Friday, February 10, 2012

Can't see the randori in junokata?

In my last post I asserted that junokata is not an abstract, aesthetic, demonstration thing intended for aging judo masters.  Rather, it was deliberately designed by Kano as practical randori education for relative beginners.  At least, that's what Kano says/implies in his memoirs.
Of course, your next question to me should be, "Well, what are all those amazing randori lessons hidden in Junokata?" Short answer -  I don't know for sure.  I can't lie to you and claim to have gleaned all the cool ninja secrets from this exercise.  Shoot, even Keiko Fukuda says in her book that the essence of this kata eluded her for most of her life, and she been practicing judo for about 55 years longer than me!
This brings to my mind the question... If Junokata was designed as a practical randori education, why is it so darn hard to glean any practical randori lessons from it?  Seems to me it could be any (or several) of the following...
  • Junokata was not really designed as a practical randori thing - Parker is smoking the hoohoo weed again.  I mean, two or three generations of Olympic judoka can't be wrong, can they?
  • Junokata has not been passed down to successive generations of judoka faithfully and intact, as Kano intended.  The lessons have been obscured and the kata has become just an aesthetic demonstration thing that is only remotely and abstractly related to real judo.
  • Our understanding of the nature of randori has become so fundamentally skewed that we cannot see any relationship between Junokata and what we think randori is about. (AHA!)
I think the latter to be the most likely explanation.  If Kano intended Junokata to really be a practical randori education (which he says he did), and if we cannot see any randori relevance in the kata, then it seems that we are having a crisis of misunderstanding related to our idea of what randori is about.
We might benefit from taking a good, thorough look at junokata and trying to figure out how it might possibly be the same thing as randori.
  • There is no falling in junokata, (interestingly, there is no falling in gonokata either) so perhaps randori is not really about forcing the other guy to fall down.
  • Randori is good, vigorous exercise, so perhaps Junokata is not about some flacid, insipid misunderstanding of "ju."
  • Junokata is done precisely and slowly, so perhaps randori should not be about applying explosive strength or moving faster than the other guy.
  • The only way to effectively "win" at randori without explosive strength and speed advantage is to apply effective kuzushi with proper timing, so perhaps we should be especially looking for the kuzushi and timing lessons in JNK.
 What other parallels do you see between JNK and what randori should really be?
Patrick Parker
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