Evolution vs. Revolution:
While only a guppie on the JD chart, it has never stopped me from giving my opinion before, so here it is.
First let me take this a step farther:
EVOLUTION VS. REVOLUTION VS. DE-EVOLUTION VS. RE-EVOLUTION
What is Uechi Ryu and where did it come from? It is a style evolved in China from Tiger, Dragon and Crane, or maybe Tiger/Crane, or maybe Tiger/Crane/Mantis or maybe Tiger/Crane/Cobra or Tiger/Crane/Dragon/Cobra/Mantis, or Hungar or Five Ancestors or a Haka system, or maybe who the heck knows.
What we do know is that someone, or some people, combined or extracted, or created, three kata (minimum) Sanchin, Seisan and Sanseirui, and one exercise Kotakitia.
We know this because this is what left China to Okinawa. There might be another kata, there might not - who knows. Heck, if Uechi Ryu was a synthesis of a few styles there might be many more related kata.
Regardless, the essence of the system is in these three kata and that conditioning exercise. But, if we take an optimistic view, Uechi Ryu was in the beginning an evolution of the systems that it was drawn from.
Since it went to Okinawa there have been five other katas created and a number of bunkai and kumites have come and some have gone, and some have stayed but changed, as the style continued to evolved.
So, one can say that there is a history or precedent for Uechi Ryu evolving. You might even say that is the tradition.
Evolution guards against de-evolution. Hmmm. Evolution is the seeking of a stronger path. By constantly seeking better ways it should result in a stronger system. We may occasionally go down the wrong path and the dinosaur will have to be abandoned but we will understand that is NOT the way to go. If a principle is lost, then the search for a stronger path may lead us back to it, or to a new but improved way
If someone were to look at a Taiji master performing a positive circle and then try to perform it, the result would probably be a large ARM movement because that is what they SAW. If they work hard at improving the use of that circle, as opposed to blindly following what they thought they saw, they may discover that it works far better by using the body (not the arms) to do the circle. Is it an evolution? If they now went back and watched that Taiji master doing the positive circle, they probably will see that he was doing it with the body the whole time. Evolution? Or simply stopping de-evolution -- a re-evolution.
If you watch a Uechi Ryu circle block being performed, what do you see? I was told a story that they once attached lights all over Master Uechi, then filmed him in the dark. When he did his circle blocks his elbows only came very slightly out of Sanchin (yet his arm performed a full block). Yet when I first tried this I found it impossible, I was doing the circle block with what I saw - arms. In working with it I found that using the body makes a much stronger bock and the arms are used only as an attachment (or an addition) to the real circle. (In fact there are circles all the way from the feet to the hand.) By doing this the elbow moves far less out of Sanchin, because Sanchin is moving. An evolution, or did I just finally get it?
The other thing that happens as a real master evolves is that everything becomes smaller and more internal. Therefore the more chance that what is observed is not what is really happening. Only the superficial movements are being picked up.
So in regard to the big picture - should Uechi Ryu evolve, I say of course. It is the only thing that will keep pace with the past and takes us into the future.
So who gets to evolve? Some people talk about others changing kata and how that is wrong if you are a true traditionalist. Well, generally I have kept the gross movement as my teacher, David Mott, does them. Since David accepted me as a student, I certainly have altered moves within the kata from what I was doing previously. Many of these changes are the result of interpretation differences. Some of them have taken me back to the gross movements I see in the videos of Master Uechi, which are often seem more complex. Are they better? For "myself" I think they contain more principles and therefore I prefer them. I also make great use of him as a guide in my search for evolution. But in my search I do indeed work at the internal mechanism of each movement in the kata to make it more effective.
I began this search by working Saturday mornings with some black belt friends striking each other. As we pounded on each other we found that certain ways of hitting had far more effect than others. There was no question as the proof was very evident and could be physically demonstrated.
I had also been told that the basis of what we do is contained within our kata. Work on your kata and you are working on the essence of what we do. The only problem (FOR ME) was that I was not performing the moves of the kata with the same body mechanics that I was using to far more effectiveness on Saturday mornings. So, I began to alter HOW I performed the mechanics of the movements to include what I knew to be essential effective body mechanics. Is this evolution or revolution or re-evolution? If kata is to contain the essence of our principles then it MUST fit what we do. If we continue to seek and learn then we will find the right path.
Am I a level to decide to do a circle block with strong body mechanics over simple arm movement - don't care, I'm going to do it anyway because it works better and if I find something else even more effective then I alter it again. Is this arrogant, to some I am sure it is. Sorry if this is coming off too strong, but, I am not in this for them, I am in this to make myself as effective in self defence as possible. And if that means I am going to be doing something different, then so be it.