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Kata is not real aikido


Photo courtesy of Tharso
Kata takes a bad rap, in many ways undeserved. I've heard it said, but haven't seen the source, that Ueshiba said that there is no kata in aikido because kata is basically not aiki-like - not real aikido. Tomiki, on the other hand, structured his aikido teaching around a set of kata.
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It occurred to me last night that kata is actually harder than randori or shiai because tori has to call his shots, just like calling your shots in pool. When you define ahead of time what technique is going to happen, if you throw some other technique (even if it is fantastic and aiki-like) then your kata was a failure - you missed your called shot.
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Consider Hanasu no Kata - the wrist releases. Technique #5 is an under-the-arm version of technique#1. The two things begin identical but something causes tori to either move around uke's arm (#1) or under the arm (#5). In aikido (real aikido or randori, that is) we say that uke is calling the shot. It is uke's reaction that drives whether tori does #1 or #5. But when you're doing kata the moves come in a defined order, so tori is calling the shots. This can be both good and bad.
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Good: it is harder for tori to call the shots. Tori has to develop greater skill and understanding to be able to do a specific technique at a specific time.
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Bad: It's not really aikido that you're doing because uke is not calling the shots. It is a drill or simulation of an aspect of aikido but it is not real aikido. Additionally, it is virtually impossible for tori to call his shots unless he has a compliant partner.
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So, aikido kata may not be real aikido, but it is in some ways a better, more difficult exercise for developing aiki-like skills than jiyuwaza (free techniques) or randori (freeplay).
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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3 comments:

  1. I didn't know that about Ueshiba!

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  2. I think your coments apply to Yoshinkan aikido as well. Come to think of it, in Wu style taijiquan, we learn the "square" form first; it's basically the same idea.

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  3. Wow, that makes a ton of sense to me, especially in regard to the particular example you chose to use (hanasu 1 vs. hanasu 5). I seem to have a mental hitch with hanasu 5-8, and maybe the "tori-drivenness" has something to do with it...

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