Thursday, January 14, 2010

Of course Goshin Jutsu is a kata!

I've been doing blog-randori with LF for several days regarding whether or not Goshin Jutsu is a kata and how it should be practiced.  It's kinda like doing randori with him on the mat because he's so experienced and knowledgeable, I take a lot of falls.

Is GJ a kata?  Of COURSE it's a kata!  It has defined roles for uke and tori.  It is prearranged in that both partners know what's going to happen before they start.  Uke attacks a specific way and tori does a specific thing to diffuse the attack. That's kata.
But what kind of kata is it?  By that I mean, what is it that is pre-arranged between the partners?  what sort of program is tori running in his body-mind to "do the technique?"  Let me use my favorite example of late - the first technique of Goshin Jutsu.  If you say GJ tells a story, is this technique this sort of story:
"Uke steps in (tsugiashi) from ma-ai with his right foot forward and grasps both of tori's wrists at the same time.  As uke attacks, tori slides (tsugiashi) backward 45 degrees to his left, pulling uke into offbalance in a line parallel to uke's feet and frees his right hand by pulling against uke's thumb.  Tori then executes a back-knuckle strike to uke's temple, grabs uke's right wrist with right hand on top and left hand below, turns his body 90 degrees to the right, and steps away from uke, applying wakigatame."
Or is it this kind of story:
"Uke steps in from ma-ai and grasps both of tori's wrists.  As uke attacks, tori evades offline, draws uke into offbalance, and frees his right hand.  Tori applies an atemi to distract uke and keep him at a distance, then applies wakigatame."
I say it is the second kind of story - a short story rather than a novella.  What is prearranged between the partners is not the exact, precise specifics (uke right foot forward, 45 degrees, tsugiashi, how to free the arm, which variant of wakigatame to do) but rather, the partners prearrange which principles are in play (evade, kuzushi, release, atemi, wakigatame).
There is a standard, central form - the "kata form" - that illustrates a good way for those principles to be applied to solve the problem in question. But you do not have to apply the principles-in-play in the manner or order shown in the central form.  You might evade, atemi, atemi, evade, wakigatame and get a solution to the problem under study.  Or you might evade straight into wakigatame.  Or you might evade and end the encounter with atemi.  Even your evasion alone might create sufficient kuzushi to end the encounter.
My point is, there is a cloud of potential techniques (instantiations of principles) surrounding each of the central forms in Goshin Jutsu.  I maintain that you have to get some sufficient number of repetitions of the central form, but that it is more profitable to explore the cloud surrounding that central form than it is to precisely re-create that central form over and over for the rest of your life.
...more to come regarding using kata for quality control.  Stay tuned...
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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