Friday, January 4, 2013

“Stages” of Kata Training

  My associate and I were discussing the teaching of kata the other day. The Association had (this past fall) decided to utilize the (20+ year old)  videos as a reference for kata practice. My own initial thoughts were that (at least) there would then be some (fixed?) manner of a standard that could be anticipated for testing purposes.
  My associate pointed out the fact that we haven't performed (any of) the kata as done on those tapes in 15+ years. After I actually took a look at them (which I hadn't done in probably that same length of time as well, LOL), I had to concede that he was correct 
 What was being done on those tapes only barely resemble the way that any of the kata are performed now. Though the association is claiming that they will use those examples as “testing standards”, I'm wondering how long that will last (and to what degree adhered to?).
  As we discussed our own classes performing (and practice) of the kata, we both decided that we won't be utilizing the terms “Basic, and/or (ever) “Advanced”. Either of those descriptions creates inaccurate training attitudes in regards to the kata being practiced.
  When/if someone hears the term Basic, their first perception is “simplistic”, for which nothing could be further from the truth. I'm thinking Introductory or Skeletal is a better description (for the first level of instruction). I believe either of these terms instills the feeling of a structure to be built upon. Important, yet (obviously) not complete (something that will be added to, but is structurally “sound” on it's own).
  The term Advanced carries similar inaccurate connotations to it as well. A common attitude (by student's) will be “why should we learn one way (of performing a kata), only to have to change it later?”. This (even to myself, LOL) is a valid question/objection. 
  I believe that I'd prefer to use the term Complete, to describe the final instructed form of the kata. I think this would convey an attitude of having learned all of the correct motions contained within the kata. Though (obviously) not implying that one understands all of the intricacy's of the kata motions (bunkai), they should feel that they have completed the instruction of all of the required motions contained within it.
  In a class environment, the difficulty (for student's to understand), is that not everyone is always at the same level of instruction (for the same kata). This is why I haven't listed an “Intermediate” (kata) form. After having been shown the Introductory form of the kata, the student is shown individual pieces (that are added into their version of the kata, as they proceed with their practice of it throughout their continued training).
  By individually including these small additions to each student's kata, it also conveys a feeling of personal attention (to that student). Though seemingly hokey to an outsider to hear, having that personal attention/instruction is important to a student (especially while learning an often-times challenging task). It conveys an attitude of (personal) attention, and concern for their instruction.
  Once the student has been shown the Introductory (version) kata, the instructor will be adding bit's and pieces as they believe the student can handle them. This will continue as they proceed in their advancement through the kyu-ranks.
  The instruction of the Complete kata (all of the system's 12), is done by the time they have achieved Ikkyu (First kyu). This will tend to vary (slightly) between the individual student's (and kata). As individual changes and additions are made throughout the student's practice of the kata (during their advancement through the kyu-ranks), the motions contained within them, have often been slowly modified to meet the requirements of the final/completed version.
  This approach is one of compromise, a class is rarely (if ever) tailored to suit one (individual) student and their personal requirements/needs. And (of course) not every student learns at the same rate/speed. An instructor, in order to create a more generalized curriculum must fit the needs of as many different student types as is practical. This often means teaching to the lowest common denominator. In larger classes, this is almost a mandated occurrence.
  Though (sometimes) not considered to be “fair” (to the more adept students), this prevents those who aren't as quick to learn certain aspects, from feeling ignored and/or abandoned if the remainder of the class excels (too far) ahead of them.
  The fact is, that not everyone will learn everything, at the same rate. It's impossible for an instructor to know (ahead of time) what will/won't/can or can't be learned (and at what speed) by every student, every minute of every class.
  This is especially true for the learning/instruction of kata. I am always surprised by the motions that will confound a student's ability to perform a particular kata (and it seems to be a different motion/kata for each student, LOL).
  The instruction of the various kata is an integral piece of every student's training. It's done in conjunction with the instruction of Tuite, Kyusho and the Defensive and Controlling Actions that are being shown for self/life-Protection. It needs to be remembered that all of these individual applications are illustrated within those motions performed while practicing the kata.


Anonymous said...

Interesting and thought-provoking post. The term 'Introductory' might still carry the same connotations you're trying to remove. Perhaps 'Foundation' and 'Structure/Structural' would be useful terms to replace 'Entry-Level' and 'Advanced'. Enjoying the blog!

Openhand said...

There are several "options" for the beginning level descriptions (most I feel are interchangeable) It's really the "completion" level that's more important in it's identification manner (to avoid confusion by the student, IMO). The nonsensical term "advanced", is the one to avoid (being extremely over used, and usually incorrectly). Most systems I've been involved with, have used the "advanced" handle, then choose to present yet another version afterword.
For the experienced student, the "completed" version, more clearly illustrates the bunkai (IMO).

Lee E. Richards said...

I prefer skeleton or frame work when I'm explaining the kata. Taika frequently said 'framework'.

Our order of kata is actually a little varied than other schools. We teach the Pinan kata last. These are taught during the brown belt levels. I don't really think that by the time students reach this level they should dwell on 'basic' concepts. So why are we teaching them basic kata? I think they should learn the foundation or structure or skeleton and immediately be placing level based things into the kata such as kake.