Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don't Change Kata


A long, long time ago, when I was young in the ways of the world (as a brown belt in 1978) my instructor, Charles Murray, told me “the first 20 years your art is a reflection of your instructor, and after 20 years your art is a reflection of you.”  I have found there is much truth in that sentence.

 

 

The question is can one delete a kata from your instruction, keeping in mind the adage “Do not change the system or kata”.

 

 

For simplicity consider the modern aspect where many change what they are teaching and/or rebrand it for their convenience, ad infinitum.

 

 

In the past (no matter how you define it) it is obvious teaching curricula underwent many changes as the instructors kept working on a better methodology for them. Of course in those days it was not open instruction, rather private sharing.

 

 

I am sure that adage is older than public instruction, but as karate became systematized instruction, that probably became more evident adage repeated many time.

 

 

Yet systems continued to spring into existence, and often the kata taught grew in number, though there must have been instances where some were dropped.

 

I might offer a suggestion, the intent might have been for the student, kata should not be changed. On the other hand that did not mean for the senior instructor things could not change, No longer a student, with a lifetime of experiences, it is only natural that they would apply their insight to what they taught. And also reminding students not to change anything. Which did not apply to them. LOL>

 

 

Everyone of us have pondered these issues. In my case the Isshinryu I was taught consisted of 8 empty hand kata, and 6 kobudo kata, which I had in 1979.

 

 

On the other hand I was alone and worked to train anyplace I could, gravitating to those instructors who had more to teach.  Whenever I was attending a class where something was taught, I just did my best to remember it. Along the way I studied several hundred forms from many systems. As incredible as it sounds I know instructors whose studies made my feeble attempts pale, having studied in excess of 400 Chinese forms.

 

You realize along the way it is impossible to grasp everything. Even more humbling you finally realize you cannot share everything, Almost no one has that much time.

 

 

I did not change what was Isshinryu for my students, however there are some other studies to allow them to have a taste of other systems and also allow nobody to realize what their studies consist of.

 

 

So if your growth reaches the point that a different way presents itself to you, then perhaps the time is ripe to follow that way.

 

 

Of course also admonish your students “Do not change the kata.”

 

 

Then you are preserving the tradition.






Everyone of us have pondered these issues. In my case the Isshinryu I was taught consisted of 8 empty hand kata, and 6 kobudo kata, which I had in 1979.

 

 

On the other hand I was alone and worked to train anyplace I could, gravitating to those instructors who had more to teach.  Whenever I was attending a class where something was taught, I just did my best to remember it. Along the way I studied several hundred forms from many systems. As incredible as it sounds I know instructors whose studies made my feeble attempts pale, having studied in excess of 400 Chinese forms.

 

You realize along the way it is impossible to grasp everything. Even more humbling you finally realize you cannot share everything, Almost no one has that much time.

 

 

I did not change what was Isshinryu for my students, however there are some other studies to allow them to have a taste of other systems and also allow nobody to realize what their studies consist of.

 

 

So if your growth reaches the point that a different way presents itself to you, then perhaps the time is ripe to follow that way.

 

 

Of course also admonish your students “Do not change the kata.”

 

 

Then you are preserving the tradition.

 

 

 

I had never wanted to be an instructor, obtain rank, or even learn more kata. Those things all just happened because I could not stop doing karate. Rank was whatever my instructors wanted my rank to be. I had the Isshinryu system shoved down me by 1979, my instructor’s version) and that was enough for me.

 

But one thing that was made clear to me was that a black belt didn’t say I can’t. And as I found places and people to train with, whatever they were sharing I just did my best to learn and practice. So things started to pile up. Some of it was different versions of kata I knew, from different systems.

 

On a different mission I did seek our tai chi instruction, I had a long separate interest, and it was totally happenstance that I studied with Ernie Rothrock. As time passed I approached him about learning some kung fu forms to judge them more fairly. I believe he was amused at a karate guy caring about learning and he began a different trip covering about material from 6 of so systems, Not to become an expert, just knowledgeable.

 

Almost at the same time I started competing against Tristan Sutrisno, and we became friends. When offered an invitation to come and train, I went and learned a 1930 version of Shotoran, Aikido, Kobudo and Indonesian Tjimande which he practiced.

 

And at that time I was a true karate gypsy, Goju, Wado, Shorin, Bando were all systems I explored.

 

No doubt it was too much to retain. As time passed I had to put a lot of it aside, focusing more on my responsibility as an instructor.

 

So I learned a little, too little. But the challenge remained how to better use what I understood.

 

A frequent claim is that things were better when there were fewer kata studies. Which also ignores many, many instructors made choices to increase the studies ever before the contemporary era.

 

So lets think about going backwards.

 

Was not one kata enough. Or even more minimalist just one movement. One movement to learn how to enter any attack movement and conclude the attack.

 

Is that not the goal of all our studies? I believe so.

 

Learning many kata offers more possibilities of learning ways to conclude attacks. What depth you want those studies to take, why that is where human inspiration comes into play.

 
 
 

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