On the existence of Impish Perversity or perhaps Fineagle’s Law of Infinite Perversity.
This is a theoretical study concerning how we know what the purpose of an arts training is and could be. It is not meant to explain why arts to what they do. Just have some fun with the ‘What If’s of life.
To begin let’s go back to the open tournaments I attended in the 70’s and 80’s in the Pennsylvania area (including New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware also). The first thing was to realize those competitors who had something were all practicing systems you knew nothing about. What and how they trained, in addition to their tournament performances, was only through inference. Their systems might have been vastly more complex. You did not know what they had from those tournament performances.
Take kata, in those days there weren’t the books which latter documented their training in part. Some kata (such as Kururunfa and Superimpe) were just not available to see. (Yes, there was life before YouTube.).
Other practices such as application of kata techniques were not shown except in demonstrations.
In a very real sense, the biggest advantage they had was you didn’t know what they had to use, nor did they know what you had to use. The most you had to go on were their performances, perhaps some study in what appeared to be similar systems, and what you had read, which meant effectively you didn’t know what they were.
Of course sometimes what you saw was all they had, but then other times what you saw was misdirection.
That there are many layers of intentional misdirection within Karate (and other arts) is what we are going to look at. That so many choose not to see them is the possible brilliance they possess.
I. The Literature
Under no circumstances show there are many things revealed in the writings of Funakoshi, Motobu. Mabuni, Mutsu or Nakasone. Certainly don’t look at what Mabuni (Mabuni uses the term "bunkai setsumei" or "breakdown/apart and explanation" M. McKenna)., Murakami, What Mutso Mizo shows, Shirmao Shimpan’s explanation of kata technique usage, or the writings of Itoman, the collected sayings of Miyagi or Kyan, or even section from the Bubishi like ‘Escapes or Evasions’. The fact they were saved or written is of no consequence. No one will take the time to read and seriously study what they reveal.
II. The development of modern bunkai
Ne sure many will not consider the development of modern kata technique application study could have a reasoned purpose. Allow them to think that the step in and punch application studies have on meaning. It matters little that many do not go beyond those beginners studies (and by beginners that may well be at any belt level.
Ignore there are other layers of drills, just infrequently viewed.
The initial reason for those drills consist of:
1. Building the spirit of a defender against a static attack.
2. Learning how to enter the space presented and control it with a variety of responses.
3. Ignore the likely very real concern of Okinawan karate-ka. Not of someone striking to their chest or even their face, but someone initiating a grab, and then thrusting a knife with their other hand. Okinawa on the most was a rather quiet place, but there might be a credible threat from visiting sailors. One gained from experience. And working against a punch is the same angle a grab would come from. The punch allowing you to train against a faster attack allowing you to build your speed. Of course at advancing levels requiring different ranges, and a variety of responses at different speeds too.
The imp likes to hide things in plain sight.
III. The use of misdirection that Sanchin has no application use.
Something really clever to consider is the idea that Sanchin kata is not to be used for application. The idea that it is only used for physical development.
In this case the Imp may well have bulled the wool over evertone’s eyes. Tell something long enough and you have everyone believing it.
Of course the kata is used for physical development. Begin with a verifiable true statement, and continue the thought with a diversion.
1. Ignore the techniques are used in various other kata. In that context they are simply techniques to use.
2. Ignore the underlying principles provide a dynamic defensive theme against any attack.
3. Make sure almost all students believe this is true. This provides an edge for the seniors who you really want to know this is not the case.
4. Never show this.
The Imp would really like this one. Ignore that Uechi Ryu does not practice that this is the case. Of course Uechi Ryu didn’t move to Okinawa proper until 1948.
IV. The reality some arts hide their true nature because the decades of practice they require to learn.
Many feel the art should be able to use instantly. Or as soon as you learn the movement. That is not necessarily the case. There are sections of kata which require years and decades to develop the correct power and knowledge to insert the movement section into an attack. This occurs with many arts, Okinawan and others. In some cases the movement meanings are not shown because the student hasn’t trained hard and long enough to use it. There are skills which are not simple to acquire. If you aren’t willing to pay the price of time, you aren’t going to receive it. And many times I don’t think this is explained intentionally. As much as not to bother your efforts from training on the movement, as a sort of advanced test to see if you deserve that understanding.
IV. That many misunderstand that there is a reason some instructor’s included Kobudo training.
For the most part Okinawan Kobudo developed separately from Okinawan Karate. In the modern era (say post 1950) some system did include some of this training. For many of these groups, their inclusion was not the same level of training as in the Kobudo groups. This has led many to begin or include training in various kobudo schools.
Of itself, if there is infinite time, this isn’t necessarily bad. However there comes a point where there is not infinite time, and such a curriculum might be at the expense of the one system.
I think the Imp had a lot to do with this.
Kobudo was not included because one needed these skills for self defense. The weapons are archaic, if carried around for defense, they could make one face their own legal challenges.
I believe these kata were included not for weapons training, but to:
1. Provide subsidiary strength training, by using the weapons to develop the power and grip strength and dexterity for use in empty hand applications.
2. Used this manner it is something requiring decades to practice to build these skills.
3. A variety of weapons, each building different skills is useful, but even one kata study would yield results (Consider Kyan only including one bo kata. Not to say he didn’t include training in other weapons, but it seems not in kata format.)
4. Having students study some weapons kata, becomes a plus for the instructor. The weapons extend the line of sight for each movement, making it easier to see mistakes. Corrections in the kobudo forms, then extend to the kata technique.
So consider that it might be Impish behavior behind directing the purpose of various details of training. That same misdirection applies to kumite, in the original meaning. But more for another time.