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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    That's pretty much it. Let me restate it in two paragraphs (because there are two concepts, though related).

    I like kata, and I like the idea of maintaining the tradition of it (at least at some level - I'm not sure I agree with the sheer number of kata some styles have). I think it's a useful tool, when used well. What's "used well"? That depends upon the purpose of the training (from the participants' perspective).

    There are tools available now that weren't available in the early days of Karate. I think many of the uses of kata can be covered by those other tools (other training methods, videos, etc.). So, I think it's possible to train Karate without kata, without it losing the quality of being Karate.
     
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  2. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    The only caveat I would add is training without Kata, (or some kind of chained, sequenced, or organized pattern with the name of ones own choice) is more of a challenge in larger group settings. It also has a pronounced advantage of memory recollection and repetition for the lone practitioner. I feel they are just a tool like most of the things we do in MA practice.
     
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  3. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    The problem with this is that reading a book or watching a video, while it may catalog the material, is not a physical training activity. What you read in a book or watch in a video still needs to be translated into physical practice. And of course this then goes back to the old debate of the quality of training if that video is stand-alone or is part of direct training with a teacher.

    Kata is already the physical practice. If it was taught well, along the way, then you already understand it and it does not need to be translated.

    What I am saying is, I do not see video or a book as any kind of equal substitute for kata. However, I do agree that kata is not necessary in learning a martial art, and I do not feel that an absence of kata automatically makes it no longer Karate.
     
  4. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Blue Belt

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    These are great photos. For starters, check out the pre-Gi attire. I would guess from the late 1920's to early 30's. Earlier, even this uniform would have been considered "formal." I love the older Okinawan karate-ka photos - the students look like a mangy but very dangerous pack of alley dogs.
    More importantly, they illustrate Motobu's simultaneous defense/offense. The right photo shows a check/parry and a simultaneous reverse punch. The right hand is NOT chambered to the hip during the punch and is available for immediate follow-up. The left photo shows a head punch that simultaneously acts as a block. He is countering thru the attack. Ed Parker called it "single thrust - dual purpose" These photos, in my opinion, illustrate the pinnacle of fighting technique and shows Motobu's fighting philosophy and spiritual commitment to attack. No wonder he had the reputation of being the toughest guy in Okinawa.
     
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  5. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Agreed. Videos and books replace part of the stated function of kata. You need other tools to replace other functions. Kata often uses a single movement to represent several applications, so the movement has to be either an approximation of all of them, or focused on one (or a few). As a catalog, this is not ideal, so videos and books can do a better job of transmitting what the catalog is. For learning how to do those things, physical training would be necessary.
     
  6. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    i have way too much Choki Mutobu and Chosei Mutobu stuff. And I consider him a great inspiration.

    He got in a bit of trouble for his street fighting antics. Which lead to him being dropped as an Itosu student.

    His family frowned on the matter as he was nobility. But nothing was ever said formally... because he suffered no losses in the street fights with commoners.

    He did have one loss but that wasnt a red light district fight. It was against a high level adept.
    That would be Itarashiki.. a very serious karateman.

    This only escalated his search for stronger karate
    practice. Eventually, he was an old hand at fighting. When he had moved to Osaka, Japan he found himself working as a security guard for a warehouse owner. The owner suggested that he go to a place that held "all comers" bouts.
    He showed up, and watched a boxer knock out a number of guys. Eventually, no one wanted to face the boxer. Choki said he would take him on.
    The said to Choki... yer an old man. Dont bother.

    He KOd the boxer

    images (4).jpeg
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2019
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  7. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    Here is a photo from within the Daidokan Dojo that Mutobu eventually built. This was after he moved from Osaka to Tokyo.

    Notice the packed environment. He did this to train people to flight close in a crowded area. The guys kicking the makiwara would have to pay attention to their surroundings, in case someone was hit hard enough to fly back into them.

    Also take note of the earliest use of rib protector in karate. Motobu understood just how easy it is to break ribs. While a lot of masters from Okinawa didn't accept women as students, Motobu like Toyama did teach women.

    However, his methods were brutally tough, and a lot of students quit.
    1332982779.jpg

    Outside of the dojo here is the peak of formalware. 1332991775.jpg 1332982471.jpg

    there is a distance of 954 miles between Okinawa and Tokyo Japan. See the red path. Today, a system of intercoastal highways and ferries exist, and you can go by car or truck (see blue route) which would 1375 miles driving.

    Why do i point this out?
    Because Okinawa is a lot hotter in the summer and warmer year around, and Japan is colder year round and can have brutal winters.

    So there would be a higher desire to dress up in mainland japan. even for things like Practice Uniforms. The Judo keigogi was modeled on the Japanese equivalent of longjohn thermal under clothing. (by Dr Jiguro Kano)

    The Japanese government through the office of the secretary of education, and the DBNK issued mandates that the karate masters from Okinawa formalize things, and establish a ckass uniform.
    Gitchin Funakoshi's contrabution would be to modify
    Dr. Kano's keigogi to lighter fabiric.

    But in Okinawa during a sweltering summer heatwave guys trained on the beach in loincloths.
    Screenshot_20191006-094212_Chrome Beta.jpg
    .
    .both of these were taken in Okinawa
    The outer wear.
    20150727_050406000_iOS-e1439394760549-300x240.png
    the inner ware
    1111.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019
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  8. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    What is the advantage then of a long kata over a short form or drill work?

    If the purpose of the Kata is as a catalog of techniques, then the video is a replacement for the kata. The physical training in the drills that replace the kata are what replaces the physical training of the kata. For example, let's say that you have a block and punch combination in your kata. This is disguised into a:
    • Guard clear and strike
    • Off-balancing pull and strike
    • Grab and push take-down (with a trip)
    Why not simply have:
    • Drill 1: Guard clear
    • Drill 2: Pulling strike
    • Drill 3: Sweep and take-down
    Why need the kata at this point?
     
  9. Randy Pio

    Randy Pio White Belt

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    Traditional Arts suffer, because people think by simply performing Kata/Form/Set they will be magically infused with some kind of power. What times we live in, that we don't have to use; what we train.

    -RP
     
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  10. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Is that what you think I think?
     
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  11. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Blue Belt

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    Kata is the source from which your drills can be found, stored for future practitioners and readily accessed to be passed down. Instead of various individual chapters, they are combined into a book. By linking these various drills into a kata, they flow from one to the other, involving various directional and distance changes, as well as body repositioning and centering. To perform an extended kata well, it requires extended concentration and endurance. It is more than the sum of its parts. So, kata is a convenient and useful way to practice karate, along with kumite and basic drills.

    Matsubayashi Shorinryu Master Shoshin Nagamine, (student of Chotoku Kyan, Arakaki Ankichi, and Choki Motobu) wrote:
    "Kata is the origin of karate." "If there is no kata, there is no karate, just kicking and punching." "Kata is karate."
     
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  12. Randy Pio

    Randy Pio White Belt

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    No. I once thought that, now I know better. However, there are many people who don't know any better. And, this is why in other circles people say "Your <insert traditionally trained Martial Art> doesn't work".
     
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  13. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    This is true, a lot of people do believe this. I find it difficult for me to care what those people think. I’m open to discussing it, but I don’t care if I am unable to convince them otherwise.
     
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  14. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    I truly don't care what anyone thinks about whether or not my art 'works', though. Their approval isn't required.
     
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  15. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    That's a really good point. I agree with what most of you guys are saying, which is that print, photos, even video are helpful tools to training... but are not training in & of themselves. You must physically practice (or at least mentally rehearse, i.e. visualize) in order to internalize what you are doing.

    I surprised myself once when I was... I think it was when I was practicing for my trainee instructor thing in the A.T.A. way back. I was practicing the white through green belt forms/poomse over and over, just getting them grooved... and I suddenly noticed something (which I've since managed to forget what it was as it's been buried in the vault of all of these overlapping and interwoven concepts) which I'd never actually been "taught" by my instructor. I recall it was something to do with footwork and weight shifting. My instructor never told me about it, and it Would have been helpful to know the concept as it would have assisted me at that time with an issue I was having. I don't know if that instructor even knew what it was. But, I remembered, and when I'd have students of mine after that, learning that same form, after we got them to the point where they were going throught he entire thing as their proper form of practice, I'd point it out when appropriate.

    The same thing is applicable to each and every one of my aikido kata techniques. You learn, understand, and teach them differently TO and FOR different ranks, differently. It's really interesting, the conversations which come up when a student spots something which would be revealed at, say, the nidan level when they are at ikkyu. Fun stuff!
     
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  16. Buka

    Buka Sr. Grandmaster

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    I have a different opinion. In larger groups I find it easier without. Far easier.

    But, of course, that's for us, not necessarily for anyone else. :)
     
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  17. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    If it is a mixed bag of ranks it can be a drain on time. Most often we will either split up the class and have senior belts work with lower belts on forms/drills or all work them together up through all the forms.
    We had a great last Thursday night; had about 16 red belts and 8 black belts, all adults. Good, hard, upper level class.
    I am still limping.
     
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  18. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    Coming from kung fu. I'm not sure. Forms allow me to focus and think about what I'm doing and how I'm moving. It takes away all of the things that normally would distract me. Here's an example. I'm one of the few people here who often states that they spar to learn. When you are trying to win, then you aren't trying to use techniques that you aren't good at. In this example, the desire win becomes the distraction. In my opinion winning is a huge distraction. When training a technique you have to be willing to lose with that technique until you can understand how to properly use it. However, that's the opposite of trying to win by using things that you are good at.

    Training forms, kata clears all of that noise and allows you to focus completely on the technique. The reason I can do kung fu is because I'm willing to fail with it as a learning process and a lot of times my success comes because I don't bail out on the technique. In addition I often refer back to the form and say to myself, Do it just like you do in the form.

    Can a person learn without the forms. Yes, but I think it's going to be very limited that way. When I think of forms, I think of how athletes work on their form and technique outside of the mindset of winning and losing. Here's an example and it sounds like the same mindset that is used when training kata and forms


    Same thing here.


    Why do forms? Probably because there is some significant benefit to it. Can you learn to run without doing forms. Sure. No problem. I learned how to run long distance without any "forms" I just ran. Was I the best. nope far from it. Ironically when I ran track I used to train my running form all of the time.. Was I the best in my event". I ranked right up their with the best. Ran 110 hurdles and lost maybe twice. My training for running hurdles was to use only 1 hurdle and I learned how to jump over that one hurdle really good, focusing on my form. I would run to the left or the right of this hurdle so I could work on the trail leg only or my lead leg only. Below are guys training and working on form. These guys are 100% focused on technique. Add a stopwatch, and continuous running against some other people and all of that focus goes out of the window.



    I could have used any sport. But I picked running because for the most part we don't think of it as training the form.
     
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  19. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    I don't think the question is "Can you learn karate without the form?" I think the question may be, "How much better are we with or without the form training?" Based on every sport and musical instrument that I can think of. Training form is a big part of being really good at it. If this is a universal truth then I don't see why martial arts and fighting would be an exception.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2019
  20. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    I don't know about Karate. But for CMA, the forms were created because Chinese emperor didn't allow his people to train fighting. CMA turned into a performance/health art in order to survive.123
     

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