Friday, June 20, 2014
The Re-Examination of "kata"
Oyata used to speak about how he felt that the majority of the practitioner's of “te” (both in the West, and the East) misunderstood how the purpose and practice of kata should be done.
Kata should be treated as a learning/study “tool” for the practitioner of Life Protection. Every motion in the kata, should be examined thoroughly to determine it's purpose/reason for inclusion (in the performance of that kata).
On numerous occasion, he made it clear that there were no “extraneous” or irrelevant motions in the kata. The claim of a motion being a “formality” or of no value as a defensive motion/application, suggests an irrelevancy (of motion/application) that would hardly be worth passing on to one's students.
Not having the original (inventor's?) persons who developed the kata available for questions about those motions, mandates that the practitioner's have to study those kata motions (in order to determine the meaning of the included motions).
Essentially, this amounts to “reverse engineering” the kata (in many if not most cases). We do know numerous defensive motions (that were handed-down from those masters), if we can recognize those (few) motions within the kata, then we have something to start our own research with.
Oyata was shown numerous “hints” and clues about those motions from his instructors (Uhugushugu and Wakinaguri). He has (in turn) shared them with us (to continue that research). Oyata never claimed to know All of the (possible) Bunkai from the kata, but he did understand how to distinguish “technique” from nonsense. He felt “that” knowledge was more important than learning a few specific techniques that could be associated to them (and thereby only be applicable to a few students).
When Oyata talked about “bunkai”, he explained that it could (often) vary between individual students. The individual application (interpretation) was irrelevant. It was more important that the interpretation be applicable (and follow the “rules” that he taught for technique validity) by anyone. This didn't imply that the motion/technique would work for every situation, only that it meet the standards for the application being presented (that one determined the motion represented).
When he first proposed this method (of “bunkai” interpretation), numerous people were “upset”. There was a (prominent) belief that each motion had a singular application that it represented. Of course this view was being based on speculation (since the creators of those kata were long since dead, and no written explanations had survived them).
Whether true or not, it was a vastly superior method of practicing/researching the kata (and resulted in far superior applications as a result of using his methodology).
Taika taught that numerous applications were illustrated in each of the taught kata motions. These were often depended upon which other (kata) motions were included/used in conjunction with them. If you were to assign a number to each different motion, and attempted to pair them (differently) with each of the other motions (in the various kata), it becomes quickly apparent that there are an infinite number of (possible) applications potentially available.
For this reason, when I am asked a “bunkai” question (for a specific motion), I will commonly provide a very “basic” interpretation. It is always dependent upon which other motion(s) that it is paired with (if at all) to determine what it represents.
Believing that any singular motion, is the (only) bunkai for any kata motion is far too simplistic of an interpretation. The guidelines that Oyata provided for us have (often) been repeated by numerous individual's (who had attended his seminars over the years). Many have attempted to make them “specific” (rules) for the purposes of “bunkai interpretation).
Oyata recognized (through the instructions provided by his own instructors) that those rules are generalizations. He taught that each motion would have numerous interpretations, and that each student would have to determine what “they” felt the movement represented (and be able to validate that claim).
Numerous students (over the years) would approach him with their own interpretations, which he would (either) acknowledge their version, or demonstrate what was wrong with what they were proposing (which was more often the case). This was what made Oyata the obvious “master” (though he hated that term, and is also why we only called him “Taika”).
Kata research (frankly) is not intended for the beginning student (and shouldn't be a concern for them either). Their only need is to learn the (beginning) manner of performing the kata that are provided to them. Their priorities should be focused upon learning the execution of the motions shown to them (by their instructor/s). Kata research is (more so) for the instructor, or for the practitioner who is familiar with all of the beginning motions (it would be difficult to do so, without that essential knowledge anyhow).