|Higa Seiko sensei demonstrating|
a technique from Seipai
Once you separate the different parts of the movement, you put in artificial pauses or gaps. The sole purpose of the pauses is simply to make it easier to teach, but the pauses may get in the way of understanding how the techniques are supposed to be used. But it's hard to teach a beginner the fluid movement that may be required to execute techniques against an opponent, not to mention one who is attacking with any speed. And yet we teach kata in such a stylized and punctuated manner--as if the important point is to drag the performance out or make sure the judges at a tournament see every nuanced movement.
Once you have the techniques, it's hard to resist giving them names--mawashi-uke, down block, front kick--and it doesn't matter what language you use. Again, the names make it easier to teach. But the problem with names is that the names predispose us to seeing the techniques in a particular way. The names may even mislead us as to their function. The other problem is that when we name the techniques, we tend to homogenize them--for example, we tend to see all of the mawashi-uke techniques as the same, functioning in the same way. It happens with stances too. Stances are much more fluid (and purposeful), but the conformity we use in teaching kata--and this would seem to apply to stances and stepping as well--makes it easier to teach, and especially easier to teach large groups. Maybe that's the problem--the teaching of large groups, the popularization of karate in the 20th century.
|Miyagi Chojun sensei overseeing|
a large group of students
I don't know whether any of this was intentional on the part of the old teachers. I tend to think they were doing their best trying to convey something that is difficult to convey. I know it's certainly difficult to put into words. Sometimes I think that the only words one should hear in the dojo are the words that I so often heard in Gibo Seki sensei's dojo whenever we asked any questions: "Kori wa, ko desho?" And then, of course, you'd have to do it.