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Wado Heretic
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Location: United Kingdom, England, Shropshire
Styles: Wado-Ryu , Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu (Kodokan), RyuKyu Kobojutsu

PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2021 5:49 am    Post subject: What is the systemic bias of Karate? Reply with quote

First, Happy 20th Birthday to KarateForums.com and a huge thanks to Patrick and others who continue to keep it going.

A question I have always been exploring in my study of karate, and martial arts, is "How is that meant to work?"

Another hat I wear in life is that of psychologist. An emerging point of interest for me is Systemic bias: the inherent tendency of a process to support particular outcomes. Understanding these biases in a system or institution is increasingly recognised as important to understanding Mental Health outcomes, and perhaps as important as the individual differences of clients and patients.

As I look at various martial arts systems I have come to look for the systemic biases in these systems. A recent conversation that Rokas, of Martial Arts Journey, had with Christopher Hein has started me down a new way of looking at Karate. Mr Hein, basically, asserts that modern Aikido does not work as its practitioners are making unfounded truth claims that Aikido is a systematic approach to learning how to fight. He, however, claims that it can work if one works towards its original intent: to avoid fights, and if violence begins, to disengage. That the intent of Aikido is not to learn how to fight but to protect the self, and that the hard-skills of Aikido are meant as a last resort when the soft-skills, the philosophy of harmonising with others, has failed for some reason.

Thus, I have been looking to why some people claim modern karate is "Broken" such as Mr Enkamp of Karate by Jesse. It now feels like the answer is obvious: modern karate has retained traditions from historic bujutsu but no longer trains towards the intent of that historic bujutsu.

The sport side of karate is disconnected from the tradition. It uses techniques more equivalent to Savate and Semi-contact Kickboxing than what we find in the kata: Shadow-Grappling techniques used against attacks received during a civilian self-defence situation. Thus, the sport does not help us get better at the tradition because it does not pressure test the tradition. In contrast to Judo, to give an example, where the tradition and the sport are directly connected. The sport does not help us recognise when tradition needs to be broken or preserved.

Furthermore, to quote Yasuhiro Konishi: “Karate aims to build character, improve human behaviour, and cultivate modesty; it does not, however, guarantee it.”

Yet, in most karate dojo the focus is the hard-skills: the fighting techniques that are meant to be used to preserve ourselves against aggression. Yet, these hard-skills are often trained in the manner of a sport: practiced on equal footing with a partner. How many of us take time during our training sessions to discuss Okinawan culture, and the morality and ethics of using violence?

Lastly, we often put the cart before the horse. We practice shadow-work in the form of kata, and then try to teach people to use these movements as applications. We teach the ideas outside of context, and then add the context after. This is done in similar approaches that use forms, however, in fighting sports such as boxing where shadow-work is important as well they work on it as a supplement to sparring. Shadow-Boxing is worked on after someone has enough experience in boxing to free-style. It is used a method of self-development to correct movement, and develop proprioception, without external influences which can cause oneself to lose their sense of self. Historically, we know that karateka only practiced a few kata, that the kata come from self-defence techniques practiced as such, and was coupled with significant practice of Hojo-Undo.

Thus, is the modern expression of karate working towards one systemic bias while retaining practices from its ancestor which worked towards another systemic bias. Is the modern expression trying to teach us to be good at Atemi-Waza when the historic expression was teaching us to be good at self-defence?

What is the systemic bias of your karate?
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bushido_man96
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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2021 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That, is a great article. Lots of good points there, and it's giving me something to consider in my training.
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Patrick
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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2021 9:35 am    Post subject: Re: What is the systemic bias of Karate? Reply with quote

Wado Heretic wrote:
First, Happy 20th Birthday to KarateForums.com and a huge thanks to Patrick and others who continue to keep it going.

Very kind of you to say, Keith. Thank you for being a part of what makes it great!
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Wado Heretic
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Joined: 23 May 2014
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Location: United Kingdom, England, Shropshire
Styles: Wado-Ryu , Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu (Kodokan), RyuKyu Kobojutsu

PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2021 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, both.
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RW
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PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2021 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my view, kata is a combination between a mnemonic device and a form of standardization.

It is a mnemonic device because kata harks back from the times when there was no youtube, no video cams, and even printed books. How are you going to transmit the knowledge of strikes, blocks, stances, footwork and transitions? Well, you could teach them individually, which would be really hard, or you could incorporate them into a sequence... a form... kata!!

Sure, kata has applications, bunkai. There is no reason why actual application can't be part of a mnemonic device too, especially keeping in mind no one is going to attack just like the imaginary enemies do in the kata.

So now that we got youtube, iphones, etc, why do we still do kata? It's a form of standardization. I'd say it's even a form of keeping an identity. A shotokan school anywhere across the planet would probably have the Heian katas, and if you claim to be a 3rd degree black belt in shotokan and you have never, ever learned a single heian kata.... were you really doing shotokan?

Some people see kata more like shadow boxing, but I don't think that's the case. In shadow boxing you punch, block, duck, weave, move, etc, exactly like you would in a boxing match. Your shadow boxing, done correctly, would give you muscle memory and the thought process that you'd be able to apply to a boxing match, whereas kata isn't exactly like that, you're not going to do kiba dachi and hold it in a fight like you do in a kata, nor are you going to do an age uke with you other hand chambered at your hip followed by a nukite with yet another chamber. You are practicing certain principles and training methods, but it doesn't translate one-to-one to a fight, unlike shadow boxing.

Just my 2 cents
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bushido_man96
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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2021 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is an interesting, and I believe fairly accurate, take on kata and how it came to be. I also agree that kata are a form of standardization now. Kata is a template, showing how you'd like to see moves performed, when in actuality, there will be variances based on movement, the opponent, etc. But, the kata is the reference point you strive to achieve in application.
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aurik
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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2021 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would say this is highly dependent on the style, organization, and instructor. I’ve trained four different styles of karate-type martial arts. For three of those instructors/styles, I would agree with you. They were more focused on the perfection of the form for the sake of doing the form.

My current school is a Uechi-Ryu school, and we tend to focus on what is effective. For example, when our CI teaches kata, he will emphasize what each sequence means using an opponent as an example. When we strike he wants our hands just so, because it translates to striking a specific target on the opponent. We spend about a quarter of our time in each test conditioning our bodies so that we are used to getting hit in common places (forearms, traps, lays, abs, legs) partially so we don’t freak out if we ever actually get into a fight. Finally, when we do our two-person drills we focus on effectiveness, not in looking pretty. As the defender we are expected to disrupt our attacker, pulling/pushing him to control the range and possibly preventing him from completing his techniques.

This is significantly different from other schools I’ve seen where the attacker is supposed to stand there like a statue so the defender can do a “perfect” technique.
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sensei8
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2021 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The systemic bias is an human flaw because any biased approach creates the birth of limitations for both the style and for the practitioner. Blinder wearing MAists only see what they want to see, and this sets in motion the limitations of which oftentimes handcuffs the style and the practitioner.

Imho!!



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bushido_man96
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2021 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sensei8 wrote:
The systemic bias is an human flaw because any biased approach creates the birth of limitations for both the style and for the practitioner. Blinder wearing MAists only see what they want to see, and this sets in motion the limitations of which oftentimes handcuffs the style and the practitioner.

Imho!!




I agree with you, Bob. It's important to open up and see things for what they are, and not necessarily how they look in comparison to how you've done it in the past. Very much a carryover of some of the topics struck in our discussion on the Tao of JKD.
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sensei8
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2021 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bushido_man96 wrote:
sensei8 wrote:
The systemic bias is an human flaw because any biased approach creates the birth of limitations for both the style and for the practitioner. Blinder wearing MAists only see what they want to see, and this sets in motion the limitations of which oftentimes handcuffs the style and the practitioner.

Imho!!




I agree with you, Bob. It's important to open up and see things for what they are, and not necessarily how they look in comparison to how you've done it in the past. Very much a carryover of some of the topics struck in our discussion on the Tao of JKD.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Remaining open doesn't close the doors. Biased venturing into the unknown IS for the practitioner as well as with the style. Stuck in one gear without trying any other gear will strip man/y of things away from style and/or practitioner.



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