Saturday, November 2, 2013
What constitutes progress? When I consider the martial arts industry over the past 40 years, I've observed very little progress (beyond any personal advancements attained).
But as a whole, the industry hasn't (really) changed that much. The most significant change has been the recent (resurgence?) increase of kata research/investigation. Granted, this has mostly been followed under the pretext of discovering “bunkai” (for the kata known to the practitioner). Further more, that bunkai has been centered on the pretext of “pressure points” (by numerous groups).
The “traditional” groups have (blatantly) consistently rejected (ignored) any serious inquiry into kata bunkai, at least beyond the simplistic (sparring) based answers they've promoted and taught for years.
When Oyata came to the U.S., he challenged all of those teachings. What he promoted was that (an actual) Self (Life) Protection methodology be taught (as opposed to the “sport” karate that was in vogue at the time). His methodology was based upon the teachings he received from his two instructor's (Wakinaguri and Uhugushugu).
Throughout Oyata's life, he continued to improve and modify what he had been shown, and taught himself. Though the basic premiss (life-protection) remained the same, the techniques and methods that he taught for utilizing them constantly improved.
Everything that he taught was always evolving (and improving). What Oyata taught to his students when he first arrived, was (sometimes drastically) modified to reflect his (Oyata's) later beliefs and teachings.
Because of that, persons who may have studied with him in the early years following his arrival, perform many of his teachings in a much different manor than what was taught by him later.
When Oyata chose to abandon those (numerous) previously taught methods (ie. Ryukyu Kempo), he (upgraded?) changed what he taught, to reflect his evolving methodology.
Many of those prior methods and practices were improved upon, if not abandoned by Oyata when he implemented this transition. That didn't mean that he felt they were (somehow) no longer effective, only that they were not what he taught to his later (students) in his life.
When he first arrived in the U.S., “sport sparring” was the craze (at that time). Knowing this, he (Oyata) capitalized on that fact and used it as a means to introduce his training methodologies to the martial arts community. Though having participated in these events (when he was younger), he later used them to (only) promote his art (via demonstrations).
Anyone who (actually) trained with Oyata, knew that he didn't agree with the practice of sparring (in regards to studying Life-Protection). He hadn't endorsed, or participated in anything to do with that manor of practice in 20+ years (it served no defensive purpose in his methodology).
Oyata spent his life improving what he taught, what I see, is the majority of martial art methods regurgitating the same (old?) teachings and methods that have been (commonly) taught for the last 60 years.
In just the last 40 years (that I've been involved), it's only been through his (Oyata's) involvement, have there been any (useful) improvements.
Though some of those students of Oyata's have been actively pursuing many of his prior teachings (that were discarded), they were abandoned by Oyata, should we not do the same?
There are some that believe that those discontinued practices should be reanimated, but there are others (myself included) that disagree. I tend to believe they were discarded for a reason, so I see no reason for their rejuvenation.
Since Oyata's passing there's been no real advancements in his training methods being promoted. Though (I'm sure) somebody is pursuing their training in a productive manner, it hasn't been espoused to the remainder of the training community (as of yet).
I'm sure that Oyata never intended for his system to stagnate, but that is a very real possibility. Having developed our own tuite training program, we're (attempting) to continue his endeavor of progressive improvement. Whether his system is doomed to deteriorate into yet another form of “Kara-Te”, or continue to evolve into what Taika envisioned it becoming is the real question.