A couple of years ago we had a nice blog discussion here on Mokuren Dojo about whether or not Kodokan Goshin Jutsu (KGJ) is or is not a kata. Honestly, it is an interesting thing because it has characteristics of both kata and non-kata exercise sets or drills. I can see it either way. But for the sake of argument, and to be a bit provocative and draw some folks into a good conversation with me, I took the side that it is definitely and obviously not a kata.
I thought today that I'd summarize the old conversation and maybe add one or two more points...
Of course KGJ is a kata...
- There are pre-defined uke-tori roles and the action and both players have foreknowledge of the sequence and flow of actions in each technique.
- It was deliberately designed by some of the greatest masters of judo, aikido, and jujitsu, to illustrate principles and lessons that they wanted communicated to future generations. Therefore, there is a proper and an improper way to practice and execute KGJ.
- IJF, in recent years has even standardized the proper execution of KGJ so that it can be contested and judged as a kata.
KGJ is not really a kata - just a collection of drills...
- Depending on what sense of precision you have in kata, it may or may not even be possible to achieve kata-like precision. If precision means to make the same motions in the same sequence every time, it is not possible to practice KGJ (or really any other partner forms) with kata-like precision. But if by "precision" you mean to express the same principles in response to a similar attack form, then sure, precision is achievable.
- Since being delivered on stone tablets with techniques writ by the finger of Tomiki, every teacher that has ever taught this thing with vastly different emphasis. This collection is not teaching the same lessons every time. It is not telling the same story every time. It simply lacks the internal consistency and logic (riai) of kata.
- It's not even called a kata - the other Kodokan kata are all suffixed with " - no kata" while the drills and exercises are not.
Goshin Jutsu is not unique to Kodokan. Most martial arts have similar collections of situational self-defense scenarios that they practice in addition to whatever other curricula they teach and practice. When KGJ was developed in the 1950's, it was (so I've heard) because the American flyboys in Tokyo were clamoring for a set of "modern self-defense moves" to practice - something mroe up-to-date than the knee-crawling, scimitar-flinging stuff found in Kimenokata. And Kodokan obliged them by creating a committee to meet to figure out what would be the best modern self-defense situations to practice, and to offer suggestions as to how to solve these self-defense problems using judo. The output of that committee became known as Kodokan Goshin Jutsu.
There is no question of the value and validity of KGJ. The real question (at least for this debate) is how to practice it. Should it be treated as a kata (to be practiced formally and precisely) or is it a collection of valuable drills (to practice to gain experience in variation around central principles).
Incidently, I think it would be an interesting exercise to reprise that old blog conversation with my Honorable Opponents (HOs) and myself taking opposite views - Perhaps LF could try to write a couple of posts on why KGJ is definitely and obviously NOT a kata and I would attempt to defend the other view, that of course it is a kata. Come on HOs, bring it on! ;-)