Thursday, 11 February 2016
A Night at the Opera
The antique forms inherited from China and preserved in Okinawan Karate arrived from varying sources and have their roots in different functions and uses. Some encode military skills and the use of weapons while others were developed for policing, bodyguards and civil arrest/control. The popular assumption that these kata were all developed for empty handed self defense against a single unarmed opponent is a modern belief that just doesn't stand up against any real scrutiny and examination.
One source for Chinese forms and techniques generally overlooked and quickly dismissed as it would ruin the self defense beliefs of many is the culturally rich Chinese opera traditions. Stage combat and choreography is nothing new and as with all the arts in China it was cultivated to the highest standard. Within Operas and public performances of the arts complex choreography showcasing stories, myths and legends coupled with gymnastic excellence produced 'fight scenes' as convincing and as visually spectacular as what many enjoy today in the movies.
Techniques and postures which are physically demanding and at the same time immensely impractical within the context of a violent confrontation might historically belong on the stage. Movements inspired by practical martial skills presented in visually impressive postures and stances make for great choreography and may just be the 'Why' behind several antique forms.
Therefore it is important to not overlook this context and cultural tradition as one possible source for some of the kata inherited in Okinawa when researching the original functions.