Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Deep Dip into Kama kata I have seen.

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Back when I was a beginner, not that long ago, in the mid 1970s, I only studied Isshinryu Karate. I knew kobudo was a part of the system, though I only saw the brown belts studying bo kata, I was not privy to dan training.


Then when a brown belt myself,  I was force fed the Isshinryu Kobudo by Charles Murray, that he had studied with Lewis Sensei, and in Agena. Those studies consisted of Bo, Sai and Kama. In fact the first kata I studied with him was Chantan Yara No Sai. I really did not know what other systems did, and as a black belt slowly came aware of what others were doing through tournaments.


Kobudo as I understood it was interesting. There was not much focus on what the use of those weapons were used for. And I realized that time, decades, with the weapon made a real difference in the performance. I worked hard over those years on my own studies, but when I saw Lewis Sensei perform his bo, his effort showed incredible mastery of the bo as he did it. The study of kobudo, the correct study of kobudo, was one place that the work over the years made a difference.


I came to realize most systems did not do weapons as part of their karate, at that time. And a great many of the competition forms were kobudo versions of traditional karate kata, or completely new forms created in the USA, that was in the Penna., Maryland, New Jersey and New York area. The judges often were judging forms they did not know, and I assume their judging was based on performance execution and not knowledge of the forms.


Most of what I saw was bo and sai in those days. Then there were an eclectic group of other weapons. Perhaps the rarest was kama kata.



Back in 1980 I had started visiting and training with Tristan Sutrisno. One evening he started training his then senior students in a new form for them. Chosen No Kama Sho. As I was there he invited me to join on in, lending me a pair of kama. The form was very new to me and I had no idea what I was getting into. It used a unique handling method for me of continually shifting the kama from an open to closed position during the forms execution. Having no kama, I practiced with tonfa back home.


The next week I visited and was shown a different version of the form Chosen No Kama Dai, much the same template with more advanced execution of some of the movements. So yet another thing to work on.


At the next tournament I attended I was able to purchase some kama, so my practice of those forms could be more realistic.


The constant shifts of the kama during the form was difficult for me. I was not working them for the idea of competition. Just focused on execution.


Then one day a friend invited me to attend a clinic with George Chung, and among what he was showing, was a West Coast Demo Team Kama form. Sort of TKD kicking with kama. Held in a different position from what I was show, just held behind the blade, I recognized this made all those kicks safer with the kama held that way.


Several years later I saw Tristan compete with a different version ‘ Chosen No Kama San’. I understood then how some of his kobudo studies were built on a template that the forms used, allowing focus on more advancing movements as studies progressed. I was interested in his execution but the ‘additions’ were way above my abilities and I did not attempt to retain what I observed.


Back around 1984 I saw Kise Fusie Sensei perform a kama kata with leaders. I knew this was taught on Okinawa, but had never seen it. His execution also held the kama behind the kama blade. That was the first I realized there were different kama executions. There  was no internet in those days, VHS was  just coming out and were expensive too.


I did not seek other kama instruction out. I just focused on what was shared with me.

A decade later I was given further training on the Dai version. He was impressed that I remembered it after seeing it that one time. And then he showed more advanced kama execution.


So I did receive instruction, and at the same time I was not instructed in a traditional way. What I got is what I got.


So Kama was a study but never a primary focus for me.


For one thing, I recognized what kama use was for, killing someone attacking you, most likely with a weapon attack. I was not interested in weapons for killing, recognizing there was value in skill acquisition however. It was not something I was sharing with my students, they had far more useful things to learn then.


Across New England, on those rare occasions I attended open tournaments, I observed a new trend, children doing kama kata (as with that West Coast Demo Team style of execution). Kobudo is one thing that was truly an adult study. Cut down weapons became the style for children to compensate for their strength, but still they did not approach the power of adult execution.


I believe the kama was chosen because with that style of handling it was safer for them to do with their fake blades. Less chance of injury, and it gave schools teaching that something else to teach, and have children compete with. It probably looked cute for the parents. And at to time did anyone mention the reality of what those kata swings were doing.


One wonders in today’s environment against firearms, what people would thing about kids being trained with kama. The mind boggles at what people do not see.


My son was born in 1989. In 1990 Mike Cassidy and I had a chance to attend a seminar with Kise Fusie Sensei where instruction was being given in bo, sai and kama. Basic instruction for sure. Having seen him I was interested I what he taught (for information not for continued study) ( I have attached my notes from that day.) What was most interesting was what he said about the kama.


For one thing on Okinawa every home had kama. It was the equivalent of our lawnmower. Used for household gardening, sold an the local hardware store. Kids used to carry them to school, to work in the field cutting cane, after class.


If you read my notes following you will find the Okinawan police had some requests for Karate schools about teaching kama, as a result of that.

From my notes of that clinic:


Back in the 1990s I attended a seminar with Kise Sensei, we were told then the police to stop teaching kama. The kama was a common household gardening implement on Okinawa used everywhere. Many of the kids would carry them to school to use in the fields cutting crops after classes were done for the day. Apparently they were having problems with youth using them on each other, and thought this might help the situation.


As the years passed I decided to pass my kama on to my senior students, they were over 20 years into their own study and had become instructors too. I shared both the Sho and Dai versions of Chosen No Kama with them. The purpose was to use them as instructors studies for advancing skill acquisition. Not as studies for students. I was very much against that because the purpose of the kama was to end life, but I trusted them and saw the value for advancing continuing study. They elected to chose the Chosen No Kama Dai version for their studies. The different technique execution for the Sho version they would retain as variant technique studies.


This is consistent with other instructor studies I shared.


Today is a very different world from when I began.

Kama Shi pass 
Kama Dai pass



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