Discussion in 'Karate' started by brandon, Jun 10, 2004.
ABSOLUTELY!!! I totally agree!!
I dont really hate kata its just that I dont enjoy doing it. I practice it just because my art includes it. I like sparring better
I always enjoyed it...but then, part of why I always liked the martial arts is that I'm not a team sports person, and this was the ultimate for me--a one-person activity!
people hate kata because they dont understand what they are doing. they are not getting tough the bunkai. kata has self defence. they are called wazas. its were you break down the kata... I have been doing shuri-te karate for about 16 yrs now. All of my students love kata because i teach them the bunkai.. this is what i think.
And I think you're dead right: if you took a group of 100 people who say that they hate kata, I'd be willing to bet that not more than one or two of them would turn out to have been shown what the oyo associated with the various subcomponents of the kata they had learned were.
People need to first learn that there's such a thing as bunkai, yielding effective applications that they can then train with partners, and they need to be shown what some of the bunkai are for the kata they learn. But the best thing at all to change their attitude would be to show them how to decode those applications, based on general rules of kata decipherment. That way, they can test their own ingenuity and imagination on new forms, and get that same kind of satisfaction that people always get when confronted with a puzzle that they're able to crack open, finally.
The problem is getting instructors to make this aspect of the karate-based arts more central to the curriculum. I've actually had arguments with people who told me, with a good deal of impatience, that bunkai is 'too cerebral', that people want to block, punch and kick and don't want to solve problems, that you'll lose students if you try to teach them that there's a world of combat-ready applications in kata that have to be discovered by shrewd analysis. I think they're wrong about that... but that might be my own preferences speaking. I don't think so, thoughI've seen student's eyes light up when you show them what a hikite chambering is really all about, or what that 'down block' is actually doing to an assailant's throat or temple. So I think it makes sense, even in terms of the business realities of MA instruction, to provide students with this kind of analytic skill.
One the other hand some students would simply prefer to spend their time working on the bunkai and don't want to spend time learning kata just to get to it. I could fully understand and appreciate the purpose of kata and the bunkai contained within it and still not enjoy doing it. If I had my choice between learning a kata and then breaking it down to find the bunkai within or just learning the bunkai, I would prefer the later. No kata may = no karate but it's still the kind of class I'd prefer to be in.
And that's exactly how it works in Combat Hapkido, a lean-mean art aimed specifically at street use which has no forms. What it does have are dozens of separate drills, which give you multiple techs to handle virtually any CQ attack. The thing is, an awful lot of those drills look like subparts of familiar TKD hyungs. Take any five CHKD drills, put them together according to the 'composition rules' of karate-style patterns (embusen symmetry, etc) and you're likely to wind up with something that looks very much like a TKD form. So you could say it's a matter of preference with respect to three separate questions:
(1) Do you like (a) learning combat-effective techniques individually, or (b) learning a single set of movements which can be 'compiled out' into a (large) number of separate moves, each of which represents a somewhat different application of the same movements?
(2) Do you like (a) learning combat-effective techniques individually, or (b) learning a set of them at once as subparts of single 20–40 move sequence (on average) which you then parse into separate subsequences?
(3) Do you prefer (a) learning and training applications based on exactly what your instructor teaches you, or (b) taking your teacher's instructions about what a given kata subsequence is telling you to do in a certain situation, and using it as a model for discovering, on your own, other applications of the same subsequence which you can then test out for effectiveness?
If someone answers (a) in all of (1)–(3) above, then the kind of thing you say you like better, GM, is probably going to suit that person fine. And if someone else answers (b) for these three questions, then they're probably going to enjoy the kata/hyung/hsing-based curriculum more than the CHKD style of curriculum. I myself go with (b) in all three—I like the mnemonic convenience and problem-solving/code-deciperhing challenge of forms—but I can easily imagine someone preferring the (a) choices. However, I think there's another dimension to the issue that arises from what is arguably a misuse of kata as a belt-promotion criterion, greatly interfering with its original and far deeper role as a source of effective combat methods.
The problem is that, as Bill Burgar and others familiar with the Okinawan/Japanese transition in the dissemination of karate have emphasized, when Funakoshi took Okinawin karate to Japan and changed the curriculum from detailed study and training of applications of a very small number of kata per instructor to mass-class kihon line drills with minimum exposition of bunkai, the role of kata changed almost totally. Funakoshi's introduction of the Kano-style judoka multiple belt/rank system meant that there had to be specific milestones for what was now a relatively large number of promotions. His solution was to substitute kata performance skill for kata bunkai understanding, so that at every rank level there was a specific kata you needed to master to advance to that level, a practice carried over with a vengeance into the Korean striking arts.
The upshot is that while in the early days of karate a kata was regarded as a complete martial art on its own, and the original masters only learned, and taught, a small number of them (Funakoshi is famous for having studied essentially nothing but Naihanchi for the major part of his formal training), we now have people drowning in excess kata exposure who don't really know how to do anything with them except perform them, with no idea of how to extract their combat information. (Burgar's and Abernethy's books provide documentation for both these points). Too many kata, too little understanding of how they're to be used; and, used correctly, you don't need a huge number of kata—Choki Motobu, one of the most respected of the Okinawan expat instructors, with a reputation as a formidable fighter (he was bounced out of Itosu's classes because he would deliberately seek out aggressive street types and provoke them into attacking him so that he could try out his latest ideas on combat applications on them) was a Naihanchi freak, and believed that essentially anything you could ever need in the way of self-defense information was to be found in it. Naihanchi seems to have been his core, home-base kata his whole MA life. And he was probably much more typical in that respect than otherwise of the early pioneer masters. Less was more, back then.
So one thing that would help is for people who are kata/bunkai advocates to rethink the karate curriculum in a way that doesn't introduce superfluous material, requiring students to be able to flawlessly perform twelve to fifteen kata by the time they're ready to test for shodan. If you're getting real depth-applications from your kata, then three of the classic biggies, along maybe with a couple of the Taikyoku set to get you started, is probably more than enough. People's appreciation for kata would probably increase dramatically if their instructors showed them how to get a lot more combat guidance out of a lot fewer of them...
This thread is so long, I'm sure someone has observed before that the old practice among Okinawans was to only learn a handful of kata and learn them well. Patience and endurance form their own rewards eventually. I believe Choki Motobu practiced primarily Naihanchi, and he's had a fearsome reputation indeed.
Karate curricula are pretty crazy these days. Way too many forms across the board and that's true for TKD, Shotokan, shito-ryu, and even the shorin-ryu guys. Check out the many branches of choy lay fut people for the CMA equivalents of kata collectors.
Actually, both those points are in the post you're quoting from!
This is something the kata-centered movement is going to have to come to grips with.
Bill Burgar spent five years studying Gojushiho exclusively, and published his findings in his book. So far, though, most of the bunkai-jutsu people have focused largely on advocating the reexamination of kata from the point of view of realistic combat. Eventually, we're going to arrive at the point where enough people are convinced that that's really the point of kata that we then have to face the next phase: how do you reformulate the karate/TKD/curriculum to reflect that new approach?
There actually has been some discussion of this before on MT, but the conversation never achieved much detail.... I think it's a difficult thing to visualize seriously, at this point, because the revised curriculum would look so radically different from what we have now...
LOL! That's what I get for skimming through your post. Your posts are uniformly excellent, but they do take some time to digest. I should have at least read the last three posts before replying, eh? Sounds like we're on the same page on many things though, Exile. We probably have the same reading material at home.
Well, the American kenpo people do it correctly in my opinion, but they too suffer from too much material. For those who don't know, many of the kenpo forms are actually their self-defense techs strung together to create a kata. The applications are obvious since the form and the technique is taught together hand in hand. It's well thought out since the self-defense techs teach various martial concepts as you advance through the kenpo material.
At the risk of offending any Ed Parker system people out there, however, there really seems to be a lot of material to wade through. Too much IMO. I've read some of their manuals and I thought if you could master even their yellow through purple belt material backwards and forwards, you'd be an excellent martial artist. It's really a rich system, but like many other striking arts, I don't think there's much exposure to takedowns and grappling early on (if ever?).
I wouldn't be surprised at all, DA. Thanks for the kind words :asian: There's some terrific work out there, if people would take the time to read it and think it through... but then they'd have to do some major revision of their standard practice, and that's an unwelcome prospect for a lot of people.
It's the same old story, in a way—we all want change for the better, but no one really wants to actually change the way they do things...
This is one of the things I've always found interesting about Kenpo, and in a way marks it out as the product of contemporary Western culture in spite of its deep technical roots in the Asian TMAs: the element of concealment is gone. The techs are right there in front of you. Combat Hapkido has the same quality: nothing is encoded (obviously, since there are no kata per se), and you drill the applications, along the lines that Green Meanie said he prefers. In a really good kata-based art you learn to 'read' the kata and then drill the apps also, but it's dicey, in most TMA schools, whether things get to that point.
There are a lot of systems in which there's almost too much good stuff out there. Probably one of the things you have to learn to do is to work through the techs, find what works for you, and then focus on perfecting those. I always think of Aesop's fable about the hedgehog and the fox: the fox knows many tricks, the hedgehog only one, but when a pack of dogs attacks, the hedgehog finds a hollow niche in a wall, curls up into a ball and can't be dislodged, while the fox, trying to decide what would be best to do, takes too long and gets caught and killed by the pack. An early version of Hick's Law. Ideally, you devote a certain amount of time winnowing and refining... but the temptation to accumulate techs at the expense of practicality and depth of understanding how to use what you know is a trap that probably faces a lot of practitioners across the MA spectrum...
I've read a story about a young Joe Lewis who earned his black belt in something like 18 months. He didn't know much about philosophy or form bunkai or anything eosterical at the time. But his sidekick was deadly and he could and did trample over all his opponents with just the sidekick and reverse punch.
If I were to start my own system (never happen, this is just a what if), I'd be sorely tempted to teach exclusively basics for the first six months. No forms, no bunkai, no controls or locks or pins. Just how to strike correctly. In the air, against a heavy bag, with a partner using focus mitts, against a padded up moving partner. Lots of combinations with an emphasis on efficient motion to teach the student what will allow him best to land a SERIES of heavy, damaging blows against targets like the groin, knees, jaw, nose, throat, neck, and temples.
Yes, he was stationed with the military over there, was a very quick study, and got his BB in a ridiculously short timeprobably was at it seven days a week, eight hours a day in between his duties. That whole crowd was dedicated!
That seems to be what a lot of the old, much respected-and-feared karateka legends were particularly good at, and it's something that I think Kenpo (from what I've seen of it) seems to be especially strong in so far as training emphsis goes. The other stuff, the controlling moves and locks and pins and so on, can indeed come later (though I wouldn't put it off for years), once they learn how to deliver force effectively. It's like what they say about scouting talent in baseball: you look for the kid with the blazing fastball. The more complex stuff can come later, but the fastball has got to be there.
I had a long post written then I realized Ex already said it for me.
I personally like kata i find it interesting how all the applications can be used and how complex they can become. Leanring a new kata to me is like opneing up a new world, i know a lot of different kata and i find them even more intriguing than the last. Tha applications are just immense to me i love performing the kata as well and perfecting kata.
The thing about kata is that many Japanese and Korean styles have forgotten what kata are supposed to be for:
They are a hologramatic visual database of techniques.
Many, if not most of the martial arts masters were illiterate. Kata were a way of catalogueing and remembering techinques, principles, power development methods and other stuff.
One of my best memories was an afternoon I spent with three senior students: black and brown belts, all engineers doing a two hour analysis of the first three moves of Pinan Shodan/Heian Nidan, the one that goes:
1. Simultaneous Outside block Up block (soto uke, age uke)
2. Inside block, low punch, thumb up
3.Shuffle in, Side Hammer and pull (hikite)
In two hours of talk about engineering terms as applied to human body movements, we hadn't run out of ways of applying those three moves.
That is what kata is SUPPOSED to be all about.
Is it? Can you cite multiple primary sources on this from pre-meiji restoration days of karate?
It might be, but then again it might not. We really have no way of knowing, history tells us very little, oral history conflicts and is unreliable, the "true intent" is really lost.
That is if there was one, maybe everyone was supposed to find meaning that suited themselves. Maybe it was just a fitness routine, let's be honest, much of the posturing used is very poor for a fight (hands down, feet planted, etc.)
Maybe it was about learning precision in movement, with a focus on movements that while combat related, where more based on proper posture for circulatory and meridian reasons?
Maybe it was just a fitness variation people practiced to stay in shape, a feudal version of Tae Bo?
Maybe the reason was purely cultural, and was recognized as such. Sort of like Civil War reenactors, to tell a story of history, rather then to really fight.
Truth is we got very little to go one when it comes to the original goal behind Kata, there are too many stories, and thats all that they are, stories.
I find this comment interesting as it is my understanding that karate on Okinawa was learned and taught mainly to the "upper class" who would have had access to some sort of education. I have read that Matsumura Sensei, as well as Kyan Sensei were both well schooled in some Chinese literature of sorts. Please elaborate if you can on this.
In the spirit of bushido!
I agree. That statement is without historical basis.
Andrew, I think you're mistaken here. There is evidence, cited by both Iain Abernethy (in Bunkai-Jutsu: the Practical Application of Karate Kata) and Bill Burgar (Five Years, One Kata) that kata were not originally regarded as parts of martial arts, but rather as martial arts themselves. Choki Motobu, maybe the most technically gifted (and almost certainly physically toughest) of the Okinawan expats to teach karate in Japan, made it clear in his writing that different kata were regarded as different styles of karate, sub-arts in their own right; it's also clear that the training of the early MAs masters consisted in persistent study of a single kata, or at most a few, over many years. Funakoshi's training consisted, pretty much entirely, of Naihanchi, as did Motobu's. The kata were the source of the techs they practiced, and guys like Itosu and Motobu were fighters, first and foremost. Literate, yes; upper crust, yes—but they were scrappers. And the weapons they brought to their many, many brawling fights were what they got out of their kata training. It's a serious mistake to think that these guys received a separate technical training in elementary techniques and then practiced kata on top of that. We know that that came later, and was a teaching method introduced by Funakoshi in Japan in the 1920s. Prior to that, however, kata were the textbook on which the combat training of these guys—many of them very formidable fighters, make no mistake!—was based. Kihon line-drills were introduced in Tokyo in the 20s and 30s; the earlier Okinawan training method was centered entirely around kata, and how kata techs could be recruited for hard combat use.
Separate names with a comma.