Thursday, 5 June 2014

Original Function or Creative Playground?

Okinawan karate has always been a melting pot for mixing various martial arts, katas and the creative drives of its pioneers, this was a necessity due to the often incomplete and erratic transmission of gong fu forms and styles that arrived with little or no applications. Forms without functions were re-engineered, added to and given a new life eventually evolving into the various styles of Karate. Creative interpreters today are continuing this process started in Okinawa. The search for the original meaning of kata requires a very different approach and a move away from almost everything in Karate apart from the forms themselves.

It is quite rare among Karate teachers, enthusiasts and groups to spend time attempting to unlock the original functions of kata, often dismissed as a pointless endeavour kata are left wide open for creative interpreters to pin any meaning they like to the techniques contained in the forms and to the personal tastes of the student in choosing which applications they like best.

Committing to researching a kata and attempting to discover its original function is a painstaking process where countless mistakes will be made, months even years of experimenting sometimes produce no solid results and if a discovery is made and the kata becomes decipherable the function may not be what was originally suspected or hoped for! This is diametrically opposed to the creative playground where anything goes in interpreting a form. It is undeniable that the creativity that goes into imagining the countless applications is inspiring and the appeal to bunkai collectors is obvious but if the original function of the techniques is not to play a role in the bunkai then isn't this a call for completely new kata to be created?

Please contact us with any comments, questions or most importantly for training please email Tom Maxwell at, thanks for reading!!!

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