Sunday, 22 June 2014

Why Three years one Kata?

Many of the kata inherited from China have their roots in military and civil arrest arts, it should come as no surprise then that the content of the forms and skills encoded are difficult to achieve and in some cases unobtainable to hobbyists and recreational practitioners. Specialised skills such as unarmed control and restraint techniques, the effective use of policing tools or different types of weaponry demand a level of practise and skill that is usually reserved for professional groups and institutions such as the police and military.

The specialised skills of a police officer or a Royal marine for example can take years to develop fully and are always initiated with one to two years intensive training to develop the necessary foundation. The antique Martial arts were no different in their requirements. A kata and its function may well have taken at least three years for a practitioner to become effective in its application and usage as the Karate and Gong-fu traditions record.

Unarmed civil arrest and the various techniques used to control, restrain and cuff are undoubtedly difficult to master and are generally out of reach of the hobbyist who might perhaps train for a couple of hours once or twice a week. This would also be the case in the use of weapons and any other skill, sport or art! Imagine a trainee civil arrest officer or bodyguard in Chinese antiquity who spends several years training three hours a day (just an example) performing thousands and thousands of repetitions of joint locking techniques, rope binding, weight training and of course on the job training with seniors getting that all important hands on experience. Skills and techniques on a glance that might seem impractical and not functional become brutally efficient methods once the appropriate training and demands for efficacy are met.

It is also important to note that not everyone would possess the right attributes to master these different skill sets in the same way not everyone can become a Royal marine, police officer or world class boxer. That does not at all exclude anyone from enjoying the varied Martial arts and many forms as recreational practices, dynamic forms of exercise and hobbies. The antique kata can and are enjoyed by millions and stand as wonderful cultural relics that give a fascinating glimpse into the Martial skills of the past.

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

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Original Function or Creative Playground?

Okinawan karate has always been a melting pot for mixing various martial arts, katas and the creative drives of its pioneers, this was a necessity due to the often incomplete and erratic transmission of gong fu forms and styles that arrived with little or no applications. Forms without functions were re-engineered, added to and given a new life eventually evolving into the various styles of Karate. Creative interpreters today are continuing this process started in Okinawa. The search for the original meaning of kata requires a very different approach and a move away from almost everything in Karate apart from the forms themselves.

It is quite rare among Karate teachers, enthusiasts and groups to spend time attempting to unlock the original functions of kata, often dismissed as a pointless endeavour kata are left wide open for creative interpreters to pin any meaning they like to the techniques contained in the forms and to the personal tastes of the student in choosing which applications they like best.

Committing to researching a kata and attempting to discover its original function is a painstaking process where countless mistakes will be made, months even years of experimenting sometimes produce no solid results and if a discovery is made and the kata becomes decipherable the function may not be what was originally suspected or hoped for! This is diametrically opposed to the creative playground where anything goes in interpreting a form. It is undeniable that the creativity that goes into imagining the countless applications is inspiring and the appeal to bunkai collectors is obvious but if the original function of the techniques is not to play a role in the bunkai then isn't this a call for completely new kata to be created?

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