Rants, Ramblings and Nothingness

A messy collection of random stuff really!!

Karate Rants – Part Two

When karate was brought over to mainland Japan from Okinawa, changes were bound to happened. It’s becoming more rigid, systematized, militarized, spiritual side was added and it is becoming less martial in order for it to be available for larger masses. Not all the changes are bad, although this is also subjective. Some people said the changes from karate-jutsu to karate-do is good because not only physical training, but spiritual training is also very important for the practitioner. But other people consider this to be bad, because it diminished its martial applications. Karate also becoming systematized and militarized. This is also a double-edge sword.

Systematized means proper syllabus for the masses, ranking system and karate uniform were introduced and organizations are formed to be able to organize the growing structure. The ugly sides of this are the politics and power struggle in the organization, resulting in splinter groups, bad bloods and animosities. Okinawan masters used to learn from various masters, but nowadays this practice is frowned by the majority. Loyalty to the organization is valued very highly. Loyalty is good, but blind loyalty is bad. Furthermore, our instructor(s) can’t be good at everything. Learning from other people and masters are a good way to develop our karate. Ranking system provides a way to measure growth of the practitioner, but money corrupts, how many dojo offer grades for money? Syllabus is good for a more systematic training, but individuality becoming almost extinct nowadays.

Before karate introduced to Japan, most practitioners only know mostly 5 kata. Nowadays, people aren’t satisfied with 10, 20 or 30. Not many people can understand too many kata, although there are exceptions, such as Mabuni Sensei of Shito-ryu. Old masters taught certain kata to certain people with characteristics that match the kata itself. First they learn basic kata such as sanchin and naihanchi. This can be as long as five years or as short as two or three years. Once their basic was consider good, gradually they’re being introduced to the more advanced kata. It can take at least a year before they learn another kata. There’s just too many things to learn in one kata, and they studied the martial values of the kata, not the nice poses and the sequences only. To even do a proper shuri ashi, the posture, the body mechanics and in-depth understanding of how body moves are needed. It’s not just a simple stepping that can be learned in one day. It takes years to perfect. That’s the difference nowadays. In some dojo, the students are required to know the sequence in one session. Then after the student remembers the sequence perfectly with a good looking basic techniques, flashy poses and nice sound effects, they’re considered to have mastered the kata and proceed to do another kata. No movement concepts were mastered. The way kata taught was different. They need to master the first few sequences first, with all the proper techniques, body mechanics, movements and the concepts and ideas behind the sequences, then they proceed to the next sequences one after another. One sequence can take months. This is also true if you’re practicing chinese martial arts, and fortunately for them, many of them are still doing this. Once someone properly “know” the kata, he should have enough arsenal to defend himself/herself. If he/she managed to master 3 or 4 kata, he will become a very able martial artist. Nowadays studying one kata for one year is considered too long. The fault is not only on the instructors, but also the students, they got bored and always hungry for new kata, although they haven’t even “know” it. It’s a sad state actually. I have even seen someone taught a kata in a more militarized way. If the one being taught unable to remember the sequence, he/she will be asked to repeat the kata again. This is not a kata that he/she has learnt for a few months, but it is a new kata for him/her. To remember one sequence in one day is good enough. To be able to do the sequence properly in one or two months is a feat. That’s why it’s perfectly normal to work on a kata for years.

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October 16, 2008 - Posted by | Karate, Martial Arts, Ramblings, Rants | , , , , ,

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