Saturday, December 20, 2008

Kata "Stuff"

Have you ever seen "stuff" creep in to your kata? This happens all the time. It may be a natural process the gives us the opportunity to improve. "Stuff" comes in many forms: extra moves, odd angles, extra body movement (this seems to be the most prevalent), similar techniques from other kata, space constraints, or modifications due to injury that remain after recovery. I am not speaking of major movements or pattern problems. "Stuff" is subtle. I am referring to the refinements that can take your kata to the next level.

Some students may think that I am too picky. On the contrary, it is my obligation as an instructor to guide the students along their karate journey. Teaching and learning the pattern of kata is the easy part. A close examination of the techniques and how they function is when the real studying begins. For example, when I am looking at my own kata, I feel when something is awry long before I see it. There is a punch in Passai that is executed off the left hip. It felt wrong. After closer examination, I realized that I did not chamber the technique properly. A subtle correction can make a huge difference in function.

As students learn kata, they must remember to bring along the kata they already know. New students often seem surprised that rank testing is cumulative. The current material includes all the material you already tested for and passed! The earliest material must grow stronger with each rank. The first kata in Okinawa Kenpo is Nai Hanchi Shodan. A brown belt level student demonstrating Nai Hanchi Shodan should do so with brown belt level ability.

I encourage a close examination of kata. You can ask an instructor, work with a training partner or even self-evaluate.

Enjoy the process!


Perpetual Beginner said...

Nai Hanchi is your first? Interesting, it's our third (Seisan and Seuichan come before it).

I find that I need to go back and re-imagine my earlier katas as I progress in technique. It's almost like learning them again, only I'm teaching them to myself. It's such a reliable reaction to any significant progress in technique that if I go six months plus without having to go through this process with at least one kata, I start to get concerned.

John Vesia said...

I used to have an instructor change "stuff" in our kata every other week. I kid you not. Drove us crazy. Also, when I visit other Isshinryu schools, which I do frequently, I see unfamiliar variations in kata all the time. The explanations that I get for these differences range from "that's the way I was taught" to "it's better this way."

A brown belt level student demonstrating Nai Hanchi Shodan should do so with brown belt level ability.

Excellent point. Even with the most basic technique there should be a marked improvement from the time a novice becomes an advanced trainee.

As for self-evaluation in kata I recommend videotaping.

Martial Arts Mom said...

Yes, I agree - somet things do creep in - but sometimes it is good an attitude or a new "purpose" behind a move...or maybe just a realization of the original purpose! I had this happen to me in my self-imposed boot camp the other day when doing Pal-Gwe 1 and 2...great feeling!

BobSpar said...

Michelle, quick and perhaps naive question here. When you spar, how close do you think your execution is to the form you strive for in kata?

Michele said...

PB: Interesting...Seisan is the last kata we learn before Shodan. I agree that earlier kata should be re-visited as new kata/techniques are learned.

John: Video taping is a great idea. I can imagine that kata "changes" drove you crazy. It must have been hard to learn and keep track of the latest version.

There are people I train with only once or twice a year at Federation training camps. We are from different schools and from different parts of the country. The kata are consistant. We can stand next to each other and look like we have been training in the same dojo all year long. I feel very fortunate.

MAM: Good point. There are good things that develop in kata. I would like to think it is because of hard work and growth in the art. Good for you!

Bob: Thank you for the thought provoking question. I used it as the topic of my latest blog post. Thanks.