The Practicality of “Scrolls”
Our classes study has began to focus on the principles learned from Oyata and exampled in the scrolls given to him by his instructor's. Those scrolls example various principles and practices that are intended to be used by Oyata's students in their study of defensive applications. They example the various positions and technique principles that allow those motions to most effectively function.
Many of the motions/concepts illustrated on the scrolls provide reminders of those principles that Oyata taught. The most common misconception, is that the scrolls illustrate “techniques”. There are no (actual) techniques shown upon them. They illustrate images that suggest methods of a technique's application, or (more accurately) suggest reminders of a technique's application. The scrolls do not illustrate (complete) technique's. If one had received no (additional) instruction (beyond having viewed the scrolls) that individual would be “lost” as to what was being illustrated.
I equate the provided scrolls to a “dictionary”. Unless one knows how to combine, and use the words in that dictionary, they will remain unable to write a “best selling novel”. There is more to writing a novel, than (simply) being able to correctly“spell” words. In our situation, we have to use the (taught) instructed motions to effectively accomplish a defensive method using those principles that are illustrated on those scrolls, and were taught to us by Oyata.
Although the scrolls do not (IMO) provide any “new” ideas/techniques or principles, they do provide a reference as to what was originally considered to be the fundamental principles that the system Oyata learned/taught was based upon.
I've seen various examples of (other systems) “scroll's” that illustrate various technique's, and frankly I'm completely uninterested in them. Learning new, or different technique's means (very) little to me. When one is familiar with the underlying principles behind those motions, one is then able to apply (or create) a response to any situation that confronts an individual.
When I view examples of (supposedly) “new” technique's/application, I consider how many of the included motions are (already) being “commonly” utilized. There is rarely anything “new” being done. It is simply (another) variation of technique application. I don't consider those applications as being “bad”, or even wrong, but I do consider if there were a simpler manner of accomplishing the same or an equivalent result (in the given situation).
More often than not, what I am seeing is the individual circumventing the (to myself) obvious (and more simplistic) defensive response. “Complicated” does not equate to “better” (or more effective). Complexity is only relevant, to the level of practice that one has performed with the instructed motions. Oyata taught that “basic” motions (done correctly) are what a student will utilize. It is only when the student fails to perform those motions correctly, that they will be forced to include additional motions (and therefor whether those motions will be considered to be “basic” or “complicated”).
The only “new” motions that can “Wow” us, are those that are so simplistic, that we're amazed that we haven't (already) figured them out on our own. Those are few and far between, and frankly have (more often) already been experienced during our time studying with Oyata.
Nowhere within the scrolls (that were provided by Oyata) is (physical) “Power” being emphasized (through striking harder or being stronger) in regards to the effectiveness of technique application. It (should be obvious) that the exploitation of an aggressor's (natural) weaknesses is able to be accomplished (by anyone) without being bigger/stronger than that aggressor. That shouldn't imply that “Power” serves no purpose, or isn't a factor to be considered. Only that what level of power that is available (by the student), should be utilized in the most effective manner available.
The majority of students, “study” under the premise that the amount of “power” that they are able to generate, equates to their ability to perform the instructed applications. Does it really matter how hard I strike you in the throat? Whether using a single finger, or a fist, a response will be created. The motions that follow that action will determine if that strike was “effective” (or not).
The fact that you are able to achieve a “result” (that you can use) from striking someone in the chest/torso, does not mean that anyone else can. That makes it a (somewhat) effective technique for yourself, but it (hardly) equates to being a “technique” that should be taught to a larger group of students (who most likely can't make it be an effective application). The effectiveness of a technique will always be situationally subjective. This fact illustrates the need of “basic” technique applications. Those technique's that fall into that basic category, should be applicable by any/all students. By using the principles of the instructed art, the student should understand what is required to create an “effective” application. If/when it relies on an individual factor (to achieve that effect) to be effective, it's efficiency becomes questionable.
Many instructor's/student's focus their study on “kata” bunkai. Oyata taught us to study “technique” Bunkai. Simply being “aware” of an application, does not make it an effective application. One should be able to explain, and vary every aspect of a technique's motion and the ability's that make it effective (or even applicable) for use. Kata motion can be recognized as a reference of/for “known” technique's or motions, or as a research basis for different application's. In either case, the student needs to research how those motions can/can't work within those situations.
The scrolls that we were provided with, only provide the “outlines” for correct/effective motion. Those scrolls leave the “application” (of those principles) up to the reader to establish. This is what Oyata was focusing upon during his final years. The (various) exercises that he developed were intended to illustrate those principles to us. It wasn't (only) the physical motions within those exercises that were important, but the principle(s) that were being illustrated by the actions that were being utilized within those motions.
The instructed exercises provide the student with the means to practice those motions (whether they are aware of the referenced “scroll's” or not). Being aware of those scrolls means nothing (they are only another reference for what Oyata taught). As stated previously, if you aren't aware of how/what Oyata was teaching, they provide no (actual) benefit to the practitioner.
Taika utilized specific traditional kata, in addition to the Pinan kata. The pinan kata were assembled for the instruction of younger students within the Okinawan school system. They were intended to familiarize those students with motions that were (at the time) considered to be too complicated for “younger” students (who only had a limited exposure to those motions).
The Pinan kata were being widely taught/recognized so Oyata included them within his curriculum. He modified specific portions of their motions (to correspond with how those motions are performed within the traditional kata). IMO, the greater “use” of the Pinan kata, is in regards to the “footwork/motion” examples provided within their practice.
Oyata's use of the “traditional” kata, was limited to the (3) Naihanchi kata, Seisan Kata, Passai kata, Kusanku kata and Niseishi kata. The versions of these were the “oldest” versions that he was able to verify. These often didn't include the (various) “additions” that numerous system's have included (by various instructor's). He believed that the version he learned/utilized (often) implied those “extra” motions, but they should be included by the individual (rather than mandating that every student utilize those motions in a specific manner). This would motivate the individual student to develop their own version (individually) for themselves. He felt that every student has individual (physical) differences, and that every student will in turn perform specific applications in an (their own) individual manner,
Weapons practice is an integral piece of Oyata Te practice. Taika didn't include that practice for the direct “use” of those weapon's. The student's practice of weapon's kata, was to illustrate “unarmed” practice (application of the “open-hand” technique's). Every motion done within a weapon's kata can be translated directly to an “unarmed” application and/or principle.
Those principles include “Force Efficiency”, “Light-foot”, “Windmill”, “Bicycle” and “Ka han shin – Ja han shim”. These are all illustrated within each of the practiced defensive actions and kata (whether with a weapon or not).
Oyata's art was not “flashy”, nor
was it quickly learned. It requires an extensive amount of practice
to understand (much less correctly perform). With that being said, it
wasn't that it was “difficult”, only that it took time to learn
how to perform it correctly.