Entrance to the Barn Dojo....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kata themes again?!?

"Seisan seems to be a thematic exploration of the 'sun and moon block.' But one of the problems here is that the Higa dojo (Shodokan) seems to be the only school of Okinawan Goju-ryu that even does the sun and moon block in Seisan kata."

I actually said that. It was a blog post on kata themes. Not that it's wrong, but I was thinking no one who practices Goju outside of Higa lineage/Shodokan people is even familiar with the "sun and moon block." Most of the other schools, I believe, do this short series of palm strikes to the opponent's face--one hand going up to attack as the other hand comes down to block. This is right after the three punches at the beginning of the kata. Now, either of these techniques is very good and effective. But if you're looking for theme, I thought at the time, the "sun and moon block," at least in variation, occurs in some form throughout the rest of the kata. So thematically, the kata becomes a study in the variations on how one can apply the "sun and moon block."
The other block/attack.
The funny thing is that one can look at the "other" block the same way--it too occurs again and again throughout the kata--not so much in variation, but it does occur repeatedly.

So, as has always seemed the case and is a lesson in itself, the structure of Goju katas seems to put basic or thematic techniques, occuring in threes, at the beginning of the katas.

The interesting thing to me is just that implication when one is analyzing or trying to understand kata and its applications--that we should look carefully at the opening techniques. One teacher may put the emphasis on one technique and another teacher may put the emphasis on another.

Again, however, the problem this suggests or the question that begs to be asked--and I'm sure I've brought it up in many other places--is that if you accept this way of looking at the structure of kata, is the principle the same for all of the other katas? That is, are all of the katas of the Goju system structured the same way, with basic or thematic techniques occuring at the beginning, usually in series of three moves? If it differs and some katas don't follow that pattern, does that mean they are from a different source?
Take Sanseiru, for example, which is really the point of this whole ramble, not to give too much away. Sanseiru begins with what looks like three double arm positions, like Sanchin, each with a slow "punch." So if this way of looking at the structure of kata--with opening basic or theme techniques repeated three times--is correct, what does it tell us about the other techniques in Sanseiru, particularly the ones where we see something similar to these arm positions, like in the middle section of the kata? That's the question. How could what appears to be a double kamae position be all that important or basic or thematic?
Middle section block/kick.
Well, if you work backwards from the technique as it occurs in the middle section--turning into a left single arm closed-fist block followed by a kick and then a right elbow--we have arm positions that look pretty similar to the opening double kamae. Now if you apply the principle that turns in kata are used to indicate how one steps off line to avoid and block the opponent's attack, what we now have with this first block on the turn around is an outside block of the opponent's left punch (he's stepping in from the west) with the defender's right forearm and a trapping block with the left arm. The defender's right arm comes to the outside while the left arm is on the inside of the opponent's punch. We now have the double kamae that we see at the beginning of the kata. (This, of course, all happens very quickly in application.) If pressure is applied here, it has the effect of turning the opponent towards you for the kick. (Almost an involuntary movement to avoid the pain.) If done correctly, it's quite uncomfortable for the attacker.
First move in changing gate block.
We see this bent arm blocking position followed by a punch in the last sequence of the kata also, though this "changing gate" block may also only occur in the Higa/Shodokan version of the kata.

Well, anyway, that may be a bit cryptic to describe in words, but that's my latest thoughts on themes in kata. Hope it helps. It would be a lot easier to explain if I had a picture of it, which I don't....but kata and bunkai should really be taught in person, shouldn't they?! What the heck are blogs for anyway?

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