Originally posted by Tim Griffiths
There aren't so many variations in the 31, I guess because a) it's built from Saito's 20 suburi which most ki styles don't practice and b) there are plenty of 'definitive' tapes of Saito-sensei doing it.
Yes, this has become a very fruitfull thread! Tim, I really appreciate you chiming in. Your input into the evolution of the 31 kata gives me much to think about.
Not wanting to seem pedantic, but I thought I remember Saito Sensei saying that the Founder created the 31 kata and that he, Saito Sensei, created the 20 suburi as a pedagogical tool to aid in learning the kata.
Same effect, though. I can't say enough good things about doing lots of suburi. Doing them in a mirror and/or video taping are a big help.
The version Greg gives a link to is quite an early one of Saito's. The description by Jon Diesch is a later one, similar to the version Saito does in the 1987 Aikido Journal tape. The main differences are in #9 (the later version is much more horizontal) and the last two-three movements.
I've noticed the difference in around #9. I don't have access to the video right now (I'm on my server), but I seem to remember that the difference is an intermediary transition to hasso no kamae
. That would be consistent with what's in the suburi. I.e., #18, hasso gaeshi ushiro barai
Also note that Jon was describing the awase version, which is different to the kata itself (gasp). In the awase you end up one step further forward from where you started, due to #27, which is a backward step in the kata (and needs to be a forward one in the awase version).
There's also the different timings: Like Greg's link shows (with a regular beat), as if with a partner (including the parrying motions and allowing time for partner's attack renewal), and as a string of suburi (so that, for example, #5 and #6 are done in rapid succession - renzuko shomenuchi).
The 31 kata and the 31 awase (aka 31 kumijo) are just plain different.
I had to mentally distance the two before I could learn the awase well (my instructor and I really wail on each other).
OTOH, doing the awase (which we put great emphasis on) greatly aided my execution and enjoyment of the kata.