Karate is kata, kata is karate

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

  1. punisher73

    punisher73 Senior Master

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    I believe that was more of a tongue in cheek comment on the history of TKD. TKD used to be pretty much Shotokan when it first started as a style. It used the same forms as Shotokan. Some Korean styles, kept that like TSD/MDK. TKD evolved/changed further to remove the Japanese roots and try to make it more culturally "Korean" in nature. Part of this was removing the Japanese kata and creating their own forms. So, his point was that if you are doing all of the Shotokan forms, then it wouldn't be TKD. TSD even though it uses the Japanese forms, invented a new history about the forms and claimed that they are Chinese in origin and learned there.

    I could be completely wrong, but that is how I took the comment.
     
  2. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Like I said, there are inherent flaws in the Kukki/WT system. It is largely created for closed loop competition. That is All. Much of it is hard pressed to crossover as usable tools. Much of it has to do with the sheer physical level of the person. It takes an above average physique to effectively pull off some techniques. Usable all the time? Yes, for those with an exceptional physique.
    Your response to my Karate Kid comment is accurate but you still do not get it. No, we do not do down blocks in sparring/SD like we do in forms. The form does however condition/train/memorize the body to react correctly to a given input. Daniel sanding the floor (horizontal) trained his body for the correct motion. His body did not care about orientation. When he needed to block low, he had learned how. And while sanding the floor he was strengthening and conditioning his body. A huge component of forms people seem to forget. We exaggerate our stances to learn base And to condition. This example is consistent throughout all forms.
    You can carry this forward to most elements or combination thereof within forms.

    Question: Can you succinctly say what you are seeking in forms/poomsae? You seem to know the answer but refuse to accept it. And do not want to do the work to get there but instead want it to come to you.
    There are times we have to push through to another level. There are times we have to work, learn and wait while our mind and maturity can process what is in front of us. It doesn't just happen.
     
  3. punisher73

    punisher73 Senior Master

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    Some brought up the "knockdown" karate styles or sport style karate. I believe that is a moot point, because Bill was very careful of his definition of what he was talking about. He differentiated between karate-jutsu, which would be concerned with the martial application only, and karate-do, which is a "way" and the combat/martial applications are of secondary importance after the character development.

    I think that would be a whole different debate/argument and outside of what Bill proposed to say that you MUST have kata for fighting.

    My instructor always stated that martial arts should be a life long pursuit and the ability to fight is a skill that is learned very quickly in the scheme of things, so how do you apply it (or any physical pursuit) to your life to make it better? I think this is one of the goals of kata, to get inside yourself and dig into yourself and find the "real you". As someone else pointed out, I think you can do this with any physical pursuit if done with purposeful mindfulness. There is nothing "magical" about karate/kata, its just the vehicle of your choice to pursue certain intangibles in the mental/emotional/spiritual areas.
     
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  4. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    My point is, Daniel learned the "form" of wax-on, wax-off. But the application was not there. Imagine if Mr. Miyagi had only had Daniel do the chores, and never went through that scene you and I are talking about. He had Daniel paint the fence, wax the cars, sand the deck, and paint the house, and then never did the partner drills associated with that. And then Daniel went and taught his friends how to do the chores. And then his friend opened up a dojo where all anyone did is do chores. And then one of those students moved to another city, and opened up his own school.

    And one of the students at that school asks "why is it that all we do are chores?"

    How well would Daniel be able to apply the changes in the form, if he had not had that partner drill session? How well would he have done in the tournament, if all he did was chores without application? How well would that tangental student in that offshoot school be able to answer that question?

    I want when I do a technique in a poomsae, for the literal application to be correct as-is. For there to be at least one practical application, where the exact movement you're doing is correct. The question of "why would I do this?" or "when would I do this?" should not need to be asked. Instead, questions like "how else can I use this?" or "are there different times I can use this?" would be better.

    The other side is that neither of the TKD schools I have trained at (which both had vastly different training philosophies) ever did anything remotely resembling bunkai of the form. We never did that translation. It's never been suggested we do it in our off-time, it's never been told to us that our masters, instructors, or higher level belts have done it. I've never seen examples of this being done in class, never had a Master correct my attempts at doing bunkai on my own. I've looked up examples online, and most of what I find (from TKD folks) is either:
    1. "I'm going to show you an application of a down block." Then does an application of a high block.
    2. "I'm going to show you an application of the down block from Form #1." Then does a combination that includes techniques from forms 1, 3, and 7, and has several techniques and concepts that aren't included in any forms.

    This is why I've made posts about the various two-hand motions in the forms, such as the double-knife-hand block, augmented block, scissor block, and similar techniques. This is why I've made posts asking questions about crane stance and the footwork in some of the yudanja forms. I remember back at my old school, I had similar problems with the forms. (And back then, I didn't even like them). I remember when I was like 9 or 10 years old, going on a rant about how the forms are useless, because you do one block and one punch, and then turn around, as if that punch was enough to finish off one bad guy.

    So what would I like to see? I'd like to see the techniques evaluated in this format:
    1. Applications used as described and as close as possible to the technique in the form
    2. Applications of a similar motion used in the form for different applications
    3. Applications of a different motion used in the form for different concepts
    My problem is you typically see #2 and #3, but not #1. Or the literal explanation of #1 is some fantasy, like you're blocking two strikes at once (instead of simply moving out of the way).
     
  5. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    What if the "real you" is someone who doesn't like kata?
     
  6. punisher73

    punisher73 Senior Master

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    Many problems with the transmission of kata and applications are that things were changed for various reasons. First, is where and what kata are you trying to pull from. In regards to TKD, Gen. Choi admitted in his first book that he didn't know what the applications to the kata were (it was removed in later editions). So, you had someone who learned altered katas (Shotokan) that already had key moves changed and altered from the older Shorin-Ryu forms (specifically Shuri-Te). For example, Wansu became Empi in Shotokan and Funakoshi changed the throw/dump into a jumping spin move. So, this is why people try to go back to the older versions to see what the moves looked like and find an application from there. Another example, Japanese -do karate emphasizes a fully horizontal punch that is completely parallel to the floor and the arm is perfect 90 degrees from the shoulders/hips. This is great for the aesthetics of the movement, but has no combat application without changing your targeting. Itosu admitted that he altered and made it safer for children, Funakoshi also made changes further down the line.

    Second, some of the moves in kata are conceptual in nature and people want application. Compare American Kenpo forms starting at Short 3 and up. They are all application based and each move is specific to that self-defense technique. Kata on the other hand will teach you concepts of how to move and the move will have multiple applications. They are also somewhat of an "outline" to help the student remember what was taught and would be filled in as the student progressed. That middle block wasn't just a middle block, but the motion used is the same motion as other applications. If you change the moves of the kata to fit just one application, then you are losing other possible information.

    Third, some applications are time/culturally specific. The application, needs to be changed because the original application is no longer viable. For example, there is a move in Kusanku kata in which you "chamber" your open hand, palm up by the back of your head and do a move similar to a shuto strike. This is the application taught, shuto strike to the neck/temple area. But, why the strange chamber? Originally, this was an application about drawing your hair pin (Jiffa) out and stabbing the person. Or, the "wrist twisting" movements in Chinto were designed to show an application if your wrists were bound using the common rope of the time and how to twist and free yourself.

    Lastly, many applications were not taught openly. I read one interview in Classical Fighting Arts, the person talked about learning from Chotoku Kyan and that there were 3 levels of application to every movement. There was the open application taught (block/punch/block/kick ) that everyone learned, then there was the second level that would have contained more of the joint locking/grappling aspects and then there was the final level that were the lethal applications and rarely taught. So, you could have many students passing on limited information and only knew the first and some of the second level.

    Many people are left with kata applications that are like the Little Mermaid and her "Dinglehopper". She had a fork and used it as a hair pick. The application worked, but that isn't what it was originally designed to do.
     
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  7. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    We all study arts that technically are like the school you mention. At this point, nobodies master was a samurai who fought on horseback with katana or bows. Nobodies master actually killed a guy with his bare hands, that was attacking him with a sword. This is exactly why I have pointed out in the past, to look to the karate roots of TKD. That is not to say that the karate way is the right way or even the better way. Funakoshi taught a bunch of things which greatly influenced TKD. The TKD instructors are many steps away from Funakoshi. In understanding what you do now in TKD, it would be helpful to learn what those things were to start with and then who changed those things and why. I don't believe that all the changes made where watering things down. If Funakoshi watered something down, to teach kids, and that watered down version was taken into TKD, there is a very real possibility that one of the TKD masters, changed it to be more functional, either back to the original use or maybe a new and different one. Or maybe someone prefers punches to throws. But, knowing the changes that the kata went through, to get to your master will help you figure out what you are supposed to be doing now and what is potentially still on the table to discover. Also note, that Funakoshi was busy making changes himself for different reasons. I would also go back before Funakoshi. Personally, I like to go back as far as I can, but I also like to follow the kata forward through the forks. I can take a kata from Funakoshi through Shotokan and compare with that same kata, that missed Funakoshi and his changes, the version that came up through other styles of karate. Additionally, I can follow what happened to Funakoshi's version when TKD took it, and the changes made there. The way I do kata, will reflect my understanding and that understanding will change as I learn more.

    The techniques done in the kata, can be seen as ven diagrams of many applications. You pick the set of applications, such that 80% or more of the techniques are the same... and you pick such that the most important parts are the same. This means that your #2 and #3 will always be there. #1 may not, as its a ven diagram or it might not be common to wear hair pins any more. (I learned something in this thread) However, kata is not really meant to teach you techniques. Its meant to allow you to practice and study them. Doing kata allows you to practice and study the most important 80% of many techniques all at once. It provides a way to take your study in many directions, all while doing the same dance steps. I am not convinced yet that there is a #1 for every movement in every kata. I am convinced that there are quite a few #2s and #3s for every motion and set of motions in the kata. I am also quite convinced that by studying kata and doing kata, I can improve my skills in many areas at once. Learning and doing my Shotokan kata has improved my karate, my Danzan ryu, the aikido techniques I have been learning, as well as some of the boxing I used to take.
     
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  8. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    This is my point. My research has led me down the same information you just so eloquently described - that the application of the TKD forms has been lost through translation, obfuscation, and choices based on aesthetics. You added a few more items to that list as well. This leads to the problem I have with the TKD poomsae, is that they are so far removed from application training, I honestly feel you could drop them from the course completely and not affect anyone's ability to fight, whether in the street or in WT rules. If you take a typical TKD curriculum and dropped the forms out, everything else would still be there, largely unaffected. I don't think it would lessen anyone's ability to play the kicking game, nor would it affect anyone's ability to learn the short forms or one-step drills that teach application.

    Now, this isn't to say forms are necessarily bad. I think short forms are great. I think kata, that are created for a martial purpose, are a great idea (can't make any bigger judgment than that without experience), but the poomsae that I have trained fall short. They were created to be like something else, not to teach something specific. What I've had to do is adjust my way of thinking regarding the poomsae. I no longer seek application from them. I do them to the best I can, but I do them in the same way they were created - mimicry. I try to train my body to do the form, I don't try and draw martial application from them. When I do find something that resembles a form, I find it either a happy accident, or I find it a coincidence.
     
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  9. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    It's kind of funny you mention a Venn Diagram, because I was thinking that's how you and some of the others see it. I see techniques less as a Venn Diagram, and more like a taxonomy chart. I look at them like a biologist would look at an animal and say "this one has 6 legs, it is an insect; this one has 8 legs, it is an arachnid". You just seem to look at them all as "bugs".

    I am very analytical in my approach to everything. When I'm playing a video game, I spend as much time running spreadsheets on how to play, as I do actually playing. So when I practice a technique (the one that comes up often in these threads is the knife-hand block vs. the knife-hand strike) I look at what separates them, not what makes them the same. I have reasons for doing so, other than my predilection for analysis. Let me take you through the process, a little bit, of how it works in my mind:
    • Open-hand techniques are the trunk of a tree
    • Techniques using the palm, ridge-hand, blade, or fingers are the main branches
    • Blade-hand techniques, such as various knife-hand blocks or strikes, are the next level of branching.
    • Take the branch of knife-hand strikes. The twigs on this branch include palm-down strikes, palm-up strikes, and power breaking strikes.
    • Take the twig of palm-down strikes. This twig has many leaves on it, based on your opponent's guard, distance, height, and whether you're trying to score points or break his collarbone.
    Now, at first I said that open-hand techniques are the trunk of one tree, which suggests the other must be closed-hand techniques. But the tree can be whatever I want it to be, for the purpose of the analysis I'm running. The tree can be blocks, or kicks, or throws. The tree is merely the catch-all category for what I'm looking at, and the branches and twigs and leaves are more and more granular versions depending on the context.

    When I look at techniques used in sparring, they're all leaves. They're all organic to the specific situation. Techniques used in defense drills are usually twigs. Something you can apply a few different ways, but are usually pretty specific requirements for the test. With kata, some techniques are leaves or twigs, but if the purpose is to be a branch, it's hard for me to reconcile that with the very specific nature in which Taekwondo forms are taught, which is purely through detailed mimicry. It is a purpose that works very well for short forms, or for an art that does Bunkai, but it seems too vague to really apply in the typical Taekwondo curriculum.

    I said I'd come back to why I think from the trunk out, and why I make it important for myself to conceptualize each technique individually, than to try to group them together under a Venn Diagram. I've seen a lot of my fellow students, who do not separate techniques based on the same application. Their knife-hand strikes and knife-hand blocks look exactly the same. It doesn't matter if they're supposed to be blocking a punch or destroying someone's neck, it always looks like a block, like they're shoving something out of the way. Or their blocks are too linear, and leave a lot of vertical real-estate unprotected.

    This is why, to me, those subtle details are important. This is why I am so heavily critical of the applications people draw from poomsae. It is in part because of how important those details are in the training of TKD poomsae, but also because of the people I've seen who don't understand these details and how it compromises their techniques.

    I think the Venn Diagram approach works in a different model. In a system that routinely does Bunkai on their Kata, or in a system with layers of application (striking, grappling, lethal) it makes a lot of sense. But for a system which trains purely for an exact copy of the form, to try and teach application out of the Venn Diagram model doesn't seem to work.

    This is why I've come to the conclusion that trying to draw application out of poomsae is a waste of time. Trying to draw application out of kata can be a very beneficial venture. I train the poomsae, but not for application. I train for the training it gives my muscles, the satisfaction of doing them, and nothing more.
     
  10. punisher73

    punisher73 Senior Master

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    TKD is not my art and have never formally trained it, so I don't know who does what forms. But, there are a couple of books out there that go back to the "original" forms (the actual karate roots) and look at those sequences that were retained and show applications for them. Here are a couple of them.

    https://www.amazon.com/Taegeuk-Cipher-Simon-John-Oneill/dp/1409226026
    https://www.amazon.com/Chang-Hon-Ta...2528/ref=mt_paperback?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid=

    But, in all honesty. TKD isn't karate. So, trying to put the training paradigm of Okinawan karate (kata is karate, karate is kata) that was taught originally, is not applicable to all martial arts that were later derived from those roots. In the case of TKD, they took great lengths to remove the Japanese roots from their art to make it more Korean. Furthering your argument, you probably could remove them and not lose what "they" (the founders) were trying to accomplish in making it more Korean.

    For example, in Kenpo forms were added because other arts had them and lots of people wanted them and wanted to compete in tournaments with them. In Ed Parker's Kenpo, Long 4 and after were specifically designed as tournament forms and applications were secondary. It could be something similar to TKD.
     
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  11. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    If I remember when I get home, I'll check those books out.
     
  12. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I am a big advocate of the benefit of forms training. However, that assumes, among other things, that the forms are well designed and are properly understood to gain the fighting applications from them.

    I believe that not all forms are well designed, and not everyone understands them properly to get martial benefit from them. In some cases, forms practice is not martially beneficial. They may still have other benefits such as memorization, cardio conditioning, etc.

    It is possible that in your school or in your particular lineage, forms training is not martially beneficial. Those answers may simply not be found in your forms, in your school.

    As you point out, it may otherwise have little effect on your practice and your ability to develop your skills. The forms may simply be unnecessary, perhaps even a waste of time.
     
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  13. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    My degree is in psychology. One of the theories by Carl Rogers is that you have an ideal self, a perceived self, and a real self. Self-actualization is when all three align. What's happened in my journey through TKD is I was seeking that martial application, and I felt lacking because I couldn't find it. When I saw others struggle just as much as I did with the questions I asked, I came to the conclusion that I did, regarding the amount of application from it. Now, when I do train them, I train without that purpose in mind, and it makes it easier to focus on what I'm supposed to be.

    The only problem is when I read about how other arts handle forms.
     
  14. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    When you read about how other arts handle forms, why is it a problem? So you suspect you are missing out on something?

    If your system works fine without them, or works fine with having repurposed them, then it works fine. Does it matter?
     
  15. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    It's because I like what the others are able to get out of the forms. There's a beauty in that.
     
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  16. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    It's one of them, yes.

    Poor analogy. You couldn't teach the BJJ curriculum because you don't know it. The post I responded to made it clear that the person was teaching the TSD curriculum. So they're clearly teaching TSD.
    Besides, the statement was regarding what @gpseymour should call a Korean art being taught with the Shotokan kata. Although I will amend my statement to say he could also call it Shotokan rather than TSD and be equally correct.
     
  17. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    a good link.
    The Biggest Problem With "Sport Karate"
     
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  18. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    He was replying to me saying it's what I would call it. And if that's the major difference between them, then it'd be a fair classification. If it were the only functional difference, then it would be fair to say that removing the kata from one actually makes it the other.
     
  19. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    Aside from the kma politics and the kma historical revisionism that would be 90% of it.

    Tsd and hsd (hong soo do) at first preserved the Japanese and Okinawan forms. Over time they were were modified or outright replaced in the various kwans with new forms created by Koreans.

    TSD was largely introduced into Korea by Koreans who were studying in Japan. Most of these traditions were rooted in Shotokan style.

    A few Koreans, however, trained outside of Shotokan, and were in either the Shito-ryu tradition under Kenwai Mabuni or Shudokan under Kanken Toyama.

    There was only one 6th dan who went back to Korea, everyone else was either 1st or 2nd dan.

    but yeah... the tkd art fundamentally was about politics, and national identity, and trying to find a connection to indigenous kma arts like Taekyun.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2019
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  20. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    That is essentially your own argument to make the situation and the circumstances fit your agenda. The analysis can be "whatever you want"? That is just silly.
    Let me ask you a question: What is Your definition of the term Tae Kwon Do?
     

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