Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Kata Study for Life, a personal journey

Me in 1984

When you look at your karate practice as a lifelong activity and begin to think about training over decades, it helps to realize change is the only true constant.
At different times kata practice comes to mean different things.
There is first leaning the kata.
There is intense practice for a specific goal.
There is listening to your body and training based on what you hear.
There is sharing what you have learned and developing your own vocabulary to do so.
Realizing training leading up to competition requites one focus, and maintenance training within competition periods means something else.
Effective utilization of kata technique is very different from practice. There is no true anticipation of what will be the attack, Long term training can vary methods, and learning how changes in performance fit into the attack.
Hard repetition, soft practice, breaking the kata into training components with varying components, training in water, training at night, training in rain, training in snow, training on ice, etc. All allowing your performance to change to the conditions.
The selection of training varying day by day, as our lives move along day by day.
Now doing kata soft (which can be valuable) is NOT tai chi utilization. Tai Chi is a useful training method. It can allow you to explore softness in different ways from doing kata soft. It allows you to learn a new method to develop a sense of the circular motions found in karate.
However it is not a self study process. Regardless of method, the first thing is a knowledgeable instructor to teach the art correctly. Myself I started studying Yang style in 1979 and quickly realized being a black belt in Isshinryu meant nothing as far as tai chi was concerned. Even in slow motion, I discovered new ways to injure myself, new ways to use my body.
I was only interested in doing tai chi. I was not looking to change my karate.
But it became a full time study too. One of many. As I got deeper into the practice, I found the training in conflict with my karate. My solution was to vary the training at that time on the day.One day karate, one day tai chi.
One thing you come to realize it isn’t that you have to do the same thing every day to have good practice. What matters is you attempt to have good practice when you do train.
In time you learn do adapt to the differences, and to give both credit, keep them separate.
Tai Chi does have an impact on your karate over the decades. But in subtle ways. There is an intersection where a karate technique enjoys the feather touch with the tai chi motion, and that touch increases the movement. But it is difficult to explain, you have to feel it, and the personal knowledge it is useful is not necessarily seen by  others.
My karate students do not study tai chi, nor do I encourage it. There must be a personal reason for the training.
Embrace life, make your kata become alive, flowing into each day.

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