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jckhoury
jckhoury's picture
Kata per body type, age, and ability

I was reading about the history of karate and read that Kanryo Higoanna would teach each of his student Sanchin and one or two additonal katas based on their body type, experience and age. 

Has anyone come across further information on this.  Is there any available informaiton as to which katas are more suitable to certain body types etc..

thanks

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi,

jckhoury wrote:
Is there any available information as to which katas are more suitable to certain body types etc.

I think that’s now a largely debunked idea. Funakoshi seems to have been the primary sources of this myth:  

“Formerly, the two Chinese schools of boxing were associated with two Okinawan Schools, Shorin-ryü and Shorei-ryu, but what precise relationship existed among them is, of course, long lost in the mists of time … What we do know is that the techniques of the Shorei School were best suited to a person with a large body, while Shorin techniques suite people with a smaller frame and less strength. Both schools had their advantages and disadvantages.” – Gichin Funakoshi, Karate-Do My Way of Life.

This view was challanged by his contemporaries. For example:

“Currently there are many theories about karate styles, yet none have been corroborated by historical investigation. Like fumbling in the dark, most theories are only vague suppositions. The most accepted hypothesis describes the Shaolin and the Shorei styles. The former, it is said, best suits those who are of stout frame, while the Shorei style best accommodates those with smaller frames, or who are thin and lack physical strength. However, after considering this from various perspectives it remains obvious that this evaluation is unquestionably false." - Chojun Miyagi, Karate-do Gaisetsu.

The idea was also challenged by Kenwa Mabuni and Ganwa Nakasone in “Kobo Kenpo Karatedo Nyumon”. However, I don’t have that one to hand in order to provide a direct quote.

It’s very likely that training was adapted to body type (as it should be today too), but common principles remain and there’s noting to support the idea that certain kata were prescribed to those of a certain frame; other than Funakoshi’s challenged assertion.

All the best,

Iain

colby
colby's picture
Iain Abernethy wrote:

Hi,

jckhoury wrote:
Is there any available information as to which katas are more suitable to certain body types etc.

I think that’s now a largely debunked idea. Funakoshi seems to have been the primary sources of this myth:  

“Formerly, the two Chinese schools of boxing were associated with two Okinawan Schools, Shorin-ryü and Shorei-ryu, but what precise relationship existed among them is, of course, long lost in the mists of time … What we do know is that the techniques of the Shorei School were best suited to a person with a large body, while Shorin techniques suite people with a smaller frame and less strength. Both schools had their advantages and disadvantages.” – Gichin Funakoshi, Karate-Do My Way of Life.

This view was challanged by his contemporaries. For example:

“Currently there are many theories about karate styles, yet none have been corroborated by historical investigation. Like fumbling in the dark, most theories are only vague suppositions. The most accepted hypothesis describes the Shaolin and the Shorei styles. The former, it is said, best suits those who are of stout frame, while the Shorei style best accommodates those with smaller frames, or who are thin and lack physical strength. However, after considering this from various perspectives it remains obvious that this evaluation is unquestionably false." - Chojun Miyagi, Karate-do Gaisetsu.

The idea was also challenged by Kenwa Mabuni and Ganwa Nakasone in “Kobo Kenpo Karatedo Nyumon”. However, I don’t have that one to hand in order to provide a direct quote.

It’s very likely that training was adapted to body type (as it should be today too), but common principles remain and there’s noting to support the idea that certain kata were prescribed to those of a certain frame; other than Funakoshi’s challenged assertion.

All the best,

Iain

Hey Iain, would you say it's more about the individual qnd what principles in the kata they connect with more instead of matching kata to specific body types? And would your judo story of your teacher giving you a different throw to work on instead of the one you were trying to learn also apply here?
Zach Zinn
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I've heard this story and have often wondered if there's simply an element of missed nuance here. Generally people -do- gravitate towards certain types of combative movements based both on body type, predilection and ability.

So while it's silly to mention an instructor deciding to teach certain Kata based fully on a students body type, it is not strange at all that an instructor would help his or her students decide which katas fit their own bodies and prefences best. In fact it's somewhat vital that when we study a kata and it's combative applications that it become almost second nature at the "advanced" level (without getting into what that means at this time). Generally it makes sense that this is more easily accomplished by studying those Kata which feel more "natural" to us - those should be first for deep study.

So I have always felt his particular story is being glossed in a way that causes a total misinterpretation of it's meaning. No good instructor would assume that body type or demographics alone is sufficient a reason to have a student focus on a particular Kata and unless we were talking about teaching children, I don't think the decision would be made that autocratically either, even in a more traditional Asian Martial arts context.

So basically this story means "Kanryo Hiagonna would teach his students as individuals"- something which a good Karate instructor (when it's taught as a combative art) is already doing. The story perhaps filtered through the beginnings of Japanese importation of Karate- in which large groups are -not- neccessarily being taught individual combative skill, and it somehow takes on a mystic quality that was never there.