Thursday, October 07, 2010

The long lost Goshin Jutsu kata post

Several months ago I had a great, extended blog discussion with some of my blogospheric Tomiki Aikido buddies about the nature of the Judo exercise titled Kodokan Goshin Jutsu.  This discussion went on for week after week and spilled over at least three blogs that I can think of right off the bat.  If you have good endurance, you can click on the Goshin Jutsu tag below and read through them, but if you just want a summary, the discussion basically went something like...
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"It's not a kata... Yes it is... No it's not... Yes it is, here's how you do it... No you do it this way..."
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Basically I took the position that Goshin Jutsu is not really a kata, rather more of an exercise or drill with a greater extent of variation within it than one would expect from a kata.  Some of my buddies insisted that it should be done in a high-precision, kata-like way.
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Anyway, in my last post in that series I promised a final post on why my buddy's high-precision approach is really a pretty good way to approach it... But I never delivered that promised post, so here is it... The LONG, LOST GOSHINJUTSU POST! (fanfare)
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This exercise, whether you call it a kata or not, should (usually) be done with as great a degree of precision as you can possibly muster.  Even if you try to do it exactly the same way every time, some variability will creep in.
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Both the precision and the variability are good things.
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You still need kata-like precision in your repetitions because this provides a baseline against which variation stands out more clearly.  If you deliberately do the exercise differently every time, you introduce a lot of deliberate variability but you can never detect (and figure out what to do about) more random variation.  Slight changes in timing and pressure and cadence and angle remain hidden and you can never learn from them.
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But on the other hand, if you do the exercise (dare I day, "kata") the same way every time, then when there is some random variation, you immediately sense it and you say to yourself, "Hmmm... That was unusual."  (which is the real beginning of the learning process).
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It is the striving to attain precision that is valuable to you - not the attainment of absolute precision.
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In the striving, you set the stage for variation (which is what you actually learn from) to happen and become noticable.
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Did I say this was the long lost Goshin Jutsu post?  I meant that this is the long lost kata post.  That concept of precision and variability is applicable to any kata in any art.  It is even applicable to stuff you would never call a kata (like newaza drills for instance).


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