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View Full Version : MISCONCEPTIONS OF KATA



Gabriel Suarez
10-24-2018, 12:32 PM
56638

At the Force on Force class we had one resistive student. I rarely get these guys much any more because you have to commit to come up here, beyond the wall, to train with me...its not as easy as having a convenient class down the street on what happens to be your day off. But once in a while...

Anyway...his main complaint was that he did not believe a kata was a good thing and sent a tome of an email explaining why. I have found through the years that the more words you need to use to argue a case, the more emotional that case is and the less intellectual it is. The western student...specially gun people have a disdain for rote training. You will hear terms like "adapt to the situation", "build bad habits", "you can't predict the attack", "adversaries are unpredictable".

At that point I simply shrug, and wave "bye" as I no longer need to bend over backwards to convince anyone of the validity of our work. If you agree, come and train...if you don't, don't come and train...it really doesn't matter and the comments of the guys that attended speak far better than any marketing could.

But lets look at an analogy that you will all understand...language. Instead of a "fight application" lets look at a conversation, or a debate.

You need to adapt to the situation? Yes you do. Unless you can read the adversary's mind, you don't know exactly what his arguement will be. But you can predict certain lines of approach and his talking points and have prepared responses for each. In fact, those who enter debates without this, don't do very well. I wonder if guys like Trump and Bush and other political figures simply adlib every presentation they enter into...or if they spend time studying what they might be asked, and prepare responses for those inquiries.

You will build bad habits? Well...that depends on how you prepare doesn't it. To have complete spontaneous responses both with language and with violence, you need to have a thorough repetoire of words, statements, and tactics to reverse the discussion. A bad habit would be to attend the event so unprepared that you have an emotional response rather than an intellectual one. By far the worst bad habit I see in debaters and in fighters is the thought that somehow they will pull the correct response out of their rectum in the nick of time by not preparing properly for the event they face.

You can't predict the attack, and adversaries are unpredictable? Actually that is false. They are very predictable in a real fight...or a debate. Each party enters into contact with an agenda. Identify the agenda and you identify possible ways they may seek to attain that objective. Then you group those methods into collective "avenues of attack" (verbal and physical are the same). Once those are understood and identified, you develop countermeasures for them and practice them to the point where they are ingrained in your thinking and habituated in your actions. You can access them mindlessly.

How do you do that? I think you know the answer to that question. It is not in "free form practice". It is not in "sparring". It is via intentional and contextual practice of those things repetitively and in combination with other similar themed responses in a manner that is easy to train, recall, and preserve.

And that my friends is the modern definition of...wait for it...a kata.

Brent Yamamoto
10-24-2018, 12:45 PM
I find that virtually all people that deride kata practice SOME form of repetitive training that is, in essence, kata. Whether they call it that or not.

Or they just don't really practice.

mike135
10-24-2018, 02:01 PM
If anybody thinks instinctive reaction doesn't need to be trained intentionally in advance, they really have no clue about how the body and the mind works. In our modern world when YouTube is full of videos of real fights of all types, the evidence is rather overwhelming.

Randy Harris
10-24-2018, 02:06 PM
Or they just don't really practice.

Well to be honest there is a lot of that......:wink:

Brent Yamamoto
10-24-2018, 03:00 PM
I have always found value in practicing kata. It's been a part of my practice since I started as a kid.

However, I can understand why people question it's validity, simply because there are so many people who do not understand it. Teachers that can't explain its utility, who don't understand its relevance, and who don't understand the application. As a student, if you don't understand the point and don't see why its relevant, and you don't have a capable instructor who can explain why, I can understand developing a bias against it. If your exposure to kata has been shit, why would you want to practice more shit?

My first instructor made no bones about the fact that he didn't understand the application, but he said it was important and that with time and effort it would become clear. (And, upon reflection, he was right.) He made us practice it in almost every class.

I remember the early days when I questioned it myself. It was not at all connected to what we thought of as fighting (which was really sparring, not fighting at all). Honestly I adopted a "Karate by faith" attitude. I didn't know what the kata meant, but I had faith that there was value in its practice. I am happy that I chose to stick with it, because even in not understanding the application, I was still training my body how to move, how to maintain balance under different types of movement, throwing strikes with power and structure, etc.

The kata I have learned are not at all applicable to competition sparring. Since competition is the criteria most people judge fighting effectiveness, I can absolutely understand the bias against kata. It's only when you truly understand that kata is for fighting and not competition that you begin to appreciate it.

The majority of the karate world have ignored kata as an actually fighting method. Sadly, they have looked at it only as a vehicle for performance competition (which is why we now have the shit called "extreme martial arts"). That has been changing the last few years and people are bringing it back to its roots. It's a very healthy development.

While I think that many of the old masters understood things better than most today (I still don't understand everything my instructor has tried to teach me), nonetheless the resources that we have access to today are staggering. There's a lot of shit online, but there's also a lot of great material at our fingertips. It's easy to find people that are qualified, and relatively easy travel for personal instruction.

Kata contain the DNA of the fighting system. Kata IS the system...or at least as Iain Abernethy puts it, the acorn. The acorn contains the principles and ideas, it contains a blueprint for training, it contains the fundamental information that allows us to develop into thinking fighters that can extrapolate beyond what we see in the kata.

Knowledge is not power until it is made real in the flesh. The practice of kata, and resulting understanding and capability, make it real. Kata contains power, we only need to take advantage of it.

P.D.
10-24-2018, 03:03 PM
There is nothing - absolutely nothing - that we humans do that doesn't get better with practice. It doesn't matter if you are talking about cooking a steak, jumping your wife's bones, throwing a punch, or drawing, shooting and reloading a pistol. Being better at something means less possibility of "fups".


("fups" are defined as f*ck-ups.)

Gabriel Suarez
10-24-2018, 03:17 PM
I will say this...for every gunfight I was in during my 15 years on the job (and I had a few), I was in a dozen or more "fist fights"...some planned...some not. But everything I used was learned via kata...every reaction to unplanned events was learned and ingrained in kata. And their expression was mindless...without intentional thought. And while I am not the best karate fighter (Brent is better)...I never lost a fight on the street.

All my Internal Affairs Investigations for excessive force will bear that out.

Mike OTDP
10-25-2018, 01:53 PM
... Teachers that can't explain its utility, who don't understand its relevance, and who don't understand the application.

My first instructor made no bones about the fact that he didn't understand the application, but he said it was important and that with time and effort it would become clear. (And, upon reflection, he was right.) He made us practice it in almost every class.

The kata I have learned are not at all applicable to competition sparring. Since competition is the criteria most people judge fighting effectiveness, I can absolutely understand the bias against kata. It's only when you truly understand that kata is for fighting and not competition that you begin to appreciate it.

The majority of the karate world have ignored kata as an actually fighting method. Sadly, they have looked at it only as a vehicle for performance competition.

Hmm...I was taught bunkai (applications) as an integral part of the kata. It's part of the self-check system. If you don't know what a given move is supposed to do, you can't examine it, make sure you are executing it correctly, and fine-tune it to work properly for you.

And I agree 100% that tournament sparring is not street fighting.

Brent Yamamoto
10-25-2018, 03:06 PM
Hmm...I was taught bunkai (applications) as an integral part of the kata.

That's how it should be done, but in my experience good application training is the exception to the rule.

Many schools don't teach application at all, and many who do teach it do a poor job. I've seen it all across the spectrum, good, bad, non-existent. The good news is that I see more and more people searching for better training and more depth in this subject.

Jim Miller
10-27-2018, 05:51 AM
Brent and I had a chance to discuss this the last time we were both at HQ. This attitude is a leftover from Bruce Lee, and while Lee did a lot to bring training forward, this is one area in which he was wrong. Even the JKD guys use prearranged drills, essentially a two man kata to develop skill. I just read something recently about Iain Abernethy's material, the critic agreed that the application was good, but that in our 'modern age' we had better ways to train. Completely disregarding the experience of people like Itosu, Motobu, et al. As long as we know the applications, it's not a waste of time. If some think it is, they don't have to train with us.

Jim Miller
ISA 6:8

Gabriel Suarez
10-27-2018, 01:25 PM
...it's not a waste of time. If some think it is, they don't have to train with us.


Yup...at this stage of our company, we can afford to teach what we have always wanted to teach...the martial art of the pistol. Those who would rather learn to play gun games on the range should not waste our time...or theirs.

Teckomando
10-28-2018, 04:38 PM
The best teachers I had as a very young man always taught us oyo bunkai before we learned a kata. We practiced the oyo bunkai then we started learning the kata. Not the other way around. Kata without bunkai is just a dance for tournaments.

Dorkface
10-28-2018, 08:04 PM
I absolutely didn't understand Kata until it started being talked about here. The developing Kata's would have been a more efficient use of my time back in the day. I broke down the different evolutions from the different classes and worked them bit by bit until they were fully ingrained. The way I did it worked but it turns out it wasn't the most efficient way.