Study of Kata
[quote]Originally posted by Abasan
[b]Hmm... my curiosity knows no bounds.
Hi Abasan. I hope this is helpful.
General Background of the Koryu No Kata
While the following is directed more at Tomiki Ryuha aikidoka, we hope that everyone will find this basic explanation of the advanced kata system informative in understanding the structure and formative concepts behind Tomiki Ryuha Aikido.
Fundamentally, the concept of koryu has several translations or possible meanings. Within the martial arts it has been translated as stream or flow. This more specifically means that a system is layered or that over time successive kata or drills are added by the originator and their senior teachers that do not redefine or change the system's concepts or fundamental principles, but rather serve as enhancements that assist in overall understanding.
The core or basic curriculum of any martial art is regarded as teaching the fundamental principles and primary techniques, sometimes referred to as omote or front teachings. The advanced kata system can be said to teach the major variations of these concepts thus leading to a more advanced understanding.
This teaching concept utilized in the the Tomiki Ryuha system of Aikido instruction can be said to be fairly unique within the Aikido universe and is based in part upon the codification system originally proposed and utilized by Kano in his development Kodokan Judo.
Some styles of Aikido tend to make use of an instructional base centered around a certain idea or technique for example showing literally dozens of variations of one specific technique. Tomiki Sensei, realizing the difficulty of learning such a vast volume of techniques and more importantly, being able to use them on an intuitive level when under stress (as in a real life & death situation) concentrated instead on the fundamental principles of exactly how and why any specific technique
works. This included the ideas of non opposition of force and blending with the movement of the attacker as combined with kuzushi, tsukuri and kake (off balancing the opponent, positioning properly for a technique and then ending with a clean execution of the technique).
In the Tomiki Ryuha system, the core or base curriculum is centered around a demonstration of these principles and ideas that are the underpinnings of a major or primary technique. A basic version of that specific technique that is considered the most illustrative of all the Aikido principles as implicit within that specific technique is then taught within the core curriculum.
By this method of a focused study of the basic ideas which is then followed by studying a limited number of the major variations of that technique (within the Koryu-No-Kata), a more comprehensive understanding may be gained at a much earlier point in the student's study.
This method of study (exploring the core or base system first and the major variants later) enables the Tomiki Ryuha student eventually to be able to spontaneously grasp the hundreds of variations as they may occur in randori (free style) without having previously spent years studying the incredibly vast multiplicity of variants. Some, if not most of these variants will very likely never occur nor be seen either in randori (free style) or self-defense situations.
Attention can thus be appropriately focused and time spent most productively in a beneficial study of the techniques and situations that are judged from experience and study as being most likely to occur. If something out of the ordinary should happen to present itself, then the differences to what has been practiced are likely to be so slight that an in-progress adjustment may be made by the subconscious without time delay. This is possible because the underlying principles are understood and integrated by the subconscious.
This integration of the principles is critical. Simple memorization of techniques creates problems for the subconscious in formulating an appropriate response if the Aikido player is laboring under the stress of self-defense. In other words, which of the potentially hundreds of techniques or variations are to be used when under a surprise attack?
If the subconscious relies on an intuitive use of basic principles, then it will pick the principle of off balance and movement most appropriate and will respond accordingly. If the subconscious relies instead on a review of a vast library of techniques some of which have only very minor differentiation from others, the mind may actually go into vapor lock or have a delayed response. These are always bad ideas when defending yourself.
As Tomiki Sensei was building the kata system he was continually modifying it. The early versions were incomplete or not fully illustrative of the full scope of the art. As time went by and the system flourished and grew, he understood in greater depth and detail the real principles of Aikido. This can be seen in the Koryu No Kata system. As you move from Koryu Dai Ichi to Koryu Dai Roku, the techniques become more elegant in their execution and more expressive of principle and
fundamental concepts. A true evolutionary process that today gives us classical Aikido within a coherent teaching system.
Additionally, many Aikido teachers today are of the opinion that Tomiki Sensei, when designing the Koryu No Kata, deliberately used a thematic process. That is, he grouped together techniques and then built the kata around the ideas represented by that grouping. As an example, Koryu Dai Yon Kata within the first 14 movements is clearly illustrative of fundamentals of releases and counters to those releases.
As a side note, many years ago this writer was studying advanced kata under Takeshi Inoue Sensei during his tours of the United States. After noticing that whole sections of attacks and techniques are repeated verbatim within some kata (such as Ni, Go and Yon) the writer asked Mr. Inoue why that was, the question essentially being concerned with the purpose of the redundancy. Inoue Sensei' immediate and unhesitating response was, "Because they are important to understand Aikido".
Why a Codified Method of Studying Aikido Through an Advanced
As a thought for consideration when studying the Koryu No Kata; some traditional Aikido stylists would hold that all this (the base principles and movements and the major variations) is contained within their larger system. Yes, it most certainly is.
Tomiki stylists however, prefer to not have to sift it out on their own by looking at a vast number of techniques and then having to define what the commonality or underlying idea might be. This is the beauty of the codification of the kata system as originally conceived by Kano and later implemented in Aikido by Tomiki Sensei. The groupings are already done thus allowing an immediate detailed and in-depth study.
On the other hand, some Tomiki stylists state that only a study of the basics of randori along with some select portions of the Koryu No Kata system is required for mastery of Aikido and, that shiai (competition) enhances this study.
The philosophy that a previously inexperienced player can look at a severely truncated version of Tomiki Sensei' larger system and somehow intuitively extrapolate all the major and minor variations, putting together the same Aikido universe that Tomiki Sensei did over a lifetime of study and apprenticeship under O'Sensei is short-sighted and fails to acknowledge the complexity of Aikido.
As a theoretical rule Aikido principles should be considered universal to all situations and immediately applicable without the necessity of an extensive and in-depth study. However, in reality and in practice it is necessary to explore the context and differing scenarios in order to make them reflexive as a response out of the subconscious. The idea that you can study one very generic idea no matter how fundamental a principle (as reflected within a technique or drill) and then immediately extrapolate it to fit all future and therefore unknown circumstances
again fails to acknowledge the complexity of the subject material.
For example, the concept of ma-ai (combative distance) seems simplistic in developing the ability to instantaneously evaluate and adjust to changing maai situations intuitively. Study has shown however that in order to utilize the concept intuitively at high speed, you have to actually practice various ma-ai and look at the included timing differences as taken within the context of sen (initiative). Without the actual practice, the mind will not recognize and adjust to those differences as rapidly as it should. This doesn't mean that it eventually can't figure it out. However, it could be compared to a dull knife that still cuts, just not as easily as might a sharpened one.
"Stropping the razor" through constant and repetitive practice of different timings, distances, attacks and movement is the only way to explore and internalize all possibilities and hone the reflexes to a lightning fast and razor sharp keenness. This is best done by repetitive kata practice in which a scenario can be replicated and repetitively practiced as understanding is developed.
C. de Boisblanc