|Celebrating the New Year with|
Matayoshi sensei and family.
I thought about this recently because I came across a discussion of the place of Gekisai kata in one's training (or Fukyu kata or the Pinan kata for that matter). The primary aim of these training subjects, as the evidence suggests, was to popularize karate and provide a healthy program of study for school-age children. While some of the techniques in these training subjects can be found in the classical katas of Goju-ryu--the double punch can be found both in Sanseiru and Suparinpei and the mawashi occurs repeatedly in Goju kata--techniques such as the jodan uke and the oi-tsuki or punch off the forward foot (with the possible exception of Sanchin) don't occur in the classical Goju katas. And in any case, even the front kick-elbow-punch sequence is not practiced quite the same in terms of bunkai as what occurs in Sanseiru. And yet, many dojos spend an inordinate amount of time training these subjects, even among senior students. And if not the training subjects themselves, then basics derived from these subjects. Throw in the two-person continuous bunkai for Gekisai Ichi, Gekisai Ni, Gekiha, and Kakuha developed by Toguchi sensei and most of your training time can be taken up with subjects that bear little resemblance either to the structure or the principles of the classical katas of Goju-ryu.
|Matayoshi sensei at my dojo.|
Some, I'm sure, see martial arts training as a way to develop self confidence and even self defense. They may even believe that they have attained, along with a black belt, some level of menacing lethality or ability to defend themselves. They may even imagine a certain degree of invincibility, if not in terms of self defense, since most of us are less and less likely to face actual physical encounters outside the dojo, perhaps in terms of being able to face all of the difficulties that life throws at us. The problem is that those who spend so much time training Fukyu or Gekisai katas, and their attendant basic techniques, are not practicing a very lethal system of self defense. School-boy kata and bunkai were never meant to be lethal. And yet this is what most schools, at least the ones I have seen, tend to put their emphasis and time on. It's ironic that the more time you spend on martial arts, the less lethal you become as a martial artist--at least if what you're training is the Gekisai/Pinan kind of karate. Perhaps that's overstating the case...but I don't think so.
Yet the other side of the coin is just as curious. Why do we spend years practicing traditional/classical kata and bunkai--how to break someone's neck--in an age where this sort of confrontation, for most of us, is less and less likely? I'm reminded of a caption under a picture of Miyagi Chojun sensei that a friend of mine translated for me in Okinawa. It said something to the effect of "don't hit anyone, and don't get hit." Perhaps that should be the focus of our martial training. But why we train something that by all appearances seems so out-of-date is still a mystery to me...we just do it, I guess.