Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What Tomiki thought about weapons

Trying to divine the thoughts and intentions of the founders by looking at their kata (especially as performed now by students of students of students) can be tricky.  It can be easy to get off on a misleading tangent and spend a lot of practice time chasing ghosts.
It would be better to read the writings of the founders and see video of them doing their thing - but sometimes the kata that they left behind are all we have to go on.  Take Tomiki Sensei, for instance.  There is relatively little available that was written by him and relatively few videos (though the ones we do have are very educational).
I don't think I've ever seen a video or read anything regarding Tomiki doing any of the weapons work (jo and sword) associated with his teaching system.  The jo and sword work that he (or Ohba maybe?) did leave us consists of the second half of Koryu Dai San kata and the second half of Koryu Dai Roku kata.  The weapons techniques in Sankata and Rokukata feel to me like a sampler platter of just a few options with each condition - a foretaste or hint that there is much more there to explore if we're interested.
This lack of material makes sense - they just weren't as interested in that aspect of the art.  They had different fish to fry -  they were engrossed in the randori problem.  But they did apparently consider it important enough to leave us at least a remnant of the weapons material.  .
It occurs to me that perhaps we can divine a bit of the founder(s) thinking by looking at the structure of the weapons forms that they left us.  It looks like they may have been suggesting certain practices as more interesting or more important or valuable than other practices based on the number of each sort of technique that they put into the kata.
For instance...
  • jo-tsukai (jonage) - 12 techniques (8 in sankata and 4 in rokukata)
  • tachidori - 9 techniques (5 in san, 4 in roku)
  • tachi-tai-tachi (kumitachi) - 8 techniques (all in sankata)
  • tantodori 8 techniques (all in sankata)
  • jodori - 5 techniques (all in sankata)
  • tanto-nage (4 techniques in rokukata)
Do the relative frequencies suggest to us that we should spend more time and thought and energy on jotsukai (jonage) than on the other practices?  Does it suggest that we shouldn't worry much about the opponent grabbing our knife-weilding arm? Does it suggest that we won't get much from working on how to take a jo/yari away from uke?
Or does it suggest we should invest more on jo (17 total techniques) and sword (17 total techniques) than on tanto (12 techniques)?

UPDATE - A reader rightly pointed out that i failed to count the five tantodorin in rokukata. that means that there are 17 techniques for each of the three weapons, but the numbers between the different practices are still unequal.
Or something else?
Or nothing at all?
Patrick Parker
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