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TMA UnderGround >> The Great Kata Debate


10/6/04 6:26 PM
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Outkaster
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Edited: 06-Oct-04 06:31 PM
Member Since: 01/01/2001
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"When I recall all the hours I spent doing kata I have great regret. This is just another thing traditional MA does to fill time. I practiced Shotokan for several years. Usually the instructor used the classes kata time to either talk to any new prospective students that walked in or to catch up on his computer billing work. Ask yourself if ANY top MMA fighter does kata. Would anyone say that guys like the Shamrock brothers, or Mark Coleman could not handle themselves on the street too? It comes down to the BEST way to use your training time. It has been proven though experience that one should engage in strength training, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and actual time fighting an uncooperative opponent on the mat. Kata is an antiquated training method that was never even originally intended to be memorized and performed by route as classical schools still insist upon doing." Sometimes I feel this way too. I competed in in tradional ITF TKD hyung competition and did very well in NY in 1999-2000. When I started Judo/Kickboxing in 2000-2001 I never felt the need to practice the hard core forms anymore. It is strange now because all I do now is "hands on" practice of Martial Arts.
10/6/04 8:06 PM
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m.g
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Edited: 06-Oct-04 08:09 PM
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One of the problems with the "kata" debate is when people think of or speak of "kata" they think of kata that are already formed, created, and taught. People seem to not to think of kata as a principle and rather think of it as ritual or sequence they have already seen. It must be understood "people" create katas not the other way around. There are bad katas and there are good ones but neither really define kata in and of itself. Like I've stated before the three point mount attack is a kata. The music notes or scales for a instrument is a kata. Do-re-mi-fa-so-te-re is a kata. A person can create and make their own kata. Judo great Kyuzo Mifune create his own katas. A kata is essentially a sequence of separate tecnhiques linked together OR a sequence of movements linked together to form a single technique. A kata can also be center around a specific theme. For example the kata Mifune created was center around the theme of counter attack and it was essentially counter techniques to all the major throws of Judo. Every kata has it own theme and function. The most elementary function of katas is aiding memory. It helps you to remember the technique or concept or strategy one is learning or perfecting. Historically katas had personal value. That is people created them for some type of personal use. Nowadays when people talk about katas they talk more or less about kata that other people have create think that those in and of themselves are katas. No, those are katas other people have create. Kata is a principle. It is something that a person can create on their own for themselves and not necessarily something they inherit from someone else. And kata exists in nearly every activity and endeavor, it just has a different name. Another name for kata is SOP: standard operational procedure or MOS: mode of operation. Chords are katas. There is no rule that say every kata has to be ritualized or formalized or has to be done in the exact same way. There is no rule that says katas have to have a specific number of techniques. The irony of about katas is those who speak the most against it do them themselves although they usually do realize it.
10/6/04 11:10 PM
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yusul
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Edited: 06-Oct-04
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well said, m.g. you've said it all before, but it's worth repeating. i only disagree with kata leading to a single movement, because that implies that kata and technique are almost synonomous.
10/7/04 8:15 AM
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juszczec
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Edited: 07-Oct-04
Member Since: 02/23/2003
Posts: 953
Cossack2 "Being proficient in kata can lead naïve students to think they are good fighters. Such an assumption is dangerious." Agreed. It the job of the guy running the place to make sure it doesn't happen. Unfortunately, it sounds like I'm one of the few karate guys who view kata as a drill not a gift from God. "you have made the usual TMA assumption that learning a set technique will help you. " No. I'm saying that my front kick after 22 years of reps is better than it was 5 minutes after learning it. In fact, all my techniques are better after lots of reps. Also, I'm saying there is a "correct" way to move when you execute any technique. The correct way maximizes speed and power, puts you in a good position to follow up and minimizes your exposure to counterattack. IMO, to develop and retain the "correct" way, you've got to do reps in a low pressure environment. Hopefully, when you end up in a high pressure environment (someone's trying to hurt you) where performing the "correct" way is less important than hitting them before they hit you then you'll still perform the technique closer to the "correct" way than if you didn't do the reps. "For now lets just say that every fight you have gotten into or will get into is different." I'll go ya one better. Everytime you do a technique is different. The body simply does not move EXACTLY the same way each time. The more practice, the easier it is to make adjustments. Don't believe me? Watch a child who has just learned to walk as they walk across the room. Then watch the same child 5 years later. The kid's walking "technique" is a damn sight better. At least my son's was. "Being a “technique slave” will not serve you as well as one who learns while struggling against an uncooperative opponent." IMO, you need both. You need to practice the most efficient way of doing a technique. Then you need to practice it under increasing pressure. "When Kano introduced things like randori and more “hands on” teaching methods his students performance was far superior. You need good equipment, but I am sure the same principles apply to sword fighting." I have no proof, this is just speculation on my part. By the time Kano appeared on the scene, there had been over 100 years of large scale peace in Japan. I suspect there was less and less need for kenjutsu/jujutsu skills as peacetime got longer and longer. I suspect hard sparring fell out of favor at this point because it was, well, hard. Also, AFAIK, the role of the samurai class shifted from soldiering to bureaucrat. So fighting skills were less important. "Since you are using the word “kata” you must accept the standard definition that TMA applies." Whaddya gonna do if I don't, call Japan and report me? LOL Seriously now. Nobody, in the TMA world or elsewhere, is going to tell me what to think. I've looked at the TMA "form over everything" use of kata and see its shortcomings. I've experimented with different uses of kata and gotten other results. I've maintained in my own practice and tell others about the uses that got me positive results. I've taken an idea and found a way to make it work for me. If that doesn't sit well with Grandmaster Sensei Guru Sifu Joe Blow down at the American Ninja School of Death then he can go hang. "I am against the idea of complex memorized pre-arranged patters." If they are done for their own sake, then I agree. If they are done with a larger goal in mind, then it may be a different story. Mark
10/7/04 2:46 PM
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Willybone
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Edited: 07-Oct-04
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"I am against the idea of complex memorized pre-arranged patters."
I learned the alphabet by singing that song, didn't you?
I moved on to being a decent writer and reader afterwards, but it's that song that got me there and I still sing it when going through the alphabet in my head.
Repetitious, seemingly nonsensical, patterns have their use in commiting things to memory.
10/7/04 11:04 PM
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m.g
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Edited: 07-Oct-04
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Yusul, Actually in a sense a technique is a kata. A kata doesn't necessarily have to be a sequence of techniques it can be a sequences of movements which what a single technique essentially is. When you think about it a technique, particular when it is demostrated and even taught, it is just a representation of a particular action; an action that has an objective. It is the mechanics, positions, movements etc that follow a particular principle. In reality no one really does a technique exactly like it is demostrated or shown. This is because a technique is merely a model, blue print, a schematic, a form. A technique is a guide for a given action. When a person is shown a technique he is shown the major parts of it that make it work. He is shown the major movements the major positioning of the body, etc. But when the action itself is performed in reality alot of parts of it can't be shown or better said illustrated because of its dynamic nature. And these parts are picked up on after the individual gains experience from doing the technique over and over. Not every movement and body position of a given technique last the same amount of time nor can they be perceived contray to the impression one gets from the demostration of a technique. (I don't care what a person says a technique can't really be appreciated for what it is unless it is seen in action in a real situation, this is why I actually value watching live video or film footage of a person actually performing a skill in a live or game situation. I'll watch the skill over and over first in real time than in slow motion. There are so many sublties and the like which can't be seen and thus picked up on that can't be learn from viewing the technique in demostration). Truth be told once a person gets the idea of what he or she is suppose to do from the "technique" he or she then goes through the process of making the technique their own adjusting the technique to their body type. They also understand that they don't neccessarily have to look exactly like the "technique" as they were shown in order to make the technique work. As long as they follow the fundamental physics principles they can make the technique work. A technique in my mind is just a kata. It is a form. It is a series of movements put together in order to achieve a particular objective. It is meant to explain and illustrate a given action. But the action itself is alway done differently in reality. There are certain aspect which can't be shown in a demostration.
10/8/04 7:53 AM
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juszczec
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Edited: 08-Oct-04
Member Since: 02/23/2003
Posts: 962
Cossack2 "Your front kick is better when you kick the air?" I'm sorry, I didn't express myself clearly. I meant after lots of practice doing front kicks (in the air, on focus mitts, on heavy bags, on kicking shields and on moving targets trying to hit me in the head) my front kick is better than it was 5 minutes after I learned it. Why? Because the repetition made me comfortable with the way I have to move my body in order to do the kick and add my body weight behind it. Doing it during sparring showed me the best way for "me" to use a front kick against someone based on the physical limitations of my body. "That has nothing to do with learning how to apply and connect a front kick during the coarse of an actual street fight." No, of course not. For this you need another person. Its what sparring is for. "The mere fact that you defend kata and waste time doing it makes me think that you have very little experience with either MMA or street fight methods." More mind reading? Seems to me you've arrived at this conclusion because I've found a use for a training method that flies in the face of your experience. It also seems to me you are pissed off at the Shotokan guy who marched you around the dojo, took your money, taught you lots of drills but didn't tell you they were only drills and neglected some very important parts of training. Well, you should be. I would be. Hell, I am, because that slob makes me look bad. "This is very common with people who are fooling themselves about MA prowess. When you talk to people who enter the MMA cage or have to defend themselves on the street they quickly dispense with the silly superfluous stuff like kata." There is a difference between preparing to use the techniques and using them. Kata, doing drills, hitting the bag, running, lifting weights are all methods of preparing to do the techniques. Sparring, depending on the rules you use, is a better approximation of what its like to use these techniques against someone who's trying to stop you. In sparring, the goal should be to not get hit and hit the other guy harder/better than he hit you. In any of the other drills the goal should be training your body to do the technique with max efficiency. Why? Because, for most people, its easier. Somehow you got the idea that I think kata = fighting skill and I don't. You get skill in fighting by fighting. But, I think you are still so pissed off at that Shotokan guy the mere fact someone says not everything he did was completely useless clouds your judgement. "TMA marches its students up and down the dojo/sojang floor as they mindlessly punch and kick the air to thier instructor’s cadence. Then they break off and do more prearranged air punch and kicking in the form of kata." You are correct and I've already said this method of training is done way past the point of usefulness in most TMA schools. "MMA schools sponsored by top MMA fighters never waste their time with this nonsense. Street fighting schools that teach actual self defense applications like use of bullet man suits do not use katas either. If you want to be good at air punching and kicking and look "martial arty" than continue to do the TMA thing. However if you want to learn to defend yourself in a street encounter or to perform well in MMA where they are really trying to hurt you you are better off spending your time on the things I have discussed previously." One more time. Training methods without a partner are to learn how to do the technique. Training methods with a partner are for learning how to use the technique. By all means, spar. Wanna use body armor, go ahead (too bulky for me and I'd rather have to get out of the way or feel pain). I'm just saying that sparring is not the time to concentrate on doing the technique correctly. When you are sparring you should be concentrating on hitting the other guy/not letting him hit you. Mark
10/8/04 5:00 PM
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RapidAssault
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Edited: 08-Oct-04
Member Since: 08/02/2003
Posts: 138
"I learned the alphabet by singing that song, didn't you? I moved on to being a decent writer and reader afterwards, but it's that song that got me there and I still sing it when going through the alphabet in my head. Repetitious, seemingly nonsensical, patterns have their use in commiting things to memory." Willybone, it's interesting that you use the analogy of the alphabet to develop reading and writing skills (and presumably speaking skills). I was thinking something along those lines, and also thinking how easy it was for me to learn English as opposed to learning Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarine). When you look at it this way, learning English seems relatively easy when you have a foundation (eg. the alphabet) to work on. Compare that with the Chinese language. There really are no "alphabet" to learn from. The "phonetic" system only develops speaking skills and not the written aspect of the language. To learn the written language, one must memorize characters before being able to use them. And even though many characters share common "root words/strokes," they by no mean help in the memorization of what the character looks like in its entirety. FYI, it takes almost 3-4 times longer to develop proficiency in the Chinese language as it does for languages like French, Spanish, German (if you are an English speaker learning a second language). Anyways, in relation to katas and their usefulness, I do find (based on my experience with CMA) that the forms are quite complex in nature (like the Chinese language). As such, I've found that much time is spent learning by rote before I get to the point where I even "get it." In fact, that's the problem I found with any of the forms I've learnt from my Sifu. They were just too complex to have a smooth progression in difficulty of skill level. It is also interesting to know that "way back then" (I forgot who said this exactly), one would learn CMA by learning individual techniques first before ever learning the forms, thus training and developing a foundation to work on. The author of that book said that the CMA taught today does just the opposite, by teaching the forms first and then breaking down the forms into their individual components. Does anyone know of the author that I'm refering to (just to back me up on this)?
11/22/04 9:09 AM
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masterofdisaster
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Edited: 22-Nov-04
Member Since: 05/17/2004
Posts: 9
RapidAssault, 'It is also interesting to know that "way back then" (I forgot who said this exactly), one would learn CMA by learning individual techniques first before ever learning the forms, thus training and developing a foundation to work on. The author of that book said that the CMA taught today does just the opposite, by teaching the forms first and then breaking down the forms into their individual components. Does anyone know of the author that I'm refering to (just to back me up on this)? ' is this what your looking for.......... 'Originally, solo composites were never developed to impart the actual lesson but rather to culminate what had already been taught.' taken for the website of Patrick McCarthy http://www.koryu-uchinadi.com/Secrets.htm#_ftn2 http://www.koryu-uchinadi.com/ Cheers MoD
12/1/04 10:36 PM
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RapidAssault
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Edited: 01-Dec-04
Member Since: 08/02/2003
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No, it was a book that I found that information from. I wouldn't be surprised if Patrick McCarthy read the same book, or if both he and the info of the book came from a common source.
12/2/04 3:53 PM
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DaRealPorkChop
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Edited: 02-Dec-04 03:58 PM
Member Since: 06/12/2003
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Rapid Assault

A little background to establish where I'm coming from.

Started kungfu when i was 16 (and a half! hehe). Moved around every few years and always found a new kung fu school to trai with. Was always really insecure about my ability to fight because I always found myself at places that didn't really stress it. Move out to DC to train at a southern kung fu (jow ga) school that gave me some slight exposure to san shou and san shou training methods.

I figured that I was learning san shou to fight anyway, so my time might be better spent doing the san shou part at an actual san shou gym. So for a while I tried to double-duty; split my time between the san shou gym and the kung fu school. Eventually this started leading to problems with the people at the kung fu school; eventho some of them were very positive in the beginning.

The conflict resulted in me going san shou full time. I had a ring fight, didn't do too great. Visited a bunch of gyms for some sparring- where i tended to do alright. I was having fun though and going san shou only was pretty cool.

That all kinda ended this summer. 2 injuries in a row put me completely out of commission for at least 2 months altogether; but really screwed my training from June till November. 

The injuries left me pretty angry and disillusioned. My motivation for training was about an all time low. So I did the unthinkable and went back to kung fu.

Well, didn't go back to the same school i was at, found another friend in another style (hung gar), who has a reputation for knowing his stuff and started training with him. I still train at the san shou gym regularly, so I'm back to my "best of both worlds" situation.

I know you say you dont learn anything from the forms without a sifu showing you, unless you'd been away from the form for a while. I can see your point, but i have a few points where I disagree.

Beyond learning; there are many benefits that kinda drew me back to trying out forms again. I look at forms as a kind of yoga. Where as yoga improves your flexibility, cardiovascular health (breathe control more than your aerobic capacity for running per say), and posture in day to day life; kung fu does a lot of the same benefits for when you're fighting.

People get so hung up on how inappropriate the technique of throwing a straight punch from a chest chamber as you're stepping from horse to bow and arrow looks in comparison to fighting someone like say a boxer. I think those exagerated stances and postures are merely to show you your structure: ie that you're transitioning a large portion of your weight onto your front foot when throwing a power shot from the rear, that the legs lead the punch, that you shouldn't lose your balance, and you shouldn't throw an arm punch.

I can even see a HUGE carry over from the palm down - into shooting hands (bil jee) from the hung gar and my parry down - jab that I do as a southpaw kickboxer against an orthodox fighter.

The learning comes as I go back and forth between forms, pads, bag, and sparring. I would agree that forms in a vacuum probably aren't good for anybody.

In Hung Gar and CMA you must've heard of terms like "inner door student" or "bai see". Of course these descriptions sound really secretive and fancy, but it's someone the instructor's decided to hand the keys of the system to. Even those schools that say they are open to everybody, still carry on this tradition (in my experience).

Even the term "keys to the system" sounds very fancy as well. You may get the wrong idea for what's really being transmitted. These things are really the methods ("faht") and the power ("ging"). Your learning then becomes refining not just the physical shape of the techniques you're doing but how they represent your strategy and if you're generating the right power. It's the understanding of what, why, and how you're doing the techniques.

With each technique you're going to come up with a formula based on the method ("faht") and the power ("ging").

When looking at the "faht" (method) you're going to ask questions like: "what animal is it associated with & what are the attributes associated with that animal?", "what element is it associated with and what are the attributes associated with that animal?", "what's the target?", "what's the poem say?", "what bridge is this associated with and how is that used?"...

When looking at the "ging" (power) you're going to ask questions like: "what animal?", "what element?", "is this a special kind of power?". "what direction?", "what's the striking surface?", "what's the poem say?"... 

So with each repetition of the form it's a refining of the method and the power. The better you feel it and understand it, the easier it is to find new uses for it. That's kinda where the "learning" comments come from.

In reference to kicking with stance transitions; yes, each stance transition can be a kick.

In reference to No Shadow Kick (Mo Ying Gerk); either you have it, or you don't. It's a pretty in depth, detailed strategy that is transmitted, and not really something you stumble on through practise. A lot of people confuse it with Ghost kick (Gwai Gerk) which is the more basic concept of hiding a kick behind another technique. Most people talk about the No Shadow Kick and speculate on it when they're not sure what it is. It got a lot of air play because of some of the stories and a tv interview of Wong Fei Hung's wife (who was much younger than he was when he died) where she said she'd "never use such a murderous technique".

On the larger topic of stuff remaining "hidden" in these kung fu forms, it really relates back to understanding the basic explanations to something works- and how to use it. This 'transmission' type stuff is why lineage is such a huge argument in CMA.

I wouldn't expect to do a form without knowing what I was doing in order to magically learn something. What the people who say such stuff really mean is you practise your form for good structure first and later on learn the keys to unlock & understand it.

While I'm at it, I find that drills more accurately transmit the techniques for use in fighting than the forms do. The forms are just a thesis of the strategies & powers, with a bit of a yoga-ish focus on stance/posture & breath.

I also want to reiterate that none of the techniques (in forms or drills) were meant to be perfected by work in the air alone. They ALL REQUIRE contact & noncontact drilling/pad/bag work, as well as sparring. I like to break it down to apply, drill, spar; in other words, learn how to apply it slowly, drill it to perfection, and use it live in sparring. Not TOO dissimilar from the sport fighting crowd...

12/2/04 5:09 PM
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DaRealPorkChop
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Edited: 02-Dec-04
Member Since: 06/12/2003
Posts: 86
BTW- about the above post. I'm more than happy to answer any questions or provide some more specific answers, it's just that i was running real close in on that 7000 char limit.
12/10/04 1:39 PM
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emptiedcup
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Edited: 10-Dec-04
Member Since: 06/20/2002
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I used to hate kata because they were never explained to me how they could be used functionally and practicallly. After studying many styles and now owning a martial arts school I have looked at my katas from an interpretation point of view. Yes the orginal applications have been lost and the beauty of kata is they are open to individual interpretation. U look at the kata and your instructor will say...we use these techniques for fighting but you never do. However, my students do use them...there is so much more than kicking and blocking in kata...there are so many throws and joint locks in them its ridiculus. Even your first kata's first three movements is a throw (Heian Shodan). I've had instrructors from all over come train with me to have me help them interpret their katas in other systems. Like Aikijutsu, judo or whatever, you have to practice the techniques you find in the kata with a partner but they are very practical when you do this. Pick a Heian kata and a movement in it and I bet I can explain a lock or throw for it....bottom line...find someone that knows the locks, throws, and energy drills that can be foound in kata and you'll learn to love them....good luck...

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