Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Hirokazu Kanazawa on Kata

Kata is something that many people, (including karate ka) question. Can it be used in a real self defence situation? To be honest with you, if you try to execute a certain part of a kata in a self defence situation exactly like the kata is taught, then it probably will not work. But are the exact kata movements meant to be carried out the way they are taught?

In the book Budo Masters by Michael Clarke, Shotokan legend Hirokazu Kanazawa is asked about kata and what he stresses when teaching kata to his students. Some answers he gives are the following,

“I try to get people to bring there kata to life”

“It goes without saying, you can not understand kata properly without understanding the bunkai”

“I try to get Yudansha (black belt students) to find their own bunkai”

“They should not wait to be shown anything. They should find out from themselves”

“This is when they will understand that it is not just the exact movement they should master but the principles, the idea.”

“I have seen demonstrations of kata bunkai where the exact moves from the kata are being used, but I do not consider this to be real bunkai”

I think it is clear that what Kanazawa is trying to stress is that everyone has a different interpretation to kata bunkai and that one specific bunkai will work for one person but maybe not for another.

It is up to the individual to study with a partner the many different variations in which kata techniques can be applied. For example a simple downward defence (gedan barai). Obviously it can be used to stop an attack but maybe it can be used as an arm lock, a throw, a strike and maybe it can be used not just standing but whilst ground fighting etc.

These are the kinds of variations that need to be studied by students to truly bring there kata techniques to life.

I strongly recommend you check out Iain Abernethys website and blog for more information on kata and there use within the martial arts. Sensei Abernethy gives a great insight into bukai, kata principles and there applications


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KaratreStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") re "Hirokazu Kanazawa on Kata."

Though KS practices the Korean karate, Tang Soo Do (TSD), I feel strongly that the Japanese teachers often best represent the self-application and wisdom it takes to excel at marital arts.

Hirokazu Kanazawa is one of those. My first training manual which I prepared for myself, has an article written by him (about Shotokan karate) from "Black-Belt" Magazine, copied inside.

In KS's comment on what kata (hyung in TSD) is good for, I will go against some of what Lyoto Machida says; as well as dispute the emphasis on 'bunkai,' or application, above by H. Kanazawa.

By the way, in my opinion, neither Lyoto Machida or H. Kanazawa has ever stated anything inaccurate about karate. Where I disagree is on the weighting, or importance assigned to certain aspects of traditional karate training, in this case kata.

Lyoto Machida has stated that kata is necessary and important, but not sufficient training to become skilled fighter. He believes applied drills are critical and Lyoto Machida has a heavy emphasis on sparring and applications in his training regimen. Contrary to Lyoto, KS believes a karate practitioner with good basic experience, can become a highly skilled fighter through training focused largely on yes, kata.

Surprisingly, in Machida's last UFC fight against Shogun Rua, Shogun hit Lyoto with an offensive tactic that had a telling effect. A good defense to this offensive attack is presented in the 5th Heian kata (5th Pyung Ahn hyung, TSD); although as MARKS has stated generally, it is not workable as shown. KS only realized this from cross training in other styles. The usefulness of this 'bunkai' can also be discovered by researching the kind of authors MARKS has mentioned in this post. Some have done 'reverse engineering' to better interpret practical applications.

KS, contrary to some of H. Kanazawa statement about bunkai contained in kata, KS believes that the bunkai aspect is over-emphasized, and the other abilities afforded by kata, neglected. KS believes that emphasis on the 'bunkai' feature is more appropriate for advanced students, near or at the black-belt level. For most 'Hard-Style' karate practitioners, emphasis on basics, self-defense applications and situational sparring is more important. And, practicing kata for its 'real' (KS's opinion) value.

What is the 'real' value of kata (Seen as meaningless and useless to many.)? Instead of actual fighting, think about the ideal goal of traditional martial arts training--to make you a a stronger person. How does kata do this?

First, kata practice applies the physical power of a strong, unified body at every step. Second and with this physical strength, kata requires [at every step] the discipline of proper form, sustained concentration throughout all the movements, the constant exercise of total control--all leading to exacting precision in action and effect.

While these mental qualities should always be in play, it is in kata that they can be most fully developed. It is the mental dimension of traditional martial arts, that KS believes clearly sets it apart from sports-based fighting programs; and kata practice is what takes you to this high state of mental power.


MARKS said...

A karate ka can become an efficient fighter if practising solely kata, however, practising solely kata is different to what many people nowadays think.

Firstly, one learns the techniques and movements and trains them untill they become fluid. (as in most of todays dojo)

Secondly, one learns the bunkai (practical bunkai), training them on a non resisting opponent.

Thirdly, one studies, thinks of and trains the variations to the bunkai and starts training them on a partner with slight resistance.

Lastly, one tries to perform the bunaki of the kata against an opponant who resists completly.

This is a long process and was one of the reasons why masters from the past knew only one, maybe two kata. However they knew the bunkai and the ways to apply them with variations.

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") Interim Reply to MARKS on "Kata Making the Efficient Fighter."

KS agrees with MARKS reply above. KS believes though, MARKS is looking more at training the more advanced and technical aspect of, as Hirokazu Kanazawa said, "... bringing their [your] kata to life." With your mastery and expertise, you could well train black-belts in this misunderstood and underutilized area of kata applications.

KS is looking more at the underlying fundamental abilities bestowed by proper martial arts (karate, here kata) training, not special applications per se. As the physical ability melds with the mental capability, "... brings their [your] kata to life." Further explanation to come.

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