Wednesday, May 28, 2014
There appears to be an obsession with the concept of bunkai (kata movement application examples). This is often translated into a desire to learn more (and more) kata. Kata were designed to learn (through repetition) the various motions and to make them more natural for the practitioner to perform.
Very often, the repeated practice of these motions is limited to one or two interpretations (of applicable techniques) per motion. This is usually in regards to a “striking” action (made by an aggressor). Kata motion teaches the practitioner numerous movement principles (beyond the individual techniques that are often emphasized).
There are many kata motions that can be directly translated to applications (via the motions provided in the kata), but (I feel, and teach) that many of those kata motions are general in nature (and that all have multiple application potential).
When one examines the multitude of kata available, it becomes readily apparent that numerous motions are repeated within those kata. It's been proposed that this (repetition) represents the importance of those motions. Oyata was familiar with many of those (additional) kata, yet chose not to include them in his curriculum.
In the early years of the instruction of Te, many instructors only utilized a few of the available kata. They believed (and said as much) that those variations were exampled in what they taught as well and saw no reason to include additional examples that were already being shown.
It's been stated (by those same old masters) that it takes 10 years of study to understand the motions that are included in a (1) kata. Understanding, includes more than just knowing that the motion exists (or what applications it represents). If the motion was included in the kata, “logic” would dictate that the motion had multiple applications (beyond an individual technique).
Using the “10 years” of study (per kata) premiss, Oyata's system would require (over) 120 years of study (for one to understand all of the kata motions taught). Realizing this, Oyata taught that a student would find 1 or 2 kata that they (individually) felt most comfortable with. It was those kata that the student would derive the majority of their own (personally utilized) defensive motions from.
There are presently multitudes of individual's who are performing seminars demonstrating (not really teaching) their interpretations of various kata motion. They are commonly operating under various titles including “master” or “expert” or some other word that implies their expertise.
When I observe their interpretations (on “U-Tube” and such), more often than not, I'm struck by how limited those interpretations are (if not being completely impractical for the common practitioner to utilize). Any simple interpretation seems to be inadequate (for them) to teach. The implication being that any simple (or general motion) is either impractical, or ineffective.
Rather than demonstrating a simply performed motion (that will respond to multiple aggressive actions), more and more complex responses are being demonstrated (for defensive responses to individual aggressive actions). To myself, this is contradictory to the implied concept of defensive training. Believing in this (implied) “complexity” of technique instruction, is contradictory to effective defensive training (and instruction).
When I have students demonstrate some application that they've seen (from someone else, or displayed on "U-Tube") I can inevitably show them something that is (much) simpler, and equally effective for response to the presented situation. It will also require less skill to apply. The argument (inevitably) is one of “what if the aggressor is familiar with that defense”? So what? The increased complexity of a technique does not assure it's ability to be applied (or it's success). It also increases it's vulnerability to failure (via being countered). The fact that someone is "familiar/knowledgeable" with a defensive motion, does not mean they have the ability to circumvent it's effectiveness.
Many of these “new”(?) defensive motions have been created to fill someone's limited defensive curriculum. They will usually "justify" their motion from their own interpretation of a kata motion. I don't dispute the viability of those motions, only the practicality of them.
My own experience has shown that rarely do the more complex applications have any practical (common?) applicability. Only in situations where my own skill level (greatly) exceeded that of my opponent, have any of those complicated applications proven to be usable (or even practical), much less necessary.
The most commonly used applications (in any situation that I've experienced or observed) are what has been the simplest, and it is those that have proven to be the most effective. This goes against what is believed by the majority of students (and some instructors). Many students believe that the “simple” defensive motions (that they are often familiar with) won't work. If that were true, then why would they have been taught them?
The average “assault” is began using (very) common motions. Most often this is a punch delivered to the head of the subject. There are only 4 ways that a punch can be delivered. One's “basic” response, should be an effective response that can work for any of them (if/when it isn't, one needs to work on their own "basic response"). The majority of students are subjected to training that is only applicable after the fight has been in progress (Then becoming a “duel”, IE.“sparring”). Oyata's instruction was focused on ending the confrontation before allowing that (type of) situation to occur.
When I first began training with Oyata, my training was in Shito-ryu. What was taught (in that system) fell into that (responsive) category. The training was (all) focused upon after the initial punch had been delivered. Oyata taught that this (type of training) was “too late” (for an effective defense), and made the situation far more difficult to achieve a (defensively) successful outcome.
My initial impressions of Oyata's methodology was that of brutality. There was no “fairness” to it. The opponent (aggressor) was neutralized in seconds. In time, I came to understand that this was (actually) less brutal than the extended “slug fest” that was the commonly accepted format for a physical confrontation. It also produced fewer (serious) injuries while doing so.
What was taught (by Oyata) was his interpretation of the kata motions. These were rarely of the brute force (strength based) category. What I've encountered (through my own students) is often disbelief (by those students) that neutralizing an aggressor’s actions can prove to be that simple. This is rarely done through any complexity of the motion utilized (or through a physical superiority of the defender). Oyata's manor of defense isn't achieved quickly, it requires practice. In this “fast-food” society, this is often an unacceptable trait.
I emphasize the use/application of Tuite in (both) our classes, and on this blog. I've encountered numerous challenges to that premiss, but it should be noted that I don't believe it to always be an individually applicable response for every defensive situation (though it may prove to be in the proper circumstances, as well as relevant to the level of training that one has yet achieved). More often than not, it is utilized as a “follow-up/ending” application.
Oyata taught that many (if not the majority) of kata motion could (also?) be interpreted as “tuite” applications (not only as representing controlling actions after responding to an aggressor's striking applications). Beginner's are commonly concerned with defending against those striking attempts, hence their concern is for learning those manor of applications initially. In time it will become obvious that learning simple and effective responses to those aggressive actions is not that difficult. The application of tuite is the (personally) preferred means to neutralize any further aggressive attempts (regardless of the physical size of the aggressor).
Many (if not all) of the kata motions can be (additionally?) interpreted in this regard. It is through (actual) study of the kata motion (with the alternate emphasis of Tuite being utilized) that those manor of applications can be realized. A student should accept that multiple interpretations exist for every (and all) kata motion. Don't become impaired through the belief of a “singular” interpretation for any kata motion.