Sunday, February 17, 2013

Karate is ever-changing

With the introduction of karate into the public school systems of Okinawa and then Japan in the early 20th century, the method of teaching karate was radically and dramatically changed.  No longer taught one-on-one in a holistic, kinaesthetic method; the demands of the industrialization of karate training required that a specific curriculum of movements be determined, the techniques codified and named and expertise and rank established based as much upon knowledge of techniques as upon ability with the techniques.  These techniques, the kihon-waza [基本技, basic technique] which serve as fundamental pillars of the modern karate of today were actually developed in the 1920's and 30's.  Prior to this, kata was the main form of training.  The curriculum as taught today was pulled from the kata that formed the backbone of the previous, holistic and direct teaching methods. 

The wisdom of teaching karate as combined, compound patterns of motion (kata) is clear:  that is how the techniques of karate would be invariably employed in any real encounter.  One of the most important principles of kata, and of fighting is that the same position or motion in a different context can mean different things and be applied in different ways.  This is why it is more helpful to learn position and motion (kata) rather than individual application (kihon).

As karate has been ‘pulled apart’ and deconstructed, as it were, to facilitate large scale training, it is necessary that any dedicated disciple of karate have a keen awareness of the need to weave the different aspects of their training together.  To return to the place of origin where karate is most itself and effective requires that a karateka work tirelessly to unite kihon, kata, kumite and bunkai into a seamless entity – a schema of self-protection.  Karate must return from a place of names of techniques to a place of unconscious embodiment of techniques.  Keep this notion of embodiment in mind as you journey deeper into the Way.

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