Monday, 25 September 2017

Lost And Found

Research into European Martial arts has a huge amount of support from within its community and rightly so, the work being done and the fascinating results are being fed back into modern practises which in turn are revitalising arts that for a long time have been preserved only in books. Some treatises are quite obscure in their descriptions and demand real work is put in to decode the meaning and extract the techniques. This is not an easy process and requires time, effort and patience.

Karate researchers have an advantage in that the source materials for Karate are not recorded in books they are recorded in movement, the kata! The various martial arts forms collected and preserved in Okinawan Karate also demand the same time, effort and patience to unlock the original function as the European martial arts manuals do.

The prevailing attitude amongst many kata 'specialists' is that it is not possible to know the original functions of the kata. Does this belief extend to those trying to understand antique martial arts from books and treatises? Clearly not as many embrace the Bubishi as containing knowledge and skills that can be extracted and applied. So Martial arts can be worked out from books but not from movements?

The belief that the original functions are lost is false and just as many great European martial arts are coming back to life thanks to the serious research and effort being made, so too are the martial arts preserved in the antique kata. With a huge body of work and research from various groups like the Kodoryu group whose sole purpose for over 30 years has been to unlock the original functions of the forms inherited from China. The evidence is overwhelming and just waiting to be tried, tested and critiqued!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Kata's Richer Heritage

Beyond the endless defences against an oi-tsuki, poorly thrown hook punches and headlocks sold today in various combinations and flow drills it may surprise some that the antique forms have a far richer heritage to offer those willing to dig a little deeper. The kata inherited from China have come from many different sources and were developed for different purposes at different times. The function of a form can be defined by the correct usage of the techniques within the appropriate context. This means that kata were developed specifically for application in various contexts such as warfare, body-guarding, policing and civil control, theatrical performances, religious practices and so on.

From this understanding it should then be obvious that not all kata will be practical or applicable to self defence and street fighting as is commonly taught today. For example a form(s) developed originally for using a pair of Sai (Sanchin, Seisan and Sanseriu) within the context of policing (civil control/arrest) will have almost no use in developing unarmed skills for use in the context of street fighting/self defence.

The different contexts and martial requirements have inspired a great variety of skills, strategies and practices to be recorded in the different kata that are highly specific in function. The specificity of the functions means that they do not translate well and cross over to other uses. It is also important to bear in mind that while some kata will be complete in their function others will only be fragments of methods/systems.

The attitude that the original functions of kata have been lost forever is common and effectively closes the door on the fascinating practises, problems and solutions recorded in the antique forms. This belief about kata seems to be quite unique to Karate and we do not find it in European Martial arts research. Many excellent researchers are currently bringing back to life medieval European martial arts preserved in books and manuals with fascinating results. It is just within Karate it seems that there is a very precious attitude towards who can know what and who is allowed to talk about it.

Monday, 11 September 2017

If You Don't Know What You Are Doing, What Are You Doing?

When practising a solo kata knowing the function of the form, ideally what was intended for the movements in the first place is key to knowing how the techniques should be performed. Not all kata have the same function and so the execution of the forms will vary according to their specific functions. The more experience acquired in using the techniques the closer the solo kata can potentially be to reality and it is in this experience of applying the content of the form in increasingly challenging ways that will inform how to train when without a training partner.

Contra to popular belief practising a solo kata will not significantly improve the ability to use the techniques against another person, a solo form can only ever be a representation of the experience of the movements and how they have previously been applied. The way to develop the solo practise is by actually using the techniques with another person in ways that are constantly evolving and challenging to the practitioner, this all important experience then becomes the driving force behind the solo movements. So if you don't know what you are doing, then what are you doing?

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Just Another thought!

It is a commonly held belief in the Karate world that the original functions of the antique forms (kata inherited from China) are lost and we can't possibly know what they were intended for when they were created. However if a statement is made about kata such as "kata are for self defence" then that would be a statement about the function of the form. The hypocrisy of saying the true functions can't be known but this is the function seems to be lost on many of the bunkai 'experts' (or salesmen?). If the original functions are really lost does that mean that all the applications, flow drills and bunkai are all made up?

Just another thought!