Karate is kata, kata is karate

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Bill Mattocks

Bill Mattocks

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From now on I'll say "passion" instead of "hobby" if it makes folks happy. What I wanted to get back to , though, is this post.



This was in response to me saying that some karate was kata-centric but that some was kumite-centric. If your point was not that karate has to be kata-centric to be "karate-do," what instead was your point? Because that's what I got from this, but clearly I missed your intent.

To me.
 

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From now on I'll say "passion" instead of "hobby" if it makes folks happy. What I wanted to get back to , though, is this post.



This was in response to me saying that some karate was kata-centric but that some was kumite-centric. If your point was not that karate has to be kata-centric to be "karate-do," what instead was your point? Because that's what I got from this, but clearly I missed your intent.

kata the bedrock.
it gives rise to the other two.
kihon and kumite are derived from kata.
but all three together form the core of karate.
and i would agree with the old masters about makiwara, as being essential too.

If i ever have a headstone, this is what i want on it.

If your jissen or kumite is weak, go back and reunderstand your kata.

If your solo kata is lacking in spots... pull it out and work on it as kihon sequences.

if your kihon is poor, relearn how it is used within kata, and drill it until it is smooth and powerful.
 
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punisher73

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I'm not using "hobby" as a negative judgment, but as a distinction from the purely utilitarian training of law enforcement, bouncers, professional prizefighters, etc.

"A hobby is a regular activity done for enjoyment, typically during one's leisure time, not professionally and not for pay."

Hobby - Wikipedia

Something can be a lifetime passion, but if you're training because you find the training fulfilling instead of because you're a cop or a bouncer or the like, I'd call it a hobby.

I believe that there is a word for what Bill is talking about, "Budo". The Martial Way. It becomes a lifestyle that permeates your being through the study of martial arts. Budo is not always fun and is not always done for enjoyment. I have never met a "hobbyist" who practiced their hobby when they didn't enjoy it or want to do it. That is the point of a hobby, to relax and enjoy the activity. A martial artist pursuing budo will push themselves and make it uncomfortable and do it even when its not easy or enjoyable because of that pursuit (budo).
 

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@dvcochran @punisher73 @pdg

I got the Taegeuk cipher and I'm looking through it now. I've glanced through it a little bit. There's a couple of points I've noticed:
  1. While he does try and stay true to the forms, there are small deviations from the form to make the techniques work. Where I have criticized others in the past of doing something completely different (i.e. a block and punch combo becomes an armlock, take-down, and choke-hold), his seems to utilize the movements in the forms as best he can. Still, there are subtle changes. I've only really looked through the first three sequences of Taegeuk #1 so far, and he's throwing in a turn here, a hip thrust there, changing the type of strike used to accommodate the application he wants to teach. Or, in the example we were struggling with in Taegeuk #8, he drops his knee and does a Fireman's Carry, which is a completely different motion from the block used in Taegeuk #8 (the right arm would go out, and then up, instead of going up and then out).
  2. He freely admits in the Introduction what I have been saying here. "Secondly, although Taekwondo was never taught in the way it is shown in this book outside a very small, closed community (and certainly not to the general public), the distillation of the original self-defense methods are preserved within the patterns and their various components are to be found throughout the post-war Korean military combatives methods and the hoshinsul of civilian Taekwondo. This book simply details the connection between the patterns and these practices, and provides a tool by which they may be understood within their context.
Basically, in all of his research, he came to the same conclusion I have - that the KKW curriculum that is being disseminated does not include the application for the moves being taught. And in his recreation of the techniques, he has to de-stylize it to come up with the actual correct technique.

It's still an interesting book, and I'll have to go through it and see what's in there. I also plan to go through each of the self defense applications presented with my study group and see if we can recreate them. It's kind of hard to tell on some of them with how grainy the pictures are.

Punisher, thanks for the recommendation. My martial arts library is young, and this will be a good addition to it.

The main website seems to be down for Mr. Goodin's blog, but here is a link to an article on Scribd. The Why of Bunkai: A Guide For Beginners

The article is VERY good at understanding how karate started to change in its approach to bunkai with the use of labels. Originally, a student would have learned the motions of the kata and its various uses. Not all of the motions in the kata are blocks, but when you put labels on the motion, it then locks that motion into place, so to speak. Then you have all of the "tier one" applications that were not intended as a simple block/punch technique and get VERY disfunctional applications based on the tier 1 idea. For example, you are doing to separate blocks to two different attackers in multiple directions.

Now we further the "telephone" game with karate's transmission. Funakoshi admits that he made further changes to the original kata he learned when he brought it to Japan. Funakoshi did not like free sparring that the Japanese students liked. The kumite that was introduced was based on the sport of kendo and it's distancing and relied heavily on the 'ippon kumite' idea. This is why none of the applications from their kata/kumite make sense and the sparring looks nothing like the moves from the kata. The Shuri kata that Funakoshi learned was based on civilian self-defense and the moves and applications were based on very close quarters and responses to a variety of those common attacks (McCarthy coined the terms Habitual Acts of Violence).

So, now this changed karate is transmitted to Korea and the applications are all taught as block/punch/kick. TKD used to be heavy on the kihon and hitting hard to break whatever you touched. There wasn't much sophistication to what was taught in the early TKD days, but it was very brutal and effective. "A Killing Art" is a very good read about some of the history of TKD and its formation. As TKD evolved, they tried to remove more of the Japanese influence out of it and removed the Japanese katas and replaced them with katas of their own. Sticking with the same idea of block/punch/kick, the sequences were moved around and based on aesthetics and not a deep underlying combat strategy. This is also when the more acrobatic kicks started to be added in to TKD to emphasize an older Korean art/game and the art started to become its own style very different from its parent art of Shotokan.

As you, and many others have seemed to notice. The kata in TKD help with body mechanics, fluidity etc. but, without reverse engineering from the older Okinawan katas (Mainly Shorin-Ryu) and trying to find sequences that look very similar and finding those applications, there IS a large void in many TKD schools. But, there are many out there that do fill the void. KKW TKD is mainly concerned with its own sport and its main focus is on the sport of TKD, just like any martial art there are exceptions to this, but by and large you won't find "old school" self-defense and applications taught and it is not taught through the vehicle of their forms.
 

skribs

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The main website seems to be down for Mr. Goodin's blog, but here is a link to an article on Scribd. The Why of Bunkai: A Guide For Beginners

The article is VERY good at understanding how karate started to change in its approach to bunkai with the use of labels. Originally, a student would have learned the motions of the kata and its various uses. Not all of the motions in the kata are blocks, but when you put labels on the motion, it then locks that motion into place, so to speak. Then you have all of the "tier one" applications that were not intended as a simple block/punch technique and get VERY disfunctional applications based on the tier 1 idea. For example, you are doing to separate blocks to two different attackers in multiple directions.

Now we further the "telephone" game with karate's transmission. Funakoshi admits that he made further changes to the original kata he learned when he brought it to Japan. Funakoshi did not like free sparring that the Japanese students liked. The kumite that was introduced was based on the sport of kendo and it's distancing and relied heavily on the 'ippon kumite' idea. This is why none of the applications from their kata/kumite make sense and the sparring looks nothing like the moves from the kata. The Shuri kata that Funakoshi learned was based on civilian self-defense and the moves and applications were based on very close quarters and responses to a variety of those common attacks (McCarthy coined the terms Habitual Acts of Violence).

So, now this changed karate is transmitted to Korea and the applications are all taught as block/punch/kick. TKD used to be heavy on the kihon and hitting hard to break whatever you touched. There wasn't much sophistication to what was taught in the early TKD days, but it was very brutal and effective. "A Killing Art" is a very good read about some of the history of TKD and its formation. As TKD evolved, they tried to remove more of the Japanese influence out of it and removed the Japanese katas and replaced them with katas of their own. Sticking with the same idea of block/punch/kick, the sequences were moved around and based on aesthetics and not a deep underlying combat strategy. This is also when the more acrobatic kicks started to be added in to TKD to emphasize an older Korean art/game and the art started to become its own style very different from its parent art of Shotokan.

As you, and many others have seemed to notice. The kata in TKD help with body mechanics, fluidity etc. but, without reverse engineering from the older Okinawan katas (Mainly Shorin-Ryu) and trying to find sequences that look very similar and finding those applications, there IS a large void in many TKD schools. But, there are many out there that do fill the void. KKW TKD is mainly concerned with its own sport and its main focus is on the sport of TKD, just like any martial art there are exceptions to this, but by and large you won't find "old school" self-defense and applications taught and it is not taught through the vehicle of their forms.

And this is my issue. Let's use arithmetic as an analogy. Everyone who has made it past 4th grade math knows that arithmetic is all built on itself. Subtraction is just addition with negative numbers, multiplication is just addition done faster, division is just multiplication of fractions, and exponents is just multiplication done faster. If you can add 648 + 723 on a piece of paper, then you can also add 7,567,986 + 5,824,438, it will just take longer to do.

However, you can't teach only addition, and have students learn subtraction. Maybe a small portion will figure it out, but if that teaching isn't there, the vast majority of students won't figure it out. A small handful might figure out the pattern and realize that if 2 + 3 = 5, then 5 without 3 is 2. But most won't even be looking for that pattern, unless they find themselves at a point where they need to be able to figure it out.

The same goes for other rules. Students may memorize that 2 + 2 + 2 is 6, but how many will extrapolate that into a rule that covers addition of all like numbers? How many will figure out how fractions work, or how to carry the 1?

When I was in school, we learned the rules for each of these concepts, and we learned how they connected together. We received examples on how to apply it (i.e. you have 2 apples and I have 3 apples, how many apples do we have?).

However, my experience with KKW TKD has been that the form -> application training is basically like just teaching addition. With any technique or concept in martial arts, you need guidance. That's why people don't just watch a bunch of youtube videos and practice in their basement. They have to go to class and learn. I feel bunkai is the same. Can I figure out some ideas? Sure. But without a Master to give me advice, to point out my mistakes, to tell me his experiences, and to push me in the right direction, how good is self-taught bunkai going to be? For those that do bunkai, does your Master simply show you the kata and then say "figure it out" and leave you stranded on the mat? Or are there higher belts present (at least some of the time) to give you tips and examples?

This is why I get so defensive when people mock me for not knowing how to do bunkai. Going back to my arithmetic example, it's like I've been shown how to do addition in the forms, and nothing else. And yet somehow I'm magically expected to know how to do division and exponents, because "you've been in long enough", or else I'm told I just don't know anything because I haven't been taught that. But it's something I've searched for and not really found in the KKW forms curriculum.
 

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This is why I get so defensive when people mock me for not knowing how to do bunkai. Going back to my arithmetic example, it's like I've been shown how to do addition in the forms, and nothing else. And yet somehow I'm magically expected to know how to do division and exponents, because "you've been in long enough", or else I'm told I just don't know anything because I haven't been taught that. But it's something I've searched for and not really found in the KKW forms curriculum.

I've only said anything about it because I haven't been exposed to the apparent kkw method.

I had a bit of a chat with another student at my school though, and he attended a kkw school while on a work placement - there were no ITF schools near where he was.

He actually echoed what you've been saying, which honestly I was surprised about.

A totally different school to yours, separated by the Atlantic, and with the same lack of application based on poomse.
 

pdg

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As you, and many others have seemed to notice. The kata in TKD help with body mechanics, fluidity etc. but, without reverse engineering from the older Okinawan katas (Mainly Shorin-Ryu) and trying to find sequences that look very similar and finding those applications, there IS a large void in many TKD schools. But, there are many out there that do fill the void. KKW TKD is mainly concerned with its own sport and its main focus is on the sport of TKD, just like any martial art there are exceptions to this, but by and large you won't find "old school" self-defense and applications taught and it is not taught through the vehicle of their forms.

It does seem heavily dependent on which TKD you do...
 

skribs

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I've only said anything about it because I haven't been exposed to the apparent kkw method.

I had a bit of a chat with another student at my school though, and he attended a kkw school while on a work placement - there were no ITF schools near where he was.

He actually echoed what you've been saying, which honestly I was surprised about.

A totally different school to yours, separated by the Atlantic, and with the same lack of application based on poomse.

And don't get me wrong - I do the forms. I'm up to something like 26 unarmed long forms at my school. I do train them, and I do follow the training method my Master lays out for me. Going forward with the idea that was said earlier, that the Tier 1 application is body mechanics, and not necessarily direct application. That the goal of forms is exercise and body control, not to teach application. If that is the case, then they are working fine, and I may have wasted the last 5 years of trying to figure out the direct application being taught.

Moving forward, if I treat them as exercises instead of teachings, it will help. Because I'll be focused on the right things and not distracted by what they aren't.

But everything I've read and seen suggests the KKW forms are not designed to teach application. Like I said, this is at multiple schools, from asking questions here, from researching articles, watching videos of the forms being demonstrated to the general public, watching videos of people getting critiqued and advised on the forms by the grandmaster.

My conclusion, after all of this, is that the KKW forms are not designed to teach your mind, but your body.
 

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But there's no reason at all that you can't use your poomse to find the application though, the moves are in there...
 

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But there's no reason at all that you can't use your poomse to find the application though, the moves are in there...

This video (from a BJJ guy) is why I don't think that it's very useful to engage in this type of training without guidance:


I mean, I can do it, sure. But as far as bunkai goes, I'm a white belt. Just like I'd be a white belt in Judo or BJJ, just like I'd be a beginner at boxing or Muay Thai. I have skills that translate (just like Chewie had skills that translated from wrestling to BJJ), but I'd also be going off of assumptions and biases, with no guidance or examples to follow.

Just like when Daniel was trying to learn Karate from a book, and he had to find an actual teacher because he got his butt handed to him.
 

pdg

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This video (from a BJJ guy) is why I don't think that it's very useful to engage in this type of training without guidance:


I mean, I can do it, sure. But as far as bunkai goes, I'm a white belt. Just like I'd be a white belt in Judo or BJJ, just like I'd be a beginner at boxing or Muay Thai. I have skills that translate (just like Chewie had skills that translated from wrestling to BJJ), but I'd also be going off of assumptions and biases, with no guidance or examples to follow.

Just like when Daniel was trying to learn Karate from a book, and he had to find an actual teacher because he got his butt handed to him.

I was using 'you' as in your organisation really.

But even so, you do the moves, you know the moves, why can't you make them fit?
 

skribs

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I was using 'you' as in your organisation really.

But even so, you do the moves, you know the moves, why can't you make them fit?

You told me that the basic forms and exercises have prescribed partner drills, but at higher belts you make your own drills based on the form. I'm assuming you also get advised on what you draw from them, i.e. better ways or different ways to apply it. That's been a part of your training is how to draw the application from the form.

When it comes to that type of training, I'm not even a white belt. I'm uninitiated. Would you scoff at someone who has taken 10 years of boxing because he doesn't know how to roundhouse kick?
 

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This video (from a BJJ guy) is why I don't think that it's very useful to engage in this type of training without guidance:


I mean, I can do it, sure. But as far as bunkai goes, I'm a white belt. Just like I'd be a white belt in Judo or BJJ, just like I'd be a beginner at boxing or Muay Thai. I have skills that translate (just like Chewie had skills that translated from wrestling to BJJ), but I'd also be going off of assumptions and biases, with no guidance or examples to follow.

Just like when Daniel was trying to learn Karate from a book, and he had to find an actual teacher because he got his butt handed to him.
I may be taking the advice in this video differently than others... But what I get from it, is to train with an expert in the area that you are interested in. When I looked for a Karate school, I did not want one that did no kata and I did not want one that did dance kata. I wanted a school that trained kata, the karate way and that understood what was in the kata.

I agree with your premise that learning the bunkai, by yourself, without a teacher that understood the bunkai is like training bjj in your basement, from books. Thats specifically why I looked for an instructor that both knew the bunkai and deeper meanings of the kata and also taught those things to his students. When I found instructors that either did not know it or did not show it... I kept looking. As Chewie pointed out... find an expert in what you want to learn, and train with him.
 

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If your training is primarily based on poomsae, lack of application training might be a problem. If poomsae isn’t the basis of your training, I’d say it’s only a problem if you make it a problem.

Personally, I’m not concerned with finding combat ready applications for every movement I come across in a poomsae. There’s plenty to learn and practice without that. I certainly don’t feel the need to come up with several different applications for the same movement. I’d rather just name the other applications for what they are doing and not worry about it. Are the MMA guys sitting around reverse engineering a punching motion to find other ways to use that movement?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
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skribs

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I may be taking the advice in this video differently than others... But what I get from it, is to train with an expert in the area that you are interested in. When I looked for a Karate school, I did not want one that did no kata and I did not want one that did dance kata. I wanted a school that trained kata, the karate way and that understood what was in the kata.

I agree with your premise that learning the bunkai, by yourself, without a teacher that understood the bunkai is like training bjj in your basement, from books. Thats specifically why I looked for an instructor that both knew the bunkai and deeper meanings of the kata and also taught those things to his students. When I found instructors that either did not know it or did not show it... I kept looking. As Chewie pointed out... find an expert in what you want to learn, and train with him.

I haven't looked at the schools lately, but I don't think there's much in the way of karate as close to me as this school is.

Even if there was, I honestly probably wouldn't go. As much as I wish that we did draw applications from our forms, I get a lot of application out of everything else at the school. I attack the improvisation from a different angle based on Hapkido, and the way we use short forms there. Plus, this is a community that's basically become my family (including my family, as my parents are also black belts under me, and my nephew trained for about a year).

This is just one area that's been a bit of a sore spot for me, and I'm learning to view our poomsae different so I know what to expect out of them. Just like you have to realize when lend Jerry $20, you're probably never gonna see it again, but you love him anyway because he's your cousin.
 

skribs

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If you’re training is primarily based on poomsae, lack of application training might be a problem. If poomsae isn’t the basis of your training, I’d say it’s only a problem if you make it a problem.

Personally, I’m not concerned with finding combat ready applications for every movement I come across in a poomsae. There’s plenty to learn and practice without that. I certainly don’t feel the need to come up with several different applications for the same movement. I’d rather just name the other applications for what they are doing and not worry about it. Are the MMA guys sitting around reverse engineering a punching motion to find other ways to use that movement?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

There is more to our training, it's just not derived from the poomsae. I also have to agree with you about the MMA guys.

What do you do with the techniques you don't have an application for?
 

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