Friday, 22 September 2017

Kata's Richer Heritage

Beyond the endless defences against an oi-tsuki, poorly thrown hook punches and headlocks sold today in various combinations and flow drills it may surprise some that the antique forms have a far richer heritage to offer those willing to dig a little deeper. The kata inherited from China have come from many different sources and were developed for different purposes at different times. The function of a form can be defined by the correct usage of the techniques within the appropriate context. This means that kata were developed specifically for application in various contexts such as warfare, body-guarding, policing and civil control, theatrical performances, religious practices and so on.

From this understanding it should then be obvious that not all kata will be practical or applicable to self defence and street fighting as is commonly taught today. For example a form(s) developed originally for using a pair of Sai (Sanchin, Seisan and Sanseriu) within the context of policing (civil control/arrest) will have almost no use in developing unarmed skills for use in the context of street fighting/self defence.

The different contexts and martial requirements have inspired a great variety of skills, strategies and practices to be recorded in the different kata that are highly specific in function. The specificity of the functions means that they do not translate well and cross over to other uses. It is also important to bear in mind that while some kata will be complete in their function others will only be fragments of methods/systems.

The attitude that the original functions of kata have been lost forever is common and effectively closes the door on the fascinating practises, problems and solutions recorded in the antique forms. This belief about kata seems to be quite unique to Karate and we do not find it in European Martial arts research. Many excellent researchers are currently bringing back to life medieval European martial arts preserved in books and manuals with fascinating results. It is just within Karate it seems that there is a very precious attitude towards who can know what and who is allowed to talk about it.

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