Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Junokata and the individual nature of kata

An interesting thing to note in Ju-no-kata - in the 6th technique - Kiri Oroshi (about 1:00 in the Miyake film, about 2:50 in the Abbe film)

Tori evades uke's initial chop and grabs the arm.  Then tori takes 2-3 steps forward to off-balance uke.  Notice the number of steps is not set in stone – Miyake does 2 steps and Abbe does 3 steps. 
This is not just an interesting glitch – it speaks to the nature of kata – what is being programmed? 
These kata are not intended to program details like, “make two steps of 22 inches each at 22.5 degrees...” but more of something like “Move forward until uke is off-balanced backward.” 
The principles are programmed but not each exact motions. 
The strategy is programmed but not necessarily all the tactics.

This sort of leeway occurs often in the more advanced Kodokan kata (Ju, Koshiki, Itsutsu).  Sure in the beginning the kata are programmed on the tactical level to a larger degree, with the kata specification indicating to grab just so, step just so, turn just so... But later on, the judoka seems to be assumed to know that tactical-level stuff pretty good, so the kata deal more with strategy and principle and aesthetics.
You can see a similar organization in the Tomiki/Ohba kataset.  The beginning exercises/kata are more tactical, while the Koryu kata are more strategic.  There is (there has to be) some flex built into the more advanced kata for individual interpretation.

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Patrick Parker

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