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Wayofaswede
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Styles: Shukokai Shito Ryu, Goju Ryu, Aikido (Aikikai), Judo, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu

PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2018 3:39 am    Post subject: "Every kata is an entire system" Reply with quote

I often read this mentioned and wonder if that is really true for every kata?

For instance a short "five block" kata in Shito-ryu as Go ho no uke - is that considered to be an entire martial arts system in itself?

Or does this saying refer only to longer katas by more well-known founders, such as the "Pinan series" etc?

Would be great if someone could elaborate and explain this idea - as I find it very fascinating and would like to learn more about the concept and its relation to the katas I train.
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OneKickWonder
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2018 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's a stretch to say that EVERY kata is an entire system, for exactly the reason you suggest. That plus the fact that some are created to specifically simplify one thing. In TSD for example, we have 'basic form 1' that was invented rather recently (years ago but not that many years) because the guy that invented it realised that pyung ahn (pinan) contains a lot for kids to try to think about. So to give kids a sense of progression, he made the rather simple basic form 1, which comprises a few turns through 90, 180 and 270 degrees to teach turning in stances, basic observations etc, it's got 2 stances in it (3 if you count the ready stance at the beginning, one kick (repeated 3 times), one kind of punch and one kind of block. Nobody claims it's an entire system. In fact it is openly claimed to be nothing more than a means to drill movement through basic stances.

Pyung ahn / pinan is sometimes described as a complete system. Before we accept that, we must consider that it wasn't always 5 forms. It was originally a single one. It was split into 5 to aid teaching. If you look at the pyung ahn / pinan set carefully, you'll see that it seems to ficus on different ranges depending on which number you're on. The entire set contains a broad range of blocks, strikes and grappling moves. But even the name doesn't allude to a complete system, but rather a basic set of essential skills. There is a great debate about the translation of pinan. Some say it means peace or tranquillity and alludes to stillness of the mind. But I read an article once that suggested that in China it is a common greeting and means simply 'stay safe'.

In TSD we also have bassai, or passai as I believe the karate dudes call it. Funakoshi suggests several translations for it. None of which suggests a complete system to me. The most widely accepted translation seems to be 'storming a fortress'. This is itself open to interpretation. Who is doing the storming, the practitioner? Or is the practitioner being stormed? And does 'fortress' represent a literal fortress or stronghold or is it the fortress of the mind or body? Either way, when I perform it and try to visualise what's going on, I feel like throughout the entire form I'm on the defensive, like escaping from various locks or takedown attempts. I can't find anything in bassai that feels like it's me that's attacking. I'm fact the sense I get throughout the entire form is that I'm struggling against an attack, just trying to hold my own for as long as possible, not winning. If bassai is a complete system, I don't think it's a very good one.

We must also consider that there are techniques we do in basics that don't seem to appear in forms. The jumping 360 roundhouse kick that the taekwondo dudes call the tornado kick doesn't appear in any form I've seen. Yet it's clearly in several martial arts systems.

But then we must ask ourselves. If a form represents a complete system, what is it a complete system of? If it's a complete system of unarmed combat, I think they fall far short. But if it's a system of movement, transition between stances, shifting of weight etc, then possibly.
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Spodo Komodo
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2018 5:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, it isn't true for every kata due to the changing nature of kata over the centuries. You would be hard pushed just to defend yourself with the contents of (I only have Wado Ryu examples, sorry!) Naifanchi or Rohai but the longer, older kata such as Kushanku or Jion, possibly. From my own dabbling in Kung Fu, the form seems to have been a way of teaching the main points of a style, more of a catalogue than an imaginary fight. Those forms tend to be quite long and not overly repetitive. When karate came along it seems to have adopted a hybrid approach, keeping traditional forms but also supplementing them with the kind of forms found in Ju-Jutsu and other native arts which seem to drill a particular technique in several different ways. I was told many times that each kata is a complete fighting system but I have never found it held up to scrutiny, after all if it were true then why bother with the other dozen or more kata that most Karate Ryu have.
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Wastelander
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2018 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

At the risk of this becoming a semantics argument, I think the terminology that gets used with this saying can be a bit misleading. When people say that a kata is an entire system or style, I don't think it is accurate to say that they are a "system" or "style" in the sense that they are a complete, well-rounded fighting art unto themselves. It is a "system" in the sense that it is a systematized collection of techniques and principles, and is "complete" in the same sense that you can have a "complete breakfast"--it has all the components that the person who made it thought were important enough to include. Obviously, this doesn't apply to all kata, because there are plenty of kata that were created for purposes other than passing on fighting techniques, like the Taikyoku series, or Fukyugata Ichi, or (debatably) the Pinan series.
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P.A.L
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2018 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Motobu sensei once said that if you know Naihanchi then you know Karate and he was a real deal in Karate-Jutsu.

Miagi Sensei didn't teach all the katas to all the students. each student was learning 2-3 Katas after Sanchin.

Nagamine sensei believed that you need 10 years for mastery in Kusanku.

So, I believe, not all but many old-school katas are a full fighting system.
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P.A.L
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OneKickWonder wrote:

In TSD we also have bassai, or passai as I believe the karate dudes call it. Funakoshi suggests several translations for it. None of which suggests a complete system to me. The most widely accepted translation seems to be 'storming a fortress'. This is itself open to interpretation. Who is doing the storming, the practitioner? Or is the practitioner being stormed? And does 'fortress' represent a literal fortress or stronghold or is it the fortress of the mind or body? Either way, when I perform it and try to visualise what's going on, I feel like throughout the entire form I'm on the defensive, like escaping from various locks or takedown attempts. I can't find anything in bassai that feels like it's me that's attacking. I'm fact the sense I get throughout the entire form is that I'm struggling against an attack, just trying to hold my own for as long as possible, not winning. If bassai is a complete system, I don't think it's a very good one.


if you wanna see Passai as a fighting system watch this video from 1:45. it is like a 10 sec from the middle part of the Passai.
[url]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74fuzw-oy78
[/url]

I watched the TSD variation of Passai. it is a rendition of Itosu no Passai which is not a full Passai Kata. to see real Passai you need to look into Tomari Passai where the whole Passai story started or at least Matsumura no Passai.
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Wayofaswede
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your answer and for sharing examples from your art

OneKickWonder wrote:

Pyung ahn / pinan is sometimes described as a complete system.


Yes, I mentioned Pinan mostly because of Ian Abernathy’s thorough analysis of the katas - and since I haven’t gotten to that many katas myself yet, being a 5th kyu student.

I would define a ”complete fighting system” as enough moves and defensive and - if necessary - counter techniques to be useful in a theoretical ”standard” (aware of the inherent chaotic nature of such a situation and that there in reality is no such thing) fighting situation.

Obviously, given such a narrow definition even short, defensive katas could be sufficient
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Wayofaswede
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spodo Komodo wrote:
I was told many times that each kata is a complete fighting system but I have never found it held up to scrutiny, after all if it were true then why bother with the other dozen or more kata that most Karate Ryu have.


Thank you for your answer, interesting to hear your experience of the concept
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Wayofaswede
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wastelander wrote:
It is a "system" in the sense that it is a systematized collection of techniques and principles, and is "complete" in the same sense that you can have a "complete breakfast"--it has all the components that the person who made it thought were important enough to include.


Thank you for your reply, this makes a lot of sense
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Wayofaswede
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

P.A.L wrote:
Motobu sensei once said that if you know Naihanchi then you know Karate and he was a real deal in Karate-Jutsu.

Miagi Sensei didn't teach all the katas to all the students. each student was learning 2-3 Katas after Sanchin.

Nagamine sensei believed that you need 10 years for mastery in Kusanku.

So, I believe, not all but many old-school katas are a full fighting system.


Thank you for your reply, I love these kind of ”old master quotes” pointing to the richness that can be found within a single particular kata. And also puts an emphasis on the very long timeframe required for a martial artist to rreally master something within their art

Great link as well, amazing and inspiring techniques on display - added it immediately to my long ”Budo seminars and vlogs list”:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8kOexr1PbijErYJlJ8YN_W-rXsLIOrxc
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