Monday, December 22, 2008

Taikyoku "in tate"

I was discussing the first fundamental exercise in many karate schools the other day. I mentioned that Taikyoku was, per my understanding, both a kata and an exercise template. Some folks like to fill in the techniques in this kata with moves other than those prescribed in the kata. Thus, you can have a high-block taikyoku, a front kick taikyoku, a backstance shuto block taikyoku, etc... Well, according to the Wikipedia entry on Taikyoku, some folks are not satisfied with just changing the techniques out in the template, they changed the embusen (the performance line), changing the whole shape of the thing.
The series can also be performed "in Tate" a variation invented by Yoshikazu Matsushima... In this variation the steps are performed in a straight line, starting by stepping directly forward, then the turns being 180 degrees rather than ninety. On the last step, one turns to the where one was originally facing rather than stepping forward.
The only thing that is missing from taikyoku tate are the 90 degree and the 270 degree turns. I don't think there is any magic to the 90 degree turns that makes them indispensable - if you can turn 180 degrees as in tate, you can stop at 90 degrees if you want to. But there is the 270 degree turn - typically interpreted as similar to the footwork needed to build momentum for something like a hip throw. Sure, taikyoku tate is missing that particular interpretation, but I don't think that is a major loss for a couple of reasons:
  • Hip throw is not a fundamental skill in karate-do. It is a more advanced option. Therefore, taking it out of the kihon kata is not a big deal.
  • It is especially not a big deal because that 270 degree turn is found in other kata (i.e. the heians) in a mix of more intermediate to advanced techniques that hipthrow would fit into better anyway.
So, the kata stretches out into a straight line instead of having the side wings on it (the addition to the name, tate, translates to 'straight'). I can see the benefit of doing the kata this way especially if you had a small dojo full of people doing the kata. It would be easier to have a lot of people do this exercise at the same time if everybody were moving in parallel lines. I really like this Taikyoku tate form so much that I have started doing it this way. My favorite training space for it is in my hallway in my house. there are not many kata you can do in your hallway.

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