NOTE: You should understand that my teaching style is often VERY direct. At times, I even use explicit language…which may offend some people. This teaching style often goes against what many people “expect” from a teacher or instructor. And, sometimes this offends what many people in the West call “the Ego”. If this teaching style is NOT for you then I strongly encourage you to find another teacher that better matches your current needs and expectations.
Each [professional] field of endeavor has its own language…letters, words, phrases and sentences. This specialized language is taught, to those wishing to learn the discipline or advance further within it. Once the proper usage of the language is learned, it becomes integrated in peer to peer communications and general writings. It then becomes an integral part of engaging all of the members of the discipline. This is no different in Japanese and, especially, Okinawan based combative and personal protections arts and methods. Not learning how to analyze kata, discern the combative application of the moves and then develop principle drive combative variations (bunkai, oyo and henka in the language of our discipline) is akin to removing half or more of your own personal language abilities.
Since they are directly related to the topic of kata analysis, I would recommend that you have a look at the two following posts as they may help to enlighten you as to where I am coming from and how I ended up (through much trial and error!) with the principles I am presenting here.
William Shakespeare practiced the same kata as you or I do. To wit, the letters of the alphabet.Peter Urban ~ founder of American Goju-ryu Karate-do
Take Apart and Analyze
To Put To Use
The martial arts have numerous varieties of kata. Predecessors, over long periods of time, created kata through experience, changes and imagination. It is obvious that these kata must be trained and practiced sufficiently, but one must not be “stuck” in them. One must withdraw from kata to produce forms with no limits or else it becomes useless. It is important to alter the form of the trained kata without hesitation to produce countless other forms by training.Hironori Otsuka ~ founder of Wado-ryu Karate-do
I present, in no particular order, the following key points regarding kata analysis for your review and consideration. Comments, as always, are welcome by using the message system located at the bottom of the page.
All movements in the katas should be evaluated within the sphere of a personal combative and self-protection paradigm.
Nothing is more harmful to the world than a martial art that is not effective in actual self-defense.Motobu Choki
In a personal combative and self-protection paradigm, you must always consider that moves in a kata might be a pre-emptive attack as well as a more reactive or defensive strategy.
A kata is not fixed or immoveable. Like water, it’s ever changing and fits itself to the shape of the vessel containing it. However, kata are not some kind of beautiful competitive dance, but a grand martial art of self-defense…which determines life and deathMabuni Kenwa ~ Founder of Shito-ryu Karate-do
Most traditional kata begin and end with a block. The reason they begin with a block is that in karate we always wait for the opponent to strike first. Why? There is no advantage to striking first as you only become open or vulnerable when you strike out at someone. Test it for yourself: if you stand in an on-guard position you will notice that you are not really open anywhere. It is only when you strike out at someone that you become open…Richard Kim ~ noted martial artist and author
Karate ni sente nashi
There is no first strike in karate
Actual combat is NEVER a static engagement. Stances in a kata represent a fixed transitional moment in the engagement. You should always take the overall idea of a posture so that you can move in a dynamic way.
Fixed postures are for beginners; the advanced student uses natural postures.Funakoshi Gichin ~ Founder of Shotokan Karate-do
Practical Kata Bunkai: Stances & Heian Shodan Application
If you happen to be fairly new here and are not necessarily familiar with the Kodawari Hombu Dojo and, specifically, what we teach, I would recommend taking a quick look at the information provided by the link below:
Hoping to see karate included in the universal physical education taught in our public schools, I set about revising the kata so as to make them as simple as possible. Times change, the world changes, and obviously the martial arts must change too. The karate that high school students practice today is not the same karate that was practiced even as recently as ten years ago [this book was written in 1956], and it is a long way indeed from the karate I learned when I was a child in Okinawa.Funakoshi Gichin ~ Founder of Shotokan Karate-do
Itsou’s modifications resulted in huge changes in the way the art was taught. The emphasis was now placed firmly upon the development of physical fitness through the group practice of kata. The children would receive no instruction in the combative applications associated with the katas and deliberately misleading labels were adopted for the various techniques. Today, it is Itsou’s terminology that is most commonly used throughout the world and it is vital to understand why this terminology developed. When studying the combative applications of the katas remember that many of the names given to various movements have no link with the movement’s fighting application. Terms such as “Rising-block” or “Outer-block” stem from the watered down karate taught to Okinawan school children, and not the highly potent fighting art taught to the adults. When studying bunkai be sure that the label does not mislead you. Itsou’s changes also resulted in the teaching of kata without its applications. The traditional practice had been to learn the kata and then when it was of a sufficient standard (and the student had gained the master’s trust) the applications would then be taught. However, it now became the norm to teach the kata for its own sake and the applications may never be taught (as is sadly still the case in the majority of karate schools today).Iain Abernethy ~ Noted martial artist and author
In the past, it was expected that about three years were required to learn a single kata, and usually even an expert of considerable skill would only know three, or at most five, kata.Funakoshi Gichin ~ Founder of Shotokan Karate-do
To practice kata is not to memorize an order. Find the katas that work for you, understand them, digest them & stick with them for life.”Funakoshi Gichin ~ Founder of Shotokan Karate-do
It is not the number of Kata you know, but the SUBSTANCE of the Kata you have acquired.Yamaguchi Gogen
A student well versed in even one technique will naturally see corresponding points in other techniques. A upper level punch, a lower punch, a front punch and a reverse punch are all essentially the same. Looking over thirty-odd kata, he should be able to see that they are essentially variations on just a handful.Funakoshi Gichin ~ Founder of Shotokan Karate-do
It is important for a kata to be artistic. Each component technique should be correct, but the rhythm of the whole kata is important. A simple compilation of techniques is meaningless…It must have a good feeling and express deep emotion.Chojiro Tani
At its basic level kata develops coordination, balance, precision, speed, timing, endurance and power. A kata, performed masterly, embodies all the aesthetic beauty and pure indomitable spirit of a martial art. Ultimately, kata becomes a test against the self to strive for perfection, a perfection that Masters maintain is humanly impossible to attain. Yet in striving for that perfection, practitioners enhance their character by giving their personal best and by conquering his or her self.Unknown
Beginning his martial training almost 50 years ago, Michael Davis has spent almost his entire adult life attempting to internalize, add to and propagate the body of knowledge that makes up the principles and techniques of the life preserving combative arts and sciences. Michael has taught or assisted with the teaching of seminars and events in 17 US states and four countries. In addition to training every day martial artists, he has taught members of the US military as well as law enforcement at every level...from local LEOs to Federal Marshalls and US Secret Service agents (protective detail). He has co-authored a martial arts book, written numerous magazine articles that were published internationally as well as appearing in and assisting with the production of martial arts videos and other training materials.
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