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Peter Boylan
11-21-2013, 04:07 PM
A lot of people don't like kata training. There is a particularly sharp divide in the aikido world between styles with kata (Tomiki, Ki No Kenkyukai) and those without (Aikikai). Some of the biggest complaints are that kata are rigid and mechanical and don't teach people how to deal with surprises. If feel differently, wrote out my thoughts in a blog post at

http://budobum.blogspot.com/2013/11/kata-is-too-rigid-and-mechanical.html

(PS, I would argue that nearly all Aikikai training is actually kata practice, but that would be a different thread).

Cliff Judge
11-21-2013, 05:46 PM
(PS, I would argue that nearly all Aikikai training is actually kata practice, but that would be a different thread).

It is like kata practice where the form of the kata is decided spontaneously by the instructor. But the problem is, the beginning and ending parts of kata practice is gone for the most part..there is a de-emphasis of the "approach" phase that exists in a lot of systems. Worse, the "resolving" part of kata training is also gone. I think this is one of the worst aspects of mainstream Aikido because there is a lost opportunity for practitioners to learn how to either "leave their mistakes on the mat" or "zip it back up" so to speak. A dojo with an authoritative Sensei can enforce a culture where these things are taken care of but I have not seen this in Aikido.

The advantage to the Aikikai approach can be seen in dojos where students are taught to flow into an alternate technique if something doesn't seem to work. I think exposure to jiyuwaza/free technique training beginning at low levels is also one of the better things about the psuedo-kata training in Aikikai style, but that needs to be kept light.

Chris Covington
11-21-2013, 07:03 PM
I think kata training should be the fundamental training method of any quality budo. I think most people mistake kata for the stuff they see in a women's self defense class though. If someone grabs your neck: punch here, kick there, peal grip and run. It is a syllogism. If A and B then C. This is bad kata because it teaches a prescribed response to an attack and it is never explored beyond that. As any intro college student knows syllogisms seldom work out and the logic breaks down just like the "bad kata" methods. Real kata methods should train a number of core skills that come out in any number of ways. Something like Ueshiba sensei saying from one techniques comes 10,000. This has really only come to sink in since I began using budo professionally in hands-on situations. I attribute my success in the field to my devotion to kata and not going off on other paths that might be interesting or fun but misleading to true budo. The short coming of the kata method isn't the method but the people studying it and their own limitations. They don't think about the kata or what is contained in it and it becomes

I am reminded of a chess master saying "I see only one move ahead, but it is always the correct one."

Bill Danosky
11-21-2013, 10:46 PM
I think to go any further, you have to define what kata is too rigid and mechanical for. Because if it's self defense, prepare to be hijacked.

Carsten Möllering
11-22-2013, 12:12 AM
I would argue that nearly all Aikikai training is actually kata practice,Our practice - with Endō Seishiro e.g. not only is kata, but it is also called kata purposely. kata is explicetly emphasized a lot in our keiko, being the crucial element.
So kata nor is rigid neither it is mechanical. And it truely helps to deals with surprises.

Maybe your statement is true regarding certain teaching methods, lines of tradition or teachers. But I think your statement is not true regarding kata in general.

PaulF
11-22-2013, 03:30 AM
Nice blog Peter, I agree.

We're a hybrid ki/traditional society, I've only attended Aikikai seminars not regular classes and haven't trained with Ki Soc people yet so don't know how things compare really.

We only tend to run through kata at gradings - where the new kata are done quite slowly and precisely, often from static, but we're expected to show previous kata with movement - and after class, where kata can be very quick and dynamic. I love watching high grades go at each other (and trying to keep up myself) because there's so much shifting and often a lot of good humour.

As well as the timing and rhythm points you make the main points of variation I see are the particular approach to maai of different ukes (a lot of the seniors really get up on top of you), switching between irimi/tenkan variations (or omote/ura) and the changes required by working with variations in people's size and mass if working as a three or four.

Tales abound of days of yore when the head of our society would run through the full 17 kata at the end of the class and leave a trail of ukes in his wake. :)

phitruong
11-22-2013, 07:44 AM
isn't kata a framework to explore/teach/learn principles? i have kata for eating donuts and drinking coffee. it's somewhat rigid and mechanical, but it has lots of principles behind it.

SeaGrass
11-22-2013, 10:28 AM
isn't kata a framework to explore/teach/learn principles? i have kata for eating donuts and drinking coffee. it's somewhat rigid and mechanical, but it has lots of principles behind it.

Donuts + Coffee

Donuts + Coffee added cream, sugar, chocolate powder, vanilla powder

Donuts dip in coffee with cream and sugar chocolate vanilla....infinite combo

:D I see it, it's Shu Ha Ri of donuts and coffee kata

patrick de block
11-22-2013, 11:15 AM
I do Tomiki Aikido and also do Jodo. I agree with you. But ... (very Japanese, bery good, but ...)

You give the example of Hiki Otoshi in Jodo. How many times have you been corrected on the formal expression of the kata and not on the functional expression of it? You mention that there should be kuzushi. How many times have you seen the sword swept away and the guy holding it just keeps standing there. Bad timing? There's a lot of talking about kuzushi but that's mostly it. And those last words aren't even my own.

And, I'm not questioning your ability, absolutely not. But most of the time you are put in a straight jacket and if you can pretend to be free you're good.

Peter Boylan
11-22-2013, 11:34 AM
You give the example of Hiki Otoshi in Jodo. How many times have you been corrected on the formal expression of the kata and not on the functional expression of it? You mention that there should be kuzushi. How many times have you seen the sword swept away and the guy holding it just keeps standing there. Bad timing? There's a lot of talking about kuzushi but that's mostly it. And those last words aren't even my own. .

Most of my practice for the last few years has been Shinto Muso Ryu rather than Kendo Renmei. There isn't much worry about the "formal" expression. It's all about the effectiveness. If the attack doesn't create kuzushi and make the opening available, the kata doesn't progress.

patrick de block
11-22-2013, 02:34 PM
Most of my practice for the last few years has been Shinto Muso Ryu rather than Kendo Renmei. There isn't much worry about the "formal" expression. It's all about the effectiveness. If the attack doesn't create kuzushi and make the opening available, the kata doesn't progress.

Do you consider what the Kendo Renmei teaches a formal expression of the kata (too rigid and mechanical) while Shinto Muso Ryu is about functionality or effectiveness, as you said?

Peter Boylan
11-22-2013, 02:53 PM
Do you consider what the Kendo Renmei teaches a formal expression of the kata (too rigid and mechanical) while Shinto Muso Ryu is about functionality or effectiveness, as you said?

In the iaido and jodo sections, there is a lot of focus on how appear at testing. The functionality is more readily focused on in the koryu where it is what you are doing with your partner (who is likely your teacher or someone senior).

Bill Danosky
11-22-2013, 04:10 PM
Donuts + Coffee

Donuts + Coffee added cream, sugar, chocolate powder, vanilla powder

Donuts dip in coffee with cream and sugar chocolate vanilla....infinite combo

:D I see it, it's Shu Ha Ri of donuts and coffee kata

I'll take a plain, glazed donut and a medium black coffee, please. Likewise with my martial arts practice.