Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Breaking (Down) Bad
Determining what the motions that are performed in a kata represent, can become a lifelong task for some. For others, it's an afternoon's amusement. So what are the differences between the two investigations?
I believe (more importantly) that the differences are in what's expected to be determined. For years, the general belief was that what you saw, is what you got (for bunkai). With the advent of Taika introducing his interpretations, that viewpoint was changed forever.
As opposed to (only) stringing the represented motions together (to form a sequential yet, limited interpretation), Taika proposed that the motions were independent actions (each with an independent interpretation).
These independent motions could be linked together in endless combinations, thereby creating multitudes of technique's and combinations.
When accepting this view of the kata motions, it quickly becomes understandable that practitioner’s of old could easily spend a lifetime interpreting the motions of (even) one kata, much less the dozen or so (kata) that are commonly taught.
What I commonly encounter, is a singular interpretation for a/each kata motion. Which, when initially beginning one's investigations, is the simpler manner of interpretation. What one usually discovers, is that each motion can represent a number of technique motions and principles.
In my view, each motion will have numerous interpretations. The important understanding is not the individual interpretation, but understanding the motion itself (and the numerous applications that it is a part of).
I feel it's more important to understand concepts, and methodology than it is to know specific technique's. A technique can be useful in a single (type of) situation, a methodology can be applied to any situation or circumstance.
For our kyu rank students, we provide certain techniques to be learned at those ranks. The learning of those techniques is not restricted to (only) those ranks (higher, or lower). When we have student's practice applying those techniques upon one another, it matters not what “rank” one is at while doing so.
One's rank advancement is also not restricted or based upon one's ability to perform those (specific) techniques. For any given situation, there will be numerous acceptable responses. Students are taught that if/when one technique fails, they move to the next one (that they are familiar with).
We've found that (for whatever reason) students will relate different technique's to one another when learning them. Though certain examples can be (and are) provided, there are often (at least to us, LOL) odd associations that are made (by the student). Though there are certain obvious similarities between specific technique's, it isn't always possible for a student to see or relate those similarities.
This also is a purpose of kata practice, not every technique or motion is seen (in the same way) as how everyone else see's it. Through kata practice, we learn to make the motions physical memories, instead of being (only) visual representations.
Those systems that don't have (or utilize) kata, are what I consider to be the kiddie systems. Their follower's are those who (they believe) don't have the time to spend on kata. They're generally young, in good physical condition and (frankly) display aggressive behavior on a regular basis. They tend to enjoy having that “bad-boy” image. In short, they're people who haven't (really) encountered a life or death situation where they will likely lose..... yet.
I know everyone loves to quote, emulate (worship?) Bruce Lee and some of the ideals that he endorsed and promoted. When I was an inexperienced “kid”, I did too. Having since grown-up, I view a lot of what he promoted with some disdain. His so-called philosophy was obviously that of a young man, not necessarily bad, just limited.
It wasn't that he taught anything of applicable value (that wasn't already available elsewhere). His “student” list, mostly consisted of student's who were already trained (in at least one discipline or another) before they ever studied with him.
His only (noteworthy) talent, was pointing out the obvious. When he entered the (American) martial arts scene, there was a great deal of denial and speculation being taught. What Bruce lee did do, was force people to look at it, see it and question it. He didn't offer any direct solutions, other than what was (or should have been) obvious.
His opinions and observations regarding kata, were gleaming examples of (both) his youth, and of his own inexperience. The only example he had (of his philosophy) was himself, which from an instructional perspective, means nothing! If the philosophy isn't, or can't be exampled through a student, then it is considered to (only) be an anomaly.
If you examine any of the new-age, anti-kata “systems/styles”, they are all designed for the young, in-shape, athletically inclined, male student. The few that advertise that they are “Female” (friendly?) amiable, are predominantly a joke.
Kata favor no particular body style, strength or size. They are only a “list” (if you will) of various body motions and positions for use in applications.
One of the first things I explain to new students, is that they will first be learning (how) to move their own body. To do so, you have to know what it can and can't do. And To understand that, you have to learn it's limitations.
The vast majority of people are not able to move their own body efficiently, the rest can't do so while doing anything else, LOL. Kata is the first step in correcting that deficiency.
The people that don't/won't practice kata (for the most part), aren't able to. They could learn the motions, but they aren't able to figure out what they're supposed to be doing. To them, it's a waste of their time. And for them, it usually is.
These same people practice endless sets of practice routines (that they devised). Rather than learn the traditional ones, they create their own. They like to claim that theirs are more practical, or that they make more sense (although I'm not sure how they came to that conclusion, seeing as how they didn't understand the motions in the original/traditional kata).
The ability to reproduce the kata, is not that difficult, understanding what those motions represent though, is another story.