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MatsuShinshii
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 1423
Location: Kentucky
Styles: Machimura Suidi Rokudan, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo, Judo

PostPosted: Thu Nov 01, 2018 6:40 pm    Post subject: Will the original Kata stand up. Reply with quote

Not to continue another post on Kata in a new post but by a funny circumstance of chance one of my students that had taken two different styles of Shorin Ryu asked why the same Kata is performed so differently and how do you know which is the original. Since this is a bit different in content I thought it warranted a different post.

After years of training and researching my art and its Kata and subsequently other arts Kata trying to find my own truths I could not answer the students question. I could have told him the oldest known version of a particular Kata was the original. That would make sense right? Welllll... would it? Not so sure of that.

What I have personally discovered, and I'm sure others have a different point of view on this, is that Kata as we know it was in a state of construction as the founders or those before them created them.

What might have been passed down to earlier students may have been altered and taught to later students. There are definitely examples of this.

I would chose to believe that this was due to the founder removing a technique and replacing it with what they felt was more efficient. However not all cases would support this conclusion as later versions have what I would call not so effective movements. So that leads to another hypothesis that they changed the movements to make the Kata flow better. But then I remember that the original Kata were vessels that contained the secrets of the art and of proven combative techniques and they cared little if at all if the Kata flowed and looked good.

The point is... how does one determine what is original? How do you know that the founders teacher had not altered what they had learned or created prior to teaching it to said founder of said art who passed it down differently to his students and furthermore may have passed it down differently to different students.

Now for those that consider themselves traditionalists and draw a straight line back to the founder this question is quite simple because not unlike religion they accept what is taught based on faith. They would say their Kata is original.

So I could say I'm in that line of thought and fit that description but then I know what I know and have trouble answering this question with any degree of certainty.

I would love to answer my student and more importantly with the truth rather than conjecture but I find that very hard to do.

So what constitutes original? How do we know that the way one art performs the Kata, even though they might have a straight, un-altered path to the founder, is actually the original version.

To be clear, my dilemma is not if the Kata should be changed and that everyone should perform it one way or the other because "this" is the real version. My dilemma is how do I answer my student with any degree of certainty that what I am telling him is the truth? Oh and that means I would have to believe it myself and that would need to be based on fact rather than opinion. I think I might have answered my own question but hopefully you might have a different point of view that will lend clarity to the situation.
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Wastelander
KF Sensei
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Joined: 18 Oct 2010
Posts: 2401
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2018 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is no way for us to know what the "original" version of any kata looked like, unless that kata was developed in the modern era, so we can't answer that question for any of the koryu kata, pure and simple. We can say which versions, probably, more closely resemble the "original," based on examples that we have in the modern era--for example, a modern Shotokan student could look back at videos from the 1970's to compare their kata, then look at Funakoshi Gigo's reprint of his father's book in the 1950's to compare, then look at Funakoshi Gichin's original books from the 1930's to compare, and see a progression from what Funakoshi Gichin learned on Okinawa to what it is today, and one could say that the versions in Funakoshi Gichin's original books likely resemble the "originals" more closely because they are not as far removed from the Okinawan martial arts practices they came from.

Of course, as you say, every teacher makes changes, and that was likely just as true of the instructors who developed the kata as it is of the ones passing it down. We know, for a fact, that it happened with Miyagi Chojun and his Goju-Ryu kata, for a modern-ish example. I even see changes, year-to-year, in the organization I am a part of, although a lot of people in the organization still insist "it's always been done this way," whenever a change starts to make its way through. An easy example I can give is from Pinan Yondan, which has a low uke-waza after the initial opening postures to the left and right, which has flip-flopped between a sasae-gedan-barai and a gedan-juji-uke about four times just in the 8 years I've been in the organization, but "it's never changed" .
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MatsuShinshii
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 15 Aug 2016
Posts: 1423
Location: Kentucky
Styles: Machimura Suidi Rokudan, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo, Judo

PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2018 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree.

I attribute this to personal preference. A Kata could have contained a specific movement or posture which represented an application or any number of applications but that student did not agree or it did not work or suite them so they changed it to something that did and thus the Kata as a whole and the way it is performed changed with it.

I imagine that based on the fact that students would search out other instructors and said instructor each had their favorite bag of tricks that they preferred. It is plausible that those instructors removed portions of the Kata that they did not agree with and replaced them with ones that they did. Their students probably did the same. They took what they liked or what fit them best and removed what didn't fit them.

It is also possible that a teacher would structure a Kata to fit their student. I have read that not every Kata was taught to every student. That based on the students attributes, Kata was chosen that would fit them best. It could be plausible that the applications and thus the postures contained within the Kata could have been changed to best suit or compliment each student.

At least this is the best explanation I can come up with. I doubt any of us will truly ever know why these changes were made or why.

The biggest "changes" I have found in my art are not actual changes to the way the Kata is performed, at least not based on what I have witnessed in my years in the art. I can watch Hohan's videos and see the same execution. However the changes I see, blatant in fact, are more in the interpretation of the applications. These literally change from instructor to instructor and I've even noticed changes from the same teacher. When I was young said posture represented this or these applications and as I've aged they have changed to completely different interpretations. Whether that is due to a teachers research and corrections or whether it is due to personal preference I could not tell you. I know that I have added but never replaced in the attempts to teach what was passed to me. But I must admit that, although I teach them all, not all fit me nor work for me so I can accept that changes are made based on a teachers understanding of what they feel is most effective (based on them) and that they would alter to fit what they feel is most effective.
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sensei8
KF Sensei
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14254
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2018 7:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's the beauty of Shindokan in that from our Soke down, we just don't give a peanut butter and jelly sandwich one way or another as to what's the "original " or not, and/or how it might've changed or not because we live in the present, and therefore we teach present tense.

Please don't misunderstand me because history is important, but only to a degree. We don't want the forest to get in the way of the tree. History has its content, and I respect it wholeheartedly until it starts interfering with the effectiveness of the practitioner.

Soke and Dai-Soke never taught us if the kata were original or not because as they'd say once we'd press the issue with them... "That no matter, they not here, I here, you learn what we teach you now, ok?! Let's go!!" This might sound like they didn't have the minimum of an idea one way or another, but in sessios away from the dojo, over a cup of coffee and/or a meal and/or at their homes, they absolutely knew, but they felt that that was the furthest thing from being important... "I here to teach Shindokan, you here to learn what I teach you, ok?!!

Does knowing what IS and/or ISN'T the original make that practitioner much more effective??



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JR 137
KF Sempai
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Joined: 10 May 2015
Posts: 2326
Location: In the dojo
Styles: Seido Juku

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2018 8:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I’m not sure how pertinent this is to telling your student something that you 100% believe to be the truth, but it fits here somehow in my mind...

Seido is a pretty big organization. Anyone from outside the NYC region who is capable of making it to honbu goes there for dan testing (Nakamura also tests people when he travels to dojos). My teacher has attended countless dan tests at honbu. Everyone is expected to do the same kata the same way. But somehow there’s always variation. Nakamura and those assisting (especially his direct honbu students) will correct students.

My teacher has been to enough tests where he claims he can tell who’s teacher is who without asking nor seeing them interact with their teacher. Teachers are human and move different ways. When someone moves a certain way and you’re trying to mirror that person, you inadvertently pick up their subtle variations. Now give that several generations and the founder not being around any more to correct it.

Furthermore, as you stated, kata was most likely a work in progress to the creators of it. A creator may have put a lot of techniques into his kata and taught it to his first several students. After a while, he might have made changes as he grew in his understanding of the art and made some changes to it; minor changes or outright substituting one movement for another. This could’ve happened several times. Think about it this way - if you’re Ryu Ryu Ko and you developed a kata in your 20s and taught it to your first wave of students, do you feel forced to keep it exactly that way the rest of your life for the sake of preserving history? Or do you make changes you feel are necessary over the years? If you’re one of Ryu Ryu Ko’s first wave of students and relocate elsewhere and start teaching, you’re most likely not meeting up periodically to keep current on his changes; you’re teaching what you’ve been taught. A student from his second wave of students does the same, only all they’ve learned is the altered kata. And this could’ve happened several times over. That only explains a little bit of the variation, not all of it though.

If you’re the creator of a kata, you’re not looking to preserve a kata exactly as it was taught to you simply because it wasn’t taught to you; you created it. If you learned it from someone else, then you can choose to preserve it exactly as it was taught to you or alter it to fit your ideals and/or your students’ needs.

Looking for the reason why two different groups do a kata differently when can easily trace their lineage back to a creator of a kata isn’t going to be answered with one reason. There’s going to be several. Unless there’s irrefutable documentation of who changed what and when and why, all we’re left with is assumptions. Even pictures can be deceiving; what if the person in the picture did it wrong and no one noticed until later on? There are enough errors in books and videos being produced today, even with all of our current fact checkers. Back then was likely far easier to make mistakes before they went to print.
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sensei8
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
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Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2018 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Forget who's or who's not the authority to do so...Shouldn't Kata be allowed to evolve...ever??



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MatsuShinshii
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Joined: 15 Aug 2016
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Location: Kentucky
Styles: Machimura Suidi Rokudan, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kobudo, Judo

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So my student asked me again, and again I could not honestly answer his question. So I went on a "quest" we'll call it to determine the whats, why's and how's.

After watching literally hundreds of videos digging deep into my library and re-looking at countless books/ manuals, I have come to a conclusion... I still had no idea how to answer this honestly with facts. So instead I cited the differences and gave my best guess as to why there are differences.

So first I dealt with the differences from area to area (Shuri, Tomari and Naha). This was pretty simple in that there are distinct variances in the way techniques are performed. Take Seisan for instance as a Kata that has variances and very distinct differences in the way it is performed from Shuri-te, Tomari-te and Naha-te.

Next I tackled styles that derive from the same founder. This proved much harder but still I gave my opinions (and made sure that he knew these where opinions and not fact) about why these differences might have occurred.

The one thing that struck me as a possible reason was this;

Even though all had learned from the founder, many also had trained with other instructors. Some had studied with instructors from Shuri and Tomari, others had studied with instructors from Tomari and Naha, and so on. So not only was there individual personalities and tendencies but also completely different stylistic ways of teaching.

I pointed to a few examples and gave a few more opinions of why I thought these changes might have occurred.

In the end I think this one is going to remain a best guess and not the facts I was hoping to have. Either way I felt better about having done the research and at least pointing my student in the right direction... I hope.

For now... case closed, until it isn't.
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Age-Uke
White Belt
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Joined: 11 Feb 2019
Posts: 18

Styles: Shotokan

PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2019 12:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Will the original Kata stand up. Reply with quote

MatsuShinshii wrote:
two different styles of Shorin Ryu asked why the same Kata is performed so differently and how do you know which is the original. .


When we really think about it: all the "who's style is original stuff" doesn't mean anything.

In the mid-1800s when Karate (To-Te) was becoming known to the outside world there was Naha-te, Shuri-te, and Tamari-te and in all three regional styles, there were differences among themselves.
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