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 Post subject: Kata
PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2007 10:42 pm 
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Back in the 70's and 80's I felt kata was pretty much a waste of time. And to be honest, the way it is taught across the board in the arts today, it really is a waste of time. However, beginning in the 90's I began exploring kata for its real applications i.e. bunkai. It’s been a great journey that has opened up the arts in a new and exciting way for me.

In the late 1800's to the early 1900's, Professor Anko Itosu began modifying the Chang katas for the express purpose of introducing karate to school children in Okinawa. These later became the Pinan/Heian katas. The movements primarily stayed the same, but were re-labeled into a primarily block-punch-kick format. This worked well for its intended purpose i.e. bringing the arts to young people for health benefits as well a small amount of defense training.

However, I don't think Professor Itosu envisioned adults being taught this way in a mass market venue. After Japan was defeated in WWII the bulk of Westerners as well as Koreans were taught the 'children’s' version of kata. True, some Westerners and Koreans such as GM Byung of Shito Ryu were taught the adult, 'real' version, but this was the exception rather than the rule. This is why the bulk of Tae Kwon Do for example is based on children’s karate. Only a few of the original two waves of Kwans such as the Han Moo Kwan had access to more advanced models to pattern the new art after.

As an example, take the opening movement of Pinan Shodan kata. Typically taught as a front hand parry or block with the opposite hand held high, presumably as a 'guard'. It is an improper application that isn't based on a realistic response to an attack. Bunkai is supposed to be an application in and of itself so cause damage to an attacker. Any application that doesn't 'do' something to an attacker is an incorrect application. So using the above example, a better application is a shoulder lock takedown. The principle shown in the kata demonstrates a principle of leverage that is equally applicable on the ground as well.

The opening move to Taegue Il Jang is not a downward forearm block to an attacker’s front kick. First off, you’re not even facing the attacker to see a front kick coming. Secondly, why would we want to turn into a front kick? If our timing is off, we've just bought a 'boot to the groin'. What if it is any other type of kick such as a side snap kick? Ueichi practitioners are famous for conditioning their shins; I know I did when I trained in Pang/Uechi. I'm not sure impacting a conditioned shin with our ulna which is the smallest bone in our arm is an advisable trade. A better application or 'Ho Shin Sul' is that of a low punch to the attacker, or possibly a grab while simultaneously grasping the upper body/head from behind and pulling the attacker off balance and to the ground.

It isn't an easy task to describe dynamic movements via this medium, but the point is that kata/hyung/pattern/form training doesn't have to be a class filler. It can be an in-depth method of truly learning an art. A few kata could truly be all one would need for a life time of learning and training. Each kata being in essence a complete system in its own right.

It is up to us as instructors to continue to research as much as possible to provide our students with the best possible material. Turning a class filler necessary for the next belt into a life time of meaningful training.

Just some thoughts...
:D

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David Schultz
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 4:49 am 
nice post David !!

this forum doesnt seem to be very active , I hope everyone gets in here too read it !!


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 Post subject: Re: Kata
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:28 pm 
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Taekido wrote:
As an example, take the opening movement of Pinan Shodan kata. Typically taught as a front hand parry or block with the opposite hand held high, presumably as a 'guard'. It is an improper application that isn't based on a realistic response to an attack. Bunkai is supposed to be an application in and of itself so cause damage to an attacker. Any application that doesn't 'do' something to an attacker is an incorrect application. So using the above example, a better application is a shoulder lock takedown. The principle shown in the kata demonstrates a principle of leverage that is equally applicable on the ground as well.


YES! This shoulder lock is really impressive and simple to execute (at least on an untrained person). Once you learn it, play with it a little, the "pretend" applications (my all-time "favorite" is the uppercut explanation, i.e. that we have a tai-sabaki step with an uppercut punch, i.e. almost nil power and no explanation at all for the other arm being raised). I personally think we should be expecting this kind of "yeah, that could really work" property from every kata movement and not be satisfied with our bunkai until we have that.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 5:15 am 
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Thank you all for the kind words. Unfortunately, not everyone shares a love for Kata. Many are openly hostile to the suggestion that kata are more than what is generally taught in many of today's Dojos.

In-depth evaluation of a kata should be a joy as well as a learning experience. I see far to many Karateka view it as a useless class filler to reach a new belt level. Reaching a new belt level is a thread all of its own. I find that when a well trained instructor in turn teaches true, realistic Bunkai that the 'light bulb' goes off and you can see the look of refreshed amazement on the faces of a student.

I'll generally begin by teaching the single Taekido form very slowly. I'll first teach just a few individual Bunkai/Ho Shin Sul in order (there are 20 basic movement/applications). These applications are taught at standard striking range. After a while, after they have gained proficency I'll show them the exact same movements at grappling range. They are amazed and excited at first then the scope of the whole form begins to really dawn on them.

For example, movement number one is a gross motor skill flinch/block with an open palm then a brachial plexus strike with an EOH or forearm. But it is also an escape from a clinch. It is also an escape from a choke against a wall or other inanimate object. Same movements, same applications perameters but useful in different circumstances.

This avoids having to learn endless possible 'techniques'. It requires only that a small number of principles are learned instead. This avoids information overload while under stress and allows for a smooth transition while in the O.O.D.A. loop.

Thoughts or comments.... :)

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David Schultz
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 4:37 am 
I tend to agree , I think kata as a general blueprint for efficeint gross motor mechanics and for familiarity is a very usefull mental reference .

I do agree most folks think it`s useless and most of the time they are correct in the way it`s taught .

I do think there a case of too many kata not enough application/understanding of the possibilties/realities of violence .

but one good teacher and the light bulb can go on .

i think there was a good reason the old timers had a few katas and studied them in depth rather than collecting many katas and moving on .

I`d rather have one kata to extrapoltae from and learn from in depth , than thirty patterns memorised for testing .....


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 11:32 pm 
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Quote:
I do think there a case of too many kata not enough application/understanding of the possibilties/realities of violence .

I`d rather have one kata to extrapoltae from and learn from in depth , than thirty patterns memorised for testing .....


Exactly! It seemed that the number of katas the 'old masters' knew was a very small number, often only two or three. For good reason, anymore that that would simply be spreading yourself to thin.

I look at arts like Kempo and TKD. Not meaning to comment negatively about another art, I do question the need for dozens of forms. But again, as we've mentioned, that is the way it is taught now. Nothing in-depth. Incorrect or illogical applications.

I remember Kanei Ueichi's comment that to KNOW one kata, I believe he referenced Seisan, was to know karate. That that one kata was all you'd ever need.

Sanchin kata was the first kata I ever learned, and it still has a special place in my heart. I'd like to hear/learn from others here what practical bunkai they have in this kata.

Good discussion, thanks for participating.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 7:35 pm 
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IMO looking for applications in kata is a waste of time as the only secrets in kata are what knowledge that you already have.

So just about anybody will benefit more from learning and working a variety of scenarios or even watching a video of the same, than trying to discover anything new in a tired old kata.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 12:06 am 
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Well, lets take a look at this;
Quote:
IMO looking for applications in kata is a waste of time.


One does not need to 'look' for applications, they have always been there. The same with strategies and principles. I'm not sure why it would be a waste time to learn useful applications, strategies and principles for use in real world situations. Is that not the purpose of the martial arts?

Quote:
The only secrets in kata are what knowledge that you already have.


Not true for most people. Most instructors of [pick any art] have little knowledge of the actual applications found within kata. Most have only been exposed to the watered down children's karate from Itosu. This doesn't mean they are wrong or dumb, simply that they aren't even aware that what they have been practicing was designed for school children. It has as much relation to real martial arts as a scooter to a Harley.

Quote:
So just about anybody will benefit more from learning and working a variety of scenarios or even watching a video of the same, than trying to discover anything new in a tired old kata.


I agree that scenario based training is a valuable tool. But to really run a scenario...you need other people. With a kata, you don't. It is a catalog of applications, strategies and principles that can be carried anywhere and trained in anywhere, at any time. A video requires equipment, and watching something is not the same as doing something.

As far as a 'tired old kata', well I suppose that all depends on the limitations and knowledge base of the person looking at it. Those that have only an understanding of the children's version are not going to see the value in kata. Again, this isn't a condemnation, it is simply historical fact. But to those few that have the adult understanding, kata becomes much more comprehensive and enlightening. And please don't misunderstand what I'm saying about children/adult understanding; I'm not referring to maturity, skill or knowledge. I'm referring to what they were taught.

Most people don't even know that Itosu divided karate. Heck, most people don't know who Itosu was or his contributions to the arts. But the fact is that the majority of martial artists in the world today practice the school children's version of karate. Or they have applied that knowledge base to arts other than karate style martial arts.

Are kata a waste of time? Yes, as they are commonly taught. Are they commonly taught correctly? No. This is not an indication of a kata being useless, rather it shows the limitation of many instructors level of knowledge.

Please don't take any of this as a flame, it is not meant as such.

Thoughts.... :)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 12:35 am 
I`ll flame Mike , were old freinds :D :lol: 8)

Quote:
IMO looking for applications in kata is a waste of time as the only secrets in kata are what knowledge that you already have.

So just about anybody will benefit more from learning and working a variety of scenarios or even watching a video of the same, than trying to discover anything new in a tired old kata.


absolute bollocks , If I only ever looked at kata I would agree , your never going to learn to drive a car by playing with a steering wheel .

interesting comment on the secrets , I agree , I beleive youve got to have some fundamental understanding to explore kata . But this all or nothing mentality is what got kata to there current position , blind leading the blind ....

the joy is though kata can tie all the lessons you gather together .

Ive found direct application from other styles in cross comparison is not that learning from kata ?

In fact you often realise things you werent aware off .

it all leads back to decision making and the OODA loop discussion .

kata are a waste of time if you cant explore them , or refuse too explore em , they offer answers but you need to find the questions .


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 1:19 am 
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Taekido wrote:
Well, lets take a look at this;
Quote:
IMO looking for applications in kata is a waste of time.


One does not need to 'look' for applications, they have always been there. The same with strategies and principles. I'm not sure why it would be a waste time to learn useful applications, strategies and principles for use in real world situations. Is that not the purpose of the martial arts?


It's a waste of time because the applications exists outside of kata and are readily available to learn if someone wants them. It's a waste of time to think you will discover real world applications, strategies and principles dancing around your bedroom.

Taekido wrote:
Quote:
The only secrets in kata are what knowledge that you already have.


Not true for most people. Most instructors of [pick any art] have little knowledge of the actual applications found within kata. Most have only been exposed to the watered down children's karate from Itosu. This doesn't mean they are wrong or dumb, simply that they aren't even aware that what they have been practicing was designed for school children. It has as much relation to real martial arts as a scooter to a Harley.


Read what I wrote again, "The only secrets in kata are what knowledge that you already have." I've yet to meet anyone who has "discovered an application" that didn't already have at least a basic working knowledge of the "discovered application". So a person can study the "children's kata" or highly advanced kata and they'll be just as clueless to possible working applications if they don't already know how to make the technique work. You get from kata what you bring to it. Also careful using the "real martial arts" argument around here. There are a few people that check in from time to time that really do know the difference.

Taekido wrote:
Quote:
So just about anybody will benefit more from learning and working a variety of scenarios or even watching a video of the same, than trying to discover anything new in a tired old kata.


I agree that scenario based training is a valuable tool. But to really run a scenario...you need other people. With a kata, you don't. It is a catalog of applications, strategies and principles that can be carried anywhere and trained in anywhere, at any time. A video requires equipment, and watching something is not the same as doing something.


Kata is not the same as actually doing something. Hell, even scenario training isn't actually doing the real thing but it's closer than a kata will ever be.

Taekido wrote:
As far as a 'tired old kata', well I suppose that all depends on the limitations and knowledge base of the person looking at it. Those that have only an understanding of the children's version are not going to see the value in kata. Again, this isn't a condemnation, it is simply historical fact. But to those few that have the adult understanding, kata becomes much more comprehensive and enlightening. And please don't misunderstand what I'm saying about children/adult understanding; I'm not referring to maturity, skill or knowledge. I'm referring to what they were taught.


What fact? That many of those teaching bunkai are clueless to what makes a working application, and the guys who do know didn't learn those applications doing kata in their bedrooms waiting for enlightenment? You can buy any number of books and videos, or attend seminars by people that have already picked apart most of the kata out there. It's been done and the kata have given up their best secrets.

Taekido wrote:
Most people don't even know that Itosu divided karate. Heck, most people don't know who Itosu was or his contributions to the arts. But the fact is that the majority of martial artists in the world today practice the school children's version of karate. Or they have applied that knowledge base to arts other than karate style martial arts.


Who cares what Itosu did, he's dead anyway and no longer contributing to the conversation. I can pick descent apps out of any of the heians or pinans. Hell, I can even come up with descent apps for some of the broken TKD kata such as chon ji, and do san. It has nothing to do with what kata you do but with what you know and if you can make up something good to fit the movements. True fact, a friend of mine came up with some excellent bunkai for movements of the Texas Two Step.

Taekido wrote:
Are kata a waste of time? Yes, as they are commonly taught. Are they commonly taught correctly? No. This is not an indication of a kata being useless, rather it shows the limitation of many instructors level of knowledge.

Please don't take any of this as a flame, it is not meant as such.

Thoughts.... :)


Once again read what I wrote, " looking for applications in kata is a waste of time as the only secrets in kata are what knowledge that you already have."
You won't ever discover anything in a kata that you don't learn outside of the kata. You won't learn how to do a proper joint lock from a kata, you won't learn how to target a strike from a kata, you won't learn how to move around someone from a kata, you won't learn how to read an opponent from a kata, you won't learn how to improvise something after you sure fire technique goes to hell. You learn these things by surrounding yourself with people who know how to do these thing, learning from them and practicing with good training partners.

Actually I could care less if it's a flame or not, I just believe that a good bit of the bunkai trend is just one more distraction retarding karateka from actually learning something. And yes, I am being intentionally redundant.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 1:54 am 
Quote:
You won't ever discover anything in a kata that you don't learn outside of the kata.


:lol:

I certainly have

Dont confuse doing the dance , with isolating the moves and practicing applications , thats working kata too , it`s a memonic tool , that can just happen to also be used for practicing mechanics/principles of movment and point of reference .

theres no magic in kata , but there is a great learning tool/resource .

you can do without it also , but what if you stripped away the opponent and practiced the motions , and maybe strung them together to remember them all .....

reverse the process !!


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 2:19 am 
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You'd still have started with an opponent and working the applications against him, and that's not the same as trying to read the kata tea leaves to guess what's happening in the dance.The argument isn't that kata is good for nothing, the argument is that it's not good for learning new applications or how to perform them properly.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 2:56 am 
Quote:
You'd still have started with an opponent and working the applications against him,


no I would of started with a habitual act of physical violence , then search the kata(and yes any prelearned informed knowledge) , then the partner of course !!

Quote:
the argument is that it's not good for learning new applications or how to perform them properly.


I do find new applications and practising them on someone is of course he only way to test them . But it`s exploration of kata often in my case , I dont emotionally seperate application from the solo re-inactment .

I come back to what kata is , is it a playground , or is it a sacred dance ....

you must introduce an opponent , but why is it no longer kata training then ?

It IMHO is because most folks are doing kiddy karate and kata is not what you spend the night on , it`s an also , that not often reflected in the rest of there training . Kata being two man work , pressure testing , and application .

when you do this class is a totally different beast , but it`s still kata and karate .

in that context how can kata teach you nothing ?

if all you do is forms without an opponent , that is a totally different premise , and Id agree , pretty tricky without ntroducing an opponent


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 2:56 am 
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A spirited discussion :D

Quote:
It's a waste of time because the applications exists outside of kata and are readily available to learn if someone wants them. It's a waste of time to think you will discover real world applications, strategies and principles dancing around your bedroom.


Hmmm, perhaps dancing around in your bedroom is how you view kata. If this is the extent of your knowledge in this particular area then I can understand why you feel the way you do. Unfortunately, this is a modernistic view of kata and one that is self-limiting.

It is never a waste of time to have an understanding of a training devise that teaches not only applications, but as I mentioned, strategies and more importantly, principles. Kata were...and are a means of transmission of these necessary tools to those that have yet to learn them. Do other means of transmission exist? Yes, but I don't feel any of them are superior to kata.

One can form an entire foundation of practical applications, tactics, strategies and principles on just a single kata. Perhaps two or three. One can them hone the skills that are best suited to their particular talents from the various bunkai from said kata.



Quote:
a person can study the "children's kata" or highly advanced kata and they'll be just as clueless to possible working applications if they don't already know how to make the technique work. You get from kata what you bring to it.


Or...one can learn from a kata working applications. That is their purpose, to be a teaching tool to transmit such knowledge to the next generation of student. One need not be an expert to learn proper applications, tactics, strategies and principles from a kata...provided they have a teacher that knows them and can properly teach them. The kata can be practiced alone when someone else isn't available. Hence solidifying skills by rote and being a benefit as far as the O.O.D.A loop is concerned. That in and of itself is invaluable.

Quote:
Kata is not the same as actually doing something. Hell, even scenario training isn't actually doing the real thing but it's closer than a kata will ever be.


This doesn't make sense. You can easily take an application, tactic, strategy or principle from a bunkai and turn it into a scenario based training aid. That is what a bunkai is after all, unless someone is training it incorrectly.

Quote:
What fact? That many of those teaching bunkai are clueless to what makes a working application, and the guys who do know didn't learn those applications doing kata in their bedrooms waiting for enlightenment?


Umm...ok. Your probably right. I would imagine they learned those applications studying kata and then breaking it down into its bunkai and using it as intended against a resisting opponent. And since the bunkai in most kata are the best applications, tactics, strategies and principles that were learned against violent, resisting attackers that were/are available...kata can be and are a wealth of information.

Quote:
Who cares what Itosu did


I find that knowledge of history has sharpened my martial skills tremendously.

Quote:
You won't ever discover anything in a kata that you don't learn outside of the kata.


This is a blanket statement that has no basis in reality. You cannot possibly speak for others. And to say that you cannot discover anything implies that you are the bastion of martial knowledge and can't be taught anything. I've never met anyone like that...ever. I've been in the arts for 32 years and feel I can learn many things from various avenues. Be it a kata, an seminar, research or a conversation with a novice.

Quote:
You won't learn how to do a proper joint lock from a kata, you won't learn how to target a strike from a kata, you won't learn how to move around someone from a kata, you won't learn how to read an opponent from a kata, you won't learn how to improvise something after you sure fire technique goes to hell.


Actually you will learn all of this and more from proper kata training. Providing you've had proper instruction. Everything you've mentions above, plus much more you didn't mention is the sole purpose for kata and the very reason for its existence.

Quote:
Actually I could care less if it's a flame or not


Why not? I would think it important to know whether someone is just trying to stir the pot or if they are sincerely interested in a honest, in-depth conversation with another martial artist.

Quote:
Also careful using the "real martial arts" argument around here. There are a few people that check in from time to time that really do know the difference.


Excellent...and now there is one more. I'm all for being humble but I'll be happy to place my credentials against anyone. I don't mean that as chest thumping or back patting. Rather, I know where I've come from, what I know, who I've learned from and who and how many I've taught. I know what I've done with what I've learned and what those I've taught have be able to do.

And it sure as hell wasn't winning a trinket.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 3:16 am 
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Quote:
It is never a waste of time to have an understanding of a training devise that teaches not only applications, but as I mentioned, strategies and more importantly, principles. Kata were...and are a means of transmission of these necessary tools to those that have yet to learn them. Do other means of transmission exist? Yes, but I don't feel any of them are superior to kata.


Really? So actually working a techniques against a resisting opponent is on the same level as doing a kata? That's like saying masturbation and sex are on the same level.


Quote:
This doesn't make sense. You can easily take an application, tactic, strategy or principle from a bunkai and turn it into a scenario based training aid. That is what a bunkai is after all, unless someone is training it incorrectly.


Could you please give an example? I'm only familiar with most of the kata of Shotokan, ITF TKD, Uechi-ryu, Isshinryu so if you could pick from one of those I'd appreciate it.

Quote:
Excellent...and now there is one more. I'm all for being humble but I'll be happy to place my credentials against anyone. I don't mean that as chest thumping or back patting. Rather, I know where I've come from, what I know, who I've learned from and who and how many I've taught. I know what I've done with what I've learned and what those I've taught have be able to do.

And it sure as hell wasn't winning a trinket.


Forgive me then David, I didn't know. Care to share your background?

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Last edited by MikeK on Tue Aug 07, 2007 3:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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