Karate No Kata by Toyama Kanken

Discussion in 'Karate' started by Graywalker, Sep 19, 2020.

  1. Graywalker

    Graywalker Blue Belt

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    So it being a leisurely day and the smoke is clearing out, I decided to read Toyama's (a student of Itosu) book on the deck, and enjoy the sunshine.

    I thought I would share here in the Karate forum, but all are welcome to comment.

    In chapter 3 he speaks of Kata and what it means to him. I thought that a few Karateka who enjoy doing Kata, would like to hear his perspective on the subject of Kata practice.

    'The Kata of Karate are consecutive sequences of offensive and defensive martial techniques. Kata are the ideal techniques that were worked out and appropriately adapted to fit each situation[change according to the circumstances]through an infinite variety of changes by systematically consolidating and combining the exquisite skills that had become the basics from both sides of principle logic and physical technique by the Fist Saints and masters of the past, through superhuman hardships spanning many months and years.'

    I thought this was an interesting discription of Kata, although on the mystical poetic side, I do agree with the footnote, change according to circumstance. Also, the statement of 'the basics from both sides of principle logic and physical technique' I found this to be true when doing Kata.

    'The Kata of Karate are the life of Karate.. Kata is the only supreme way to investigate thoroughly its quintessential and ultimate meanings. Training with a partner is something that anyone can do, however, the thorough investigation into the ultimate meanings of Karate, through training by one's self, without a partner, is an extremely difficult thing and is not possible for the average person.'

    I think to understand Kata, you need to explore it. I wonder if different people, doing the same Kata in this manner, will have similar results. I would say that this part 'without a partner, is an extremely difficult thing and is not possible for the average person.' rings true with most methods.

    Then it continues:

    'Entering the mountains secretly in the dead of night, ascetically training by oneself with a standing tree as an opponent and thoroughly investigating the inner techniques according to Kata in a complete trance like mental state, with all seriousness, filled with energy, one breath in one breath out, one hand technique, one foot technique, a single strike, a single kick...yes this is truly a difficult thing'

    I think this is stressing the importance of intention, during your workout.

    'The reason that many people who do karate desire to aesthetically and ferociously train according to kata are based on these true princples.
    1) Without kata, Karate wouldn't exist
    2) Without the essential inner techniques, karate would merely be physical excercises


    One I agree with, two do more Kata?

    'The kata of karate are a form of of systematically performing the basic techniques of offense and defense above a standardized performance line while imagining opponents to the front, rear, left, right, and all directions.
    This the line where one performs the basic martial techniques of breathing, turning the body, and movements of offense and defense while imaging opponents the front, rear, left, and right'

    The point that I noticed the most, is the reference, to 'basic martial techniques' this would suggest that no matter how advanced the kata is, it is just the basics of more advanced ways in doing the technique. And, would suggest diving into a further examination of the kata and its movement as well.


     
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  2. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Brown Belt

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    Important to put this book into context. As an instructor and a co-founder of Shotokan and a force in putting karate into the Japanese school system, he was concerned with it as an exercise and way to develop character. This led to the emphasis on the execution of basics and less on the true combat applications, which was reflected in the Japanese katas he taught.

    The Shotokan karate taught to school students was a somewhat simplified, less dangerous version of Okinawan karate, and evolved on a separate (but still beneficial) trajectory design to teach a standardized style to large groups. There are advanced concepts in Shotokan, but over the decades they faded and for many instructors, forgotten. In fairness, this happened in the Western world as well, and even in Okinawa to some lesser degree.

    The first quote of the book I'd agree with. The last quote, not so much - It sounds like there are multiple attackers in a kata, attacking from every direction. This did, indeed, become a common misconception. While kata are a series of consecutive sequences, each sequence is a stand-alone series against a single opponent, teaching a specific technique. Seldom would one be fighting 4 or 6 attackers. One on one is MUCH more common. Often, turning in a kata is not to fight a new attacker, but repositioning the same attacker, pulling him around to serve up more punishment.

    I wholeheartedly agree kata is an essential element of karate and one that should be further examined for all the applications and variations that can be found hidden within. But I do believe there are advanced concepts going beyond the basics that advanced practitioners will realize with deep study of kata techniques.

    Not saying Toyama Kanken's books are no good, but must be seen as a product of its time (as any historical writing) and its intended purpose to spread the practice of karate in Japan.
     
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  3. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    Firstly, great thoughts @isshinryuronin

    Thanks for sharing @Graywalker , rather enjoyed this, very interesting!

    Yeah I like that too, well put.


    I think too that there are obvious benefits to partner training with kata. However I've always seen kata more as purposeful solo forms that teach many other important things, like intrinsic principles of body movement, internal feeling, power generation, learning to move from your center, learning natural rhythms etc etc... all geared towards instilling these principles deeply within yourself.

    Of course these are then acted out on a person through whatever means, but I've always practiced my kata not just on the level of "this move does that to the person", but I rather like the other levels of exploration, and also as a mirror for the self. You can see alot of yourself when you perform the kata, as though it's a way of facing yourself in your totality, and working through some tough internal stuff. Learning relaxation, trust, openmindedness and constant improvement... it's always been a very vulnerable process. But that's me haha ;). Kata as a process of removing stuff rather than adding on, in order to get to the pristine essence of it.

    I wonder about Sosai Mas Oyama who went to train in the mountains in solitude for quite a long time, and came back as quite the fighter. Potentially fought wild animals out there too haha, not sure.

    Ahhh I LOVE this paragraph... now feeling like heading out to a forest in the dead of night to train haha.

    Yeah agree with what isshinryuronin said, not necessarily the whole separate attackers thing. And I like the way you worded that, yeah it seems like a way of applying basics in more advanced ways...
     
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  4. Graywalker

    Graywalker Blue Belt

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    I am curious as to where this information, that Toyama was a co-founder. I know that they were classmates, for a short period, but nothing about them developing shotokan together. Curious for my own personal studies.
     
  5. Graywalker

    Graywalker Blue Belt

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    I read this as not defending multiple attackers, but as training for surprise attacks from different angles.

    As for the depth of advanced techniques, it is clear that Toyama is speaking of this very thing, when one focuses on kata and gets deeper into the meaning. I agree with your statement concerning this topic.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2020
  6. Graywalker

    Graywalker Blue Belt

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    Right, I thought the same thing.

    Agree and well said
     
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  7. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    Toyama's school was called the Shudokan. Similar spellings to Shotokan when written Roman-style. Maybe that is the source of confusion.
     
  8. Graywalker

    Graywalker Blue Belt

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    Yes, that is what I was thinking, it was the "co-founder" statement that caught my attention.
     
  9. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Brown Belt

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    Yeah, I was a little generous to Toyama in calling him a Shotokan co-founder, but wanted to give him his due (I almost put the term in quotes). It would be more accurate to call him the co-founder of the organization of Shotokan into the school system (he was a school teacher himself) and Japan in general, along with Funakoshi, Itosu and Mabuni.

    So while he may not be a full co-founder of Shotokan style, he was a co-founder of the institution of Shotokan in Japan. Hope this makes my thought on the subject clearer. And thanks for posting the book's quotes. Readings of the old guys (many of which have only recently been translated) does indeed put what we do now in perspective and deepens our appreciation for the art.
     
  10. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    If you have a training partner (such as your brother, wife, girlfriend, ...), why do you even want to train by yourself?

    If you can repeat this drill with your partner 1,000 times daily, why do you still need to train your solo form for?

    If you have 200 partner drills like this, when you train solo (when your training partner is not available), your partner drills will become solo drills. If you link your solo drills, you will create your own forms.


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