Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nanatsu no kata speaks to the gokyo

When scholars try to figure out how dead languages sounded when spoken by native speakers long ago, it is largely guess-work unless they have access to a body of poetry written in that language.  This is because the poetry provides clues as to how words sounded - what things rhyme with what other things and how the rhythm of the language went.
I've been contemplating Tokio Hirano sensei's Nanatsu no kata a bit lately.  I personally think Nanatsu is poetry - high art.  And looking at the technical range of Nanatsu provides some clues about the organization of the grammar and syntax of the art (the gokyo).

Nanatsu no kata
  1. osotogari (1st kyo)
  2. osotootoshi (4th kyo of the habukareta waza)
  3. haraigoshi (2nd kyo)
  4. ouchigari(1st kyo)
  5. tsurikomigoshi(2nd kyo)
  6. uchimata(2nd kyo)
  7. taiotoshi(2nd kyo)
  1. osotogari X ukiotoshi (4th kyo)
  2. osotootoshi X yoko wakare (5th kyo)
  3. haraigoshi X utsuri goshi (4th kyo)
  4. ouchigari X ushiro goshi (5th kyo)
  5. tsurikomigoshi X taniotoshi (4th kyo)
  6. uchimata X sukashi (shinmeisho no waza)
  7. taiotoshi X yokoguruma (5th kyo)
I find the selection of techniques interesting.  This kata - basically a record of how Hirano did the amazing things he did  - a record of "his system" - is composed of...
  • two large ashiwaza from the 1st kyo
  • four techniques from 2nd kyo
  • one technique from the old preserved set (habukareta waza)
  • six counters, all from the 4th and 5th kyo
  • and one counter from the new set (shinmeisho no waza)
So, one might characterize Nanatsu as  mostly fundamentals (1 and 2 kyo) and counters (4 and 5 kyo).  Interesting that there is nothing from 3rd kyo in there. 
If you look at the 3rd kyo, I think you'll find mostly a pile of miscellaneous minor actions that fill in the corners of the system.  Sure there have been some notable examples of folks that have used tsurigoshi, and you'll sometimes (rarely) see hanegoshi or tomoenage in a tournament, but I think it's fair to say that the 3rd kyo is largely ignored as irrelevant to the modern (post-Hirano) competition crowd.
What you do see a bunch in tournaments - the place that almost everyone's tokuiwaza comes from - 1st and 2nd kyo.  Foundations.
So, looking at how Hirano used the techniques of the gokyo in his kata suggests (to me) that the gokyo is basically...
  • foundations (1-2)
  • miscellany/trivia (3)
  • counters (4-5)

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Patrick Parker

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