Friday, October 16, 2009

Kata - 4 or 8 opponents, myth or legend

Kata is the library that catalogues techniques

My thoughts on kata and facing 4 or 8 opponents (myth, legend or alot of nonsense).

I have never read anywhere in Funakoshi's writing that when you practice kata you are suppose to be fighting 4  or 8 people.

"karate, to the very end should be practiced with kata as the principle method and sparring as a supporting method". Gichin Funakoshi

Maybe a better way of looking at it is, any sequence before you turn to face in another direction could be a combination that has multiple applications, the success of the combination will depend on the first application being successful.

For example first two movements of heian shodan, gedan barai followed by oizuki, could be a block followed by a punch then again it could be that your tripping someone over your legs (stance) by pushing them over with your gedan barai and when he hits the ground you follow up with a strike then again it could be that your breaking a wrist lock with gedan barai and then the punch, well you get the idea etc etc there can be a variety of applications as long as they work under pressure.

The first two techniques of heian shodan when being drilled with a non complaint partner will have many variations, it doesn't always need to be an oizuki, depending upon distance and the circumstances the oizuki could turn into a hook, an upper cut a straight right an elbow etc etc, the gedan barai doesn't necessarily have to push out it could pull in go higher lower as the case demands.

Kata is a valuable tool in learning self defence for the real world, but to make kata work for you first you must have some idea of how to use it to enhance your skills under pressure and self defence capabilities.

Solo performance of kata is a great aerobic workout and may build solid basic technique but the solo performance on its own will never give you the required skills for self defence.

Is it an augmented block or a throw

           Bunkai one        or turned into          Bunkai two

If we have a look at the simplest of kata heian shodan (9th kyu) level,

Heian shodan you start of facing forwards and then the first movement is to turn 90 degrees to your left side with a gedan barai (downward block) and then step through with oizuki (stepping punch) then you turn 180 degrees to the back (right side if you were still facing forward) and again execute gedan barai, leg sweep and hammer fist then oitsuki.

The common explanation to these movements is that you have intercepted and dispatched someone to your left and then proceed to do the same to another opponent from your rear and so on and so forth all through the kata, in the end intecepting and dispatching 4 or 8 people depending on which kata you are doing.

Well we all know this cannot be so, it would be hard enough to fight one person let alone 4 or 8 people, i have also heard of this concept in arts like bagua and even tai chi but stand to be corrected here, there are many reasons why they have been taught this way.

But i think the best reason i have heard is that when karate was new to the western world back in the 40's 50's 60's, Nakayama sensei didn't want to show true bunkai oyo applications to westerners because when your doing oyo in particular the principles of the kata are there but the techniques aren't executed in the pristine state, that is like basics (kihon), you can't even tell that its karate in most cases, looks more like drills from an Reality based self defense (RBSD) seminar.

His (Nakayama's) fear was that because westerners tend to run wild with ideas, that they would abandon practicing basics and start practicing the techniques in their shortened version like in RBSD seminars, that is no long stances and withdrawal of the arm to the hip etc etc.

He thought that many westerners would say well why practice like this and execute like that, which i think he guessed right, now i think in karate there is a place for both ways, and imo if you can do the basics (kihon) you will have better understanding of how to execute the oyo applications in the shortened version when you do them under pressure with a non complaint partner.

An athlete who only ever practices the shorter version of the techniques in their discipline (what ever they are) will not appreciate the principles and fundamentals of their basic techniques at all in my opinion, they will also be missing out on many important points in the how and why for execution, in the end if principles and fundamentals are missing the athlete is only mimicking.

Then again maybe the Okinawan karate masters didn't reveal what we call kata bunkai and oyo applications today to the Japanese on the mainland, and the Japanese masters only ever learnt the kickboxing side to karate.

Anyway i'm getting a bit side tracked here with explaining why they have been presented in this manner.

The true meaning of kata is imo that kata only ever deal with one opponent, the kata are a compilation of techniques that have worked in real life situations and have been documented and catalogued in kata, the principles within the kata still apply and should be followed.

As i said earlier you can treat the sequences as combinations that are ever only dealing with one person not many, every time you turn your starting another sequence treat it as a new combination with new strategy and tactics.

The kata are there as a record and alphabet which the karateka if he wants to can extract a technique and make it work for them, that is isolate it drill get good at it etc etc.

As an example lets look at the first technique in heian shodan, usually explained as a block against a front kick.

But this doesn't make sense, would you turn to the left side and into a front kick coming from that side and then step in towards it multiplying the force that you will be hit with if your block fails?, and even if your block is successful on the street if they are wearing shoes its still going to do damage to your arm, this doesn't make sense.

The techniques and or combinations of kata in my opinion are presented in this fashion so they can be isolated trained under pressure and when some sort of competence and efficiency has been reached for self defence situations.

The kata are not shown in this fashion so that we may try to use these techniques in a real fight in accordance with the sequentially order of the kata, how stupid would that be and which living athlete on planet earth could accomplish such a feat, rather the techniques are catalogued in the library known as kata and are there to be practiced and used in a logical and effective way.

Isolating and applying individual kata techniques and using sequences in the kata as combinations against one non complaint partner is in my opinion what they are all about, the kata is only dealing with one opponent not 4 or 8 as the myths suggest.

So there is my argument that the myth that we are fighting 4 or 8 people is FALSE.