Karate is kata, kata is karate

gpseymour

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I am having a hard time understanding your last sentence. Can you reword it so this thick headed old man can understand it?
I think you are saying more modern conventions like print and internet videos do not hurt the integrity of Karate but I am not sure. Thanks
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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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.
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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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.
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.
 

isshinryuronin

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Notice the attacker (in the partner drill) has the sme high chamber/guard in the left photo. This is a Japanese student of Choki Mutobu.
motobu-choki-kumite-13-and-14-okinawa-kenpo-karate-jutsu-kumite-hen-645x400-jpg.22494
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.
 

gpseymour

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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.
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.
 

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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.

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
 
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TSDTexan

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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.

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
 
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skribs

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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.

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

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.

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?
 

Randy Pio

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I am starting this thread because I was asked to defend my assertion that karate and kata are inseparable. I hope that this will at least be informative, even if you don't agree with my thesis.

I'm not trying to convince or convert anyone, nor do I think anyone else is necessarily wrong. I speak only for myself and my limited understanding of the art I study.

I'll try to distill it down. It's been done to death but here it is again.

Karate is kata and kata is karate, in my opinion.

Why?

Let's start with karate itself. The very word means 'empty hand'. Yes, I'm aware that it once meant 'China hand,' but we accept that it means empty handed self-defense arts at this time.

However, I'm used to the term 'karatedo'. The word karate is simply shorthand for karatedo. Do is a word in Japanese that refers to a 'way' as in a way of life. Not simply a style, or school, like a ryu.

In Japan, many things are do. Calligraphy, flower arranging, tea making, and so on. Karate is one among many kinds of do.

Not everyone who studies karate thinks of it that way. I get it. Like many things, it can be what people want and need it to be. You don't how to know how internal combustion engines work to drive a car. But some people do know how they work, and some care how they work, and that's no more wrong than people who just want to start it up and drive to work.

So consider me a student who studies karatedo, and considers it a way, a lifestyle, a way of life, a lifelong pursuit.

To me, kata encodes karate. Everything that my particular style is, is found in the kata. All kihon, all bunkai, everything necessary to know, is found within the framework of the kata itself.

Most who study any traditional form of karate are familiar with the notion of application, also known as bunkai. It's the 'why' of kata. Often very obvious. Why am I doing an upper body block? Someone is punching me in the head, that's why. And if all I cared about what self-defense, that would be plenty. There's a lot to learn, as most know, about body mechanics and how to correctly perform that block such that the incoming power is absorbed and redistributed and channeled and so on. How one can avoid having one's block collapse under the power of the incoming strike. Yes, that's all in the kata, and it's important and good.

But there is so much more. And many know this already. Advanced bunkai shows that a block isn't always a block, but could be a strike. That a move in a kata might serve a myriad of purposes. Some more difficult to implement than others. Some we try and try and struggle with, trying to make them work. Sometimes we just can't quite absorb it, sometimes our instructors can't quite demonstrate it, and so on. So there are limits; to ourselves, in our training, etc.

To me, though, kata goes well beyond even that. It's a moving, living, study of self-defense applications, but it also includes breathing, balance, stance, and power training. Transitions. Speed. Where and when to look. What to notice.

Kata gives one space and permission to experiment, to develop applications, which may seem 'new' to the karateka, but are usually not new at all; just newly rediscovered. This is where people start talking about 'secret' methods and 'hidden' training and all that malarkey. It's not hidden, it's just not visible to the karateka who is not sufficiently experienced enough to see them, or to the student who simply does not care to explore what it has to offer.

Of course one can take the basic bunkai of any kata or form and teach just that application, divorced from the kata. It works, it's legitimate training. But it leaves so much behind. As I've said before, if self-defense is the goal (and many argue that self-defense is all martial arts is or should be), one can become proficient in the basic moves that will serve them well in that area fairly quickly. And as I've also said, there's nothing wrong with that, if that's what one wants.

I can fight, sure. I can defend myself, or at least I fancy that I can. But I quite honestly don't care about any of that any more. I practice kata because it talks to me. It relaxes me. It enlightens me. I find new things in it constantly, none of them new or undiscovered of course, but new to me, and I deeply enjoy the exploration.

People come into the dojo from time to time and say they don't want belts or to wear a gi or to bow to anyone, they just want to learn to fight. Cool. There's a boxing gym in town, from that I hear, the instructor's top-notch. And I'm sure it's great training for fighting. Go there, do that. I'm not trying to put anyone down - boxing is great. So are the myriad of other styles. Find the one that works for you, that gives you what you need. Do it and feel great about it. All good.

But my karate is karatedo. It's a way of life. Kata is living, breathing, neverending exploration of a universe of language, all framed in the way of informed violence, but at the same time, not about violence at all. Do you think people spend a lifetime arranging flowers or printing characters because they wanted to accomplish something obvious and simple? I can order a bouquet from FTD if that's what I want. I can print fancy characters with a computer and laser printer, right? Clearly, it's about more than that.

"Well, I can't understand why anyone would want to, I don't see the point." Right. I get it. I don't see it either, or I guess I'd be arranging flowers or drawing characters on rice paper with a brush. But they get it, clearly. Don't think it valueless because you don't see the value yourself, is what I'm trying to say.

I hear criticism of various types of kata, or moves within kata, all the time. Often from people with some training, usually from those who moved on and didn't spend much time with it. "Oh, that's an unrealistic move, you can't make that work. You'd never do a low block like that. It's not practical." And so on. Well, I get that. If I hadn't spent the last decade plus working on my kata, I might think the same thing. I can state that in my opinion, such statements are uninformed and nonsensical, but you can't argue someone out of their opinions if they haven't put in the work it takes to actually 'get it'. And trust me, there's an awful lot I don't know, and mysteries which I have not solved. I have a lifetime to keep picking at it; I might eventually get a little better.

I also run into experienced karateka who are skilled at their art and highly regarded in their community, and they practice kata I have difficulty understanding. When I ask them what a given move is for, they don't know. They do it because they were taught to do it. They do it well, I guess. Smooth and clean and with power, but what's it for? If they can't tell me because I don't understand their application, maybe it's me. But if they can't tell me because they just don't know, I wonder what it is they think they're doing practicing it.

Kata is alive. It's packed full of information and it's ready to teach those who are willing to learn the language it speaks.

That, to me, is the hear and soul of karate. The essence. Do kata. Think deeply and consciously about it. Examine yourself and try to learn the language it speaks.

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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Bill Mattocks

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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
Is that what you think I think?
 

isshinryuronin

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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?
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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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".
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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Bill Mattocks

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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".


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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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.

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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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.

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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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. :)
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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JowGaWolf

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So, I think it's possible to train Karate without kata, without it losing the quality of being Karate.
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.
 

JowGaWolf

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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.


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.
 
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Kung Fu Wang

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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?"
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.
 

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