Kata & lost application

Discussion in 'Karate' started by Andrew Green, Apr 19, 2002.

  1. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Member

    "Andrew if you are willing to tell why we've lost so much information from our katas I'd like to hear, maybe you could start a thread over in Karate (pretty please )."

    Well I'd say there are a number of reasons and this could easily turn into a rather lengthy article, but I'll keep it short and just point out some of the main points.

    It likely began with Itosu introducing karate into the schools as a form of PE. His curriculum focused on the health benefits and left out a lot of the dangerous stuff. After this most peoples first exposure to karate was this new method.

    His student, Funakoshi, goes to Japan and begins teaching in Japanese universities, Bob could probably go into a lot more detail then I can on what he taught, but I believe it was basically Ituso's syllabus in the beginning with other forms being added. Some applications remained and this can be seen in his writings.

    His students further Shotokan by giving it a competitive format, point sparring. Kata begins being done more for aesthetic value and fitness rather then practicallity, the stances drop, the jumps get higher, etc.

    Another thing is the rapid growth karate experienced at that time, all those instructors didn't just appear out of nowhere, chances are many of them where not really ready to start teaching but their was a demand for them to do so, so they did.

    Competition gains momentum, things not allowed in competition are left behind, kata changes to get more points (the kicks go higher, the stances lower, etc.) and this competition karate is the main focus in the Universities.

    Most of the instructors get their training and know nothing but this competition format and it is the one that gets spread.

    The same sort of thing happens in Okinawa, Marines get stationed there, train for 18 months and then get sent home as Shodans+ and they start teaching, what they learnt follows more the school boy karate approach, they learn kata, a few basic applications and sparring.

    Interest in other things simply dies off and is not often taught.

    Now years later, interest in these things is resurfacing, instructors are reverse enginering the kata they learnt, old books are being translated, and eveyone is pooling their knowledge and karate is coming out of its dark age.

    Summary: The two biggest reasons are the development of competition and the rapid growth of karate. Many things just got left in the dust.

    Anyway this is just my opinion, and is just a quick overview, other things where involved (The Dai Nippon Budo kai for one) and was written quickly so I reserve the right to "correct" anything I said :D
  2. Pablo

    Pablo New Member

    This parallels the discussion on Judo losing its grappling skills to competition and convenience. Taiji experienced a similar deliberate simplification of its curriculum, in order to suit a new group of customers. As a result, a lot of stuff was lost, and the door left open for mistaken interpretations, etc.

  3. Freeform

    Freeform Fully operational War-Pig Supporter

    Thanx Andrew. It was my understanding that Funakoshi wasn't big on competition?

    So basically the 'mass produced' Karate-do is a watered down school exercise (presumably because they didn't want the kids to be ripped each others throats out and breaking their arms).

    So what we're all after now is the Karate-Jutsu, the real dirty stuff that got left out. Do you know if the katas have changed over the years? That because certain things were never taught or pointed out that they were performed wrong and over say three generations of instruction barely resemble what they are meant to be.

    e.g We were at a seminar where a high ranking Dan grade was going through Heian Godan with us, at the point where you perform a high X-block, roll your hands and bring them doen to your hips he showed us the technique and said 'as nobody knows what this is, you can forget the roll and just move straight onto the punch', this started off a real intersting chain of events as my Shotokan Instructor is very immersed into bunkai and immediately demostrated three of the applications (much to seminar guys annoyance) anyway I digress,...

  4. Ozebob

    Ozebob Valued Member

  5. Kosokun

    Kosokun Valued Member

    Another reason that much appeared to be lost was simply the changing of the teaching format from private or semi private lessons to group lessons.

    In a private fomat, one can take the time to go into depth. In a group setting, such as in school or a commercial dojo, the dynamic doesn't allow for that. What I've noticed, from many conversations with many different people, is that some instructors would cherry pick their students from their commercial dojo and invite only a select few over to the house after practice for some private instruction. If you weren't one of those people, you missed out on some kata apps, despite being one of the senior students (longest tenure) at the dojo.

  6. Mike O'Leary

    Mike O'Leary Valued Member

    Bob Said and I agree, let me add one more thing to this comment.

    "The same sort of thing happens in Okinawa, Marines get stationed there, train for 18 months and then get sent home as Shodans+ and they start teaching, what they learnt follows more the school boy karate approach, they learn kata, a few basic applications and sparring. "

    Something else happened when these marines came home. Often they were not sent home with a shodan but with higher rank conditional to time. In other words they may have been awarded 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and told that in 2 years wear 2nd degree, in another 5 wear 3rd degree and so on. Many figured on never seeing their sensei again and this was done to help the styles grow. Some were honorable and some were not, they put the 6th degree on right away. I think most can realize that after studying for a year or so you are really not ready to teach the intimate details of the kihon or kata so when sport and sparring came along it was much easier for the military people to deal with.

    I have seen several situations where it was proved that the military people had little training and been awarded high rank on condition.

    Well said Bob hope you dont mind me adding that little ditty to your comments.
  7. Freeform

    Freeform Fully operational War-Pig Supporter

    So was it the senior instructors okinawan/japanesse' fault that the kata applications weren't taught, or was it expected that the students would figure it out for themselves?

  8. Mike O'Leary

    Mike O'Leary Valued Member

    I dont beleive it was anyones fault.... I think what happened is that There was a situation where the marines were paying a group of people who were in a war torn country.... very impoverished.... so they used what they had to survive...

    I think the people who took the martial art home with them needed to train more and not return home to train in isolation. Remember even in your own dojo there is a Kata man... a tournament fighter.... and people who have their strong points and week points... if you were to learn from each of these.. would they teach the same... ??????????????? i think not...

  9. Krysdaggr

    Krysdaggr New Member

    I would like to add a few of my thoughts along this line to Mike's. Most of these men who trained in Okinawa were young and alot of them were Marines. Now the next part of what I say is a generalization and I realize it does not fit all Marines. When they were offered these high ranks and knowing that honestly their Sensei would not be able to really check up on them, we are talking the late 50's thru early 70's so computers info at the speed of light were not available to everyone then, they wore the high ranks immediately. Some of them became instant masters as they came home over the ocean. Alot of these men had one tour of duty two at the most under their belts. Even though they were probably able to train alot during their 12-18 month tour at the most they would have 36 months of training and that is being generous. Well they came back to the US with huge macho, egos determined that they were responsible to proprogate the style in the United States. Did you know everything your style had to offer at 18 months, 36 months????? Neither did they so I feel that some of them filled in the blanks. That they could not stand before a class and admit they didn't know, esp if they were the highest guy in the United States so they improvised. Well as traveling started to be more available and one branch of a style was seeing another branch of the style more egos became involved and some of the more egosiaital became set in their ways and almost became "gods". I am right everyone else is wrong. So styles became divided.

    As I state earlier not all men did this but I have seen it happen several times.

    Now as communications are better and travel is easier we ourselves can seek out the men who came back from Okinawa after the service and take their teaching and compare it and analize it and verify it with others who trained over there with the masters and make our own decisions.

    I don't feel I have communicated well my ideas. Thanks for letting me ramble. Linde

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