Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Naihanchi kata

  I was reading several blog's that were discussing the Naihanchi kata. Knowing that there are several versions being taught (by different groups/organizations), I “Googled” for examples. What I found, was a (larger than I expected) assortment of (very) different versions (of the same kata).
  Though (usually) recognizable, each version had it's own underlying theme (of interpretation). Taika has taught us (as he considers it) the essential (version of) Naihanchi kata. We're also taught an “application” version, which (more clearly) illustrates the bunkai of the motions. He has clearly stated, that the essential version (what some choose to call “basic”) is THE kata (meaning, practice & teach that version). Any other version, is only for (additional) practice and/or exposure to alternative concepts.
  When he has discussed (some of) those other (system's) versions, he states that those are individual's versions (and by his thinking, should not be what are taught/learned as being the original kata). He says that though the kata, are(considered to be) all the same, they have had the influence of the individual instructor's intermixed within them (he views this as not being good, duh). Those differences, are adapted to an individual's interpretation of the motions contained therein. The kata, were developed to be used by anyone (regardless of the individual's physical abilities and/or experience). By adding their own (version) manner of execution, they have (in fact) limited the potential usefulness of the kata.
  To me, this is similarly as ridiculous as having student's “create” their own kata. Why? And WTF for? Don't we already have enough ego-bloated dip-weed's, who fancy themselves “special” as it is? The available (original) kata, should (IMO) be plenty to keep one busy for a lifetime of study. It only seems to be those who are (themselves) limited in their understanding of the kata, that seem to promote this practice. The only thing I can figure out, is that these DS's want to begin their own (supposed) system, and need to “create” some kata (to use in that system). Thus allowing them to be the big dog's in that system (isn't that what everyone wants ?, even more high-Dan expert's out there? ROFLMAO).
  I believe, that if, I knew every version, of every technique available and/or probable within Naihanchi Shodan no kata (alone), I could (easily) spend the remainder of my teaching career, teaching only those motions, and no one would be the wiser (nor could they find any fault with what I was teaching).
  I've read a number of person's interpretations of the Naihanchi kata, some are alright and some are completely bogus (meaning ridiculous). I find it amazing how many hilarious (if not ignorant) interpretation's are made from the motion's contained within those kata. Reality seems to be completely dismissed from some of them. Though by no means claiming myself to be any type of expert on them, I'm not (attempting) to claim some of the bizarre interpretations being made about them.
  I read one individual's assessment that stated that there were no hidden technique's. I happen to agree with that statement. I happen to believe that the majority are not recognized as being such (hence, they aren't hidden). They then went on to state that (basically) there were no technique's beyond the obvious “kicky-punchy” (types of) technique's. On that angle, my opinion differs. It becomes a matter of perspective, which is based upon one's awareness/familiarity with the subject matter (regardless of the subject). Before training with Taika, I certainly didn't recognize those technique's, because I wasn't familiar with them. When/if one is knowledgeable of the technique's, they (often) become (blatantly) obvious.
  The key to recognition (of those technique's), is tied to the motions combined with application, perspective and practicality, all of which (at least initially) sound like vague terms. The basic example being the “kick” (within Naihanchi Shodan). Though there are several version's of this motion, the basic motion remains the same.
  As Taika explains it, the kick strikes the (performer's) opposite leg, slightly above the knee. When the foot of the kicking leg is examined(as it is done within the kata), the toe's “point” towards the front of the struck leg. One can safely assume, that they're not kicking their own leg. Therefor, the struck leg, has to be the opponent's leg. Looking at the strike, the “kicker's” toe's, are pointed towards the front of the recipient's leg. To emulate that motion (upon a “real” opponent), if tori utilizes the Right leg (for the kick), they would have to strike the uke's Left leg (then looking exactly like the motion done within the kata). When combined with the hand motion's being utilized at the same time (in the kata), this kick would then make sense (seeing that the kick would rotate the uke, aiding in the strikes execution to the opposite/right side of the uke's neck).
  This interpretation/technique follows the (generally) accepted prerequisites. The uke is initially located in front of the tori (which establishes perspective), the application's motion is identical to the technique's motion, the uke would be turned (by the kick), thus making the arm motion's identical to the strike done within the kata (after kicking the uke's leg, the kicking foot drops to the ground now placing the tori sideways to the uke). The kick rotates the uke making the kata's strike (to the side of the tori, confirming the kata's striking motion to the side) make sense.
  Though being one of the rare instances (where kata motion is directly related to an application), this basic interpretation makes better sense than some of the bazaar interpretations I've read. Usually, kata motions are not directly related to adjacent motions done within the kata. As I've explained elsewhere, kata motions are akin to letter's (in no particular order). To “spell” words (technique's) one has to combine the proper motions(letter's) from the kata to create those words/sentences.
  The Naihanchi kata are Taika's first instructed kata. In many systems, they are reserved to the Yudansha levels. Taika felt there were too many lesson's/technique's to be learned with their practice (and therefor required more time with their study/practice). Additionally, there are varying levels/versions of the applications contained therein. Many of the “old” master's only taught several kata, the Naihanchi (series) kata were often the only one's chosen to be taught. This alone should validate their study.
  Unlike many of the other kata taught by Taika, the Naihanchi (series of kata) don't require a great deal of room to practice them. At more advanced levels (only because one then can devote the time to do so, LOL), the Naihanchi are also taught with different timing speeds and groupings (of which there are several). This is done to “open” the student's perspective to varying application of the motions contained within them. When that timing is varied (from the basic/essential form), those variations become more apparent (as long as one already possess a basic knowledge of technique's). It's part of what Taika calls (developing) your “mind's eye” (the ability to see technique's contained within the kata).
  If not readily apparent to the reader, I hold the Naihanchi kata in high regard. When reading about their evaluation by others, I oscillate between humor, agreement and disgust. I have to remember that not all system's approach a confrontation in the same manner (that Taika does). When viewing those interpretation's (of bunkai) I often have to examine the system's application theory (which usually are different than Taika's). This doesn't (necessarily) make them (completely) wrong, just different



Anonymous said...

boy, you get real liberal with the use of parentheses. i love that you have this blog, but what's your deal?

openhand said...

LOL, you are correct. the "problem", was that during my "rewrite", I failed to remove them. I could do so now, but then your (correct) comment would seem silly.