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 Post subject: Some keys to unlock kata
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:18 pm 
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I am not a great believer in the so-called Japanese method of teaching an understanding of kata, i.e. just do it as I do it and eventually the meaning will become apparent. This may work for some, but not only is time short at my age but personal experience of both learning and teaching in other fields tells me that examples with appropriate explanations markedly shortens the learning curve for all but the most talented students (who get there faster than you anyway!). Learning by rote most often produces “monkey see, monkey do” students rather than ones who think about what they are doing.

I have had many “light-bulb” moments reading the thoughts of others with much more understanding than myself and so it may be useful to list some reference works that I’ve found more than a bit useful. The articles are in no particular order and although I have provided a PDF extract in most instances, I urge you to go to the original source (where available) as the authors provide explanation and context. There is obviously some overlap in the articles but each has something valuable to say. The content is also not really suitable for those who have only recently started training and is certainly no substitute for an experienced sensei who is happy to teach the why as well as the how to.

I'd also be very interested if anyone else has other useful references in addition to these.

Schmeisser's Rules
Author: Elmar Schmeisser's thoughts as transcribed by Rob Redmond
Source. Web PDF ebook
Rob Redmond, "Kata: The Folk Dances of Shotokan", p63 - 65.
http://www.24fightingchickens.com/files ... -05-02.pdf
Extract.

Abernethy's Principles
Author: Iain Abernethy
Source: Web Article.
Iain Abernethy, "The Basics of Bunkai", Chapter 8.
http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/ ... kai-part-8

Kane & Wilder's Rules
Authors: Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder
Source: Physical Book
"The Way of Kata", Chap 4, p139 - 141, A summary of the rules of kaisai no genri
(The rules of underlying the theory of kata interpretation)
Extract.

Higaki's Rules
Authors: Gennosuke Higaki with amplification by Paul Willoughby.
Source. Physical Book and Magazine article.
Gennosuke Higaki, "Hidden Karate: The true bunkai for the Heian Katas and Naihanchi", p80 - 84.
Paul Willoughby, "Kata Bunkai", SKM Issue 101, p26-29
Extract.

Fleming's Analysis
Author: Bryce Ian Fleming
Source: Web article.
Bryce Fleming in Bunkai: Returning Kata to the Core of Karate.
http://www.theshotokanway.com/Bunkairet ... ecore.html
Extract.

Goodin's Principles
Author: Charles C. Goodin.
Source: Web Article.
Charles Goodin, The Why of Bunkai: A Guide For Beginners.
http://seinenkai.com/art-bunkai.html
Extract.

Genjumin's Secrets
Author: John Versteeg aka John Vengel aka Genjumin.
(Originally posted on Baylor University karate website but no longer available)
Extract.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 1:20 am 
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A pretty good list. One analogy that I like to use to help folks make the transition is this: Japanese karate is based on the sword, in fact I believe it was Nakayama who defined karate kumite as empty handed kendo. A brief glance at the tournament rules will show this. So when they do kata, they think of kendo distances and timings. The Okinawans OTOH seem to use the knife as their analogy - a much closer range, much more direct technique and much more grappling involved, as would be expected in a knife fight. So when I teach kata applications, I get folks over the punch/kick at distance mentality by telling them it's a knife fight, not a sword fight. That gets them into the right distance and the right mentality relatively quickly.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:26 pm 
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Hi Elmar,
An interesting comment you make regarding Japanese karate being based around the sword. My training partner, who is of the wado ryu persuasion, has commented that when Sugasawa sensei is training technques that involve nagashi he will often test the effectiveness of the students movement with a bokken, striking downwards towards the middle of the head and continuing the strike to gedan level. Anything left in the way gets chopped off!! I suspect that the emphasis on tai sabaki that is one of the features of wado is probably a reflection of greater initial Japanese inheritance than some of the other karate styles, since blocking a sword with ones arm may be problematic. That's not to say that good tai sabaki isn't important in the avoidance of knife or punch.

One of the aspects that I feel makes life difficult for beginners in Shotokan is the emphasis in some cirlces on developing power of the punch to enable "Ikken Hissatsu". This together with the long deep stances gives the impression that the style is all about keeping your distance, then moving in to dispatch your opponent with one devastating strike before getting out again. It really only when you get to Tekki Shodan that you begin to see a real fighting kata devoted to close quarter work and are faced with a bit of a disconnect with what has gone before.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:52 pm 
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GeofS wrote:
... It really only when you get to Tekki Shodan that you begin to see a real fighting kata devoted to close quarter work and are faced with a bit of a disconnect with what has gone before.

This is one of the results of shotokan being GF's attempt to meld disparate styles, I think. The Tekki kata are in themselves an excellent foundation of a "style" of karate that is almost antithetical to that defined by the foundation of the Heians. Getting the incipient brown belt (by JKA standards) to make the switch from the heian mentality to the tekki one is hard, perhaps needlessly so. If you would remove the tekki kata from the JKA curriculum (off into the "advanced" optional kata set at least), "shotokan" would be more coherent of a style (at the loss of a significant curriculum element). The tekki techniques never show up in JKA advanced work - which is empty handed kendo style sparring - and never in their kata competitions AFAIK. Leaving in the Tekki at this stage is almost self-defeating for the JKA endgoal, as it allows those who think about it to see that the long-fist way is not the only way, and so they sow the roots of their own demise.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 3:04 pm 
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Elmar wrote:
GeofS wrote:
... It really only when you get to Tekki Shodan that you begin to see a real fighting kata devoted to close quarter work and are faced with a bit of a disconnect with what has gone before.

The tekki techniques never show up in JKA advanced work - which is empty handed kendo style sparring - and never in their kata competitions AFAIK. Leaving in the Tekki at this stage is almost self-defeating for the JKA endgoal, as it allows those who think about it to see that the long-fist way is not the only way, and so they sow the roots of their own demise.
Very true and I really like the "Long-fist way" description, it seems to fit nicely - rather better than "house of the whispering pines".
Elmar wrote:
This is one of the results of shotokan being GF's attempt to meld disparate styles, I think.
I'm not sure that the blame can be put solely at GF's door. My understanding is that his main teacher, Itosu, derived the Heian (pinan) series as a means of teaching whole classes of high school students in contrast to the one-on-one teaching of individual students that was the traditional way. There are also many stories according to Clayton and others that relate the power of Itosu's punch, defeating opponents with a single blow. He did of course bring that ideology to mainland Japan, and hence into what became the JKA.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 9:54 am 
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GeofS wrote:
Elmar wrote:
GeofS wrote:
... It really only when you get to Tekki Shodan that you begin to see a real fighting kata devoted to close quarter work and are faced with a bit of a disconnect with what has gone before.

The tekki techniques never show up in JKA advanced work - which is empty handed kendo style sparring - and never in their kata competitions AFAIK. Leaving in the Tekki at this stage is almost self-defeating for the JKA endgoal, as it allows those who think about it to see that the long-fist way is not the only way, and so they sow the roots of their own demise.
Very true and I really like the "Long-fist way" description, it seems to fit nicely - rather better than "house of the whispering pines".


I'd agree that removing tekki would make Shotokan easier but I believe poorer. I don't see the heian kata as much of a different range to tekki. I would say it teaches the same things in a different way and in a chunk by chunk process. I would argue that any kata doesn't really fit with the JKA way of sparring and that is the disconnect.

Quote:
Elmar wrote:
This is one of the results of shotokan being GF's attempt to meld disparate styles, I think.
I'm not sure that the blame can be put solely at GF's door. My understanding is that his main teacher, Itosu, derived the Heian (pinan) series as a means of teaching whole classes of high school students in contrast to the one-on-one teaching of individual students that was the traditional way. There are also many stories according to Clayton and others that relate the power of Itosu's punch, defeating opponents with a single blow. He did of course bring that ideology to mainland Japan, and hence into what became the JKA.
[/quote]

I still don't believe that the heian kata were made for schoolchildren. That seems to be taking two different things that Itosu did and assuming that they are related. What is so much different about the heian kata to say, kanku dai? How is one for school children and one not?

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2014 5:23 pm 
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That is a very good list, but I think you should add Rules of Combat, by Vince Morris.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 1:38 pm 
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Brodie wrote:
That is a very good list, but I think you should add Rules of Combat, by Vince Morris.


Thanks Brodie, not a book I'd read and one that I perhaps wouldn't have initially considered as providing insight in analysing kata. These are Morris' 'Rules of Combat' listed below and as such seem to be excellent topics to bear in mind when training to fight for real but not so helpful IMO in helping one to see beyond the obvious primary techniques on display in a kata.

    The Rules of Combat
    Methods of distraction
    The fighting distance
    Never retreat
    Never stop until it is over
    Tai-sabaki and Ashi-sabaki
    Use the attacker’s strength against him
    Never fight at the same speed as the enemy
    Show no fear
    Control your own breathing
    Do not rely upon any one technique
    Do not fixate upon one attacker
    A lock is only a prelude
    A psychological ‘switch’
    A ‘stone’ face
    Anger
    A stopping mind
    Realistic not ritualistic
    The most likely forms of attack first
    Action beats reaction
    Hands do only two things in a fight
    KISS – Keep it Simple, Stupid!
    Kyusho

However a little later on in the section where he briefly talks about understanding the 'Rules of Kata' he says this: "Thus in analysing any particular technique or sequence from a Kata it is essential that one brings to the task not only the background knowledge of tactics and strategy won by experience in combat but also a thorough understanding of the five levels of bunkai-jutsu: Nage-waza (Throwing techniques) Ne-waza (ground fighting techniques) Shime-waza (strangling and choking techniques)"

How true this is. I didn't really know anything about the throwing techniques that Funankoshi taught until about 4 or 5 years ago. Once I discovered them, the implied throws in many kata began to appear as if by magic.

BTW. I'm not sure that the book is currently in print, but there is a Kindle version on Amazon.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:35 pm 
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GeofS wrote:
... I didn't really know anything about the throwing techniques that Funankoshi taught until about 4 or 5 years ago. Once I discovered them, the implied throws in many kata began to appear as if by magic. ...

This was true of me as well. Until I took judo and aikido, most of the kata seemed to have "strangenesses" in them. After I linked my databases, the kata simply opened up. Which makes sense - the kata were composed before throwing, locking, kicking and striking became separate arts, so of course all those kinds of techniques must be encoded in them.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:18 pm 
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GeofS wrote:
Brodie wrote:
These are Morris' 'Rules of Combat' listed below and as such seem to be excellent topics to bear in mind when training to fight for real but not so helpful IMO in helping one to see beyond the obvious primary techniques on display in a kata.

    The Rules of Combat
    Methods of distraction
    The fighting distance
    Never retreat
    Never stop until it is over
    Tai-sabaki and Ashi-sabaki
    Use the attacker’s strength against him
    Never fight at the same speed as the enemy
    Show no fear
    Control your own breathing
    Do not rely upon any one technique
    Do not fixate upon one attacker
    A lock is only a prelude
    A psychological ‘switch’
    A ‘stone’ face
    Anger
    A stopping mind
    Realistic not ritualistic
    The most likely forms of attack first
    Action beats reaction
    Hands do only two things in a fight
    KISS – Keep it Simple, Stupid!
    Kyusho


I would argue that the primary purpose of kata is to teach people to fight for real. Therefore, these rules are very important for analysing kata bunkai. If bunkai and associated trainings drill to not fit in with the rules of combat, then that is is a good indicator that there is no purpose in training them.

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