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Andy_R
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Rohai

Hi Everyone,

Here are two clips I have filmed as part of my study on Rohai kata (the way i practice it), I know there are many differing versions of this form so I hope these clips will be of interest to you.

These are just some of my thoughts that have been filmed so far and I will add others hopefully in the next few weeks.  I am hosting Iain 24th April for  seminar based around the various Rohai kata so any interested in this form or its variations, please contact me to book your place.

Thanks

Andy

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi Andy I enjoyed those examples, some nice ideas. Regards Mark

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi all,

Just as an additional thought,  (and not wanting to derail Andys post) , but I was thinking about how much more satisfying I find the study of the much shorter kata.

The Rohai which Andy demonstrates here is a very short kata, certainly Naihanchi is, and my next long term project - Jitte, is too.

I think having so few (visually ) motions to work with encourages the karateka to study deeper,  as at first glance there is less information with which to work.

Regards 

Mark

Chikara Andrew
Chikara Andrew's picture

Thanks for posting the clips Andy, I like you thoughts. Your version of Rohai appears to differ quite a lot from mine, I practice Matsumora Rohai.

What I find interesting about Roahi, as Mark says, is it's quite short but it also repeats a lot giving lots of and/or options as opposed to lots of different movements to interpret.

Andrew

Andy_R
Andy_R's picture

Hi Both, thanks for taking the time to watch and comment on these clips. Being from a Wado background I believe the Rohai I practise is also known as Itosu Rohai Shodan. These clips were just some thoughts around sections that included the low stance and I'll upload some more for the rest of the kata soon. Mark, I agree with what you said about looking into the shorter kata it does help to get the creative side out as sometimes you may need to think 'outside the box'. I have got alternatives to what has been filmed of course and may share these at some point too. Thanks again. Andy

Iain Abernethy
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Very cool videos Andy! I like them both and I appreciate you sharing.

Chikara Andrew wrote:
Your version of Rohai appears to differ quite a lot from mine, I practice Matsumora Rohai.

Andy_R wrote:
Being from a Wado background I believe the Rohai I practise is also known as Itosu Rohai Shodan.

The Rohai of Wado is in fact the first of three kata that were intended to be a set.

Itosu Rohai Nidan: https://youtu.be/flbS8T08sEk

Itosu Rohai Sandan: https://youtu.be/HQd3PdG6j90

It looks to me as if this was Itosu restructuring Rohai (as he did with so many kata) and within Wado only one-third of that restructuring has been assimilated. That’s undeniably a problem for those wanting to explore the bunkai of the kata because, without looking at the other two versions, Wado folks have an incomplete view of the overall “lesson plan” and it’s therefore not possible to understand what is presented in “phase 1” as part of the wider system it is supposed to be.

It worth noting that Otsuka later dropped the kata (to the core Wado nine of The Pinans, Naihanchi, Kushanku, Seishan and Chinto) and that makes sense to me because Wado’s Rohai was always an incomplete picture.

That’s not to say that we can’t find useful things in Rohai Shodan alone though; we certainly can. Just that without looking at the rest of the system we can never understand it fully. A bit like how we can learn from and enjoy reading the first third of a book, but unless we complete the book we will never understand the first third fully ... no matter how many times we reread that first third.

Mark B wrote:
The Rohai which Andy demonstrates here is a very short kata …

It is, but so would almost any kata be if we only did a third of it. Inherently short stand-alone kata such as Naihanchi and Jitte are different beasts and I agree with the general sentiment being expressed.

To pre-empt some questions, there is Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan and Naihanchi Sandan too; and again only the first is practised in Wado. But in that case the evidence suggests that the second two are variations on the first; which was originally a single stand-alone kata. There are references to Itosu having made the second two, and the first was the original; which Motobu referred to simply as “Naihanchi” (no suffix). Otsuka (founder of Wado) credits Motobu as being the person who taught him the kata (although he is sure to have learnt it off Funakoshi and probably Mabuni too).

In his book “Wado-Ryu Karate”, Otsuka said that there was “something profoundly deep about Naihanchi and it would take more than a lifetime to master”. This would certainly fit with my view of the kata. However, of the Nidan and Sandan variations, Otsuka said they were “useless”. I don’t agree there because I do think they have useful information in them, but I don’t see then as necessary. I don’t practise them or teach them in my own dojo. I have found looking at the Nidan and Sandan versions has been useful in understanding Naihanchi (what some would call Naihanchi Shodan), but it’s not a must. Naihanchi can and does stand alone, because it was created to … not so with Wado’s Rohai.

Wado’s Rohai is defiantly one-third of a system so I think we need the others to fully grasp it. This is obvious when we look at the “un-restructured” Rohais out there. For example:

We can see the component parts of Rohai Shodan, and a lot more besides.

Andy_R wrote:
I am hosting Iain 24th April for seminar based around the various Rohai kata so any interested in this form or its variations, please contact me to book your place.

At this event I want to look at the “three Rohai”, Matsumora Rohai (frequently mislabelled as “Matsumura Rohai” because of people confusing Kosaku Matsumora and Soken Matsumura) and Shotokan’s Meikyo (their version of Rohai, but different again):

I hope to show there’s some common threads (and interesting differences) when it comes to the “many faces of Rohai”.

Details here: http://iainabernethy.co.uk/events/seminar-birmingham-0

On Sunday the 24th April 2016 I will be teaching a practical karate / kata bunkai seminar in Birmingham. The seminar will be looking at the many Rohai kata. We will be examining bunkai for Wado’s Rohai, Shotokan’s Meikyo, Matsumora Rohai (often also called “Matsumura Rohai”) and Itosu’s Rohai Shodan, Nidan and Sandan. The comparing and contrasting of the various kata will make for an interesting day, regards less of style, and will hopefully expand understating of these kata regardless of which version is personally practised. The seminar will run from 11:30 - 15:30 and will be held at North Solihull Sports Centre, Chelmsley Road, Birmingham, B37 5LA. The cost of the seminar is £30 per person and cheques (payable to “Mr A Rheeston”) should be posted to Mr A Rheeston 97 Wheatcroft Drive, Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham, B37 7LL.

Payment can also be made via paypal using e-mail arheeston@hotmail.co.uk (please be sure to confirm place before sending payment).

You can also contact the host via Arheeston@hotmail.co.uk through facebook: www.facebook.com/andrewrheestonkarate or phone 07929989720

All the best,

Iain

Andy_R
Andy_R's picture

Thank Iain, I have never seen the Nidan and Sandan variations before. They look quite interesting so I'll have to take a look at those too, i didnt realise the wado version was only part of three.... a little more research needed in my part I think. Cant wait for the seminar. See you soon. Andy

Mark B
Mark B's picture

I think one of the reasons I  find a shorter kata more than  enough for the purpose of studying for the intention of sensible and useable defensive and counter offensive responses to habitual acts of physical violence is because having actually experienced many of the scenarios that are often listed for male on male acts of violence I have full appreciation of the speed,  range, emotions, fear, confusion and a whole host of other stuff that accompany such scenarios.

A shorter kata, let's say Naihanchi or Jitte, does contain the front line remedies for those most likely habitual acts in their most simple, applicable form. Scratch a little deeper and they present and teach further lessons which enhance the learning experience , which while useful are often those applications which you would be less likely to use.  This doesn't detract from the learning process, but merely adds a more academic element to your study. However,  we must understand the reality of violence to be able to understand the reality of our kata applications -put simply and in terms of karate centred around the application of a chosen Kata, then "less is more".

So with the origin of this post being the first part of Rohai,  although it may be correctly stated that by missing parts two and three means ideas, variations and other lessons may be missed if your first priority is a skillset of useable defensive applications to counter the most likely acts of  physical violence then actually devoting time to the first Rohai kata would in fact be more than sufficient. 

Regards 

Mark

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Andy_R wrote:
Thank Iain, I have never seen the Nidan and Sandan variations before. They look quite interesting so I'll have to take a look at those too, i didnt realise the wado version was only part of three

I didn’t know it either until I started kata judging. I was aware that our “Rohai” was very different from everyone else’s, but it was working with Shito-Ryu folks who pointed out that they knew the kata as “shodan” that helped me understand why.

Rohai as Wado folk know it is still a sound form, but it’s nice to look at phases 2 and 3 so we can see what the purpose of phase 1 is within the framework in which it was created.

I’m really looking forward to the seminar too. Should be a fun day and I look forward to swapping ideas with you!

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Mark B wrote:
I think one of the reasons I find a shorter kata more than enough for the purpose of studying for the intention of sensible and useable defensive and counter offensive responses to habitual acts of physical violence is because having actually experienced many of the scenarios that are often listed for male on male acts of violence I have full appreciation of the speed, range, emotions, fear, confusion and a whole host of other stuff that accompany such scenarios.

Absolutely. Real situations are fast and frantic and we don’t need the huge array of techniques that we do when dulling with our own kind. Most situations are over in seconds, and are largely decided by whoever landed the first solid head shot. How many methods can we fit into that?! One kata is undoubtedly enough for practical purposes. I would, however, question if a fraction of a kata is enough? Half a kata, or a third of a kata would not be enough in my view. I personally think the kata are as efficient and lean as they can be already. Allow me to elaborate …

Mark B wrote:
Scratch a little deeper and they present and teach further lessons which enhance the learning experience , which while useful are often those applications which you would be less likely to use.  This doesn't detract from the learning process, but merely adds a more academic element to your study. However, we must understand the reality of violence to be able to understand the reality of our kata applications -put simply and in terms of karate centred around the application of a chosen Kata, then "less is more".

I both agree and disagree here. I agree that less is more (in the sense that you are expressing it); but we want to hone that “less” to such a degree that it is more than “more”. I’m sure we agree there.

Where we may disagree is what constitutes a “problematic more” because I also think that the “right more” is “much less” which is much more! OK, I get that’s not clear, so let me clarify what I mean:

To me, the “ultimate less” is to abandon notions of technique all together and be working at the level of principle. All the guys who really impress me approach things that way (Peter Consterdine, Rory Miller, Marc MacYoung, etc.). They have sound combative “habits” and tend to think, act and teach at principle level. People like that do the right thing at the right time … even to the point where they can do “techniques” they have never done before (i.e. they move in accordance with their principle based habits and are not limited by formal “technique”).

If we see additional techniques as alternate expressions of common principles, then we use them to gain a better understanding of those core principles.

If we “technique collect” – such that we are never exploring the common principles that underlie them all and simply see them as separate “tricks” – then that is definitely a “problematic more”.

However, if we see these additional methods as alternate expressions of common principles then we are using that “more” to progress toward less i.e. to principle based habitual action, as opposed to the collection of single, specific examples which may or may not be applicable in the highly variable world of conflict.

We see this need to reach beyond technique to principle being repeatedly expressed in the writings of the past masters. This quote from Motobu being my favourite:

“We must learn to apply the principles of kata, such that we can bend with the winds of adversity.”

Mark B wrote:
So with the origin of this post being the first part of Rohai,  although it may be correctly stated that by missing parts two and three means ideas, variations and other lessons may be missed …

I agree, and I would add that it will take you longer to get beyond the technique to the principle level because you have fewer examples from which to draw. Probably even an insufficient number in the eyes of Itosu; otherwise he would not have created the other two parts.

Mark B wrote:
… if your first priority is a skillset of useable defensive applications to counter the most likely acts of  physical violence then actually devoting time to the first Rohai kata would in fact be more than sufficient.

But it’s not optimal.

A good right cross would be enough / sufficient for most situations, but for those of us who enjoy the martial arts, we may as well get beyond sufficient and aim for optimal. We will still stick to the basics when protecting ourselves – because that’s what works best – but our “basic” right cross will not be one method we have only ever practised in one specific way. We will have practised it advancing, retreating, moving clockwise, anti-clockwise, while close, while far away, aiming high, aiming low, and in all manner of other ways too. This is not unnecessary “bolt ons” because “one cross is enough”, but a vehicle for the internalisation of the “principles of the cross” such that we move beyond technique to habitual principle. It is then that we will be able to execute the “optimal cross” for the circumstances as they are.

We don’t use the alternate examples provided by any given kata to “build up” but to “dig deeper”.

We should not technique collect, but the ultimate in that is getting beyond technique all together to the optimal point of unfettered principle … and to do that we need enough examples of the principle being made manifest to understand the principle. One compete kata will give us that; I’m not sure an incomplete kata will.

So the “right more” (alternate example of principle) is “much less” (because we move beyond technique to the principle) which is much more (more effective than specific set pieces).

Take any individual kata and I think we see this process in effect. They provide (just) enough to give us what we need when it comes to seeing these principles being expressed. I would, however, say a fraction of one kata / system is not the way to go.

Naihanchi is definitely a highly potent stand-alone system. But would one-third of it be enough? If we say yes, then why practise the rest? And if one-third is enough, what about one tenth? One sixteenth? Most would hopefully agree that Naihanchi is already as lean as it can be to have optimum function; so we should study the full kata. I think the same applies to Rohai. Just as one-third of Naihanchi is incomplete: so is one-third of the Rohai system. Sure it has some workable bits in it, but it’s not enough to get to what is really being taught (at least that’s what the creator of that kata must have thought).

Einstein said, “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I’m of the view that’s a dictate the creators of our kata would agree with. They kept the kata lean and gave us just enough examples to convey the message and capture the combative principles they wanted us to internalise. They did not unnecessarily repeat, nor do they give an incomplete picture. And I’m with you that I like the “leanest of the lean” and favour Naihanchi above all others for that very reason. I’d not try to make it even leaner though.  That would result in incomplete kata which would be forever flawed.

It would be like buying a book, ripping out two-thirds of the pages without ever reading them, and then still expecting to comprehend the message of the author.

When Itosu made his three Rohai kata, I am sure he would have simply created one if he felt that got all the information across. Although Wado types do tend to think of their Rohai of a standalone kata like the others in Wado, it isn’t. It’s one-third of a set, and it is seen that way by all other styles who practise that version.

As an analogy, the handle of a sword is usable (I can hit people with the pommel) but it’s supposed to be part of a complete sword. So while the first third of Rohai can be used on its own, it is an incomplete picture that does not covey the full message; and one would have to assume that in Itosu’s eyes, on its own, it has an insufficient number of examples of principle. Therefore it can’t be used optimally.

People would be better focusing on a kata that was designed to stand alone, or looking at the other two-parts of the system so they are better placed to understand what Itosu’s take on the “Rohai system” is really all about.

All the best,

Iain

Jordan Giarratano
Jordan Giarratano's picture

Great thread!

Iain Abernethy wrote:

To pre-empt some questions, there is Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan and Naihanchi Sandan too; and again only the first is practised in Wado. But in that case the evidence suggests that the second two are variations on the first; which was originally a single stand-alone kata. There are references to Itosu having made the second two, and the first was the original; which Motobu referred to simply as “Naihanchi” (no suffix). Otsuka (founder of Wado) credits Motobu as being the person who taught him the kata (although he is sure to have learnt it off Funakoshi and probably Mabuni too).

Iain, have you written about or done any kind of videos on Naihanchi Nidan and Sandan being variations of the original Naihanchi? I find it very interesting, especially compared to the Pinan being a whole set.  Edit: I just read the article: Naihanchi - Karate's Most Deadly Kata?, and found some of the videos of Naihanchi Nidan on YouTube.

Iain Abernethy
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Jordan Giarratano wrote:
Iain, have you written about or done any kind of videos on Naihanchi Nidan and Sandan being variations of the original Naihanchi? I find it very interesting, especially compared to the Pinan being a whole set.

I haven’t written anything specifically on that. The general idea is Itosu is credited as being the creator of the Nidan and Sandan versions; whereas the original kata comes to us from Matsumura from sources unknown. Motobu suggests from a Chinese source in his writings. So while it looks like the Pinans are a set, and the three Naihanchi are a set, they are different in history and nature.

Itosu created the Pinans to be a set, so that is their nature. However “Naihanchi Shodan” was not created by Itosu, he simply learnt it from his teacher Matsumura. Motobu also learnt it from Matsumura and he is generally critical of the Itosu version. For example when talking about the stance in the kata:

“There are those that believe that the proper way to perform the stance is by twisting the toes inward and squeezing the feet together. Hence it is often taught this way. However, I believe this to be completely wrong. This way of doing the stance was handed down via the Itosu linage … I once questioned Marsumura and Sakuma sensei about this point. Matsumura sensei responded by saying, “I think the practicality of Itosu’s method is precarious and someone using it could be easily defeated.” – Watashi no Karate-Jutsu, Choki Motobu (translated by Patrick McCarthy)

Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan) tells us he spent almost a decade on the kata (and its variants) under Itosu. Mabuni also learnt the kata from Itosu. So that will be why Shotokan and Shito-Ryu have all three. However, Otsuka (founder of Wado) tells us the version of the kata in Wado is Motobu’s (with his own minor tweaks) which in turn came from Matusmura; and not Itosu. In Motobu’s writing he calls the kata “Naihanchi” (singular with no suffix), which would again make sense seeing as the Nidan and Sandan versions come from Itosu and are hence not part of Motobu’s Naihanchi linage.

So there are many references to a singular Naihanchi kata that existed before Itosu. The evidence we have suggests that that singular Naihanchi was what most today would label as “Naihanchi Shodan”. There are some who think that all three end to end was the original kata, and that Itosu split into three pieces, but there is no evidence for that (although it’s an idea that has gained some traction). There is evidence against that in the form of the above though i.e. references by Motobu to Naihanchi singular; which is “Naihanchi Shodan” is much of modern karate. This would make no scene if he had in fact learnt a much longer “un-split” kata from Matsumura. If that happened we have to ask why Motobu also split this “uber-nahainchi” into to three to follow Itosu’s lead – when he was highly critical of Itosu’s version of the kata – and never once made any reference to the fact he was doing just the first third of a longer kata.

The simple and obvious explanation is that Itosu made the second two versions, and that “Naihanchi Shodan” was the original kata that Matsumura taught his students under the name of “Naihanchi”. Evidence for these things is never as clear cut as we would like, but most go with this view because it is the one that makes most sense and is most strongly supported.

So back to the core point!

The Pinan Series: A series of kata created by Itosu that were always intended to be studied and practised as a group.

Naihanchi: An original standalone kata what was brought into karate by Matsumura from a Chinese source; which was also taught as a standalone kata by Matsumura.

Naihanchi Nidan and Naihanchi Sandan: Not originals, but variations created by Itosu presumably to give alternate expressions of the core principles of the original form.

So we have two ways of approaching Naihanchi: We can stick with the original Matsumura / Motobu method and treat the kata as a standalone form. Or we can also consult Itosu’s variants for extra insight from Itosu’s perspective. We don’t need all three though in the way we do with all five of the Pinans.

Personally, I stick to the core Naihanchi (Shodan), but I will look at Nidan and Sandan for supporting information. Those kata are not part of my regular teaching or practise though.

Back to Rohai: If we look at the older versions of Rohai we can see there is more going on than we see in Itosu’s Rohai Shodan (Wado’s Rohai). It’s incomplete on its own and we know Itosu made those three kata to be a set; like he did with the Pinans. And not a variation on an older core kata, like he did with the Naihanchi kata.

In short, we need to look at each kata / kata series on its own merits and we can’t superimpose the nature of one onto others.

Jordan Giarratano wrote:
found some of the videos of Naihanchi Nidan on YouTube.

Is this the one you mean? In it we look at how Nidan may give alternate examples of the methods found in the core kata.

I hope that’s of some help?

All the best,

Iain

swdw
swdw's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

If we see additional techniques as alternate expressions of common principles, then we use them to gain a better understanding of those core principles.

If we “technique collect” – such that we are never exploring the common principles that underlie them all and simply see them as separate “tricks” – then that is definitely a “problematic more”.

However, if we see these additional methods as alternate expressions of common principles then we are using that “more” to progress toward less i.e. to principle based habitual action, as opposed to the collection of single, specific examples which may or may not be applicable in the highly variable world of conflict.

We see this need to reach beyond technique to principle being repeatedly expressed in the writings of the past masters. This quote from Motobu being my favourite:

“We must learn to apply the principles of kata, such that we can bend with the winds of adversity.”

Ah, principle based kata. Funny how many people give you a strange look when you tell them kata is a series of moves used to teach principles, not techniques.

Quote:
We don’t use the alternate examples provided by any given kata to “build up” but to “dig deeper”.

We should not technique collect, but the ultimate in that is getting beyond technique all together to the optimal point of unfettered principle … and to do that we need enough examples of the principle being made manifest to understand the principle. One compete kata will give us that; I’m not sure an incomplete kata will.

In Okinawa they teach there are 5 levels of application. Here are 3. Block/Strike, joint manipulation, throws. If your teaching is technique based, that gives 3 techniques for each move against 3 specific attacks. But if you are principle based that gives you multiple alternatives at each level depending on the situation.

Another problem with being technique based is this. The same technique will not work in exactly the same way for every individual. It must be modified for them AND their opponent (i.e. the situation). Just had to do that last week where I showed a taller student the principle behind the move and how it affected the opponent differently depending no their height. I asked him what the fundamental principles in the move were and then asked him why he was abandining the principle being taught. When he tried it applying the principle, the effect on his opponent made his eyes light up. Did the move look exactly like the kata? No, but it applied the principles taught in the kata against his oppnent. If you understand the princilples you can adapt the techniques for the student and the situation. That is how it's supposed to work. That being said, sure you show certain techniques to people, but if you leave it there and never bring it back to apllying the principles, you are doing a disservice to your students. Here's an analogy Lee Gray Sensei uses. When you are taught to catch a ball, it is in a very specific manner. That is done to teach you the principles behind catching a ball. When you are on the field and you have to catch a grond ball, or a pop up, or you have to chase the ball, do you look like you did when you played catch? No. But are you applying the principles you were taught to that specific attempt to catch the ball? Of course.

Kata is an ouline or guideline on things to do. You must adapt the application to the situation, not expect the situation to adapt to your application. You can only do this by undestanding the principles. Otherwise kata is of little use as a training tool.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

swdw wrote:
Ah, principle based kata. Funny how many people give you a strange look when you tell them kata is a series of moves used to teach principles, not techniques.

I’m totally with you … but I feel the need to add a caveat :-)

I am firmly of the view that the kata shows us combative methods, not as ends in themselves, but as illustrations of underlying combative principles. That’s where I think we are both coming form and I see that as a solid position.

What I find worrying is when people say that the kata has no direct combative application but is instead about “principles”. Never yet, when pushed, have those making that claim been able to explain to me how combative principles can be manifest in non-combative movements. To me this is “intellectual sleight of hand” to dodge the problem of not understanding the kata in sufficient depth i.e. “I have no idea about the bunkai, but that’s fine because kata is really all about ‘principles’ anyway.”

The kata have direct combative function (bunkai) and through the study and practice of those combative methods we can internalise the underlying principles and give them free-reign.

If we don’t get the bunkai then there is no magical process by which combative principles will “come to us” simply because we practise the solo-kata. It’s a common position in some quarters though. I did a full podcast on the logical fallacy of this:

http://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/occams-hurdled-katana-podcast

Kata is about the underlying principles of the bunkai. No bunkai, then there is no logical method by which the kata can teach principles.

swdw wrote:
If you understand the principles you can adapt the techniques for the student and the situation. That is how it's supposed to work. That being said, sure you show certain techniques to people, but if you leave it there and never bring it back to applying the principles, you are doing a disservice to your students..

That’s how I see it :-) There’s also any amount of quotes from the past masters that clearly support that view too. We need to internalise the principles so we can freely apply those principles in a fluid way.

“Never be shackled by the rituals of kata but instead move freely according to the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses” – Genwa Nakasone

“Always perform kata exactly; Combat is another matter” Gichin Funakoshi

“Learn the explanations of every movement fully, and then decide how YOU would use the technique in an emergency” – Anko Itosu (my emphasis)

“We must understand the principles of the kata such that we can bend with the winds of adversity” – Choki Motobu

And so on.

swdw wrote:
Here's an analogy Lee Gray Sensei uses. When you are taught to catch a ball, it is in a very specific manner. That is done to teach you the principles behind catching a ball. When you are on the field and you have to catch a ground ball, or a pop up, or you have to chase the ball, do you look like you did when you played catch? No. But are you applying the principles you were taught to that specific attempt to catch the ball? Of course.

Good analaogy!

swdw wrote:
Kata is an outline or guideline on things to do. You must adapt the application to the situation, not expect the situation to adapt to your application. You can only do this by understanding the principles. Otherwise kata is of little use as a training tool.

Agreed! That exactly my own view.

Hope all is good “under the rock” Sam!

All the best,

Iain

Mark Powell
Mark Powell's picture

Over the past couple of years I've been taught the three Itosu Rohai kata by a high ranking Japanese Sensei and I must say Andy I far prefer your interpretation of the Bunkai to his.

dhogsette
dhogsette's picture

You really do learn something new everyday. I had no idea there were three key parts to the Rohai kata. Here is the version I practice in Matsubayashi. I'm sorry to miss the UK seminar in which Iain Sensei is discussing Rohai. Maybe another time... 

Best,

David 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Mark Powell wrote:
Over the past couple of years I've been taught the three Itosu Rohai kata by a high ranking Japanese Sensei and I must say Andy I far prefer your interpretation of the Bunkai to his.

It’s very good stuff and a great addition to the collective knowledge pool.

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

dhogsette wrote:
You really do learn something new everyday. I had no idea there were three key parts to the Rohai kata.

Apologies for the confusion. There are many versions of Rohai. The one you showed is one of the “stand alone” ones. Anko Itosu made a version of Rohai that was in three parts; Itosu Rohai Shodan, Itosu Rohai Nidan and Itosu Rohai Sandan. In Wado-Ryu they practice Itosu Rohai Shodan, under the name of “Rohai”, but they don’t practice the other two parts.

So there are three parts to “Itosu Rohai”, but there are older versions of Rohai which are standalone single kata. One of which would be the version you show.

I hope that clarifies things.

All the best,

Iain

Chikara Andrew
Chikara Andrew's picture

dhogsette wrote:

You really do learn something new everyday. I had no idea there were three key parts to the Rohai kata. Here is the version I practice in Matsubayashi. I'm sorry to miss the UK seminar in which Iain Sensei is discussing Rohai. Maybe another time... 

Unfortunately I won't be able to make the seminar either, which is a shame as already from discussions on this thread it promises to be an interesting comparison. Rohai (Matsumora) is a relatively new addition to my clubs syllabus and I am still playing with and learning from it.

David, the version you posted is very similar to Matsumora Rohai, which Iain has linked a Shito-Ryu video of in an earlier post. This linked version is as I practice it. Interestingly yours is almost the same other than the three repeating sequences (from one leg) appear in a different order. 

The way I see these is that the first is the ideal, ie. no further moves required. The second follows up with the Shiko-dachi and Ippon-ken, the third follows up with the low two handed shove. Yours has the same sequences only showing, first Shiko-dachi, second shove and third is the ideal, ie. no follow up. 

Andrew

swdw
swdw's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
What I find worrying is when people say that the kata has no direct combative application but is instead about “principles”. Never yet, when pushed, have those making that claim been able to explain to me how combative principles can be manifest in non-combative movements. To me this is “intellectual sleight of hand” to dodge the problem of not understanding the kata in sufficient depth i.e. “I have no idea about the bunkai, but that’s fine because kata is really all about ‘principles’ anyway.”

Put it his way. The applications are derived from the principles. The principles are what makes the applications work. When the applications are taught correctly they illustrate the underlying principles. Principle to aplication- aplication to principle. They complement each other.

The reaon for the separation between the two by many people, and in other areas of the martial arts is caused- because we use western linear thinking to look at an oriental principle, that is meant to be a whole where you CAN'T find a hard distinction between the parts. In fact, past a certain point you come to understand they can't be completely separated because you then lose the understanding of the whole. Much of the current debate on things like this is because few westerners will try to grasp or are unable to grasp the easten circular method of thinking. Sure they are quick to quote stuff, but they don't truly understand what they are quoting. To separate between principle and application is to do a disservice to both. In reality, any time you talk about one, you must also talk about the other and show how they are tied together.

GaryWado
GaryWado's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
What I find worrying is when people say that the kata has no direct combative application but is instead about “principles”. Never yet, when pushed, have those making that claim been able to explain to me how combative principles can be manifest in non-combative movements. To me this is “intellectual sleight of hand” to dodge the problem of not understanding the kata in sufficient depth i.e. “I have no idea about the bunkai, but that’s fine because kata is really all about ‘principles’ anyway.”

Hi Iain,  I hope you are well.

I haven't called in for a while, but as "that" Wado instructor that doesn't trumpet the "Okinawan" approach to kata pedagogy - I often have this thrown at me. lol.

My response (if it interests you) is usually along these lines...

It is my belief that (from a Wado perspective) many techniques found within kata can not necessarily be applied combatively (or at least not with any degree of effeciency) - and indeed they are not necessarily supposed to be.

It is my understanding that the way Wado was designed to be taught is more aligned to that of a koryu bujutsu - rather than an Okinawan karate. Even the way the kanji Otsuka chose for the term “Kata” is written differently - and I don’t think that’s any mistake.

In Wado we have Kata which is written as 形 (Gyo) instead of 型 (Kei) used in the Okinawan experience. In nutshell "形 (Gyo)" means shape, form or mould. Whereas "型 (Kei)" means template or prototype.

Wado kata (gyo) is about practicing the form in order to train the body (as an exercise, using combative movements), as opposed to Okinawan Kata (kei) which is more concerned with developing the techniques found within the kata (usually this takes the form of Bunkai with an opponent, so the techniques can be realised).

As a result, most traditional Wado groups don't typically tend to utilise the process of "Bunkai" (in the same way as say Goju groups do)....

To caveat this - we dont expect these skills to magically appear after years of only solo practice. As you know Iain, pretty much every traditional Wado group includes ippon, sanbon and ohyo kumte etc. To at least start the interaction.

It's my belief however, that the way Otsuka intended his "Wado-ryu" to unfold was closer to his Koryu roots, rather than Okinawan Karate (that old "Pinch of Salt" anology).

My experience is that this only starts to properly become understandable after 2-3 years of regular training and then only when you start to dig into the higher level pair work (which in the most part come from Shindo Yoshin-ryu or Tenjin Shinyo-ryu) such as Kihon Kumite, Kumite Gata, Idori etc. 

If you practice these in their fullness, I believe the combative principles presented in the solo kata DO manifest themselves - very apparently IMO.

As you say the Iain - there is no magical formula - only diligent study, hard graft and a fair bit of mental weight lifting.

As I've been at pains before to say - I don't believe one way is better than another - but the "intellectual sleight of hand" is a problem on both approaches me thinks.

Gary

Andy_R
Andy_R's picture

Hi Everyone,

I'm realy enjoying this thread and the discussion it's creating.

A lot of the discussion seems to be pointed towards the principles of the techniques, I believe the clips I have shared so far briefly show the priciple of distrupting the 'opponents' balance to faciliate effective striking.  Theres also the asprect of proprioception too in order to 'feel' where the opponent is before striking.

Mark Powell wrote:

Over the past couple of years I've been taught the three Itosu Rohai kata by a high ranking Japanese Sensei and I must say Andy I far prefer your interpretation of the Bunkai to his.

Thank you Mark, I appreciate everyone taking the time to watch these clips and i'm looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

Andy

deltabluesman
deltabluesman's picture

Just in case anyone is curious, there are a few other Rohai threads on this forum.  In particular, there's a thread that deals with the alternative version from Matsubayashi Ryu (I believe).  I'll post a link, just in case anyone would like some additional food for thought while studying the bunkai of the different versions:  http://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/rohai-kata-helpthoughts

Andy, thanks for sharing the videos above.  

Tau
Tau's picture

Can we summarise for those of us that don't do this kata?

- One kata, simply called Rohai

- A few variations, e.g. Matsubayashi Rohai

- Itosu worked on splitting it into three seperate kata to make learning easier

- Only Shodan made it to Wado Ryu

- Shotokan know the complete Rohai as Meikyo

Is all that correct?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Tau wrote:
Can we summarise for those of us that don't do this kata?

Allow me to muddy the water still further :-)

Tau wrote:
One kata, simply called Rohai

Tau wrote:
A few variations, e.g. Matsubayashi Rohai

There are many variations of Rohai. Often quite different from each other. There are obvious commonalities, but the variations are still much greater than we would see between the differing Bassais / Passais for example.

Tau wrote:
Itosu worked on splitting it into three separate kata to make learning easier

Kind of. It’s not that if you put the three Itosu Rohai end to end that you and up with one of the other “greater” Rohai though. It’s more of a restructuring than a splitting.

Tau wrote:
Only Shodan made it to Wado Ryu

That’s right. Itosu Rohai Shodan is the only Rohai in Wado … and it’s just one part of a group of three. It is not one of the “stand alone” Rohai found in other systems.

Tau wrote:
Shotokan know the complete Rohai as Meikyo

It would be more accurate to say Shotokan do A “complete Rohai” (we can’t say THE because there are many variations of it) which they call Meikyo. Again, we can see commonalities, but Shotokan’s is unique.

They are an interesting set of kata and I find it fascinating to consider how all the variations fit together / relate to on another / branch off from one another. As always, there’s much lost to history, but fascinating to study nonetheless.

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Gary,

Thanks for the addition to the thread. Always good to get both sides.

GaryWado wrote:
It is my belief that (from a Wado perspective) many techniques found within kata can not necessarily be applied combatively (or at least not with any degree of effeciency) - and indeed they are not necessarily supposed to be.

When we have discussed this before I have pointed to the fact there are no “Wado kata”. Only kata – which were created by others to have direct combative applications – which have been co-opted into Wado. So it simply can’t be said that the motions “are not supposed to be applied combatively”. What can be said, by people who take the view you are describing, is that “we don’t look for that”, or “we can’t see that” … but what they can’t do is retrofit history.

Almost all the kata used in Wado were around before Otsuka was even born! The only exception being the Pinans which were around in their current from at least seventeen years before Otsuka ever walked into a karate dojo.

Not that all Wado people take the position you are putting forth. Indeed, a number of direct students of Otsuka do show “bunkai” (of varying quality) in their books and videos.

One thing we can say, it that the approach you are putting forth is using the kata for a way in which they were never intended to be used.

It is historically wrong to claim the motions of kata are not supposed to be used combatively.

GaryWado wrote:
Wado kata (gyo) is about practicing the form in order to train the body (as an exercise, using combative movements), as opposed to Okinawan Kata (kei) which is more concerned with developing the techniques found within the kata (usually this takes the form of Bunkai with an opponent, so the techniques can be realised).

So if the kata are made up of “combative movements” how can that fit with your previous statement that they were “not supposed to be used combatively”? Surely what makes a combative moment, a  combative movement is the fact it is a movement to be used in combat?

Putting that contraction to one side, that has no bearing on the true nature of the kata or their original intent. From my perspective, I would rather use the kata in the way they were intended to be used rather than impose an alien methodology on them.

If the kata have combative function, then studying that combative function (bunkai) is the obvious way to understand the principles on which those methods are based. How can doing combative movements in the air, giving no thought to their application, be more efficient? It can’t be.

If kata don’t have combative function (you’ve said both so I’ll discuss both) then we are back to the point that you can’t have combative principles being expressed in non-combative ways. If it is based on combative principles is has to be, by definition, combative.

GaryWado wrote:
To caveat this - we dont expect these skills to magically appear after years of only solo practice. As you know Iain, pretty much every traditional Wado group includes ippon, sanbon and ohyo kumte etc. To at least start the interaction.

Personally I have my reservations about the efficiently of one steps and three steps because they too have no demonstrable link to combat. There’s a “magic leap” expected there too. They have an entirely different timing, distance and feel to combat. This podcast covers my thinking for those interested:

http://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/one-step-sparring-podcast

GaryWado wrote:
If you practice these in their fullness, I believe the combative principles presented in the solo kata DO manifest themselves - very apparently IMO.

I really struggle to follow the logic here as per my previous post:

What I find worrying is when people say that the kata has no direct combative application but is instead about “principles”. Never yet, when pushed, have those making that claim been able to explain to me how combative principles can be manifest in non-combative movements.

How can a kata present combative principles if the the kata is “not supposed to be applied combatively”? It can’t. It’s logically impossible.

It’s like saying “this ice sculpture is not made of ice, but has ice in it”. The only way there can be combative principles in a kata is if the kata is combative in nature. A non-combative kata can’t be combative.

GaryWado wrote:
As I've been at pains before to say - I don't believe one way is better than another-

I do think one way is better than another. Sure people can learn to fight with or without kata, but when it comes to understanding kata and making effective use of it, a bunkai based approach is far superior for the refollowing reasons:

It accurately reflects history.

It works with the kata as they were created to be used.

It teaches combative principles through the study of combative methods.

Alternatively I feel that the approach you are taking:

Has a relatively recent approach reach back in time and alter the nature of kata i.e. “kata was not intended to be used combatively”.

It tries to use kata in a way they were never intended to be used.

It states kata are not combative, but have combative principles in them; which is logically impossible.

I’m totally OK with people thinking and practising in whatever way they think best. And if they like what they do then more power to them. However, logic is logic and history is history. If we put forward a view, then we can expect to have it questioned and critiqued.

 

GaryWado wrote:
but the "intellectual sleight of hand" is a problem on both approaches me thinks.

Apologies if that was taken as an insult. That was not my intent. However, I genuinely feel a “no combative methods, but there are combative principles” approach to kata is blatantly flawed. I’ve never heard a good defence of it.

I therefore suspect that it has become a kind of “dogma” where a position is taken first, then the “evidence” made to fit, and contrary evidence ignored. I’m not saying there is intentional lying going on, just a need to defend a position irrespective of the evidence against it and the lack of evidence for it.

Kata were most defiantly created to have direct combative applications. The evidence for that is overwhelming.

It logically impossible for something to be made up of something that it is not made of. If the kata has combative principles at its core, then what arises from those principles has to be combative.

You plant daffodil bulbs, you get daffodils. You can’t get daffodils unless they are growing from daffodil bulbs. There’s an unbreakable link. It’s the same with combative methods and principles. Combative methods arise from combative principles. Combative principles can only be enacted through combative methods. If a movement is non-combative, then it simply can’t be based on combative principles. It’s impossible.

Because it is logically impossible, presenting it as possible can’t be based on logic. That’s what I meant by “intellectual sleight of hand” i.e. trying to make the impossible seem possible.

Again, I am open to being proved wrong, but these discussions have been had many times before (both here and on other forums) and unless there is some new angle that’s not been discussed yet, I can’t see how combative principles can exist separately from combative methods. Or be more efficiently, or as efficiently, studied by preforming motions relabelled as non-combative.

 I therefore reject the notion based on logic.

GaryWado wrote:
but the "intellectual sleight of hand" is a problem on both approaches me thinks.

I would be interested to know what you feel is logically inconsistent in the bunkai based approach?

I feel it fits with what we know of kata and it clams combative principles and techniques are forever linked. We learn about combat through the direct practice and study of combative methods.

Critique is always good and if there’s a perceived flaw in my thinking it would be helpful to have that raised so that I can explain further or adjust my thinking.

Thanks once again for the input.

All the best,

Iain

PS Readers may be interested to know that a previous discussion around these issues can be found here: http://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/no-bunkai-wado-ryu-karate

GaryWado
GaryWado's picture

Hi Iain, thanks for the response,

Apologies for my brief reply - I'm on a work break at the moment, but my initial thoughts are as follows:

Iain Abernethy wrote:
When we have discussed this before I have pointed to the fact there are no “Wado kata”. Only kata.

Respectfully, I don't agree. ;).

Acknowledging the fact that said "kata" have been around for a long time before the advent of Wado - IMO Wado kata IS Wado Kata, Shito-ryu Kata is Shito-ryu kata and Shotokan Kata is Shotokan kata etc.   

To me - It's not about how they are different it's about why.

Quote:
One thing we can say, it that the approach you are putting forth is using the kata for a way in which they were never intended to be used.

From an Okinawan Karate perspective I would agree.

Quote:
GaryWado wrote:
Wado kata (gyo) is about practicing the form in order to train the body (as an exercise, using combative movements), as opposed to Okinawan Kata (kei) which is more concerned with developing the techniques found within the kata (usually this takes the form of Bunkai with an opponent, so the techniques can be realised).

So if the kata are made up of “combative movements” how can that fit with your previous statement that they were “not supposed to be used combatively”? Surely what makes a combative moment, a  combative movement is the fact it is a movement to be used in combat?

Example:  In Wado-ryu Naihanchi - we practice a 45 deg diagonal punch to the throat I think we can both agree that is a combative technique!?

However what is more important from a Wado perspective - is not (so much) the punch but how you generate the power to that punch.

I haven't got it to hand but in Ohgami's book I believe he says something along the lines of - we practice Naihanchi in order to develop short, sharp, powerful movement - in other words training the body from a physiological perspective.

Granted - the intent behind training short, sharp powerful movements is combative. Apologies if my poor wording didn't perhaps make that clear, but focusing exclusively on the punch caries the risk of missing the bigger picture.

 

Quote:
...I would rather use the kata in the way they were intended to be used rather than impose an alien methodology on them.
I respect that - Just trying to offer an explanation as to the Wado juxtaposition.

Quote:
GaryWado wrote:
To caveat this - we dont expect these skills to magically appear after years of only solo practice. As you know Iain, pretty much every traditional Wado group includes ippon, sanbon and ohyo kumte etc. To at least start the interaction.

Personally I have my reservations about the efficiently of one steps and three steps because they too have no demonstrable link to combat. There’s a “magic leap” expected there too. They have an entirely different timing, distance and feel to combat. 

I'm inclined to agree with you there as well Iain. I'm not a great lover - certainly of one steps and three steps, but personally I think they can be played with and augmented to make a little more realistc. As i mentioned in my post however I dont think the real learning starts until you get into the senior paired kata.[/quote] 

Quote:
I do think one way is better than another. Sure people can learn to fight with or without kata, but when it comes to understanding kata and making effective use of it, a bunkai based approach is far superior for the refollowing reasons:

It accurately reflects history.

It works with the kata as they were created to be used.

It teaches combative principles through the study of combative methods.

I dont disagree - but of course this is an Okinawan perspective (and I get your point that Kata originate from Okinawa) - I'm simply trying to explain why Wado - with its Japanese pedagogy towards kata based learning have a differing perspective.

Quote:
Critique is always good and if there’s a perceived flaw in my thinking it would be helpful to have that raised so that I can explain further or adjust my thinking.

As I say - sorry for the resticted reply - I will try and elaborate a bit later.

Gary

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
When we have discussed this before I have pointed to the fact there are no “Wado kata”. Only kata.

GaryWado wrote:
Respectfully, I don't agree. ;).

Acknowledging the fact that said "kata" have been around for a long time before the advent of Wado - IMO Wado kata IS Wado Kata, Shito-ryu Kata is Shito-ryu kata and Shotokan Kata is Shotokan kata etc.

To me - It's not about how they are different it's about why.

I disagree with your disagreement :-) There is no “Wado kata” or “Shotokan kata” or “Shito-Ryu kata” because we agree that the kata were around before the styles. They are not a product of the styles.

Therefore, what we have is “kata as practised by Wado”, “kata as practised by Shotokan” etc. That’s a very important distinction.

My point is that the kata were created to have direct combative function. It’s therefore not correct to say that “this kata has no direct combative application”. Instead what should be said, its “we don’t concern ourselves with the direct combative application.” Because you don’t concern yourself with it does not mean it is not there.

You are simply using the kata for an alternate purpose for which it was never intended. And that does not change what it was created for. I can uses a brick as a paperweight, but that does not mean I can say it was created to be a paperweight.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
One thing we can say, it that the approach you are putting forth is using the kata for a way in which they were never intended to be used.

GaryWado wrote:
From an Okinawan Karate perspective I would agree.

We agree that kata precede the styles. So I don’t think you can claim an alternate perspective on the original intended use.

From the “wado perspective” you are putting forth, the kata are still being used for a purpose for which they were never created. Wado did not make these kata. They were created to have direct combative function.

GaryWado wrote:
However what is more important from a Wado perspective - is not (so much) the punch but how you generate the power to that punch …

From a bunkai perspective both are important. The power is part of the combative function. Why divorce technique from context? In addition to knowing HOW to punch, we also need to know WHY (tactics) and WHEN (timing). In application these things can’t be separated, so why not keep them together in practise too.

The principles of power generation are still being studied from a bunkai perspective, but we are also studying how to actually apply that power in a realistic combative context. That in turn ensures the study of wider combative principles and concepts; not just those related to power.

GaryWado wrote:
… but focusing exclusively on the punch caries the risk of missing the bigger picture.

As in previous posts, the bunkai approach I have adopted does not stop at the technique, but uses the combative technique as an illustration of concept. So we are still looking at all elements that give rise to an effective technique. Including the physiological components … but we don’t divorce that from a combative context.

So I see this as something of an interesting contradiction? But we are dangerously close to agreeing on something in that the punch alone is not the big picture ;-)

It seems to me, that by divorcing the technique from the intended combative context and seeing it just as a physiological moment that is missing the big picture. There is no thought to the application of that punch and all the supporting components that go with it.

I think we agree that principles are more important than technique. However, I’m unsure how combative principles can be adequately learnt when we remove a motion from its combative purpose, or even state it has no direct combative purpose.

GaryWado wrote:
I'm inclined to agree with you there as well Iain. I'm not a great lover - certainly of one steps and three steps, but personally I think they can be played with and augmented to make a little more realistc. As i mentioned in my post however I don’t think the real learning starts until you get into the senior paired kata.

The bunkai approach has realism from day one, with the learning starting from day one. Is there any advantage to delaying the process?

To me, and those like me, “paired kata” is exactly that. It the solo kata done with or against someone i.e. the bunkai.

If your paired kata are not the karate kata (Pinans, Naihanhci, etc), then why have those karate kata? What is the point of doing something, from a combative perspective, which never gets directly used?

Why not make true wado kata and do your “paired kata” solo? They would be true “wado kata” and not “kata as done by wado”. They would originate from the style and would have both paired and solo versions. It would make perfect sense and all fit together nicely.

Ironically, you’d then be directly mirroring the older karate kata, but it would be better than “bolting on” the karate kata which seem to be a distraction from the “paired kata” that give rise to function from your perspective.

GaryWado wrote:
I don’t disagree - but of course this is an Okinawan perspective (and I get your point that Kata originate from Okinawa) - I'm simply trying to explain why Wado - with its Japanese pedagogy towards kata based learning have a differing perspective.

I understand and I appreciate you doing that. As I’m sure do all the readers of the thread.

What I remain uncomfortable with is the claim the kata belong to the style and hence retrospectively have no combative function. The kata precede the style and were created to have combative function. We therefore study that combative function to learn about the combative principles on which those combative methods are based. I can’t follow why we would want to ignore the combative function of the kata, and how in doing so we see an alternative route to combative principles via the kata.

GaryWado wrote:
As I say - sorry for the restricted reply - I will try and elaborate a bit later.

No problem. It all helps provide interesting and informative threads. All contributions are much appreciated.

All the best,

Iain

GaryWado
GaryWado's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

I disagree with your disagreement :-) There is no “Wado kata” or “Shotokan kata” or “Shito-Ryu kata” because we agree that the kata were around before the styles. They are not a product of the styles.

Therefore, what we have is “kata as practised by Wado”, “kata as practised by Shotokan” etc. That’s a very important distinction.

It is and one that I'm happy to agree'ish ;)

However, semantics maybe, but if there is a Kata as practiced by Wado and this differs from that of its Shito-ryu counterpart then in my mind it's a Wado Kata.

Quote:
My point is that the kata were created to have direct combative function. It’s therefore not correct to say that “this kata has no direct combative application”. Instead what should be said, its “we don’t concern ourselves with the direct combative application.” Because you don’t concern yourself with it does not mean it is not there.

You are simply using the kata for an alternate purpose for which it was never intended. And that does not change what it was created for. I can uses a brick as a paperweight, but that does not mean I can say it was created to be a paperweight.

I would say that rather than "using kata for an alternative purpose" Otsuka was using the kata in an alternative way - in order to get to the same end result.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
One thing we can say, it that the approach you are putting forth is using the kata for a way in which they were never intended to be used.

GaryWado wrote:
From an Okinawan Karate perspective I would agree.

We agree that kata precede the styles. So I don’t think you can claim an alternate perspective on the original intended use.

From the “wado perspective” you are putting forth, the kata are still being used for a purpose for which they were never created. Wado did not make these kata. They were created to have direct combative function. [/quote]

I believe that Otsuka did have a different "vision" in terms of how and why they could be utilised within his sytem.

We have discussed this before - but if you look at the length of time he spent with the likes of Funakoshi, Motobu and Mabuni etc. learning these kata (in the grand scheme of things very little) I think it's fair to say that the "applications" taught to him were fairly limited.

What he did have though was shed loads of Koryu dojo hours under his belt.

Dojo's where things were done very differently to that of the Okinawan dojo perhaps.

Quote:
GaryWado wrote:
However what is more important from a Wado perspective - is not (so much) the punch but how you generate the power to that punch …

From a bunkai perspective both are important. The power is part of the combative function. Why divorce technique from context? In addition to knowing HOW to punch, we also need to know WHY (tactics) and WHEN (timing). In application these things can’t be separated, so why not keep them together in practise too.

The principles of power generation are still being studied from a bunkai perspective, but we are also studying how to actually apply that power in a realistic combative context. That in turn ensures the study of wider combative principles and concepts; not just those related to power.

GaryWado wrote:
… but focusing exclusively on the punch caries the risk of missing the bigger picture.

As in previous posts, the bunkai approach I have adopted does not stop at the technique, but uses the combative technique as an illustration of concept. So we are still looking at all elements that give rise to an effective technique. Including the physiological components … but we don’t divorce that from a combative context.

So I see this as something of an interesting contradiction? But we are dangerously close to agreeing on something in that the punch alone is not the big picture ;-)

It seems to me, that by divorcing the technique from the intended combative context and seeing it just as a physiological moment that is missing the big picture. There is no thought to the application of that punch and all the supporting components that go with it.

I don't think they should be divorced - or at least there should be the intent there.

If you practice kenjutsu for example, hours and hours of solo kata practice is required in order to perfect the cut to condition the mind and body as it were. It is all done though with a combative mindset of intent taking into account zanshin, breathing sei-chu-sen etc etc - all combative - however no opponent.

Transpose this my anology Naihanchi and the punch to the throat - just as a swordman would quickly run out of ukes if he practiced against a live opponents - there are only so many punches to the throat - your Naihanchi training partner could take.

Quote:
If your paired kata are not the karate kata (Pinans, Naihanhci, etc), then why have those karate kata? What is the point of doing something, from a combative perspective, which never gets directly used?

Why not make true wado kata and do your “paired kata” solo? They would be true “wado kata” and not “kata as done by wado”. They would originate from the style and would have both paired and solo versions. It would make perfect sense and all fit together nicely.

Ironically, you’d then be directly mirroring the older karate kata, but it would be better than “bolting on” the karate kata which seem to be a distraction from the “paired kata” that give rise to function from your perspective.

I guess Otsuka wanted to incorporate his take on the solo kata as part of the bigger picture. I know from my own experience that practicing solo kata like Naihanchi, Chinto and Seishan has made my paired kata sharper and stronger.

Been looking for this for a while and just found it. This may go some way to explaining perhaps why Otsuka looked at kata through a different lens.

http://www.nairiki.posture-inside.com/

Regards

Gary

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Gary,

Thanks for fleshing that out. I’m still not sure that the means by which non-combative kata can effectively impart combative principles has been explained. However, I do agree that solo kata – even without an understanding of bunkai – has us moving in a combative way; so it will help improve movement. I do however feel that the lack of bunkai study makes kata a little like practising moving a paint brush without ever painting. In my four-stage apprach to kata, this would be Stage 1 and I’d personally not be happy to miss out on the rest:

1 – Learn the kata and seek to improve solo performance

2 – Learn the bunkai

3 – Identify the underlying principles of the bunkai so you can adapt and vary

4 – Gain live experience of doing it

It when you consistently do all four that kata really lives and breathes in my view.

GaryWado wrote:
We have discussed this before - but if you look at the length of time he spent with the likes of Funakoshi, Motobu and Mabuni etc. learning these kata (in the grand scheme of things very little) I think it's fair to say that the "applications" taught to him were fairly limited.

That may well be true. And if it is, we can say that he never really understood kata and is using it for a purpose for which it was never intended. He was nevertheless an incredibly talented martial artist, but his understanding of kata was weak. So maybe not a good idea to take his thoughts on kata as being definative?

He, like may others of his generation, gave little thought to bunkai and just did the kata as an exercise in movement. He’s not unique there and you see many folks, from all styles, doing the same (i.e. kata as an exercise in movement, with no thought given to bunkai).

What is unique, from your perspective, is the claim that the kata were not intended to have applications. They are undeniably there – irrespective of whether Otsuka was taught them or not – and you are choosing to ignore them in favour of an approach to kata that we agree was based on insufficient learning. That’s what I have difficulty with; especially when it is presented as an equally valid way of looking at kata. To truly understand kata, we need to seek to understand them from the viewpoint of their creators.

People can learn to fight without kata. Boxers, MMA, Judoka, Thai-Boxers do just fine without kata. There are other ways to climb that mountain. Kata bunkai is not the only route to combative efficiently. So I’ve no disagreement there. Where we part ways is on how kata should be used, if we are using it.

I apprecaite the back and forth and I feel we’ve given folks enough information to explore which way makes most sense to them. Is there anyhting you feel we've missed that you'd like to add?

Thanks for the input. Much apprecaited.

All the best,

Iain

Brodie
Brodie's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

I apprecaite the back and forth and I feel we’ve given folks enough information to explore which way makes most sense to them. Is there anyhting you feel we've missed that you'd like to add?

Thanks for the input. Much apprecaited.

There is nothing I can add of a technical nature to the debate, but I feel I must convey my thanks for the most stimulating, interesting, informative (and dare I say) humourous discussion I have read for a long time. The remark about the ice sculpture necessarily being made of ice had me wetting myself. 

We have been focussing on the Pinan system for quite a long time now, and have not really trained the bunkai for Meikyo, although we know the order. My training partner is investigating this kata as part of his studies towards his Nidan, and this thread and Andrew's seminar seem to have come along at just the right moment for us. I am so looking forward to this journey..

And seldom have I seen so many differing opinions being put forward in such a polite, yet entertaining, fashion. Thank you all.

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