33 posts / 0 new
Last post
michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture
One Kata for Karate?

Last night I was considering all the kata I know and how many of them contain the same techniques. It got me to thinking that maybe we only need one karate kata, you know sort of like the Tai Chi long form, that way there wouldn't be so much repetition and karate would have a core identity to draw from. I mean after all didn't the old masters advocate only learning one or two kata? Motobu only practiced Nahanchi, so maybe that's what we need today.

What are your views? I'd like to know.smiley

Mike

ky0han
ky0han's picture

I think that is a very good question. Maybe the ultimate goal is to sum up everything that has been learned from various sources in a single personal kata. Creating a kata and teaching it was a common thing back in the old days.

But when is the right time for creating a kata? When do I know enough? That doesn't really matter. One can alter the kata at any time. Whenever the creator learns something new or changes the mind on certain aspects of the gained knowledge he is free to alter the kata without hesitation. It contains only information on things that works for the creator at a certain time.

I think the quallity of knowledge is more important than the quantity. Thus a deep understanding of a single kata can serve you better than the superficial knowledge of 60+ kata.

Regards Holger

rshively
rshively's picture

Michael: choki motobu practiced not only naihanchi, but bassai as well. But that isn't really important.

And, "One can alter the kata at any time." However, keep in mind that  kata isn't just a grouping of techniques. It can also be a series of organized movements based upon a person's knowledge of kyusho jitsu-pressure point striking. Many kata are practiced with this idea in mind.

For example, the footwork-stepping used in traditional kata often coincides with the meridians-acupuncture points. Seven-star mantis relies on the liver meridian for their stepping & striking.

I know its tempting to try and take-create a few shortcuts, but it can be detrimental to your training. 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

michael rosenbaum wrote:
It got me to thinking that maybe we only need one karate kata, you know sort of like the Tai Chi long form, that way there wouldn't be so much repetition and karate would have a core identity to draw from.

The kata were created individually by different people and different points in history. Now that we have brought them together into “systems” there is sure to be huge amounts of repetition. Even where technique differs, we find variations of common principle and differing solutions to common problems. So although it would be impossible for one form to include every single possible method (because it would need to be infinitely long), it should certainly be feasible to create a single long form that covered all the bases in terms of recording methods which exhibit all the core combative principles needed for civilian conflict.

I feel the Pinan / Heian series is Itosu’s attempt to summarise and streamline all that was around at his time so this may already have been done. In the Pinan series you find techniques drawn from Kushanku, Chinto, Bassai etc and they are constructed and ordered in a very logical way. The techniques are not thrown together and when I look at those forms I see a very logical combative progression running through the Pinan series (as I show on the Pinan / Heian series: the complete fighting system DVDs). Do all five one after the other and you have a long form that may fulfil the criteria suggested above?

Itosu is said to have required Funakoshi to practise Naihanchi for a long time so it would be reasonable to assume it was a key part of Itosu’s teaching … and yet we see no direct drawing on Naihanchi in the Pinan series. My suspicion is that he deemed it “indivisible” or in other words so good by itself that it should be kept whole.

Taking what we already have, it may be pretty simple to make a long form that covers the bases. That way we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

For me, when you have the Pinans and Naihanchi then you’ve got all the bases covered. Other kata – as valuable as they are in themselves – then become other ways of looking at what you already have. So if you were to put the Pinans end to end and then flow into Naihanchi (Tekki Shodan) to finish, I’d say you’d have a pretty good long form that would cover all the bases and then some.

No doubt there are plenty of other ways to make such a long form too, but that would be my initial thoughts on how to go about it.

All the best,

Iain

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

michael rosenbaum wrote:

Last night I was considering all the kata I know and how many of them contain the same techniques. It got me to thinking that maybe we only need one karate kata, you know sort of like the Tai Chi long form, that way there wouldn't be so much repetition and karate would have a core identity to draw from. I mean after all didn't the old masters advocate only learning one or two kata? Motobu only practiced Nahanchi, so maybe that's what we need today.

What are your views? I'd like to know.smiley

Mike

Hi Mike,

This is a good subject, first I would like to state that for pragmatic simple self - defence focused karate 1 or maybe 2 kata are all thats needed IMO - and I would choose Naihanchi and Kusanku.

Motobu emphasised Naihanchi for sure, and wrote extensivly about it, he also practiced Passai and the lost Channan (that looked something like Pinan, which one or how long we don't know). This can be reasonably assumed according to writings of his time.

I also beleive that he taught many more kata on his return to Okinawa i.e he was well versed in many (consider the cultural backdrop and the need for material to attract students if it's your living?).

However if the discussion is about more or less content - im very much a less content man, I try to get some quality ! But as a teacher of a Ryu I need to be able to teach all..............and therefore do all, lucky for me we only have 11 emptyhand kata in total.

Looking at Shorin Ryu, and it seems reasonably consitant with other Ryu there certainly are repeated sequences, and ones that are very similair in different kata, personally that tells me it's 'core' material and it's a chance to practice it more, bit like the repeating of stuff in the same kata but working different Embusen, and different sides - so I don't sweat it.

IM not so sure all kata were complete fighting arts in their day myself, theres not enough in them for that IMO.

If you consider solo kata as part of your Kihon training then I think my point makes some logic.

From a Ryu perspective, I have no interest in mucking about with the kata set, thats not for me to do and I feel it's important from a tradition perspective to pass all of it, theres also a bunch of cultural influences found in specific kata linked to folkelore that I feel is important - in my case, counts for toffee in a fight! Much of this is verbally transmitted in our Ryu.

Dave Moore
Dave Moore's picture

This is a topic I find most interesting.

Just to add a question for you more experiened guys. Would a club be better doing as Iain has,  where a certain set of kata's make up the core of their teachings to students (up to black belt)which encompasses the desired outcome of showing them self defence rather than teaching say 8 kata that come from many sources in a more shallow manner.

I hope I have put that question across correctly and ask because I have only got 5 years experience in karate and still finding my feet with a lot of it.

rshively
rshively's picture

Years ago, I had heard that the "an" kata series (pin-an or hei-an) was a composite of older kata originally brought from china to okinawa. That the heian/pinans were for teaching karate within the school system (which, if memory serves me-funakoshi was a school teacher). Not too long ago, there was a focus on the channan kata, which the same people now claim to be the original source for the pinan/heian katas (the first three).

Is this relavant to the idea of a one-kata karate system, maybe.

There is the story that men like Kanbum Uechi went to china and learned different styles of karate, bringing them back to okinawa. The problem here is that there is little evidence that anyone left okinawa for china. However, there is evidence that a chinese tea merchant by the name of gokenki had brought much of the chinese martial arts to okinawa, influencing many of the okinawan karate masters. There's was a research club used for the development of karate. Much of what we see today in dojos around the world is a result of their labors.

The point here is that you can try and learn an extremely long kata like six harmonies & eight methods fist-a synthetic combination of tai chi, pa-kua, and hsing-i (500+ moves). Katas like kururunfa and suparenpai were originally two parts of one longer kata (you need to look at the stepping to see where they joined/separated). The same can also be said for the rohai kata, consisting today of 3 separate parts/kata. Pa-kua chang has over 200 movements originally taken from two directional changes or 8 basic techniques.Or you can stick to elementary kata like taikyoku and still find a wealth of info as to their potential for combat. The same can be said for hsing-i, which has only 5 basic punches.

The amount of technique(s) in a kata has little to do with its combat effectiveness.

But consider this, even on okinawa, a very small island with a large population, has the potential of surprising itself by revealing an ancient style of karate that was virtually unknown until present. The style I'm referring to is ryueiryu. And, their katas are certainly different from all the others...

rshively
rshively's picture

Some of you may already know Tony Annesi. Having an aiki background, his karate kata, as well as his applications differ from the average shorinryu or shotokan stylist. These are just examples of how different training can affect one's kata; not just in practice, but in application.

kanku dai http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypIWCI6QORQ&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

bassai dai http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N-uJu2IHl4

heian 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EFyB5-kPjw&feature=related

heian 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdtOW3r4H2g&feature=related

heian 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEe5lLBsHqE&feature=related

heian 4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILy0XsieK2g&feature=related

heian 5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEGNyu6dSJ8&feature=related

tekki http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5fb6709vmM

The point here is that it doesn't matter how long one's kata is (with regards to technique) but how well trained someone is with regards to application(s). Both Tony Annesi and Iain Abernethy are excellent teachers; both have a lot to teach with regards to kata and their possible applications. 

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

Well,

Let's consider this, especially with the above comments in mind, all of which are very insightfull.

For myself the longer I stay with karate the less kata I want to practice. Right now my two favorites are Seisan and Nahanchi, each a  hybrid kata composed of differents variations found within different styles, not to mention my own additions. For instance my Seisan is a cross between Wado and Isshinryu, but instead of using kicks on the side-block punch sequences I use elbow strikes.

Therefore do you people  feel its' better to practice only one or two kata, or have to know only one or two kata for black belt?  I mean considering if one practices kihon and all the related kihon drills, not to mention including the kihon not found in the kata (basic techniques) in with your bunkai drills, and having a set series of bunkai drills, then the variations, techniques and tactics that can be worked from one, or two kata are limitless. Or it would seem to me.

Mike

Andrew Carr-Locke
Andrew Carr-Locke's picture

With all these modern recording systems (books, vidoe, dvd, internet, etc), and the fact that the sport, art, and training are not outlawed anymore- in fact encouraged.  You could argue that Kata isn't necessary at all anymore. 

Just the applications and combinations. The why this works the way it does stuff. The pattern was a recording method after all. 

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

I see your point Andrew - but I view the kata more as a transmition (strategies, tactics, techniques, principles etc etc) system - ok a poor way to do it but there you go!

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

Andrew Carr-Locke wrote:

With all these modern recording systems (books, vidoe, dvd, internet, etc), and the fact that the sport, art, and training are not outlawed anymore- in fact encouraged.  You could argue that Kata isn't necessary at all anymore. 

Just the applications and combinations. The why this works the way it does stuff. The pattern was a recording method after all. 

Andrew,

I agree to a point, but with kata you don't have to worry about what happens if the electricity goes off. wink Also, the drills themselves would be considered kata. Donn Draeger in his book "Judo Formal Techniques" http://www.amazon.com/Judo-Formal-Techniques-Complete-Kodokan/dp/080481676X/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1297706167&sr=1-8 made the point that singular techniques could also be considered kata.

What I find most interesting about kata is how we always tend to view kata as a singular thing, and come to the conclusion that more kata equals more knowledge, more techniquesis and more ways to fight.  However, when you break down the kata into drills then each drill in it's self becomes a kata, so one formal kata can contain numerous mini-kata when practiced via two-person drills. That's one of the inital reasons why I asked this question. I also wonder just how much knowledge can be plumbed from one kata, be it either long or short and why we always tend to view kata from a singular perspective.

Mike

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Andrew Carr-Locke wrote:
With all these modern recording systems (books, video, dvd, internet, etc), and the fact that the sport, art, and training are not outlawed anymore- in fact encouraged. You could argue that Kata isn't necessary at all anymore. 

Just the applications and combinations. The why this works the way it does stuff. The pattern was a recording method after all.

You could certainly make that argument and there are many people who have dropped kata and seem to do fine without it. I see a few problems with that myself though, for both me and those who come after me. So it’s not an argument I would personally subscribe to. I think kata provides a very useful part of the whole and its practise has many benefits; some of which I outlined in this article which I write a few years ago: http://iainabernethy.co.uk/article/kata-why-bother

I see kata as primarily being a record of combative principles via technical examples, and I don’t think any modern media can replace kata. The best way to record physical techniques is surely via physical medium i.e. we do the techniques with our body so we should record them with our body.

The other issue is the rapid change in technology. I have lots of good martial information recorded on VHS, and I have one player on which I can view them and when that player breaks it will be quickly inaccessible (who makes and sells VHS players these days?). DVD will surely go the same way as VHS in time.

Books go yellow and rot unless cared for in a controlled environment. A book will be lucky to last more than a generation or two in normal circumstances.

The internet would seem to be here to stay, but it is moving at a wild pace and things become outdated fast (there is lot of work required to keep this modest site up-to-date and functioning as it should).

The human body however has been unchanged for tens of thousands of years and, to me at least, would seem to be the medium of choice through which to record combative information if are not going to lose it.

We can now practise openly, but having a method by which to train when we have no training partner would seem to be advantageous and a very useful part of the overall process.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I see your point Andrew - but I view the kata more as a transition (strategies, tactics, techniques, principles etc etc) system - ok a poor way to do it but there you go!

I agree that kata is primarily a means of ensuring the transition of information (and it is also a supplementary form of solo practise). Where I may differ is that I see kata as a superb way to do that. Using solo templates to record and drill combative methods (and things like tribal history, communal traditions, etc) has a very good track record. I can’t see a better method coming along soon for the reasons outlined above.

I guess you can see this as hardware / software split. The hardware is what we record the information on. The software is the actual information itself.

If we stick to the human body as the hardware (via kata), we have a proven method, on a medium which is not subject to becoming quickly obsolete due to the rapid march of technology, and we have the massive advantage that the thing we record the information on is the exact same thing that will be using that information.

If we were to switch to recording all the information on video, for example, at some point we have to start “uploading” that to the body as it will be the body that will be doing the fighting. We have a good head start for drilling with a partner if the information is already in the body.

Drilling with partners is obviously the best way to work combative methods, but kata means we can not only drill with a partner, but we can also drill some more without a partner. The more practise we can get, the better we can get (see article linked above for a more thorough explanation of my thinking on the role of solo kata).

This thread started of as a question of whether a “karate long form” would be more efficient. You could see that as a look at “updating the software” to see if we could make it better. So it is quite natural that the “hardware element” has been introduced into the discussion.

My take on it would be that I am happy with the “software” I have (i.e. the kata), but I am not adverse to exploring alternatives if they can be shown to be effective and useful. As for changing the hardware; my body is the hardware I’ll be fighting with so it makes sense for it to be the hardware I record and upload the information to. I see no workable alternative.

Man, I’m enjoying this thread! I hope the above is of some use.

All the best,

Iain

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Iain,

Sorry got to be quick, I was refering to kata in context of karate kata as a whole bunch of techniques as being inneficient and IMO messed with over generations and the original applications in the main simply not being passed on, it would seem, to even most if not all of the early 20th cen Masters in a coherent, logical manner.

IMO it's dirty, but does the job as opposed to being a fine tuned engine, we may disagree here considering your day job!

 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Sorry got to be quick, I was referring to kata in context of karate kata as a whole bunch of techniques as being inefficient and IMO messed with over generations and the original applications in the main simply not being passed on, it would seem, to even most if not all of the early 20th cen Masters in a coherent, logical manner.

That makes things clearer. I get where you are coming from, but I would not say that “kata” is at fault as a method; it’s simply that the method has been misused / misunderstood.

To return to the “hardware” analogy: my laptop works just fine, but if were to throw it down the stairs and give it to someone who did not know how to knock it on, then it would not be the fault of the laptop that it can’t be used.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I view the kata more as a transition (strategies, tactics, techniques, principles etc etc) system - ok a poor way to do it but there you go!

What I thought you meant by the above is that kata was a poor way to ensure the transition of information. I would disagree with that as I see it as an excellent way to do it. However with the clarification above, it seems you were saying that kata has been poorly used in some quarters… and I can totally agree with that. I don’t think that detracts from kata as a method though which is how I read your original post. The above make it clearer for me though.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
we may disagree here considering your day job!

There are two ways to read the above and although I’m sure, knowing you as I do, that you meant it in a positive way, others may misread it.

The first way to read it would be, “as someone who strongly believes in kata and its relevance to combat, and who spend hours every day promoting that value, then it’s pretty obvious what your views are going to be”.

The second way to read it would be, “it’s how you make your money, you have a financial interest in that view, and hence you could not say otherwise even if you wanted to as it would negatively effect your income”.

As I say, I’m sure you meant the first one (which I totally agree with) but there are others who have said the second about me and they may misread what you said and think you were supporting that view.

The bottom line is that my love of kata and bunkai came a long time before it was my profession. I also made more money for far fewer hours working as an electrician. If this was some Machiavellian financial master plan then it failed miserably ;-)

I love the martial arts and it got to the point where I could not spend as much time on them as I wanted because I had to go to work … the solution was to make the martial arts my work. If I ever lost my passion for all this, or decided that my views were incorrect, I’d be back on the tools in a heartbeat for 8 hour days, a steady wage and a good pension.

What keeps me doing this is my belief in it and love for it. All the views I express are sincerely and genuinely held and the fact it’s my job is because of that. It’s great to spend your days on what you love and have your family’s support in doing so.

It has nothing to do with being such a good financial option that I’d dishonestly hold views … ask my accountant or bank manager for unequivocal proof of that ;-) The fact that the vast majority of my time is spent on things I get no payment for should also make that clear.

When some dislike what I do, and they can’t argue with it practically or logically, they have resorted to publicly accusing me of insincere and unethical motivations. That’s not the case. The enthusiasm I have for this is genuine and that’s the motivation.

I know that is not what shoshinkanuk was suggesting, but seeing as it could be read that way it’s a chance to put the record straight ;-)

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

michael rosenbaum wrote:
However, when you break down the kata into drills then each drill in it's self becomes a kata, so one formal kata can contain numerous mini-kata when practiced via two-person drills.

That’s how we work it. The Pinans are five kata which result (in the first stage) in around 40 two-person drills. Those drills cover striking, limb-control, gripping, locking, throwing, chokes, strangles, etc. They can be restructured into innumerable other drills. The students are also encouraged to identify, understand and internalise, the underlying combative concepts and give them free reign in our many sparring drills. Those five kata can lead to the limitless. And if we put those five kata end to end to make one kata (see my first posts in this thread) then so would it.

michael rosenbaum wrote:
I also wonder just how much knowledge can be plumbed from one kata, be it either long or short and why we always tend to view kata from a singular perspective.

I think “more knowledge that we can perhaps fully appreciate” would be my answer to the first part.

As regards why kata is always viewed in the singular, I first thought it was because these days kata is often only practised as a single entity and never applied with a partner. However, I think it may be more to do with the way the human mind works? If I were to do a combination with 8 techniques and did it for 1 minute I would think of “1 combination for 1 minute”, I would not think of “80 techniques”. I wonder if this is the mind’s tendency to simplify things that is at work?

All the best,

Iain

Andrew Carr-Locke
Andrew Carr-Locke's picture

michael rosenbaum wrote:

I agree to a point, but with kata you don't have to worry about what happens if the electricity goes off. wink

My bigger issue with it all is that by focusing on the pattern, for some people, means that the pattern becomes the thing they are studying, instead of the principles and concepts of why things work the way they do. Karate is not form, it is something else. The form is how we understand what is contained in karate, but that understanding is not the thing either. By going through the process of finding this understanding for yourself, you are training in the thing, but the process is not the thing either. What then is Karate? It is experience in the moment. As Funakoshi put it, when 2 people get to gether to experience combat, Karate is the thing that happens between the punches and the kicks. It is not the punch or the kick, It is a back and forth exchange, and a description of something intangible. 

Iain, as far as all your reasons why the 'Hardware' doesn't need to be updated, we can also argue that the medium of the Human body is subject to interpretation by the mind, and the answers we come up with aren't necessarily always functional. While the hardware doesn't change, no 2 are the same either. Look at the mess some karate organisations are in with regards to following kata blindly. In fact, it brings into it the entire reason for the need for like minded people to begin to open the door of looking at kata with a pragmatic eye, to correct this issue. While other recording methods don't have the same ability to transmit the information, they do leave less to interpretation. Anyone can see the arguement from both sides, and this is getting a bit off topic from the original question...but thanks for the view points -all

It is interesting to look at the volume of Kata's when we keep hearing references to in the old days, each student learned only a couple of kata, and how each kata was in itself a complete style, and how the knowledge of each was deep but narrow, not wide and shallow. Funakoshi himself only subscribed to 18 kata and thought this was more than enough, but now Shotokan has 30?! At some point collecting has to stop, because just collecting has no value unless we begin to apply. Now, when we do apply, how many different patterns do you really need? Once you have the complete gambit of techniques, is another pattern really going to show you a new way of using the motion? or would it simply be better to explore the possibilities through application and use?

If we are subscribing to the methods of Shu-Ha-Ri anyways, how many different patterns do you need to aquire before you understand what you are doing enough to add what is your own to the training and development of your art.

Another issue is, if in standardizing karate with only one form- are you taking anything away from it? 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Andrew,

I think that if you isolate kata from the process that it loses all value. I see kata as the map that gives us the key information we need to start getting into the terrain. The map is not the dirt, the undergrowth, the trees or the river, but it can help you navigate them all. Karate is not the form, it is the whole process, and I see kata as key part of that process.

As regards human bodies being different, that’s true they are. And to me it matters not one jot if a tall person does the solo kata a little differently to the smaller person. Kata will quite naturally adapt to the individual because they can’t do it with anyone else’s body. Some may try to stifle this natural adaptation, but I would say that is a bad approach to kata and not the fault of kata itself. You are quite right that that path leads to a mess where functionality is abandon if favour of an arbitrary form. Kata can be malleable to the individual and still be pass on all it contains … indeed that is part of it.

While modern media such as video, books, etc will show one specific example, which may or may not be relevant to the individual, kata has adaptation to the individual built into the transition process. I’m therefore not saying everyone must perform all kata the same; that’s imposable (with the possible exception of twins).

What is important is that they understand the concepts inherent in the kata. How they make use of those concepts to best suit their natural attributes is again a matter for the individual and the wider process of karate. The process (in my case the 4 stage process) will ensure the kata works for the individual.

As regards non-functional interpretation, well we can certainly see lots of that about. However, pressure testing (which should also be part of the karate process) will quickly put an end to that and lead people who have “strayed from the path” back to the functional.

The point is that I see kata as a good method and all criticisms of it normally result from the methods being incorrectly utilised as opposed to fault with the method itself.

It’s true that we may be a little off topic, but I think this is related and a natural discussion following your original question of whether kata could be superseded. As you rightly say, there are two sides to the discussion and my initial reply and these additional comments are my contribution to that discussion.

Andrew Carr-Locke wrote:
At some point collecting has to stop, because just collecting has no value unless we begin to apply. Now, when we do apply, how many different patterns do you really need? Once you have the complete gambit of techniques, is another pattern really going to show you a new way of using the motion? or would it simply be better to explore the possibilities through application and use

Totally agree with the sentiment expressed here. We should be planting seeds and encouraging growth, not collecting seeds. A seed that grows and becomes a fruitful tree is worth infinitely more than many seeds that are never planted. I said kata was part of the "karate process" and we can view that as a "lifecycle". Don't let the seeds or the kata do what they are supposed to do and the whole thing dies.

Andrew Carr-Locke wrote:
Another issue is, if in standardizing karate with only one form- are you taking anything away from it?

Yes you would be. You’d be taking freedom of choice away. I don’t think standardisation has been suggested though? Simply an alternative choice to the many valid approaches people could adopt.

All the best,

Iain

Andrew Carr-Locke
Andrew Carr-Locke's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

I think that if you isolate kata from the process that it loses all value. I see kata as the map that gives us the key information we need to start getting into the terrain. The map is not the dirt, the undergrowth, the trees or the river, but it can help you navigate them all. Karate is not the form, it is the whole process, and I see kata as key part of that process.

For me, I was coming from the view point that I feel that Kata is a tool used for the process, and not part of the process itself. When properly used it can be a great tool in understanding what we are doing as we nevigate the terrain, agreed.  I have also known people who have dropped kata from their training completely, and can still call what they do karate, as I know people who adhear to kata and do it functionally such as most here. The end result is the same, both are doing karate. I can agree though, that it is no fault of the tool, if the blacksmith can't figure out how to swing the hammer. lol. 

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
'There are two ways to read the above and although I’m sure, knowing you as I do, that you meant it in a positive way, others may misread it.'

Hi Iain,

LOL, sorry my comment was a simple example of English Humor, nothing more - your explanation is of course worthwhile to the forum and no need for us to go into it further.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:
LOL, sorry my comment was a simple example of English Humour

I knew it was … but decided to take the opportunity to get it all off my chest ;-)

All the best,

Iain

miket
miket's picture

Hi Mike,

As usual, its a good question and conversation starter.  The replies have been interesting.

For 'karate' I believe that you could devise only one or two forms, or a series of short forms, all of which could ultimately be practiced sequentially as a 'long form' the way you mention.

To me, it all boils down to how you view the CONTENT that you belive is inside (or not inside) your forms.  What I mean is, if you view each individual kata as containing certain 'uniquenesses', then there might be a reason to have 'many kata'.

If, on the other hand, you see a certain 'redundancy' and 'overlap' between forms, the way your initial question implies, then the useful quantity might ultimately be reduced.

In recent years, my perspective on 'kata', and the use of 'fully choreographed training patterns' geenrally (whether they are 'solo' or 'partner-based'), has changed dramatically.  To me, the important question is not whether  a program has X, Y, or Z number of katas, but whether a combative SYSTEM (i.e. ryu-ha or pedagogical style) adequately prepares a student to address all ranges / permutations of the 'combative context' they claim to ultimately be preparing for.  Theoretically, a system coudl have zero 'katas' (meaning kata defined as 'sequential formal training  patterns') and still be combat effective.

On the other hand, I 'like' and tend to subscribe to the Draeger viewpoint you mention above... if the idea of kata is redrawn more broadly such that any individual mechanic can HAVE "kata", or EMBODY "kata", or MAIFEST or EXPRESS "kata" (defined in this case as 'structurally correct form or technique'), then the permutations of "kata" in a system might number in the thousands depending on perspective.  Or, "kata" might simply be understood as simply being a STAGE in the developmental learning process, i.e. one that we might call 'formal learning'.  That last POV is kind of the one I have settled out on.

As I have said before, I think Jigoro Kano was brilliant when he reduced the entirety of combative LEARNING down to Kata (formal, arranged, fully choreographed, cooperative practice), Randori (informal, semi-arranged, partially choreographed, semi-cooperative practice) and Shiai (informal, unarranged, unchoreagraphed, competetive pressure testing).  In reality, to develop tactictal effectiveness, you need all three, and there needs (IMO) to exist an underlying CONNECTION between tactics when you move from one learning 'domain' to the next.

Kevin73
Kevin73's picture

I think the topic is dependant on what you view a kata as...

1) Collection of techniques and tactics that are favored by a fighter

2) Strategy for a fight, much like battle plans or a sportsplay

3) Techniques put together to illustrate a concept.  For example, in Wansu does it just show one "dump" or does it show you how to set up the dump/throw and also give you the clues to create all of it's possibilities?

I think if you look at katas in the #1 category, than "yes" you could reduce the kata down to one kata, the Pinans being a prime example if put together.

As to the other two categories, than I don't think you could condense it down to one kata.  There are too many scenarios and strategies that you could employ to try and reduce it down to one and still retain the knowledge that you wanted to portray.

swdw
swdw's picture

Having multiple kata , if you view each one as an stand alone fighting system is a simple reason for having the same techniques across different kata. So why not teach only onebecause of the similarities?

Here's my take on it using two students that are sisters as the first example.

Megan is 22,  average build for her height, but is very aggressive. Close in techniques don't bother her and if you grab her, her attitude is to make you pay for it. She likes moving at an angle and getting in close enough to use knees and elbows while she's moving. The harder you come at her, the harder she fights back. She took to Sanseru like she'd known it all her life. The close in, nasty stuff makes her smile.

Her sister Tracy is 24, a little taller, but has a slight build. If you move in close on her, she'll fight her way out to get back to the distance she likes. She's quicker on her feet than her sister and likes evading and attacking the limbs. The harder you come at her, the more its like trying to swat a fly. She took to shisochin and the oyo in it like a duck to water. We're having to work with her to get her used to getting grabbed w/o it freaking her.

Now we move on to 2 other students. One is 6'2 ", 200 lbs, very strong, but not that fast, and has a laid back personality. The other is 5'11" about 240 lbs, built like a bull and very aggressive. Because of their build and personalities, the kata and techniques they like are vastly different. Therefore "their" kata differs.

So out of these 4 each of them has katas that fit them better than the other individuals.

Hmmm, should explain what I mean by "their" kata. We take the old school approach. People need to learn all the kata and understand the principles in the moves (not counting the Gekisai's, Goju only has 8 classical "fighting" kata). However, once they are far enough along, each person is given a kata that is "theirs" out of the first 4 classical kata. They learn the applications in depth, and the goal is to work the techniques in that kata until they become reflexive. The other kata do not have to be developed to a reflexive level.

Out of the next 4 kata they learn, they will pick up a second kata that is "theirs". This is an idea based on how Miyagi taught prior to WWII. But instead of only teaching 2 kata to an individual, the whole system is taught so they can teach students with different physical and mental attributes than they have. Yet they have a "system" of fighting withing Goju that suits them very well.

So, yes I see a reason for systems having more than one kata. Because the body can only move in certain ways, there will have to be techniques that overlap if each kata is a system that can stand on it's own. So the similarities are significant for this reason. But the differences, if you start taking into account the individuality of the students, are also there for reasons that are very important.

swdw
swdw's picture

michael rosenbaum wrote:
However, when you break down the kata into drills then each drill in it's self becomes a kata, so one formal kata can contain numerous mini-kata when practiced via two-person drills.

Playing catch is a "kata" for baseball. But do you catch a high fly ball or grounder the exact same way you catch a ball thrown to you? In reality all physical endeavors have "katas" in them. So I see no problem with your assessment, nor do I see it contradict the usage of kata the way it's taught.

The drills are like moving from playing catch to having someone hit the ball with a bat to you. the usage of the principles and skills are now applied on a level that brings in a lot more variables you have to deal with.

Iain Abernethy wrote:

michael rosenbaum wrote:
I also wonder just how much knowledge can be plumbed from one kata, be it either long or short and why we always tend to view kata from a singular perspective.

I think “more knowledge that we can perhaps fully appreciate” would be my answer to the first part.

As regards why kata is always viewed in the singular, I first thought it was because these days kata is often only practised as a single entity and never applied with a partner. However, I think it may be more to do with the way the human mind works?

Iain

If you look at analyzing kata from the 5 levels of striking/blocking, joint manipulation, throws, takedowns, body cavity strikes and finally permanently disabling or even deadly techniques, that alone gives you lots of material to glean from the kata. Then add the fact that not only are you supposed to know how to use the moves in directions similar to the kata, but are supposed to go to the level of using the techniques while moving in whatever direction the situation dictates, you know have a whole nother level of learning to glean.

For Iain, I think it's more an issue with mental / social conditioning than anything else. Most people bought the line fed to them in the early days of the arts in the west (50's to 70's) that you have to be oriental in order to truly understand kata. So whatever they were shown is all they think there is to the kata.

(Okinwawans were not as bad with this attitude as the Chinese and Japanese were though.)

Stuart Ashen
Stuart Ashen's picture

Good thread! A few of my own observations though.

Kata may be for transmitting knowledge but it also, as Iain puts it, uses the body to read the software. One of the advantages for me is that I can train techniques such as neck cranks full speed and power in kata training, something I could never do with a training partner in a drill.

I know quite a few kata and will be expected to learn more if I want to progress in terms of rank. However, I chose to study a single kata and draw from it the techniques that I need and find suitable fo me. The advantage of knowing a number of kata reasonably well meant that I could make an informed choice of which one to choose. In the absence of an instructor able to make this choice for me in any informed way, learning many kata might be viewed as a necessary 'evil'.

Had there been a single giant kata it would surly end up being split up as quickly as it had been implimented. Small light fighters might be looking for empi type sections for example. Iain might fall back on the layered structure of the Pinans. There is too much variety in my view to make The Karate Kata.

Finally, I have spent a fair chunk of my hard earned on Ians (and others) products. I have learned loads through doing so. Ignore the day job critisisms Iain, it was my cash and my decision on how to spend it.

Regards,

Stu.

Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture
I find this thread really good, some excellent and well formatted arguments and some well researched information provided too. I wonder with regards to a Single Kata for karate, and with some pointing towards computer technology, could it be investigated by adding ALL the kata combinations for all the available kata and allow the computer to provide a single list of all the techniques removing all duplicated techniques in the process we could call the kata KARATE DAI kata. Regards the Pinans I find duplication of techniques through the techniques especially between Nidan, Yondan and Godan so would we also shorten this series. There has also been discussions as to whether Naihanchi Shodan, Nidan and Sandan were indeed 3 parts of Naihanchi Dai kata. Another thought is that if you perform all the kata in your specific Ryu, end to end without stopping would you not, indeed, be performing "One Kata" Thank you all for an excellent read.
swdw
swdw's picture

Black Tiger wrote:
Another thought is that if you perform all the kata in your specific Ryu, end to end without stopping would you not, indeed, be performing "One Kata"

winkyes

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

Black Tiger wrote:
Another thought is that if you perform all the kata in your specific Ryu, end to end without stopping would you not, indeed, be performing "One Kata" .

Only in the same way that if you ran 3000metres you would be doing the 100, 200, 400, 800 & 1500metres.

IMO It would be impossible to maintain enough intensity in a kata that long.

Gary

swdw
swdw's picture

Depends on how many kata your system has. Not that difficult in Goju. In Shito ryu, well . . . . .

Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture

Gary Chamberlain wrote:
Only in the same way that if you ran 3000metres you would be doing the 100, 200, 400, 800 & 1500metres.

IMO It would be impossible to maintain enough intensity in a kata that long.

Gary

One Kata comes to mind when it comes to intensity, Tensho kata, I don't know this kata myself but practitioners themselves can take upto 20 mins to perform this 1 kata, in my syllabus all kata added together would take around this time too. 

swdw wrote:

Depends on how many kata your system has. Not that difficult in Goju. In Shito ryu, well . . . . .

Agreed with swdw, Shukokai/Shito Ryu karateka would have the shortest traw in practicing all kata end-to-end to form one single kata

Pages