Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Uke-centric kata and personality issues

Working with children on nagenokata has given me some interesting insights about kata in general and about teaching kata to adults.  I'm not sure that kids are any less capable or intelligent than adults.  In fact, I think that adults often have many of the same personality issues as kids - it's just that kids are more transparent about their issues.
For instance, kata is a paired event - a 2-man sport if you will.  It is both partner's responsibility to make the kata work properly - but it is SUPER easy to get into a tori-centric frame of mind, in which uke's role is to attack properly and be the fall guy.  In this tori-centric mode, uke is relatively passive, like a throwing dummy, and tori's job is to do 15 amazing, terrible things to uke (the evil attacker).
With kids especially (and I suspect this plays a part in adult kata too), tori-centric mode makes for piss-poor kata.  It makes sense - no kid wants to be physically coerced into taking a beating 15 different ways, even if the child is easily capable of doing the ukemi safely.  It is the interaction of the coercion upon uke's and tori's minds that makes the kata difficult and onerous.
As soon as the "Uke vs. Tori" idea enters their mind, they become unable to do kata because they become unable to work together to demonstrate a physical idea.
This is compounded by the fear factor.  As soon as a competitive wedge is driven between uke and tori - as soon as uke begins to think that tori's job is to "do martial things to me," the falls in nagenokata become a terrible, fearsome thing.  
But when you strip out the part of the kata that seems to magnify tori's ego (that is, the formality of the kata that is designed to make tori look like the centerpiece) - and when you re-focus both partner's minds in a uke-centric frame in which tori's role is to help uke demonstrate 15 kinds of ukemi properly, all of a sudden much of the fear factor and ego magnification seems to dissolve.

[photo courtesy of Wikipedia]

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Patrick Parker

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