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Tau
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Andi Kidd wrote:

Tau wrote:

Consider that the first thing that the Pinan/Heian kata teach is covering and then hitting the off switches. 

This is only one interpretation of what the Heian/Pinan teach first and we need to remember  that we do not know this for certain any more than we do/do not know that there are ground fighting techniques in kata.

Granted we don't "know" but taking the Pinan kata as a complete fighting system this is what makes most sense. I'm certainly not lacking an open mind but this is one concept that I'm keen to cling to. It makes sense. This is also how I'd structure the hypotethetical "ground kata;" let's the do important bits that you need to drill most first. Like combative stand-up

Andi Kidd wrote:
There is also a lot of talk about the ‘combative stand up’ which I do teach and believe is important but I think we also need to think about the possibility of being dragged down when attempting to dump or throw some when any sort of clash happens. For this you will need the positioning skills to either get out from underneath or move yourself on top so that you can escape. Again, this is not high level Ju-jitsu and striking is still key, but I see this as just as important as a ‘combative stand up’ if not more so.

We could debate this all day and I fear could end up with almost an egg-polishing situation. I disagree with you.

Bear in mind that I am primarily a Jujitsu practitioner although my Jujitsu is now heavily influenced by Karate Jutsu. Striking was previously a secondary skill behind the "classic" Jujitsu methods of grappling. With going my own way and the club deciding on their direction and on realising that pragmatism was our primary objective we therefore set specific emphases. Striking is our primary skill. Joint destruction, chokes and strangles are secondary (often to set up striking) and then throwing is our tertiary skill. This replicates gross/fine/complex motor skills with what is most likely to work practiced most. With throwing being a tertiary skill learning to escape from failed throws becomes a relatively high-level skill. Not that we don't have that skill in my class, hell we're Jujitsuka! Just that I don't put very low down in order of importance. The combative stand-up - regain the feet to escape or best employ striking has far greater importance.

Iain Abernethy
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Andi Kidd wrote:
There is also a lot of talk about the ‘combative stand up’ which I do teach and believe is important but I think we also need to think about the possibility of being dragged down when attempting to dump or throw some when any sort of clash happens. For this you will need the positioning skills to either get out from underneath or move yourself on top so that you can escape. Again, this is not high level Ju-jitsu and striking is still key, but I see this as just as important as a ‘combative stand up’ if not more so.

Tau wrote:
We could debate this all day and I fear could end up with almost an egg-polishing situation. I disagree with you … The combative stand-up - regain the feet to escape or best employ striking has far greater importance.

I’m struggling to see where the disagreement is? You need the ability to get up if knocked down, and you need the ability to get up if dragged down. You are both practising both.

I would agree with Tau that I would teach the tactical stand up first, but that’s simply because it’s always needed. If dragged to the floor you do need that extra layer of movement skills to get into a position to stand, but you ultimately still need to stand … and that should be done in a way that keeps the head away from the enemy, creates space, etc.

By its very definition anything “tactical” is not about technique, but about tactics. So, to me, standing up in the right way is not about how you specifically stand, but that you stand in a way that is tactically inline with your objectives and limits vulnerabilities. If anyone were to think of “tactical stand up” as a technique, then they are missing the point. Getting up from the floor – irrespective of whether the enemy is with you or standing -  is a vital skill. I can see how someone may wish to teach “dragged down” first and have standing up part of that, before moving on to how the tactics would be applied if knocked down.

That’s not how I have done it – because of the common standing skill, standing up is simpler to learn, and the marginally greater likelihood of the enemy(s) still being standing – but I can see no issue with things being the other way around.

Teaching order is hardly a decisive matter on this issue: you need to be able to get up when knocked down or dragged down; it does not matter what order you learn those skills, so long as you learn them. If you pick one over the other, then the approach is incomplete. But no one is doing that.

It seems both of you are teaching both. Is it just teaching order where the divergence comes? I ask simply for clarity of thread for readers.

All the best,

Iain

Tau
Tau's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

It seems both of you are teaching both. Is it just teaching order where the divergence comes? I ask simply for clarity of thread for readers.

I believe that is the case, yes. We're both in agreement with the skills needed. We just have a different sense of the relative importance of the skills and therefore when they fit into the broader context of ground fighting and the hypothetical ground kata order.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Andi Kidd wrote:
Firstly, thanks to Iain who alerted me to this thread.

Thank fort posting the videos Andi! I think they make a great addition.

Tau wrote:
Consider that the first thing that the Pinan/Heian kata teach is covering and then hitting the off switches. My oppinion is that the most important ground skill is what I call the combative stand up which might have been in Iain's ground video. I forget. Certainly videos of that movement are on this forum somewhere and easily found on YouTube. This movement is not found in kata and that really should tell you everything.

Andi Kidd wrote:
This is only one interpretation of what the Heian/Pinan teach first and we need to remember  that we do not know this for certain any more than we do/do not know that there are ground fighting techniques in kata.

I both agree and disagree :-) I agree that very little is certain, but there exist probabilities beyond that. I think we can agree that the idea that the original intent of Pinan Shodan / Heian Nidan was no to simultaneously block a straight punch done the left and a downward strike from another enemy from the front has little to support it (no historical evidence, does not explain all parts of the sequence, and is not practical). However, the striking sequence is more likely to be the original intent (it works, fits with full sequence, and does have some historical evidence to support it i.e. Mabuni talking about the angles, Funakoshi’s notes on the second motion, etc). Neither is certain, but one has more evidence and is functionally useful; whereas the other has no evidence and is not useful. So we can say one is more probable.

When we take that into ground fighting, we instantly have to accept that there is nothing in the historical record to say that vertical kata motions where meant to be applied horizontally. We also have the issue that it violates Occam’s Razor (no more assumptions should be made than are necessary to explain a thing) by adding in the extra assumption i.e. methods shown vertically and not meant to be applied vertically, but horizontally. Why not go with the more obvious view that something show vertically is meant to be applied vertically? If it was meant to be applied horizontally, then show it horizontally.

Again, I think there is very strong evidence to say that kata principles were to be fully explored as part of the kata process; and that this should include looking at how those principles would be applied on the ground. However, I do think we can be confident is saying that there are very few “ground fighting techniques” in kata (as opposed to kata principles which can be applied on the ground). I think of the kicks in Unsu / Unshu are definite. I can also think the shoulder lock in Pinan Godan following the shoulder throw is likely (although not certain). After that, I’m struggling to think of others. There could be others hidden away in a vertical position, but I doubt it because there is no evidence to say they are there, and the idea violates Occam’s Razor.

As I say, I totally agree that nothing is certain, but that does not mean everything is equality probable.

Hence, my preferred (but not only) take on Pinan Shodan / Heian Nidan, and why I’m confident in the view there is (almost) no ground techniques in kata … which is not the same as saying there are no ground techniques in karate; and for that I’d refer to my previous posts.

One thing I can say, is that the kata can be used horizontally to good effect; as Andi, Ando and John have all shown in their videos. My reservation is when some say that that may have been the intent originally. It can make sense to adapt kata for that use i.e. the same kata having an additional layer of floor fighting attributed to them; but I think we need to be honest and clear it a modern layering.

Principles of kata being used freely, and practice of ground fighting in the past are well established. Specific ground techniques being recorded vertically, when it was the original intent for them to be used horizontally; I think the evidence is against that and it does not strike me a logical.

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Tau wrote:
I believe that is the case, yes. We're both in agreement with the skills needed. We just have a different sense of the relative importance of the skills and therefore when they fit into the broader context of ground fighting and the hypothetical ground kata order.

I thought that was the case :-)

As regards any modern kata, it’s worth noting the plethora of kata we have today suggests that the past masters were very comfortable with common principles being taught in a different order and through different preferred examples. There’s not one kata they all agreed on. I therefore think consensus on what a floor fighting kata may look like would be unlikely; and even untraditional :-)

All the best,

Iain

Andi Kidd
Andi Kidd's picture

 

See, I knew if I started this I’d get dragged in! So once again, brief response;

My thought was that there was a lot of talk about getting knocked down and little about getting dragged down, the two being different problems. One you are alone and another you have a sweaty, angry, ugly dude (or dudette) on top/underneath you!

Just wanted to make sure that we were looking at all the possibilities. My apologies if I missed this in my quick reading of this thread!

Iain wrote:

I both agree and disagree :-) I agree that very little is certain, but there exist probabilities beyond that. I think we can agree that the idea that the original intent of Pinan Shodan / Heian Nidan was no to simultaneously block a straight punch done the left and a downward strike from another enemy from the front has little to support it (no historical evidence, does not explain all parts of the sequence, and is not practical). However, the striking sequence is more likely to be the original intent (it works, fits with full sequence, and does have some historical evidence to support it i.e. Mabuni talking about the angles, Funakoshi’s notes on the second motion, etc). Neither is certain, but one has more evidence and is functionally useful; whereas the other has no evidence and is not useful. So we can say one is more probable.

The thing is here, you are looking at two possibilities. The stupid one ;-) and the one you subscribe to/made up!

I use the first move as a ‘counter assault’ (terminology shamelessly stolen from Rory Miller) that is based upon a trained flinch response and the rest of the kata as how you work from said response.

This makes sense as it is the first kata and if awareness fails then you may well be into the flinch, so the first thing you do.

As a side note, you can also see this counter assault possibility at the start of Bassai Dai and Kanku Dai. But that’s another story!

Quote:
One thing I can say, is that the kata can be used horizontally to good effect; as Andi, Ando and John have all shown in their videos. My reservation is when some say that that may have been the intent originally. It can make sense to adapt kata for that use i.e. the same kata having an additional layer of floor fighting attributed to them; but I think we need to be honest and clear it a modern layering.

Is it modern layering? Possibly, probably, I don’t know ? But we have to wonder, if there are no moves in kata, did they groundwork, other than one shoulder lock and some stuff in Unsu? Which leaves most of the karate-ka with no groundwork whatsoever? So where is the groundwork?

Or did they just do it outside of kata, which makes you wonder, why? And are we missing other things that they could have done outside of kata?

I am not trying to be awkward but if we believe they did groundwork and kata is a master’s fighting system, where is it?

Just some thoughts before I have to go! I really do!

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Andi Kidd wrote:
See, I knew if I started this I’d get dragged in!

I recommend trying to disengage and create a safe space :-)

Andi Kidd wrote:
The thing is here, you are looking at two possibilities. The stupid one ;-) and the one you subscribe to/made up!

Only two to illustrate the idea that not all bunkai is equally valid. There are obviously many more potential applications for that motion; some of which have a greater probability of being the original intent, and some of which have a very remote possibility of being the original intent.

The reason I subscribe to the one I do is because, for me, it is the one that most convincingly meets the criteria I have for kata application.

I think there is a danger of legitimatising nonsense if we go down the path of assuming all applications are equally probable. I know you don't do that, but some could misconstrue that from phrases such as "we don't know" and applications being "made up". It’s that I’m seeking to clarify.

I think the analogy of science is a strong one. For a scientific theory to be valid, it needs to explain all the available information. If it ignores any data, especially data that would suggest that the theory is not valid, then it would not be deemed a robust theory. Additionally, any good theory also needs to be able to make accurate predictions i.e. work in practise.

So if we were to take gravity, for example, I could say that the reason objects fall down towards the earth is because invisible, undetectable elves push them down.

Now I just “made up” that "theory of gravity", but no one would suggest it was a legitimate one.

Thankfully, real science has done lots of experimentation to come up with the modern theory of gravity. No one is suggesting that theory of gravity is 100% correct. Nor is anyone suggesting that it won't ever require future modification, or that is the final word on things (we know it's not), but it is robust enough to get workable results i.e. to enable planes to fly, etc.

We often see the equivalent of my invisible elves theory in kata bunkai. Where people were rely on phrases like "well nobody really knows "or "everyone just makes it up anyway " to justify bad bunkai and to rebuke the good.

Modern science effectively “made up” their theory of gravity, but it is a much more robust, much more useful, and much more likely to be right then the invisible elves theory I made up.

Not all bunkai is equal. Some have a much greater probability of being the true intent than others do. And good bunkai is not “made up”, but is the result of rational study which explains all the data (the nature of the kata and historical documentation) and can make accurate predictions (work in the chaos of conflict).

There can be lots of good bunkai for any given motion, which are equally probable to be right and that all work well (your take is certainly one of them). But that does not mean ALL bunkai is equally probable, or that the only requirement is to make it up. There is lots of truly awful bunkai out there. Bunkai that is unworkable, and that fails to explain all the information. That bunkai is less likely to be the original intent than the good stuff.

I know you largely agree with me from our many and numerous conversations; I just want to be sure readers don’t mistake you as saying “just make it up and that is about as likely to be right as anything else”. Factors like function, historical support, explanting all the “data” means that’s not true.

Andi Kidd wrote:
Is it modern layering? Possibly, probably, I don’t know?

You are right that we don’t know everything, but that’s not the same as saying we know nothing. We do know it would make most sense for a ground fighting kata to be applied as used i.e. on the ground. Having ground fighting replicated while standing makes little sense. No dedicated grapplers do that.

We also know there is no historical evidence to suggest kata were intend to be used, as is, on the floor. They can be, but there is no evidence to say it’s not modern layering; but plenty of evidence to say it is.

It’s like “Russell’s Teapot”. If I make the claim there is a teapot orbiting the earth, then the obligation is on me to prove it. I can’t just say there is, and then say the fact others can’t disprove it is my proof.

I don’t know for certain if there is a teapot orbiting the earth or not, but the fact there is no evidence to support the assertion there is one makes assuming there is not the logical position to take.

I therefore am of the view that using vertical motions on the floor can work, but that it is a modern reimagining of kata that there is no evidence for historically.

Andi Kidd wrote:
But we have to wonder, if there are no moves in kata, did they groundwork, other than one shoulder lock and some stuff in Unsu? Which leaves most of the karate-ka with no groundwork whatsoever? So where is the groundwork?

There is good evidence for ground work; in terms of simple self-defence based stuff (see earlier posts in the thread: http://iainabernethy.co.uk/comment/11188#comment-11188)

Andi Kidd wrote:
Or did they just do it outside of kata, which makes you wonder, why?

I think it was largely practised outside kata. The reason likely to be it’s was never a big part of karate, and karate is not just kata. We do loads of things that are not explicitly part of any kata. The past masters did that too. They all show methods not found in any kata. As for ground work, I guess it was felt that live / partner practise was the way to best cover it.  That’s what Funakoshi said he did.

Andi Kidd wrote:
I am not trying to be awkward but if we believe they did groundwork and kata is a master’s fighting system, where is it?

Not everything is put in the kata. The kata is the “essence of the system” i.e. technical examples that illustrate core underlying principles. It’s a little like saying, “If an acorn can grow into an oak, then why doesn’t the acorn have the branches and leaves?”. The study of kata can lead to the principles encapsulated within being applied on the floor; but specific ground examples are not there in the kata to start with.

As per my first post, I firmly believe that simple ground techniques have always been part of karate. There is lots of evidence for that. I also believe they intended for the principles of kata to be explored beyond the specific example of the kata: there is lots of evidence for that too.

I therefore believe kata can help us on the floor. What I don’t believe is that the kata – such as the Pinans and Naihanchi – were originally intended to be used on the floor as is. The evidence strongly suggests they were intended to be used upright (which is why they are performed upright).

Kata principles being used on the floor? Absolutely! A modern reinvention that sees kata used on the floor? If it works, then why not! The assertion that the specific sequences of kata, as they are performed in the kata, were originally intend to be used as is, but shifted through 90 degrees from the vertical to the horizontal? I can’t see it. There’s no evidence for it. Again, that does not mean it does not work; it does not mean it should not be part of modern practise; nor does it mean it has no legitimacy. It can, it can be and it does. There are innumerable examples of that in this thread (your own videos included). However, the claim that this practise has historical legitimacy (as distinct from a modern pragmatic legitimacy) is a step too far for me. I don't think there is the evidance to support such a statement.

All the best,

Iain

Andi Kidd
Andi Kidd's picture

Right, this is going to be an even quicker post, which is actually ok as I agree with pretty much everything you say here!

Iain Abernethy wrote:

Andi Kidd wrote:
See, I knew if I started this I’d get dragged in!

I recommend trying to disengage and create a safe space :-)

touche!

Quote:
Andi Kidd wrote:
The thing is here, you are looking at two possibilities. The stupid one ;-) and the one you subscribe to/made up!

Only two to illustrate the idea that not all bunkai is equally valid. There are obviously many more potential applications for that motion; some of which have a greater probability of being the original intent, and some of which have a very remote possibility of being the original intent.

The reason I subscribe to the one I do is because, for me, it is the one that most convincingly meets the criteria I have for kata application.

I think there is a danger of legitimatising nonsense if we go down the path of assuming all applications are equally probable. I know you don't do that, but some could misconstrue that from phrases such as "we don't know" and applications being "made up". It’s that I’m seeking to clarify.

Thanks, I should have written that more clearly as I too agree that not all applications are equal and that for something to be valid it does need to fit certain criteria.

Quote:
I think the analogy of science is a strong one. For a scientific theory to be valid, it needs to explain all the available information. If it ignores any data, especially data that would suggest that the theory is not valid, then it would not be deemed a robust theory. Additionally, any good theory also needs to be able to make accurate predictions i.e. work in practise.

I am with hyou 100%. I think the 'work in practice' could be a good thread in itself as I have seen some bunkai recently that looks really good and matches a kata but cannot survive a little bit of mess. 

Quote:
Not all bunkai is equal. Some have a much greater probability of being the true intent than others do. And good bunkai is not “made up”, but is the result of rational study which explains all the data (the nature of the kata and historical documentation) and can make accurate predictions (work in the chaos of conflict).

There can be lots of good bunkai for any given motion, which are equally probable to be right and that all work well (your take is certainly one of them). But that does not mean ALL bunkai is equally probable, or that the only requirement is to make it up. There is lots of truly awful bunkai out there. Bunkai that is unworkable, and that fails to explain all the information. That bunkai is less likely to be the original intent than the good stuff.

I know you largely agree with me from our many and numerous conversations; I just want to be sure readers don’t mistake you as saying “just make it up and that is about as likely to be right as anything else”. Factors like function, historical support, explanting all the “data” means that’s not true.

Thanks for clarifying that for me, my own fault for lazy posting! 

Quote:
Andi Kidd wrote:
Is it modern layering? Possibly, probably, I don’t know?

You are right that we don’t know everything, but that’s not the same as saying we know nothing. We do know it would make most sense for a ground fighting kata to be applied as used i.e. on the ground. Having ground fighting replicated while standing makes little sense. No dedicated grapplers do that.

I don't think ground fighting is replicated. In fact I think there is enough stuff in kata for a master to say 'remember to spread your legs and get the knees up to the body (when doing a  side hold) - looks a bit like the horse stance'   or 'crush the neck with your forearm - pretty much age uke'  means that they didn't have to invent a whole load of other kata.

If a wrestling background was common, which is implied in Funakoshi's 'my way of life' then that part of training would be almost covered, with reminders as stated above, as striking and escaping would still be the key. The wrestling ability would be good enough already. 

Quote:
There is good evidence for ground work; in terms of simple self-defence based stuff (see earlier posts in the thread: http://iainabernethy.co.uk/comment/11188#comment-11188)

I think I should clarrify my position. I do believe and teach groundwork in karate, I was just playing devil's advocate to see what people thought!

Quote:
Kata principles being used on the floor? Absolutely! A modern reinvention that sees kata used on the floor? If it works, then why not! The assertion that the specific sequences of kata, as they are performed in the kata, were originally intend to be used as is, but shifted through 90 degrees from the vertical to the horizontal? I can’t see it. There’s no evidence for it. Again, that does not mean it does not work; it does not mean it should not be part of modern practise; nor does it mean it has no legitimacy. It can, it can be and it does. There are innumerable examples of that in this thread (your own videos included). However, the claim that this practise has historical legitimacy (as distinct from a modern pragmatic legitimacy) is a step too far for me. I don't think there is the evidance to support such a statement.

I think this is where I come in. I enjoy the history of the art and we can obviously learn a great deal if we can understand what the founders were thinking, but in the end it doesn't matter to me if what I am doing is what Itosu meant when he interpreted his knowledge into the Pinan/heian kata as my goal is a practical self-protection system. We do have some evidence for what some kata moves are and I still prefer my versions (i reference my Jissen article again!).

No-one will ever prove conclusivley what the original intent was and whilst arguing about it is fun, unless historical accuracy is the primary goal of the participant, and there is nothing wrong with that, in some ways, doesn't matter. And just to be clear, I am not saying it is not uninteresting or irrelevant, I am just saying that you may actually come up with something that fits you, the modern world and your students better than the old masters!

Or has that clarrification just caused more controvercy! wink

 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Andy,

Great post and thanks for the clarifications. Knowing you as well as you do, and knowing how some can misread / deliberately mispresent, it was my intention to clarify both our positions. I’m glad you feel I did that OK and I appreciate your help in further clarifying (especially when you had made clear how busy you are at the moment).

Andi Kidd wrote:
I think this is where I come in. I enjoy the history of the art and we can obviously learn a great deal if we can understand what the founders were thinking, but in the end it doesn't matter to me if what I am doing is what Itosu meant when he interpreted his knowledge into the Pinan/heian kata as my goal is a practical self-protection system. We do have some evidence for what some kata moves are and I still prefer my versions (i reference my Jissen article again!).

No-one will ever prove conclusively what the original intent was and whilst arguing about it is fun, unless historical accuracy is the primary goal of the participant, and there is nothing wrong with that, in some ways, doesn't matter. And just to be clear, I am not saying it is not uninteresting or irrelevant, I am just saying that you may actually come up with something that fits you, the modern world and your students better than the old masters!

Or has that clarification just caused more controversy!

Agree with that totally. My demarcation is historian vs pragmatist:

Historian – Is motivated to understand historical practise

Pragmatist – Is motivated to have functional skills

The test to which camp people fall into is pretty much the same as you outline above.

Let’s say that tomorrow they are clearing out an old house in Okinawa and find Itosu’s notebooks in an attic. Those theoretical notebooks contain detailed bunkai instructions for every movement of every kata we have. Now, we all want to see those books! But how we react to them determines if we are Historians or Pragmatists:

If you would change everything back to Itosu’s bunkai – even if you feel it is less effective than the bunkai you currently practise – then you are showing that historical validity is what you value most of all; so you are an historian.

If you would decide to run with the most effective applications – irrespective of whether they are Itosu’s or modern ones – then you are showing you value function most of all; so you are a pragmatist.

You are I are pragmatists :-)

Interestingly enough these are topics I want to talk about in the new podcast … which I am working on today.

Thanks once again for the great input into what I believe is one of the most information rich threads we’ve ever produced on this topic!

All the best,

Iain

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