few sentances. The more intimately I Know my subject the simpler it is to explain. Be it dressage or the Reformation.
     
  6. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

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    Charles Goodin is a high ranking Okinawan Karate practitioner here in Hawaii and he is responsible for assembling perhaps the largest library of karate rare books and publications in the world. Here is an article that he wrote about how the old style art of karate, complete with knowledge of the bunkai, was transformed in the modern art we see today.

    http://seinenkai.com/art-bunkai.html

    I think the important part to understand is that almost everyone living today learned the modern way of practicing karate. The old masters talked about how they were trained, but early on they formed a gentlemen's agreement to not teach the applications or to adopt the "modern" way of teaching the art.

    Here is an entire thread dedicated to this subject where we discussed this a while back. Why does the "modern" style look so different from the "old" style.

    http://www.martialtalk.com/forum/sh...-the-removal-of-grappling-from-Shotokan/page2

    http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Karate-Bunkai-Heian-Naihanchi/dp/4902481960
     
  7. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Great articles and they describe pretty much how we train.

    The sentiments expressed in Charles Goodin's article above are exactly what I have been saying all along the way and exactly the way we train.
    :asian:
     
  8. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    I must apologise. I was so involved with my discussion with Maka that I failed to reply to your post. Elsewhere there is a thread about McDojos. If you would like a simple, two line explanation of kata, perhaps chase up one of them. The explanation will be something like; "we do kata because it is traditional". There you are, one line! :)

    For me, kata is 99% of my karate. It cannot be explained in less than a library because everyone who is in to kata will have their own take on what they get out of it. Maka posted links to some great articles on kata and kata bunkai. The views expressed in those articles will be totally at odds with what most people experience in their normal training. The way most karate is taught kata has no real reason for being there. In fact I know of 'freestyle' karate schools who tossed out kata about 30 years ago because it was 'useless' only to bring it back when their understanding changed.

    Sanchin kata is one of the heishugata. These kata are performed with a continued state of tension maintained throughout the kata. These kata help reinforce the basic principles of karate, the same principles that are found in most other martial arts. Off the top of my head, stability, balance, core strength, Ki extension and zanshin and mushin spring to mind. These are all practised while performing Sanchin. Sanchin does contain a lot of information that can be incorporated in bunkai but in the Goju system there are probably better kata to work with for that.

    So let's go back to your original post:

     
  9. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    And yet, despite this "gentlemen's agreement", the applications continued being taught to students of Okinawan karate. So what does that tell you? To me, it tells that your claim of "gentlemen's agreement doesn't hold water. As for teaching in modern way, sure, karate teachers adapted. Back when e.g. Zenryo Shimabukuro trained with Kyan, there were only a handful of students. Nowadays masters can have tens of students training at the same time or at a seminar, even hundreds. Do you think that they can devote the same kind of attention to each student as when there were only two or three students? Of course not! Of course, when there aren't that many students present and you ask for corrections/advice, you will get them.
     
  10. teekin

    teekin 3rd Black Belt

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    Addendum to armbar----I was Shown via demonstation, every kind of visual demontration you can possibly think of, how to do an arm bar. Repeatedly, as I calculate approx 1000X over 3 years. I had it done to me as well so I could feel my limbs move in the sequence I needed to repeat and that helped a great deal. I wish I had had more time to explore and play around with that particular submission, it is a great gateway to so so many cool things to do with upper body joints. What was missing was the WHY, the explanation behind why each angle and position was "just so" in order for that submission to work. I had to understand the principals Behind each part of every position, the physics ( physiology) behind why an armbar will destroy a joint in order to see How to do the technique. I am NOT a visual learner, showing me doesn't help me understand.

     
  11. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    The tension starts from the initial breakout into Sanchin dachi, double Chudan Uke and remains throughout the kata. Why is an interesting question. Breathing is also a big part of this kata as the lungs are totally emptied with each technique. Tensioning the body with dynamic tension is allowing both isotonic and isometric exercise of the body. This combined with correct posture produces a rock hard structure. Some people see the breathing as developing Ki but that really depends on your understanding of Ki. Certainly during testing you extend your mind as you extend your arm in the 'punch' and again as the arm returns to the Chudan Uke position. The tension in the body also transmits through to the floor where you are literally gripping with your toes. Also by focusing on tensioning the body, the testing where it is sometimes quite physical, doesn't affect you as your mind and body are one. This type of situation I would describe as 'hard' Ki.
    :asian:
     
  12. teekin

    teekin 3rd Black Belt

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    tension starts from the initial breakout into Sanchin dachi.
    Ok, how much tension are we talking about here? Relaxed and toned like when dropping into a "ready" stance or like muscles shaking, sweat dripping hold a 1/2 crunch for 20 minutes type tension? Please to remember I didn't get very much info about any of the kata's except the "tradition", and " patience grasshopper" speaches. What may seem to be stupid beyond belief questions to you is really just outright ignorance ( and angry frustration)on my part

    Why is an interesting question. But not answered yet huh?

    Breathing is also a big part of this kata as the lungs are totally emptied with each technique.
    They are? Nope , no breathing or any part there of was discussed with me for this or any other kata. I can see that this would change the focus of sanchin though, interesting.

    allowing both isotonic and isometric exercise of the body. combined with correct posture produces a rock hard structure.
    More interesting, I know that mindfull breathing and moving tension from muscles to muscle can produce very restful sleep and a very focused clear mind. Mother*******, I Knew there was a LOT more to this than what I was being told. There Had to be a reason kata had survived this many centuries. Now why in the sam hell wasn't any of this taught to me when I was ASKING about it? So beyond frusterating.
    So are answers like " you are to dumb to talk to, go and read Ian Abernathy then Maybe we can have a discussion". Sir, way to be an ambassador for your sport. With people like you as a mentor I'm sure all the bright inquisitive minds will just flock to and embrace Karate as a means to enlightenment.

    Gracious K man now that you have explained some of the surface or superficial concepts behind sanchin to me are the Karate Gestapo going to come and kill you in your sleep. After all I didn't have to read 10 or 12 books on history, lineage, the philosophy behind or the ancient manual of kata. I do hope you survive the night.

    developing Ki but that really depends on your understanding of Ki.
    I don't really get the Ki thing so I can't comment on it.

    The tension in the body also transmits through to the floor where you are literally gripping with your toes. Also by focusing on tensioning the body, the testing where it is sometimes quite physical, doesn't affect you as your mind and body are one.
    I get this, I have done an excercise like this I just don't remember why or where but yes I understand what you are saying here and how it applies to sanchin as you have described it to me.

    When you explain the specifics of the technics and reasons Behind those techniques, sanchin starts to take on a 3rd dimension. Thank you very much. Sometimes I just need a small push to start to grasp things. I still don't know if I can work with That teacher who didn't give me any answers but perhaps I can work around him. Again, thank you for your time and for being straight forward with me.

    Teek
     
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  13. Marnetmar

    Marnetmar Black Belt

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    Katas and forms are about principles of movement, not movements in and of themselves.
     
  14. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Mmm! And that means ... ? What movement are you meaning? The movement in stance or the movement of the technique and what 'principles' are you referring to?
    :asian:
     
  15. TigerCraneGuy

    TigerCraneGuy Orange Belt

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    As a EPAK practitioner who has recently become very interested in classical Karate bunkai oyo, I have found the various sources useful:

    Shuri / Shorin forms

    1) Iain Abernethy, as others have mentioned. I have all his Bunkai Jutsu DVD downloads and I must say they are exceptional, the best of the lot imo.

    2) John Titchen's Pinan Flow System (from Amazon)

    3) John Burke's various bunkai books (from Amazon) and DVD downloads (from his site, Bunkai Strategies)

    Naha forms (primarily Goju)

    1) Giles Hopkins blog and articles (as downloaded from the Journal of Asian Martial Arts) present excellent applications for Goju forms. E.g. this blog post has a link to his youtube video on Saifa: http://goju-ryu.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/saifa-kata-and-bunkai.html

    2) While I don't agree with all of his ideas, Tom Hill's videos on Youtube are also quite good.

    3) Gavin Mulholland's book 'Four Shades of Black' is a solidly written treatise on the mindset and training philosophies behind each kata.

    Interestingly, I see a great deal of overlap between the SD techniques in Kenpo and postures found in the Goju forms, especially Seipai and Kururunfa. Does anyone else see this too? Just curious...
     
  16. D.Cobb

    D.Cobb 2nd Black Belt

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    I studied American Kenpo for about 7 years, and when I left, I was looking for something more "old school". I tried a few different systems until I found Goju Ryu. I initially trained in Meibukan Goju under Cristofoli Senseii, but I am now a member of the Kenkyu Kai headed by Taira Sensei. The reason I chose Goju Ryu and stayed was because of the similarities I found in the 2 systems and also in the training philosophies of the 2 systems.
     
  17. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Learning all the steps, moves, and applications of a kata is just the first step. Much of a kata is supposed to be mental. When you're going through all the steps and moves you're supposed to imagine that you're actually fighting opponents. When you throw a punch or kick in the kata you're supposed to imagine you're really hitting an adversary. That's why kata is often referred to as meditation in motion. To really get the most out of katas, to get the most from that type of exercise, you have to apply the mental aspect. You have to make like you're really fighting attackers. Otherwise the kata is dead.
     
  18. donald1

    donald1 Senior Master

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    I practice lots of kata lots. Understanding kata to me is taking techniques from the form and being able to apply them or what it could be. Perhaps practice one form, while going through one spot in the form see how it could be used in a real life self defense then see how I can change that one part in the form; by that I mean see what other moves i could use or switch moves around or change stances to get different angles

    Personally its one thing I really like about kata, learning different combinations. Whether i am practicing a goju ryu kata like tondo ku kata dai itchi and seisan; a kobudo kata like tokumine dai and hamahiga sho. There's many more kata too and so many possibilities to do things differently in them
     
  19. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Goju Ryu kata?
     
  20. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    That's one of the beginner forms created by Toguchi Sensei from the Shoreikan lineage. Not in Jundokan. Kinda repetitive...Not sure why Toguchi felt it were necessary considering its similarity to Gekisai Dai Ichi.123
     

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