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Flying Crane

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I will say developing the kata, and doing it well, or so I hope, has given me a new appreciation for them, and the art. My daughter is being most helpful as a warm body, as time allows, but I still find myself with struggling to figure out how to get where I want to be and to get it to flow.
Ill make a comment here, and perhaps this is just semantics but maybe it will give you something to think about.

You mentioned doing the kata well. From my point of view, this implies that the kata is a goal in and of itself, it almost becomes a product that becomes a performance. To do the kata well.

Consider this possibility: the value in kata is not in how well you do it. Rather, its value is in the fact that you simply do it, over and over. There is no judgement in the kata being done well or poorly. Kata is a drill, a tool for practicing your methods. Your skill with your methods ought to improve if you understand your kata and are mindful in how you do every movement of every technique found in the kata. You keep doing kata so that your skills improve, and a knowledgeable person/instructor ought to be able to judge your skill level after watching you practice your kata, but I believe that is a subtle but important distinction from doing the kata well.

So, in building your own kata, think about how the act of practicing that kata over and over will improve your skills. Is it in certain techniques or strengthening your foundation, or both or something else? To me, that is where the real value in kata is to be found. You just keep doing it, and your skills improve, but not as a piece of performance art.

I hope this gives you something to think about.
 
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DocWard

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Interesting. Are you figuring to move into an established self defense technique from the codified curriculum, or develop your own?

The instruction was to make it "structured on the Kenpo style." Given that, I am working to create a kata that doesn't utilize specific named techniques, but techniques that any Kenpo stylist would look at and say "sure, that looks like Kenpo."
 
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DocWard

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Ill make a comment here, and perhaps this is just semantics but maybe it will give you something to think about.

You mentioned doing the kata well. From my point of view, this implies that the kata is a goal in and of itself, it almost becomes a product that becomes a performance. To do the kata well.

Consider this possibility: the value in kata is not in how well you do it. Rather, its value is in the fact that you simply do it, over and over. There is no judgement in the kata being done well or poorly. Kata is a drill, a tool for practicing your methods. Your skill with your methods ought to improve if you understand your kata and are mindful in how you do every movement of every technique found in the kata. You keep doing kata so that your skills improve, and a knowledgeable person/instructor ought to be able to judge your skill level after watching you practice your kata, but I believe that is a subtle but important distinction from doing the kata well.

So, in building your own kata, think about how the act of practicing that kata over and over will improve your skills. Is it in certain techniques or strengthening your foundation, or both or something else? To me, that is where the real value in kata is to be found. You just keep doing it, and your skills improve, but not as a piece of performance art.

I hope this gives you something to think about.

Very well stated, thanks. I think you have elaborated quite eloquently upon what I had stated simply.I suppose I can split the "well" into two different parts. My first goal being that the kata clearly be based upon those principles inherent in Kenpo as I understand it. Ideally, if done properly and if practiced, the kata would be useful in practicing the specific movements involved and improving them. So, created well, if you will.

From creating it well, so that it exhibits those above principles, I then hope performing it well for purposes of my black belt test will mean that I am able to perform it smoothly, with skill. In so doing, my instructor will be able to recognize both the value of it and my ability to perform it in such a way as to demonstrate all of the above.

I hope this makes sense!

Thanks for your insights, they are quite helpful.
 

Flying Crane

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Very well stated, thanks. I think you have elaborated quite eloquently upon what I had stated simply.I suppose I can split the "well" into two different parts. My first goal being that the kata clearly be based upon those principles inherent in Kenpo as I understand it. If done properly is that if practiced, the kata would be useful in practicing the specific movements involved and improving them. So, created well, if you will.

From creating it well, so that it exhibits those above principles, I then hope performing it well for purposes of my black belt test will mean that I am able to perform it smoothly, with skill. In so doing, my instructor will be able to recognize both the value of it and my ability to perform it in such a way as to demonstrate all of the above.

Thanks for your insights, they are quite helpful.
After you do your kata, I would be disappointed if your instructor says wow, you are really good at that kata.

Instead, I hope he says, your skill in kenpo is high, I can tell when I watch you practice your kata. :)
 
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DocWard

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After you do your kata, I would be disappointed if your instructor says wow, you are really good at that kata.

Instead, I hope he says, your skill in kenpo is high, I can tell when I watch you practice your kata. :)

I hadn't really thought of it until just now, but I agree, wholeheartedly!
 

Gerry Seymour

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Ill make a comment here, and perhaps this is just semantics but maybe it will give you something to think about.

You mentioned doing the kata well. From my point of view, this implies that the kata is a goal in and of itself, it almost becomes a product that becomes a performance. To do the kata well.

Consider this possibility: the value in kata is not in how well you do it. Rather, its value is in the fact that you simply do it, over and over. There is no judgement in the kata being done well or poorly. Kata is a drill, a tool for practicing your methods. Your skill with your methods ought to improve if you understand your kata and are mindful in how you do every movement of every technique found in the kata. You keep doing kata so that your skills improve, and a knowledgeable person/instructor ought to be able to judge your skill level after watching you practice your kata, but I believe that is a subtle but important distinction from doing the kata well.

So, in building your own kata, think about how the act of practicing that kata over and over will improve your skills. Is it in certain techniques or strengthening your foundation, or both or something else? To me, that is where the real value in kata is to be found. You just keep doing it, and your skills improve, but not as a piece of performance art.

I hope this gives you something to think about.
As you said, this is probably semantics, but I do think there's such a thing as doing a kata well. Just as there's such a thing as doing shadow-boxing well, or bag work well.

But I'm pretty tired, so I'm suspecting I entirely missed your point.
 

Flying Crane

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As you said, this is probably semantics, but I do think there's such a thing as doing a kata well. Just as there's such a thing as doing shadow-boxing well, or bag work well.

But I'm pretty tired, so I'm suspecting I entirely missed your point.
I agree, but I think that is looking at it in a way that misses the real point.
 

JR 137

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I agree, but I think that is looking at it in a way that misses the real point.
Or its just not thorough enough of an answer. During my physical education teacher training, professors really emphasized the idea that we shouldnt simply say good job to students. Good job at what aspect? Saying good job and walking away is practically worthless. Rather than that, tell the student specifically what they did well. Same applies here.
 

Yokozuna514

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Very well stated, thanks. I think you have elaborated quite eloquently upon what I had stated simply.I suppose I can split the "well" into two different parts. My first goal being that the kata clearly be based upon those principles inherent in Kenpo as I understand it. Ideally, if done properly and if practiced, the kata would be useful in practicing the specific movements involved and improving them. So, created well, if you will.

From creating it well, so that it exhibits those above principles, I then hope performing it well for purposes of my black belt test will mean that I am able to perform it smoothly, with skill. In so doing, my instructor will be able to recognize both the value of it and my ability to perform it in such a way as to demonstrate all of the above.

I hope this makes sense!

Thanks for your insights, they are quite helpful.
Interesting subject, DocWard. I do a style of karate where we are not required to make our own kata however I suspect (and correct me if I am wrong) the intent of having a student create their own kata is meant as a brief reflection of everything the student has come away with from all their years of training. It is meant to demonstrate how you interpret everything you have learned if you had to explain it using just movement. The series of movements in part would show the dedication put into the training (ease of movement in performance of individual techniques) but also the overall impact that the training has made upon the student. In other words, it is your idea of Kenpo. Is it basic, structured, technical, fast, powerful......I am sure each kata that each student makes is as different as the leaves on a tree but each one should reflect the nature of the student and their take on Kenpo. Good luck with the performance and hope to see a video one day.
 

Flying Crane

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Or its just not thorough enough of an answer. During my physical education teacher training, professors really emphasized the idea that we shouldnt simply say good job to students. Good job at what aspect? Saying good job and walking away is practically worthless. Rather than that, tell the student specifically what they did well. Same applies here.
Good point, I can agree with that.

With kata, if the emphasis is on doing the kata well then it runs the risk of seeing kata as performance art, which I believe it is not and was never meant to be (with the exception of some modern systems such as XMA and Modern Wushu, where performance is the goal and the purpose of practice). The mindset in how you view kata and what it is and what is its purpose, in my opinion does make a difference.
 

Buka

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My instructor handed me a slip of paper on my way out. It says I'm responsible for developing my own kata, based upon the principles of Kenpo, and to write a thesis, either on the history of Karate or Kenpo, or on my own personal journey and what Kenpo has come to mean to me. The writing is not a stress. I write for a living. Developing my own kata has me somewhat nervous. Yes, I am excited, though! I already have some ideas for the kata. I seem to be getting closer.

You know, Doc, I was just thinking....it's not really going to be about the Kata, it's going to be about the writing.

Now before everyone jumps down my throat about the real meaning of Martial Arts and all that, look at this for what it is - it is an exercise given to you by your Instructor. And part of his directions are "your own personal journey and what Kenpo has come to mean to YOU."

This is going to be ice cream for you. You own this, bro.
 
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DocWard

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Good point, I can agree with that.

With kata, if the emphasis is on doing the kata well then it runs the risk of seeing kata as performance art, which I believe it is not and was never meant to be (with the exception of some modern systems such as XMA and Modern Wushu, where performance is the goal and the purpose of practice). The mindset in how you view kata and what it is and what is its purpose, in my opinion does make a difference.

I have always considered kata to be yet another training method. Choreographed, yes, performance art, definitely not. For me, they are a way to help build muscle memory, to learn how techniques flow and can be combined, and a way of "storing" techniques in my memory. While I know many eschew kata in this day and age, they also represent a connection, a continuity throughout the art. From trunk to branches, and even from one branch to another. "Long Form 6" should be recognized as such by a Kenpo stylist, regardless of variations that may have worked their way in.
 
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DocWard

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I did a sparring class today. A black belt and another brown belt were there. My instructor was joking asking if I were going to test today. I'm not there yet, but it does make me feel good. Very good session, we went at it hard, and for once I didn't run the morning before, so at the end, I still had plenty left in the tank.

We were talking afterward about tournaments, because the other brown belt is very accomplished as a tournament fighter, and had some non-karate related injuries and has gotten a bit out of shape for him. He wants to get back into shape for a large tournament in August, where he won the grand championship last year. Both he and my instructor suggested I should go. I demurred, because I have little tournament experience (once, almost 30 years ago, before life got really busy). My instructor pulled out the flyer and looked at it. Then said they have an "Over Fifty Black Belt" category with First Place trophy. He said, in all seriousness that I would stand a good chance of bringing it home. Or I might do well in the weapons kata with the Sword Set.

I told them I would think about it. I have a potential conflict, so we'll see. It made me feel good, and the assumption that I will have my black belt by then was not lost on me.
 

dvcochran

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I did a sparring class today. A black belt and another brown belt were there. My instructor was joking asking if I were going to test today. I'm not there yet, but it does make me feel good. Very good session, we went at it hard, and for once I didn't run the morning before, so at the end, I still had plenty left in the tank.

We were talking afterward about tournaments, because the other brown belt is very accomplished as a tournament fighter, and had some non-karate related injuries and has gotten a bit out of shape for him. He wants to get back into shape for a large tournament in August, where he won the grand championship last year. Both he and my instructor suggested I should go. I demurred, because I have little tournament experience (once, almost 30 years ago, before life got really busy). My instructor pulled out the flyer and looked at it. Then said they have an "Over Fifty Black Belt" category with First Place trophy. He said, in all seriousness that I would stand a good chance of bringing it home. Or I might do well in the weapons kata with the Sword Set.

I told them I would think about it. I have a potential conflict, so we'll see. It made me feel good, and the assumption that I will have my black belt by then was not lost on me.
I hope you get to go for it Doc. No matter the outcome it will be great experience.
 
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DocWard

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So, I thought I should update here. I went over the problems I've dealt with in my other thread in the General sub forum. I won't rehash that here.

As for the tournament, I wasn't able to make it due to my injury. It was still sore enough at the time that I knew that if I took a blow there, I would be done for, and worried it might worsen things.

I wrote a four page thesis, so I won't repost the entire thing here. I will say that while I consider myself adept at legal writing, this sort of writing was a challenge for me, and had me starting over several times, and revising over a matter of days. I will bore others with the final paragraph, if so inclined to read:

The general public typically thinks of a black belt as having reached a pinnacle of their art. Many do not know that many martial artists consider the black belt as the beginning of a lifetime of learning, not the end of a progression. I certainly do not look at achieving Black Belt, or Shodan, status, as an ending point. However, I do consider it a significant milestone. It is safe to say my view of the martial arts in general, and Kenpo in particular, has expanded since those early days of wanting to learn self defense, and for the sake of learning. Now, for me Kenpo means a commitment, part of a lifestyle dedicated to self defense, to mental and physical health. My study of Kenpo means challenging myself, through learning and through competing, to be better than I am, and perhaps better than I thought I could be. Kenpo still means self defense, and defending my principles and my honor. It also still means learning, but now in addition to learning the art and its techniques, and learning about the art, I also learn about myself. I learn about myself through my training, through practicing Kata to the point of focusing until they are almost meditation, and from my failures and successes. My Black Belt, and Shodan status, will not mean I stop doing these things. It will be symbolic of my ability to learn to do them correctly.

As for the kata, I chose to do one based upon the "Star Block Set." I began a technique sequence after each of the major blocks in the set (upward, inward, extended outward, downward and pushdown blocks). I put myself in motion throughout, as opposed to being static in a horse stance. While I did "re-chamber" in a fashion (done between the downward and pushdown blocks), the purposeful rechambering protecting the kidney was left out as the beginning of a sequence.

As to how I performed? I explained that the kata would be taking the blocks mentioned, and utilizing them as the beginning of a self defense sequence, without going into detail about the sequence. While there were similarities in the techniques I created, there were none that were actual named techniques within Kenpo. I then performed the kata. When complete, I saw Dan nodding. I asked him if he would act as my "Uke" to demonstrate what I had done. I explained what each was for in turn, and he would perform that attack and I would demonstrate, then talk my way through the technique. Then, he had me perform the kata again.

When I was done, Dan's comment was essentially, "That's an ideal kata, a martial artist will know it is a kata, but a learned eye will recognize it as Kenpo." I don't think I grinned like an idiot, but I'm probably wrong.
 

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That sounds like a fantastic promotion. Well thought out and performed. We used to "announce" our forms; explaining each move as we went through the form. Haven't done that in a while but I am motivated to re-introduce it to some key students.
Great job. I would be interested in reading you paper.
 

snake_monkey

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This is fascinating and Im interested to read some of your writing on the subject of Kenpo and Katas. Interestingly enough I have never practiced American Kenpo officially and I dont exactly know what makes something American Kenpo so if anything, my experience with American Kenpo is how I practice some freestyle moves and mix of moves from different Shaolin styles as well as some Karate, but not much. (And a live in America).

Lastly, I would like to point out that this could be a great suggestion for any experienced martial artist and it would be cool to create and perform a Kata that I am happy with so thanks for the inspiration!
 
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DocWard

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This is fascinating and Im interested to read some of your writing on the subject of Kenpo and Katas. Interestingly enough I have never practiced American Kenpo officially and I dont exactly know what makes something American Kenpo so if anything, my experience with American Kenpo is how I practice some freestyle moves and mix of moves from different Shaolin styles as well as some Karate, but not much. (And a live in America).

Lastly, I would like to point out that this could be a great suggestion for any experienced martial artist and it would be cool to create and perform a Kata that I am happy with so thanks for the inspiration!

Thank you. "American Kenpo," is essentially the martial art created / modified by Edmund Parker Sr., or one of the variations derived from it, such as the Tracy's Kenpo, Kenpo 5.0, etc... Some simply refer to it as "Kenpo Karate" instead. As I mentioned elsewhere, my own instructor trained under Jay T. Will, who trained under both Ed Parker and the Tracy Brothers, according to Ed Parker's "American Kenpo Family Tree." My instructor is also listed on the original family tree as well. I don't know if this clears things up for you or not.

My thesis was essentially my journey through the martial arts, from beginner to Shodan, and my thoughts on it. I don't know that it is anything terribly exciting, and I don't believe it to be ground breaking.

As for creating your own kata, I can only say that, for me, that was the most challenging part of it all, and on more than one occasion I through my hands up in frustration and had to come back at it a different day, and start from scratch a couple of times.
 

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