Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Kata - Function Dictates Form

Function dictates form is the perfect phrase for describing kata. The techniques, posture, stance and sequence all arose out of an original function and purpose. The kata is the product and not the starting point as so many bunkai enthusiasts teach today. Many Karateka use kata as pseudo savings accounts, collecting as many techniques for each movement from as many different sources as possible. Not only is this unnecessary as a practise it also severely limits the value of the solo exercise, the kata no longer represents a unifying function and the performance becomes a separate abstract movement where anyone can do anything and be as 'creative' as they choose.

The solo form should reflect experience in the intended function, this is what gives the kata its value as a practise. The more experience and time spent training in its true function the higher the quality of the solo movements. The intention of the practitioner should be to re-create the internalised interactive experience of the techniques in their forms, this is not possible when collecting random applications which bear no relationship from one to the other and trying to force form into function.

Form arises from the refinement of techniques and skills which represent the function, every nuance of a kata is significant. The lack of consideration to the details of a kata that often occurs with many of the random applications and the deviation from very specific movements calls into question the credibility of the bunkai.

Other than attempting to unlock the original functions of kata why bother with anything else? is it productive to use a kata like Naihanchi for example as a template for 100's of applications that have only a passing semblance to the form which is very specific and expect practitioners to ignore the fact that often the applied practise and solo exercise are really two different things sharing the same label?

Please contact us with any comments, questions or most importantly for training please email Tom Maxwell at, thanks for reading!!!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Create a Kata!

There are many ideas taught about what is possible when interpreting a kata, such as multiple layers of application, hidden/secret techniques, forms applicable armed and simultaneously unarmed and many more. One exercise to explore if these ideas are actually possible and relevent to understanding forms is to create a kata and attempt to put these ideas into practise from the beginning of the process. If it is indeed possible to record for example many layers of techniques in a simplified repertoire then the process should not pose to much of a challenge to create a form that will reflect the intended techniques and hold value as a practise. The results may also help point towards the original functions of the antique kata (forms inherited from China) or eliminate ideas and theories that have proved impossible when creating a form. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.

Self defence - Create a self defence kata, what would be the starting point? would the techniques be pro-active or reactive? how many techniques would be enough? where would it be applied e.g indoors or outdoors, how would this effect footwork and posture etc? is it against one person or more? would it include headbutting, biting, gouging?

Multiple layers - Create a kata with multiple layers of techniques, encode 2 or more techniques in each single movement. Does the movement honestly reflect the intended techniques? how many layers are possible? can a strike also be a lock and/or a throw etc? how is the solo movement to be executed in order to be a valuable exercise representing the multiple layers?

Armed/Unarmed - Create a kata that pulls double duty as unarmed techniques and armed. Use of weapons is very different from empty hand fighting so how are the differences resolved in the chosen movements and techniques? Can a comprehensive repertoire of both armed and unarmed be recorded in one set of movements? would there be any real value in doing this?

As shown above there are many criteria and questions to be answered in creating a form based on one or more of the many ideas used in creative interpretation of kata today. If these ideas turn out to be ineffective as a starting point and basis for creating a kata, is it likely that this is how the antique forms were originally conceived?

Please contact us with any comments, questions or most importantly for training please email Tom Maxwell at, thanks for reading!!!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Blocking - A Persistent Myth

Blocking techniques are something that almost all Karate practitioners learn and practise at some point. In weight of the evidence proving blocking to be ineffective in real fighting it remains a persistent myth with many followers still convinced of its practicality. Dynamic pre-arranged sparring drills can lead to a false sense of efficacy and the leap of faith from ordered dojo practise to a chaotic violent encounter is a big one.

The plethora of real fight footage readily available on the internet as well as full contact sporting combatives such as boxing and MMA demonstrate time and time again that it is not possible to predict what the attack will be. Without knowledge of the attack the visual and physical reaction time required to deliver one of the blocking techniques practised in karate is just not possible. Further breakdown occurs when faced with a skilled opponent who does not attack with a single blow and instead delivers vicious combinations which relegates keeping up with the attacks to the movies.

Many movements in the antique kata are interpreted as blocks, it is doubtful that the impracticality of blocking was unknown to the kata creators therefore the modern interpretation needs to be called into question and along with it the reactive mindset that accompanies blocking. It is also unlikely that the antique forms contained any reactive blocking techniques not only because of the impracticality but also how would it be possible to catalogue them in a kata?

If an attack cannot be predicted what would be the starting point in creating a reactive form? How would the problems discussed above be overcome? Is there any value in recording reactive techniques (especially blocks!!!) in kata?

Please contact us with any comments, questions or most importantly for training please email Tom Maxwell at, thanks for reading!!!