Saturday, August 12, 2017


  I was asked recently by a student to define the difference between Goshin (“self-defense”) and Jissen (“real/actual or non-consensual” combat), types of Kata. Though (IMO) often being a matter of semantics, I believe that the differences are with how the motions are being interpreted. I've seen several articles that attempt to “categorize” Kata into one or the other of those groups, but I believe this to be a myopic approach to viewing the Kata.

I tend to consider any/every kata motion (regardless of the kata it is being illustrated in) as having multiple interpretations. This was how Oyata defined and exampled them to us. Viewing those motions (much less the entire kata) as being One or the Other, seems a little pointless (and extremely limiting).

The implication being, that a particular kata was assembled to only example motions that could be used for one or the other is ridiculous.

I believe this has more to do with the instructor, than with the individual kata. I could see individual bunkai for a kata being “categorized” in this manor, but to proclaim the entire kata (and all of the bunkai for that kata) as being one or the other is a bit drastic (if not simplistic and limiting).

That being said, Oyata had in certain instances labeled certain (weapon's) kata as being “Jissen” (kata). Weapons kata were (mainly) taught for their benefits in regard to “open-hand” applications. The manipulation of the individual weapon would often illustrate a particular motion that was (directly) applicable to a commonly utilized open-hand application. If/when the kata was being shown to emphasize the use of that weapon (and of the motions contained therein), he would commonly call it “Jissen”. Doing so did not “change” the kata (per-say), only in how the student should be considering the motion's application.

Numerous systems teach “simplified” exercises/forms for beginning students (IMO, the “Pinan” kata fall into this category). Though often defined as having (only) “basic” bunkai, those motions were extracted from the classic kata, so the bunkai associated to them should (also) have the same interpretations as the kata from which they originated. It is this avenue of logic that I apply to the Pinan kata. Though personally preferring to practice the classic kata, I can appreciate the motions contained within the Pinan kata (though I don't particularly care for the practice of them).

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


 Training with Oyata would commonly expose a student to numerous uncomfortable situations. The most awkward of those was the preference for a student's use of their dominant side/hand. Having watched Oyata (on numerous occasions) perform a technique, it was obvious that he demonstrated no preference in his use of either the Left or Right hand/side. It was also common to hear him ask a student why they could not do likewise?

It has always been my own belief that Oyata was born “left-handed”, and raised (as the majority of society's do) to be “right-handed”. I believed my own father (who was of the same age group) was raised similarly. Both of these men would perform the majority of their actions, using their right-hand. But demonstrated only limited (if any) awkwardness when using the other (Left) hand. Within both Eastern and Western society (during that time), being left-handed was considered to be a “defect”. Children were commonly instructed to use their “right” hand for any/all manipulations that required the use of a single-hand.

Speak to any “left-handed” person that you know, and they will readily point-out how much society has been developed to/for (only) Right-handed people. My son is left-handed and I became aware of this “side-preference” (by society) when he was very young. Though he was raised to use his left-hand (for writing, shooting, catching a ball, etc) he has had to make numerous “adaptations” to comfortably function in society. This has become increasingly obvious to me in the commonly utilized training methods that are utilized by many, if not most systems.

The most dominant example (for those who train in Oyata's methodology) is that he taught us to begin an altercation “square” to an opponent. The majority of defensive systems will preach about how doing so is (in some way) a disadvantage. This has more to do with how an aggressor is anticipating their own attack, than in how one should be protecting themselves (as the defender should commonly be doing).

The assumption of any (side-dominant) “stance” prior to engaging in an altercation (in fact) limits the number of possible responses available to that individual. By beginning a confrontation “square” to an opponent, the student allows for (any) motion (equally) in any direction. This is often awkward for (most) students, as they are commonly only considering how they will enact their own “attack” (using their dominant hand). The student's practice should be focused upon their defense, rather than their (own) attack upon an opponent.

This is how the concept of “Defensive Striking” is commonly emphasized within Oyata's methodology. By not having a “side”(leg) forward, one can move to either direction more readily. Defensive striking does not focus upon enacting a “knock-out” strike, it emphasizes debilitating the opponent's limb's (initially) as these are what will deliver the aggressor's potential to create injury (upon the defender). Once the student has completed their defensive action, they can more easily move to any direction that may be required (to deliver a defensive strike or motion as required).

When one assumes the (commonly used) defensive posture of “one leg forward, one leg back”, the person's dominant side is usually the rearward side. Though (obviously) done in order to achieve greater momentum with the striking hand, doing so additionally limits the available ways that a strike or any defensive motion can be implemented. Any additional ability's “Defensively” are likewise restricted.

Defensively, this lets the defender “recognize” how an aggressor is likely to attempt a strike, and with which hand. Tactically this is enormously useful knowledge. The defender is then aware of how the aggressor is likely to attack (and can arrange their defense accordingly). Being that a strike to the head is the most likely (opening) “attack” made by an aggressor, the defender can then perform their defensive action accordingly.

Numerous people have made the (their) argument that “they” have been struck in the arm's numerous times (often by person's who practice Escrima and similar arts) and are completely capable of continuing their assault. This (IMO) this is a false equivalency argument. Being struck by a hand is very different than being struck by a “stick”. The perception is that being struck by a “stick” is more debilitating, I would argue (and demonstrate) that the hand can be (much) worse. A stick is capable of delivering a focused blow (impact), a hand can add numerous variables to that impact (and with less “power” being utilized with that strike).

The fact also remains that the majority of individual's don't “walk around” with a single (much less multiple) “sticks”. It's awkward and in most cases illegal to do so. I believe those arts have (some) merit, but take the “long-road” to the development of unarmed defensive tactics.

Unlike those methodologies, Oyata's system focuses on the natural motions of the student's limbs. Weapons are commonly taught in relation to those motions that can (naturally) be accomplished without the inclusion of those weapons.

When student's of Oyata's methodology begin their training with us, the ability to begin a confrontation being “square” to an aggressor requires time to acclimate to (in its implementation). Many systems attempt to “skip past” this (initial) portion of a confrontation and/or train to actually “wait” until (what they perceive to be) the (physical) “attack” begins. Oyata strove to change that perception.

That methodology was much simpler than most students assume it to be. In its simplest form, the right-hand will perform actions to the right side of the student, and the left-hand will perform actions to the left side of the student. The concept is focused on efficiency (without any further implication of any dominance in regards to “side” of a technique's implementation).

People who trained with/under Oyata would commonly speak of how “fast” he was, it wasn't that he was (exceptionally) “fast”, more that he was efficient in the performance of the instructed motions. He did not “include” any motion that did not contribute to an action's efficiency. This efficiency was exampled in every aspect of his art, he considered every motion made, to be an entire body motion/application.