How much did our sensei's really know?

twendkata71

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After so many years of training, going to seminars, camps and tournaments, and watching kata from the same styles displayed differently. I wonder ,how much each teacher actually was taught by his/her teacher? How much were they taught of the original style? If they were intentionally taught wrong by their Japanese or Okinawan sensei? or if their personal interpretations of the kata are just being represented. Did our teachers change the kata themselves, or where their sensei's version taught to them? Did the teacher in Japan,Okinawa,Korea change the kata?
One of the things that made me bring up this question is, I watched Gogen Yamaguchi Hanshi (Goju kai) and Gosei Yamaguch Soke(Goju kai, his son) perform Suparempei and both did completely different versions. Now if they both came from the same source, how can the kata be so different? Did Yamaguchi Gogen not finish his training with Miyagi Chojun? Did his son go and do more research, learning the more accurate versions?
In my case, I originally learned the Hayashi ha version of suparempei, then later I learned the Goju ryu version and the Shito kai verison. All different, all the same kata.
What are all of your thoughts?
 

hpulley

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All are interpretations. Black belts can interpret them, embellish them, do them with their own style. The only proper form is the one which you need to do for your grading. They are just meant to illustrate concepts anyways. The bunkai is more important IMO.
 

jarrod

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it's kind of like that game "telephone". you whisper something to one person, then they whisper it to the next, & by the time it gets to the last person in the room the phrase is completely different. now keep in mind katas are much more elaborate than a phrase, & they have been passed around longer.

not that this is a bad thing. as hpulley said bunkai is much more important.

jf
 

harlan

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Maybe the question could be, 'how many versions do they know?' Especially since one is only comparing singular versions? Don't know how much my own teacher knows, but at times...it seems to be toooo much!

'This is the way Toguchi did it, this is the way Higa did it, this is what we currently prefer in our dojo, and this is what I like right now...and these are the various understandings....' LOL! Too much information.

My understanding is that MAists continually explore their kata, moving over the years back and forth between interpretations. A primary reason why one needs to study for decades with a chosen teacher/school.
 
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twendkata71

twendkata71

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When our organization was in the WUKO/WKF program and with the USA team, from time to time the accepted versions would change according who was the head of the technical committee. So, over the years I learned several variations of seipai, seienchin, bassai dai, Jion, suparempei,and chinto. The variations were slight, usually.
Another point to my question is to find out if anyone thought that perhaps information was withheld from the original teachers bringing the karate back from the asian countries. I know that for instance right after the war some karate that was brought back was extremely lacking because the Japanese didn't really teach aspects that were important in karate, perhaps in the fear that it would be used against them. I don't know for sure. My teacher trained in Japan in the early 50's. some of his kata are more authentic than many versions I've seen by other later generation sensei that learned in Japan. Also when I was training with Japanese sensei, they were not exactly forthcomming with a great deal of information about certain aspects of the kata they were teaching, and in some cases their explanation of the techniques were simply sanitized versions that would be taught to school children.
 

hogstooth

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All are interpretations. Black belts can interpret them, embellish them, do them with their own style. The only proper form is the one which you need to do for your grading. They are just meant to illustrate concepts anyways. The bunkai is more important IMO.

I agree with your statement but I think it depends to what extent. If the original Kata was handed down with the bunkai then by changing it you essentially loose the original intent and turn it into something little more than a dance.
With each teachers personal interpretation or their personal style the kata can change. I wonder especially with very old systems how close todays kata is to the founders original. Or for that matter the original meaning behind the various techniques.
I totally agree with your statement considering Bunkai.
 

Brandon Fisher

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It would be interesting to find out how things were taught. We know that every teacher has a different approach to their kata whether minor or major. What is authentic who knows what is original anymore. So with that I agree that bunkai is most important.
 

Brian S

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I would question whether or not the correct sequence of a kata is relevent to martial knowledge or even near the point in general.

Lots of people do well even without kata.
 
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twendkata71

twendkata71

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Kata is not just a physical exercise, This is where people get he wrong idea about the kata. Kata it training of the mind as well as the body. It is a test of one's self. Kata in itself it a teacher forever. Even after one has left their sensei, kata continues to teach you taking up where your sensei left off, as it were.
Back to the point of this thread. When your sensei was being taught, what , if anything, was left out? Or did he/her learn the whole style/system without certain secrets being left out. Perhaps your teacher may have misinterpreted some things. Especially if their was a language barrier. There have been many cases where the original sensei taught more of the style to the student he trusted more, and less to others. This would end up causing a lot of confusion within a style/organization.
Case in point, Kyan taught things to Shimbukuro Zenryo that he did not teach to Nagamine Shosin. Itosu taught elements to Mabuni that he did not teach to the less senior student Funakoshi.
Miyazato's Goju ryu is much more in depth than the Goju ryu that Yamaguchi learned and taught on the Japanese mainland.







I would question whether or not the correct sequence of a kata is relevent to martial knowledge or even near the point in general.

Lots of people do well even without kata.
 

kailat

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Well, as I review my past growing up I think alot was not known because the ability to study or travel was not as prevelent then as it was now. After reading an excerpt from my Grand Master Phillip Koeppel who is the head of my original karate system. I realize that we were very fortunate to have him in our association. However, we were not taught on the same format or the same way he was taught in Japan. Of course it was because he was in Arizona, ILL, and other places alot during the years I was training in Karate. It wasn't until maybe 3 yrs ago I had the distinct pleasure of really sitting down and getting to understand GM and what our system had to offer that I missed out on all the years. My original Sensie was a direct student under Hanshi Glenn Kenney, and Hanshi David Foreman. Although GM Koeppell was our GM he was not around often then.

We in fact was more in tune w/ my Sensei teacher in the FMA which in turn in 1985 brought me in connection w/ Guro-Sifu Dan Inosanto who at that time and still today was a very important ICON in the MA.

here is an excertp a rather long interview w/ GM Phillip Koeppell for thse who are not familiar w/ him.

http://www.bohans-family.com/sensei-speaks/Phil Koeppel/PK.htm

Enjoy
 

newy085

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I think that kata is constantly evolving. Our shihan was talking to us not long ago about how he was worried about what would happen when he passed on. He was worried that he may a left something out or left something he knows unsaid, which may be forgotten.

But, instead of training us to be doers, he has trained us to be thinkers. When correcting us he has changed from telling us what we are doing wrong to asking us what we are doing wrong. Getting us involved in our learning and making us think about the reasons that we are doing it. This way no matter what he has forgot to tell us, he has given us the tools to find the answers on our own.

It is for this reason I see no problem with different variations of the same kata. An instructor has looked at the technique and said this does not work, or this will work better, based on his knowledge and experience. It may have been that he misunderstood the original bunkai, but if the technique that is change still have a viable bunkai that fits within the theme of the kata, then nothing is lost, only gained.

As hpulley said - The bunkai is more important. If karate stops evolving we will be stuck in the past. Kata, whilst being a historic record, and a dictionary of techniques, must still be a viable training method. One that allows that practioner to visualize using the techniques in todays society. Anything less and it may as well be a dance.
 

Brandon Fisher

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Smart teacher there.
I think that kata is constantly evolving. Our shihan was talking to us not long ago about how he was worried about what would happen when he passed on. He was worried that he may a left something out or left something he knows unsaid, which may be forgotten.

But, instead of training us to be doers, he has trained us to be thinkers. When correcting us he has changed from telling us what we are doing wrong to asking us what we are doing wrong. Getting us involved in our learning and making us think about the reasons that we are doing it. This way no matter what he has forgot to tell us, he has given us the tools to find the answers on our own.

It is for this reason I see no problem with different variations of the same kata. An instructor has looked at the technique and said this does not work, or this will work better, based on his knowledge and experience. It may have been that he misunderstood the original bunkai, but if the technique that is change still have a viable bunkai that fits within the theme of the kata, then nothing is lost, only gained.

As hpulley said - The bunkai is more important. If karate stops evolving we will be stuck in the past. Kata, whilst being a historic record, and a dictionary of techniques, must still be a viable training method. One that allows that practioner to visualize using the techniques in todays society. Anything less and it may as well be a dance.
 

seasoned

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The concept of the cup has been the same for ever, it holds liquid. The shape, size, and outward appearance has chanced but the concept is still there, it holds liquid. Put a hole in it and it has lost its usefulness as a cup. In fact it has now become a funnel, still useful but not what it was intended for. I think in some cases we as consumers have gone into a store to buy a cup and were sold a funnel and told to just put our finger into the hole and it will work the same. In the end result we each have to be the judge and decide, what are we looking for, and what will best serve out purpose.
 

jim777

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To go back to the original question, "After so many years of training, going to seminars, camps and tournaments, and watching kata from the same styles displayed differently... I wonder ,how much each teacher actually was taught by his/her teacher?"
My chief instrucor, Tadashi Nakamura, was Mas Oyama's heir aparent when he left the KyokushinKaikan to form Seido Juku. So to answer, "How much.." I would anser "All".
 

seasoned

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I would question whether or not the correct sequence of a kata is relevent to martial knowledge or even near the point in general.

Lots of people do well even without kata.


You may be correct, but how do you feel, having learned the kata and how do you feel it has influenced your GoJu.
 
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