It has been a while since i have posted anything here but i thought i would share the following which would have been my 5th Dan written karate thesis, however, due to a split within my assocition i didnt get chance to take my examination.
Since i was a child i have trained the norm, for many years in Shukokai and Shotokan gaining Dan grades in both, however, i have never really been truly happy with my training believeing we should only be training one to three kata at the most as it takes a lifetime to master just one kata.
Through this belief, i have taken the plunge and created my own kata which took five years to complete, after 32 years now i feel i am truly studying karate, i have reopened my association and now only teaching just one kata.
The following may not be of interest to anyone, but i thought i would share anyway.
Many masters, past and present say that Kata is the soul of Karate, however, since the introduction of Karate to the public in Okinawa around 1900, this is really not the case anymore.
Before Karate was introduced to the public, Karate was, at one time a secret fighting art, practised in gardens and backyards of Okinawa. A Master at that time had very few students or disciples and it was normal that the Master had one Kata in his style, this Kata was studied for three to six years, but through this kind of training, the Master and his students would have a complete understanding and a complete fighting system.
Sadly, over the last century, the practice and study of a single Kata has long disapeared.
So, what is Kata? Well, firstly, the primary purpose of Kata was to provide a record of defence and offensive techniques. The Master of old created these Kata's in which they recorded their favourite fight techniques which won them fights on the battlefield. Kata consisits of blocking techniques, punching, kicking, stamping, strikes, locks, holds, head butts, gouging, trapping and vital points.
There were of course no karate suits, coloured belts, grading's or competeitions at that time. Since the introduction of these, and over time, it is with great sadness that Karate has gone from a deadly fighting art to nothing more than a watered down sport. With the introduction of Karate, and these changes, it is without doubt beyond recognition to its original form and intent.
Master Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate wrote" Karate that high school students practised today is not the same Karate that was practised even as recently as ten years ago, and it is long way indeed from the Karate that i learned when i was a child in Okinawa. He also goes on to say" In the past, it was expected that about three years were required to learn a single Kata, and it was usual that even an expert of considerable skill would only three to five Kata at the most. I too studied for ten years to learn the three Naihanchi/Tekki Kata. Interestingly, and despite this, it is said that Master Funakoshi, in his youth, had learned over one hundred Kata, and as a result of years of research and investigation, the Master reduced the number to fifteen traditional Kata. Master Funakoshi felt that, rather than a great varitey of Kata, it is more important to take a limited number and practise them thoroughly and precisely.
Today, the majority of Karate instructors and students practice Kata for the soul purpose of winning competitions and passing grading examinations. Students concentrate too much on the performance and continuity of the movements, without considering the effectiveness of each technique. Master Funakoshi once said that "many instructors and students are playing around in the leaves and branches of a great tree, without the slightest concept of the trunk" this was around 1955/56, however, i feel these words are truly valued for many of today's modern Karate-Ka. So we can see that Master Funakoshi was a firm believer in learning a limited number of Kata, however, he also said "there is great value in studying a single Kata until one has digested it well, rather than possessing a shallow knowledge of thirty Kata.
Kata practice is ment to lead to an understanding of the true value of the movements as self-defence techniques. You take the techniques learned in Kata and apply them realistically in Kumite practice. If you study carelessly or haphazardly, your Kata and techique will never come to life. Itis important that you always try to discover and practise the techniques most suitable to your own situation. In the past i have heard the saying, walking in the footsteps of the Masters of Old. Master Shiguru Egami, a student of Master Funakoshi and the late Chief Instructor of the Shotokan Dojo wrote "It is said in former days a single Kata was practised for a minimum of three years, think what this means. One should try to understand the spirit of the Master Karate-Ka who created the Kata, for it has a life of its own and requires five to six years to be mastered. It would be interesting to be able to go back in time to the point when the Kata was created and study them".
Well, it is easier to go back in time than one may think, how is this so? Simple, pick a Kata and pracrice it for five years or more. This way, one is truly walking in the footsteps of the Masters of Old. Remember that a Kata has a life of its own, and takes a lifetime to master. A single Kataye has everything you need to defend yourself, wheather it be stand up fighting or grappling. The only way to unlock and discover the seceret. and techniques is to study deeply. Remember, "Although the doorway is small, go deeply inward."
Choki Motobu, Okinawan's most feraed fighter and Teijikun (Real Fighter), was said to have only known one Kata, this was Naihanchi (Tekki). This Kata, as many know is only a very short Kata indeed performance wise, however, the techniques contained in the Kata could take a lifetime to master and contain everything you need to defend oneself. Kata was never created for and against Karate-Ka vs Karate-Ka, this type of training is very modern. Kata and the techiques contained within were created to defend against thugs and hooligans, or in modern British term, hoodies. Attacks such as wild swings, headbutts, biting, the Kata teaches us to defend against these type of attack's, so when studying Kata, these are the things we need to study and defend against, not Oi-Zuki's and Mae-Geri's.
The Teijikun (Real Fighter) Choki Motobu, said, "One must learn how to apply the principle's of the Kata, and how to bend with the winds of adversity". Choki Motobu was a formidable fighter who, some claim that he never lost a fight, however, i have read that he only ever lost one fight, making him train harder never to lose again. My point here is that if Choki Motobu really did only know the Naihanchi Kata, this just proves that one can beceome a formidable fight from the study of a single Kata. Although it is always exciting to learn a new Kata, i will point out that by studying just one, one can create many Kata from training this way, this idea would keep students from getting bored, if one were to go back to training this way. In my opinion, i feel nowadays, we truly do not have the time or dedication from students to teach any more than one Kata, at a push, i would suggest just three.
Within my own assocition and Style, Jikoboei-Ryu, and as mentioned above, i have created my own Kata and put all my knowledge and experiance in to what i have created. There is still a grading system were the Kata is spit into elements/sections, were the student simlpy learns the next stage of the Kata and of course bunkai.
So, finally, after 32 years, i have gone back to the future and walking in the footsteps of the Masters of Old.
I hope this may be of interest to some, although i am aware what has been written here has already been covered before.
All the best,