Entrance to the Barn Dojo....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

There are still questions...

Why do some katas begin with three elementary techniques, as if you were practicing basics--Shisochin, Seisan, Sanseiru, Suparinpei--while others begin with what seem to be three techniques showing bunkai/application--Saifa, Seiunchin--and some begin with neither--Seipai, Kururunfa?

Why are some techniques done slowly in kata? Is it because these moves are demonstrating a different kind of sustained application of strength, the kind that would be evident in grappling or throwing? And yet not all slow moves seem to be used in that fashion.

How were teachers able to preserve kata movement without teaching bunkai? Or is that itself an assumption--that is, is it a faulty assumption to presume that some schools accurately preserved kata? And if so, which ones? Or, how do we know they didn't teach and pass on bunkai? There is certainly some evidence to suggest that they didn't. I had a friend in Okinawa, who had been studying for 10 to 15 years, who said he had never been taught bunkai to classical kata. A senior student in Jundokan once told me that Taira sensei spent years trying to "work out" his bunkai for the classical katas, implying that he was not taught them in the dojo by his teachers. Does kata movement get corrupted when there is no reference to bunkai? Or does our natural inclination to "find" bunkai, when none is taught, corrupt the way we practice kata? Conspiracy theorists might indulge in the notion that Okinawans are just not teaching bunkai to Americans. Or others might question this altogether, saying that they have been taught bunkai and their school is very clear about bunkai. But then why does bunkai vary so much? Does kata mean anything you want it to mean provided it "works" in a fashion? If the bunkai deviates from the kata--that is, if how one applies a technique from kata doesn't look anything like it does when one does kata--can it still be called bunkai? Some would suggest that these deviations demonstrate different levels of bunkai. Is it logical that kata--meant to preserve technique--has different levels? Can something be used to show and hide at the same time?

Why do I keep thinking of a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote? "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Was Emerson right or was this just an easy way out of a sticky situation?

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