Karate is kata, kata is karate

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Bill Mattocks, Sep 17, 2019.

  1. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Forms may be integral to SOME martial arts, but they are not integral to all. And I'll go back to my own forms. There isn't a deeper level to them. I linked together some movements to give folks an exercise they can repeat to work on fluid movement, balance, light cardio, etc. They aren't deep teaching tools. If someone removed them entirely from the system, it wouldn't leave a gap of any kind, assuming they help people in those areas with other exercises.
     
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  2. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I like Abernathy. He seems to have a handle on realistic application and often his proposed bunkai seem more reasonable than the surface-level block/punch interpretation of the kata.

    Here's my issue, though. If he is correct about the intended applications, then it means almost everybody is performing the kata wrong.

    Grappling moves of the sort he shows in this video and others are very sensitive to nuances of body dynamics, angling, etc in order to be effective. I almost never see anybody performing the kata with the correct body mechanics to make those techniques work.

    Take the video above of the lady performing Kururunfa. She's obviously very skilled at what she does and has worked hard on the kata. However if she tried to perform the applications shown by Abernathy using the mechanics from her form they just wouldn't work. The body dynamics, angling, muscle sequencing, details of hand placement - they're all wrong.

    This seems to be the normal situation whenever I watch one of Abernathy's videos. For example, I remember him showing a technique that in the form looks like standing tall with feet together, performing a high chamber, then turning 180 degrees and stepping forward into a front stance with a low block. Abernathy rightly points out how little sense that application makes and instead posits that the chamber represents grabbing around an opponent's neck and the spin/step/low block represents pulling the opponent by his neck into a takedown. Seems plausible. (It's not a high-percentage throw against a competent grappler, but if it's intended for use against an untrained opponent it could work with the right set up and timing.) The problem is that executing that kind of pull/spin/takedown requires a certain sequence of power generation which I have never once seen from a karateka performing a kata which contains that move.

    If the kata were intended to help with solo practice of these sorts of grappling movements, then they should be performed with the details and body mechanics which could make the techniques work. If they are just coded symbols with the movements which loosely approximate the positions of various grappling movements but with totally different dynamics, then I'd consider them to be worthless for that purpose.
     
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  3. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    If you teach application from the form, you don't learn avoidance or situational awareness, and you don't learn philosophy or historical value either. You learn to protect self and loved ones yes, but to the extent that the application is taken. (For example, if always applied to 1 unarmed person, are you prepared for someone with a bat, or a knife, or tactics to use against multiple assailants?).

    And while I do agree that schools that don't teach any application fall into this category, I've been in multiple schools that teach applications outside of the forms.
     
  4. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    This has been my general criticism of most of the applications I've seen applied to the TKD forms, anywhere I've found anyone that's tried to apply them. There are nuances in the body mechanics that are all wrong from the form to the application.
     
  5. Mitlov

    Mitlov Blue Belt

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    I agree 100% with this, and this is part of the reason why I personally look to forms as training body mechanics for striking (and for performance value). I personally don't like using them to try to learn grappling through hidden bunkai.
     
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  6. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    And this failure of representation in the solo forms is because people (in most trditions) were not taught the two man drills that comprise the form.

    Patrick McCarthy actually went on at length that kata was supposed to be more like a mnemonic device to help retain what you were already taught by the two man forms.

    The kata practice of most people is incomplete if they only do the solo form. This is also why learning one form took five years in old Okinawan karate.

    Funakoshi several times said it took fifteen years to learn three forms. But the curve went down as the practitioner locked in more forms. Because forms do have an amount of redundancy.

    The old method of instuction did not meet the needs of military preparatory education in the prewar era. It took too long to train and drill out everything that was desired, so they modified and dropped a lot of things. Making a cliff notes version of karate.
     
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  7. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    I agree, and well said.
    Sometimes some things fall into a category that I refer to as Opinion based Martial Arts.
     
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  8. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    What would you say is "opinion based martial arts"? I have an idea of what you could mean, but I want to make sure I'm right before continuing.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
  9. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    I started by learning Danzan Ryu Jujitsu first. Lots of grappling and throwing type stuff. I have since started studying Shotokan Karate and learning this type of kata. What I have found interesting is comparing what Funakoshi says about the application of the techniques in the kata, with what most modern karate folks say about the application of the techniques in kata. I believe that a lot got missed, left out and or altered along the way. But, I have found there is a lot remaining.

    The more I learn the kata, the more I find. At first, I was seeing the punching and striking and blocking... and only believing half of it. Once I went back to Funakoshi's writings I started seeing escapes from grabs, and ways to off balance the other guy if he was grabbing me or if I were grabbing him. Then I started seeing where my jujitsu throws and sweeps would fit in, with certain escapes and off balancing moves creating the opening. Then, after working with a few karate instructors who had Abernathy like interpretations... I started to see how throws and take downs fit in. Now, changes have to be made to actually do the throw, like mentioned before. But, the foot movement, hip movement, power generation are very close... if you do it right. Once you associate this move from kata as matching this move from a throw, you can analyze where you need the power, and what those subtle changes are. Then when you do the kata, you can make those changes... create the power you need in the direction you need. Sure, you leave your hands "wrong" so sensei doesn't come over and correct you... but then most throws are more about structure, position, balance and hip action than they are about the hands anyway.

    The thing to note is that I have not stopped practicing or studying my jujitsu. I still regularly practice the throws, locks, escapes... in jujitsu. However, I am able to see how the practice of kata has helped and improved my jujitsu, in very specific ways. Could I have made the same improvements in other ways? Possibly. Actually, probably. I have been studying jujitsu for almost 25 years and karate for 7-8 years. (and yes people have gone from white to black in the time I have and am spending at purple...) That means, that 16-17 years of jujitsu training failed to give me the things I have found through karate kata, that are in jujitsu. For whatever reason, perhaps I am just slow, I needed to look at things that way to get it. (when I show my jujitsu sensei what I learned about jujitsu, through karate, he answers: "yes... I have been showing you that since white belt...")

    Kata can be seen like a heavy punching bag. Having one and hitting it, is no guarantee that you are learning to punch correctly. In fact, without good instruction, left to your own devices, you are probably learning more bad habits and developing habits that will be hard to change later. You could even be injuring yourself, or training yourself to be wide open while delivering sub-par strikes that leave you way out of position afterwards... all because you don't know what you are supposed to be getting out of hitting the bag. How many threads do we have here, telling people not to go train themselves out of books and videos? Now, find the right instructor, that knows how to use the heavy bag correctly... and it is amazing how much he can teach you with that bag... punching, footwork, body movement, head movement, elbows, knees, clinching... the list is endless.

    Just like the heavy bag alone won't teach you proper punching, kata alone won't teach you proper fighting techniques. But used correctly, by a good instructor, both can be used to teach a lot of different things. If your boxing teacher doesn't know how to use / teach the heavy bag... find a new boxing instructor. If your karate instructor does not know how to use / teach the kata (including the applications and meanings) find a new karate instructor... If you can get the same technical some other way, without the need of kata, do that instead.
     
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  10. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    This is where (in my opinion) kata should follow application. If the grappling is there, then the mechanics should show it. Maybe just having people practice variations of the kata as they learn new applications, or maybe changing the kata’s focus to better train those mechanics. Form should follow function.
     
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  11. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    And the functional break in knowledge happens when the forms are changed.

    For example HikiTe and why people chamber at the hip. When distance was changed, after Okinawan karate had been settled and growing in Japan... misunderstandings developed.



    There is a nonsensical idea that continues to be perpetuated that HikiTe is done for power generation.

    There is one kata that actually perserved the limb clearing application of HikiTe intact. (see above video)
    But their are two purposes of HikiTe. one is explicit and the other is implicit. and both are true.
     
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  12. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Agree, all schools should teach application through more than one venue.
     
  13. Mitlov

    Mitlov Blue Belt

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    The power generation isn't nonsense if it's explained correctly. It's more about the back and less about the hand itself, but the hand sometimes goes there when the back does what it needs to do. A classic example is Lyoto Machida v. Rashad Evans.



    Hikite can be grab and pull, but it doesn't have to be to make sense. To argue otherwise is to say that Machida, a world class karate fighter, was just wasting energy as he KOed Evans.
     
  14. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Pulling the hand back (hikite?) while punching with the other hand is power generation if it is married to torso rotation and driven from the feet and legs. If it is not connected to those, then it fails in power generation. It could still be something else, though.
     
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  15. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    I've always heard (and rejected) that you're fighting two people and elbow-striking the person behind you. My takes on that position:
    • Teach to turn your shoulders and back
    • Pull to strike with the other hand
    • It looks better (as in aesthetics, not function) than a more functional position for the hand
    • Teaches you to control both hands instead of just the one, as a lot of people tend to drop their guard after the first punch
    • Good chamber position for a low punch (i.e. underpunch or body hook)
    • Good pass-through option to chamber a strike after a low block
    • Good striking position if someone has an overhook position
    • A chamber position closer to the ready position, such as if you are attacked while you're not on guard
    • I do believe (and don't have data to back this up) that this is a stronger punching position. If you're not at risk of a counter-attack (i.e. attacking someone from behind if they're fighting your friend, breaking a board)
    I think the biggest reason in TKD, is the third one I suggested.
     
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  16. punisher73

    punisher73 Senior Master

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    In that clip, you see Machida both types of "hikite". He traps the arm of Evans as he strikes and also uses it as he "chambers" for the next strike. As you have stated, each have their place in their usage.
     
  17. punisher73

    punisher73 Senior Master

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    I've always used what my instructor taught me when someone asked him about the "rear elbow". If they're worth hitting, they're worth looking at. You would never strike to the rear without addressing that attacker as soon as you could.

    Again, I think it was a mis-translation of a training idea to emphasize the quick return of the chambering hand to make it dynamic and not a passive return. Also, it really depends on where your chamber position is, if that even makes sense to say it is a rear elbow. In our style you wouldn't be actually throwing a rear elbow strike with your hand at your hip as the strike makes contact.
     
  18. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    If someone is behind you, sometimes you don't have that luxury.
     
  19. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Green Belt

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    Re: Hikite - TSDTexan's video post (thank you) starts with a quote from Seikichi Toguchi saying that when a hand gets chambered to the hip, there is generally something in it." This maxim was passed down from his Goju founder teacher, Miyagi, who expounded this in his Rules of Kata. Abernathy also shows this in his seminars pulling the opponent in for a strike.

    Chambering to the hip all the time when punching makes the kata look nice, but original katas were not designed to look nice. There was a good reason if bringing it to an apparently out of position place on the hip. If not pulling the opponent in, the hand was usually chambered no further to where the elbow met the hip. This left the fist in a guard position as well as closer to the opponent. This is the rule of thumb in Isshinryu (which uses a snapping punch), and done ocasionly in other Okinawan katas as well.

    Re: The more general problem of a kata's technique not working in a practical application - There are several possibilities:
    1. The kata has been changed over the years enough to where the original intent has been corrupted
    2. The practitioner does not understand the oyu fully
    3. There is a subtlety to the move that is required to make it work that is not shown in the kata, such as a grab, twist, dropping one's
    weight, or leg buckle (all moves that are just a matter of an inch or two so easily missed)
    4. The move is being looked at without considering the previous or subsequent moves to see the whole series in context
     
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  20. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Kata is just one part of Karate. There are many other different parts of Karate and there are some styles of Karate that might not use Kata. To say that Karate is only Kata is greatly limiting it.
     
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