Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kata Time!

No longer straddling the fence between two different schools/training philosophies, I'm finally back to exclusively training in one place again - and it feels great. Although the road to get here was a bit on the bumpy side, it's time to get back to the business of training in full effect again. While the transition was happening, my gym time and solo kata/kihon training dwindled down to almost nothing as I dealt with the fallout, licked my wounds and figured out what the heck the next move should be. As a result, the stress and off-kilter eating patterns caused me to lose about six pounds I could ill-afford to do without. Suffice to say I slipped into a bit of a funk for a minute. But now that I'm back to my regular ancillary training routine, not only has my mood changed, but so have the patches on my gis :-). Time now to earnestly start working on some other changes as well - specifically when it comes to kata.

Training like we did for so long, my training partners and I have an entire curriculum of kata that we know how to do at least two different ways (my buddy, Ed - who came to the school we just left from yet another USA Goju school - actually knows three ways to do most of our kata). It got so bad that when we trained on our own and somebody called a particular kata, we'd have to ask them to clarify "which" Empi Go, Gesaku Sho, Gesaku Dai or Empi Ha they were referring to. Crazy, right?

Sometimes the differences between the kata are subtle, but more often that not, the changes in target as well as the arm, hand, foot and leg positions and even some of the techniques and transitions are pretty big. It was a challenge trying to remember what school we were training in when a kata was called, but the absolute worst was the frustration of being introduced to something one way, doing it the gazillion times it takes to commit it to (muscle) memory, then being introduced to a more efficient way only to have the hardest daggone time trying to erase the other memory and get the new one to stick. Grrrrr...

Such was my reality in class last night doing Sansero. A USA Goju brown belt kata, we spent over an hour last night with Sensei S tearing it apart - all to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of its complexities. I originally learned the kata as a third kyu - back in 2007 - but uncovered a whole 'nother layer last night. Ironically, it was one of the few underbelt katas we hadn't "torn up" since I began going to Sensei S's class last year. How apropos is it that the kata refinement "finale" comes almost a year to the day after shodan promotions - and hence the real beginning of my training.

Like I've done with all the other kata we've dissected, I've written lots of details about Sansero down in my notebook, but now is where the real fun begins as I've got to make those changes stick in the ol' grey matter. But for the first time in a long time, I won't have to struggle to remember which dojo I'm in when I'm presenting it. :-)

Too cool!


  1. I'm glad you've finally got sorted out with a club! It's surprising how many variations there are of katas, it makes you wonder which is the correct version? No wonder bunkai is such a struggle!

  2. Hi Felicia,
    I can only imagine how difficult the decision and transition was for you. Congratulations on navigating your way through! It sounds like you can start to enjoy training again.

  3. Thanks for the well-wishes, Sue and Michele. The transition was not a smooth one at all, but it feels good to be on the other side of all the nonsense and uncertainty...

    Sensei S always says "Kata doesn't change, YOU change" which I totally get (ever notice that your interpretation and understanding of a particular technique or bunkai in kata shift/deepen as you grow in the art?), but I think the handing down of kata from sensei to karateka is kind of like a game of telephone: things shift the farther down the "line" you go. I guess no one really knows what the original version was - because even if you got it straight from the horse's mouth so to speak, it might depend on WHEN you heard it (for example, Master Peter Urban had different interpretations of kata later in his life than he did when he first brought Goju-Ryu -->USA Goju to the states; so if you were a student of his in, say, the mid-60's, you may have gotten different "stuff" than if you were his student in the late 80's for instance). See? the kata doesn't change - YOU do :-)