Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Hidden Moves

The question is posed "So are we back to "Hidden Moves" inside kata discussion/argument? Where the masters only showed these to their favored students? "

We need to make some fine distinctions here for intelligent conversation.

I have experienced several different versions of this training, to understand that not only one approach to training is being discussed.

In each case being a student was not a democracy, where their wished had any impact on what the student wanted.

First, there is the traditional program that the instructor experienced himself, and that training was taught in a specific order. There his instructor did not discuss what was available with students before they reached a designated lever in their training. Most likely that was how they too were taught.

So someone in that tradition would not share information until the student qualified for that level of training. They are secrets in the sense that they were never discussed until the appropriate levels of training were reached. And that may have involved decades of training.


Next is the traditional instructor who shared some knowledge, but then the student choose not to work  and master that knowledge. In return the instructor would choose not to share more knowledge.

I am thinking of one instructor I know who often taught a kobudo kata to a student, then in time the student decided there were more interested in another weapon, and stopped practicing what they were originally shown. And they were not shown anything more. As they failed the test, they were not even informed what the test was, it being their dedication to the way the instructor shared the system. In this case any time a student choose to find another way, that disqualified them from other training. Not fair, but the way they were taught.

 Another answer is that the student is never shown information before they have trained to the point they are ready for that information. So hidden secrets are just that, information that one is not ready for in that system of teaching.

 It is not impossible to understand if that is the way the instructors instructor taught them. Then they are simply keeping a tradition alive.

Of course today with so much information being exchanged, the idea offends some. Then again who is to say that it is not right to offend them?

A different sort of instructor is one who worked themselves to understand how kata applications could be used. When you experience such an instructor, most times they are so focused they cannot stop sharing what they are continually discovering.

But at the same time there are no secrets to what they show.  If you experience what they have via a clinic. That is almost the same as getting nothing. For every potential application builds forward. Without the one to one experience, you will unlikely really get what you have been shown.

One very traditional instructor I experienced, explained that his father would be called on for ‘secrets’ when he would give a clinic. He never hid anything, gave them the full technique series. Knowing no one present would actually retain it, except where they were actually at the level to ‘get it’. Otherwise it became ‘vapor ware’ or ‘ the technique of no technique’. I have experienced that from various instructors from different cultures.

Knowledge involves work sweat equity. Not casual discussion. There are layers and layers of understanding. Just wanting simple answers is rarely that you will understand what is shown.



Victor Smith said...

Something I think is important to understand how systems of knowledge were transmitted in the past, there are likely a multitude of possible answers.

Every was not designed to transmit everything.
For one thing some systems were family transmissions. Meaning family members got one thing, and non family members got another.
I have experienced several system that worked this way. The son received material the other students did not. It was not a question of time in the art, it was obvious the sons received different material than other students. But the other students were fine with that because they choose to respect the instructor.
Another group had very different material that was shared within the family as opposed to the other members.

The idea that every group is to develop all students equally is probably a newer concept. Of course is any case the instructor was in charge. The only choice a student had was to leave that program and seek another. That did occur.

Other approaches developed with the idea of university karate programs. There they were geared towards students training 4 years, then moving on in life, somewhat similar to what often occurs today. So the program was geared towards what could be intelligently presented within that time span.

Of course some students did choose to go further. I think of programs in Japan (karate and aikido as examples) where there were specific programs developed for international instructors, where more would be shared. That would be different from what those that remained training in Japan.. None has intelligently shared what those program differences were. Simply because we are not in that program we have no need to know.

If we use a traditional answer as Miyagi, the literature tends to suggest in reality he did not share everything. Instead he made choices to what a student studies, and worked with them a long time just on that. So one can assume getting everything was not a concern training students in those days. Perhaps getting enough for the student was the point.

Of course time changes much.

Transmission of various systems takes many forms. And at times leads to questions. But the core is finding answers for everything more important that being actually able to use what you are shown. That seems a more pertinate question.

For myself, I have only relied on logic. If with work and practice I can drop someone every time, no matter which movement I choose. In the end that is more than enough.

Victor Smith said...

To take this a step further, when I learned my Isshinryu, it was with a far different paradigm which did not include kata bunkai. In fact for my first 20 years, not often being around others in Isshinryu that was never discussed. And that was a good Isshinryu too.

Along my way I did train with many others. Some of which did teach a type of bunkai, but different from what you would call bunkai.

The main teaching attack was a stepping lunge punch. And quite a few systems used this, Kung fu, Shotokan Karate, Aikido, Tjimande to name a few. I did train with them and learned a lot. But one of my students with a Ueichi background was very against that attack for drills. It made me think on what I had seen. What I explained to my students was 1) you have to begin someplace and using a standard attack made sense pedagolicially though in time it was necessary to move on to random non-standard attacks. But first you had to perfect the basic response. Then 2) what an attack was varied by location around the world. In many places an attack (or control) begins with just that a push or a shove. So the attacking limb moves out towards you. Using a punch for practice is faster, better preparing you for attacks that begin with a shove. Things are often different from what they seem to the student.

So 20 years with no Isshinryu ‘bunkai’ then in 1996 Sherman Harrill came to my school to give a clinic. I had met him the year before through Garry Gerossie and the clinic was something we were hosting together. Sherman asked me what I wanted him to cover. I told him I thought covering the applications for Chinto, Kusanku and Sunsu would be fine. He suppressed a laugh and said fine.

That first two hours he spent on one move the opening ‘X’ block from Chinto, then he suggested that perhaps it was time to move on. For the rest of the day he did show applications from the kata I requested. But I got a close up experience at what he thought every technique in Isshinryu could be used for. He worked against right punches, left punches, multiple punches.

Now I was well aware that a clinic was nothing like being taught as a student. But I did do my best to work on what we were shown. What I experienced every time I met Sherman was what I also felt, the application potential within our kata, was not a single answer. Rather a lifetime of work to make the movements work against any attack.

I often wished I possessed the skill of Sherman.

In time I also experienced this with Sherman’s Senior Student, John Kerker, showing the full transmission was made to Sherman’s students.

So I continued to work. Then one day when I was teaching my Tai Chi class, another idea hit me. A way to use that opening ‘X’ block against as an exterior line of defense against a right linear strike.

When class was finished I grabbed John Dinger and asked him to attack me, in slow motion, for I wanted to work the idea through first.

It was a non-standard answer.

So against a slow motion attack I went slowly and just used the kata, in a quite different way. Moving slowly I dropped John to the ground and knocked him out, none of which I was trying to do.

So helping John up, I asked him to assist me again and that I would go slower. And the result was the same, John down and out.

It made me put on my thinking hat and eventually I worked out what happened. I did not understand the power of the principle I was using.

So just the kata section used in a very different manner.

It was not ‘bunkai’ for I was not taught such,

I have worked on it ever since, I did learn something, what you take the time to practice you’ll get better at.