LEAD BY EXAMPLE - LIVE THE EXAMPLE
Chito-ryu Official kata
Having trained for over 36 years I have executed kata thousands of times myself as well as having seen kata demonstrated an equal amount of times. During this period of time, I have witnessed a wide variation when it comes to what a particular teacher stresses in their kata teachings. Some teachers stress that kata is a tool for training in preparation for a real life encounter. Other instructors lead the students to believe that all kata should, above all else, look esthetically pleasing to the eye regardless of the legitimacy or understanding of the movements. These instructors will even base their promotional process on the fact that the student can walk through or in other words give a good athletic performance of a particular kata without making a mistake, end at the same spot as they began and if in fact the student performing the kata has won a kata competition, the teacher feels even more justified in promoting the student. The teacher will promote the student even if the teacher knows for a fact that the student could never use the kata's movements in a legitimate self-defense scenario. I have witnessed students, who without question, certainly lack the speed and power necessary to neutralize an attack, easily pass a test because they had a good memory and therefore was able to perform the kata without forgetting any of the movements. On the other hand I have witnessed students fail a test simply because they did not end at the same spot where they began their kata, a modern requirement for kata performance.
While we must always strive for perfection in our movements, we must also look at all aspects of the kata. What is the kata being used for? What importance do we place on the practice of kata? Does the kata teach a student everything they need to know about defending a true life encounter? Is the importance of returning to the circle strong enough to fail a student, when a true life encounter would seldom if ever return to the same spot? Until we ask ourselves these questions and many more, it becomes difficult for us to tell a student why they have failed a test when a fellow student, who the failing student can easily out maneuver, has passed. We must above all else have a definitive answer as to what we wish to accomplish through the establishment of clearly defined goals.
I remember hearing sometime ago about a gentleman who was ranked at Roku-dan (6th degree black belt) who was sitting as a kata judge at a tournament when a Yon-dan (4th degree black belt) from his same organization performed a kata. The Roku-dan gave the Yon-dan a low score. When the Yon-dan ask politely why he had been given a low score, the Roku-dan simply stated that he felt that the rhythm/timing of the kata was wrong. Now, having said this and in defense of the Roku-dan, I will say that I did not witness the kata being performed, but I do know the Yon-dan and have known him for nearly 20 years. I know the Yon-dan to be exceptionally fast, extremely proficient in relation to target awareness, extremely knowledgeable in relation to his kata. I also know that the Roku-dan and the Yon-dan have virtually the same amount of legitimate years of training under their belts. Furthermore, I have known the Yon-dan's teacher for over 30 years. I have no doubt in my mind that the Yon-dan changed the rhythm/timing of the kata on purpose, possibly at the encouragement of his teacher and that the Roku-dan did not realize that this was the case and possibly did not realize that this is totally acceptable and even encouraged in advanced ranks, specifically from Yon-dan (Instructor Grade ) and upward. Numerous times I have witnessed kata being demonstrated, (especially in an Okinawan karate system), in which everyone, (5 to 20 students) demonstrating the kata, executed their kata at a different pace of action. For advanced students, rhythm and timing should always be dependant on the specific attacks and applications being envisioned by the senior student.
In my mind the incident above is an excellent example of the mind-set that limits the true application, understanding and meaning of the kata!
The following is an exert from the book "Unante, The Secrets of Karate" written by Sensei John Sells. "To summarize, a kata is both performed and experienced. It is not good enough simply to have a "pretty" kata. Karate is, above all, a martial art. The "martial" must be manifested in kata. Power should be exuded, focused and unleashed in burst of quick, yet manifestly potent techniques. If kata is karate, then it cannot be lacking any of the characteristics that make karate work. Kata is not a separate form of karate, but an integrated training drill, as well as an expression of skill." The above statement stresses not only my thoughts on kata, but the thoughts of numerous other martial artist who train specifically for real life encounters as opposed to the performance of "pretty" kata.
Training kata as taught by the Koshin-ha Chito-kai.
The first three kata included in the Koshin-ha Chito-kai syllabus serve as basic training kata and are from the minor kata list since these kata are stressed for only a short period of the students entire training time. The major training components taught through the use of these three kata are: low stances (Zenkutsu-dachi) as opposed to the higher Seisan-dachi and hip rotation as opposed to the major use of hip vibration taught throughout the other Chito-ryu kata. Since hip rotation is only one side or part of hip vibration, it is believed that the use of hip rotation is easier to teach as well as easier for the student to learn. Since the threat of violence continues to rise world wide, self-defense has become and remains a major concern for most Americans. With this danger in mind, we feel the need to insure that our students develop the ability to defend themselves as quickly as possible. As stated above, we feel that hip rotation is easier and faster to learn and therefore we believe that this method of teaching will better prepare our students in the use of a major power source when and if they have to defend themselves. Furthermore, through the use of the overload principle, the use of lower stances has proven to us many times over, that students taught in this manner develop stronger, more flexible legs with powerful hip muscles which consequently results in the ability to generate movements with explosive action especially when the stances are elevated to the higher stance, Seisan-dachi .
The following 12 kata are the kata left to us by the founder of Chito-ryu. Two of these kata have sho & dai forms.
Major kata of the Koshin-ha Chito-Kai
2. Ni-sei-shi-sho & dai
4. Rohai-sho & dai
Minor kata as practiced by the Koshin-ha Chito-kai.
WHY DO WE PRACTICE KATA?
The practice of Kata will assist the student in a multitude of areas greatly enhancing the students technical skill level. Below I have listed some of the important attributes of Kata practice.
1 Teaches defensive & offensive techniques.
2. Enhances the student's balance, both stationary and mobile.
3. Teaches proper rhythm and timing since each kata has it's own particular pace of action.
4. Teaches and constantly reinforces the 5 basic methods of developing power as well as other methods known as power enhancers.
5. Teaches breath control before, during and after the kata is performed.
6. Teaches both simple and complex bio-mechanical maneuvers.
7. Teaches visualization.
8. Teaches focus (Zanshin.)
9. Teaches expansion/contraction / relaxation/tension.
10. Teaches grace through performing the movements of the kata.
11. Teaches eye or visual control when facing one or multiple opponents.
12. Teaches the use of proper strength application.
13. Teaches anatomical vulnerable target areas of the human body.
14. Teaches the proper application of the bodies impacting tools.
15. Teaches control through proper muscular synchronization and breathing.
16. Teaches methods of advancing and retreating (stepping).
17. Teaches the embusen (performance line) of the kata.
18. Teaches proper effective posturing (stances).
19. Teaches stance transitions.
20. Teaches continuity of movement.
21. Teaches economy of motion.
22. Teaches irimi-waza (entering techniques).
23. Teaches the components and themes of the kata.
24. Teaches the application principles encrypted within the kata.