Section 1Unusable Katas
The greatest problem facing modern karate is the gap between kumite and kata. In other martial arts, almost all katas are practiced with two people, so it is possible to learn the bunkai, or application from the beginning. In judo, for instance, the throwing kata for a Seoinage is the same as an Ippon Seoinage. Therefore it is impossible in judo not to know the application of the Seoinage.
In contrast, the chasm between the movements of kumite and the movements of kata is large, and there is no explanation for how to get from one to the other. Furthermore, bunkai or application of katas is not clear, or the explanations that exist are not practical. This is the unfortunately situation for many karate practitioners.
So, that fact that only strikes and kicks can be used is a simple problem that most karate practitioners face at some time.
It is possible to come up with two major reasons why katas cannot be used.
1.They are unusable due to insufficient practice.
2.The explanation itself is incorrect.
Let's look at both of these possibilities.
Part 1 Katas are Unusable Due to Insufficient Practice.
In judo the "over the seoinage" and the "nage no kata" are the same technique, but it takes a lot of practice to be able to use that it. Accordingly, unless one practices a certain specified amount, they will not be able "own" that technique, so the notion that a "technique cannot be used without sufficient practice is valid. Also, since there are some techniques, which are prohibited in kumite competition, it is possible that they will not be practiced.
It is often said that "unless one practices for 20 -30 years, one will not be able to actually use it." Is that really true, though? It has been over 80 years since karate was introduced to the mainland. There are many karate practitioners who have been training for over 20 - 30 years primarily using katas, but there are perhaps only a small percentage who able to apply them practically.
Furthermore, if it takes 20 to 30 years of practice to be able to use a technique, it can hardly be considered practical. In the case of other martial arts on the mainland, historically there are many instances where it is possible to attain a master ranking after training for five to six years. Of course polishing one's techniques takes a lifetime, but if it takes too long to learn the techniques of a particular style, then the very existence of that style may be in danger. In the days when the life expectancy was fifty years, if it took thirty years to master the techniques of one's style, then they would die before they would be able to pass it on and the style would die out in one generation.
Thus we see that the idea that insufficient practice is responsible for kata being unusable is not applicable here.
Part 2. Explanations for the Katas are Incorrect to Begin With.
Currently there more than a few instances where the bunkai, (application) for katas which one has learned is not practical. This may not be a problem for beginners, but after one has trained for a while, or if they have trained in other martial arts many may have questions about whether certain bunkai are really applicable or not. Even if one learns from a great master, if the bunkai is not applicable, what they have learned is merely a dance, and has no meaning as a martial art.
So, why are there techniques, which cannot be used? I believe we have to accept the possibility that the bunkai itself is incorrect. If one accepts that fact, then even if one practices for twenty to thirty years, it is makes sense that they will still be unusable. This would the same if one were to practice a Chinese character beautifully, but incorrectly for many years, one would not be able to communicate the correct meaning to someone else.
Practicing incorrect characters is the same as practicing incorrect techniques. One will not be able to overtake one's opponent. If an instructor teaches incorrect techniques, the people who have learned from will have wasted a lot of time and energy. In the case of case incorrect explanations, we can the following.
1.One hasn't been taught.
2.One has been taught incorrectly.
1. One Hasn't Been Taught.
Actually there are many instances where one knows the movements of a kata, but doesn't know the bunkai. It is also possible to pass a black belt examination by only performing a kata by itself. As a result, there are many instructors who do not know the bunkai for katas, and those instructors produce instructors like themselves again and again. There some who say that even if one hasn't been taught bunkai, if they practice long enough they will be able to figure it out on their own naturally. In fact, though, as I previously mentioned, even if one practices a kata for a long time, if is incorrect, they will not be able to use it.
3.If One is Taught the Bunkai. Incorrectly.
In olden times, one would be at a disadvantage if their techniques were seen by others. Perhaps the same was true when karate was introduced to the mainland and the Okinawan karate masters decided to only teach the most basic katas. In other words, they were influenced by the so-called traditional Japanese practice of Mongai fushutu or Isshi Soden (Not letting the body of knowledge to be known outside the school, or passing on the body of knowledge only to one's own child.)
Okinawan karate was no exception from other martial arts in that only those who were deemed of sufficient character were allowed to begin training. Other than a teacher putting himself in a disadvantageous position, there were two reasons for that. First, since they were teaching potentially killing techniques, it was necessary to determine whether or not the student would act violently. Second, it was necessary to judge a person's character in order to prevent that master's teachings from being leaked to the outside.
When Okinawan karate, which became strictly disciplined in such a manner, was taught in schools after the Meiji period, there were bound to be problems with teaching such dangerous techniques to the general public. Thus there was a need to protect the core teachings while opening it up to the public. There arose a need to make a distinction between "regular students" and "technically advanced students".
Martial arts on the mainland developed a system of beginning level, intermediate level, and advanced level, so that the regular student could continue learning techniques, while not showing the advanced or hidden techniques to the general public.
Compared to that, Okinawan karate had no such system. It is believed that the masters changed the techniques or changed the explanation in order not to openly teach to beginners or regular students.
Until now, it has been written in karate articles that certain movements were changed or abbreviated on purpose. This may account for unusable katas.
Part 3 Is it Possible to Block to the Front and Back Simultaneously?
One of the most difficult techniques in karate is the yama kamae or manji kamae. The bunkai explanation for it is that it is a defense against multiple attackers (to the front and to the back). It is not as if we are a super hero, so why does such an explanation exist? I believe it is because either they are confusing movie action with reality, or they have never seen the original bunkai for this technique. It is hard enough to defend against an attacker from the front, I don't believe it is possible to defend against an opponent to the rear who you can't even see.
If you try to defend against two opponents simultaneously, you will see that you would have to train as if you were a stunt actor. If, let's say one could defend against attacks from the front and the rear, and even manage to counter against the opponent in the front, the rear opponent is not going to wait for that attack to finish.
Also, even if one is attacked from the front and rear, one can avoid both attacks by moving. There is no need to increase the risk factor when one is already in a dangerous situation. Even beginners can understand this if given a rational explanation.
Pert 4 Original Form and Application
The people who originally created katas, in order to teach certain techniques to future generations, made them based on a set pattern of movements against an imaginary opponent. At that time they were probably practiced with a partner, or if one did not have a partner, one could practice against a pretend partner, like shadow boxing. That was how the original katas came about. That is also where the original application exists. Depending on the movement, however, a technique could have different applications, so when a master taught his students the kata he would also teach them the different applications. This was a cause for confusion.
In martial arts on the mainland katas are practiced with a partner, and there are teaching materials, so the original techniques are passed down. Also, the application is taught separately within the framework of the curriculum of that particular style, reducing the confusion between katas and application.
In the case of karate, however, where katas are practiced individually, when numerous versions of bunkai are taught, from the point of view of the learner, the original kata, the application, and the bunkai are all the same. In that case, depending on the whim of the instructor, the importance of the kata and the application may be reversed, and through the creation of new applications of the application itself, it is possible that it may end up quite different than the original form. If that is the case then the movements of the kata themselves may be influenced by the new application and undergo change.
This explanation is believed to be the reason for so many different variations of the same kata. The only way to know which of those is the original would be to go back in a time machine and ask the person who made it. I do believe, though, that we can recreate something close to the original by reenacting the most rational bunkai.
Section 2 Why do We Practice Unusable Katas?
Why do we practice katas, which are unusable? One can think of several reasons for that. I would like to categorize them as follows.
Part 1Katas as Tradition
The techniques, which have been passed down from the past are important to traditional martial arts and traditional arts, and they must be preserved. That is because the wisdom of generations are built into them. Even in modern judo and kendo it is understandable that kata remains as the theoretical aspect of those martial arts.
Also in certain martial arts, there are those katas, which are important since they express the identity and theory of that particular style. Through the practice of those katas, which have been created by the founder of the style, it is considered ideal to become as close to the founder as possible. Likewise in the case of karate, it is thought to be important to learn techniques though the correct practice of traditional katas, which have been passed down.
Part 2 Preventing the Deterioration of Techniques
An often heard reason for practicing katas is to avoid the deterioration of techniques. In other words, if one doesn't practice basics and kata, and only practices free sparring, their techniques will deteriorate and they will need to fix them through the practice of kata. At the basis of this idea is the notion that "basics are important". This is a common theme central to all knowledge, not just martial arts.
Let's look at an example from judo. To learn the over the seoinage, one starts to learn by "uchikomi" practice, where they learn the basics, such as "kuzushi", "tsukuri", and "kake", leading up to the actual technique. Then they actually perform the technique in "randori", or free style with the opponent resisting the throw. So, unlike uchikomi practice, one isn't always able to able to execute the throw using proper form. If one only practices free style or "randori" their form will deteriorate so they have to practice "uchikomi" to correct their form. To be sure, there is no real difference between the form and free style practice, so there is no problem with this method of teaching.
In karate, however, where the katas have been stylized, this method may not be appropriate. This is because the purpose of the stylization is, apart from the real meaning, to strive for beauty when performing them. It is important to consider this and think about exactly what the basics are.
Part 3 Feudal Student Teacher Relationship
Vestiges of the feudal system still remain in Japanese martial arts. And, even up until recently, it was considered taboo to question one's teacher. A unique system of progression has arisen throughout the long history of Japanese traditional learning. Under this system the order of advancement is specified in a detailed manner, from beginning, intermediate, and inner knowledge, to secret hidden knowledge. Since one could not advance until they mastered the problems given to them by their instructors, it was until recently considered proper to obey their instructor, and it would be taken as rude for one to ask questions of one's teacher. It was not uncommon for students to be chastised by their instructors if they asked questions by saying that it is 10 years too early!
Moreover, it was said that "it takes 3 years to master one kata". The notion that the core of practice should be the diligent practice of kata for more than three years has had a large influence on many instructors who have been taught this way.
Part 4 The Organization of Karate
Whereas, originally there was no system of styles in Okinawa karate, the different styles arose around the beginning of the Showa Era (1926). With the setting up of styles, there arose the need to differentiate each from the other and form each style's own identity. That difference essentially meant a difference in katas. Thus it was necessary to rearrange the katas, establishing their own set of katas. Even within the same styles there were differences between the katas taught to the early students and those, which were taught later.
An example that represents this is the Heian katas created by Master Anko Itosu. Introduced less than 100 years ago, there are already numerous variations by the time karate was introduced to the mainland. Master Itosu, himself was responsible for this. Depending on when he taught the katas, the movements differed. Even the same katas taught under Master Itosu were different, resulting in their existence as different styles.
If, at the time the bunkai had been clearly specified, this problem would have been minor, but since it wasn't, the differences in movements were passed on, and led to different styles' katas.
Part 5 Competition.
It cannot be denied that one's interest in training is heightened and the level of perfecting katas is raised, thus contributing to the preservation of katas when competition is the goal. Essentially, this is a good thing, but recently it has led to a trend to rearrange katas. An often quoted example of this is the kata Chatanyara Kushanku. The competition version of this kata is quite different from the original. If this is so, then it would appear that competition also caused some damage to katas.
Also, because it is difficult to win in competition unless they perform high-level katas, beginning students skip the basic katas, and only practice advanced katas. Furthermore, as katas of other styles are performed in tournaments, students are required to perform those katas as well. So the strange reality arises where, not only must one practice one's own bassai, but the bassai katas of other styles in order to compete in tournaments.
The biggest problem with this phenomenon is that in tournaments competitors are not asked whether or not they can use the kata, so they brazenly perform katas for which they
They do not know the bunkai. Thus we can see that are many reasons to practice katas, which are unusable. By understanding the bunkai, though, we can lessen this problem.
Team kata is a part of kata competition. It is difficult to understand the reason for several people to move in a synchronized manner from a martial arts point of view. Recently, however with the change in the WKF rules, it is necessary perform the bunkai in the finals, sparking an interest in bunkai. This is basically a good trend, I believe.
Section 3 What is Meant by "Styles"?
"Style" denotes a group arising from technical differences. In kenjutsu different styles, such as Shinkage Ryu, Nen Ryu, and Itto Ryu, have arisen due to philosophical differences among the founders. Therefore, unless there is no change in the body of technical knowledge that style should bear the same name as it is passed down through each generation. To the continuation of the body of technical knowledge, the founder or grand master will approve those instructors who have mastered the body of technical knowledge. The founder or grand master will be the guide for that school.
In large schools, not only the founder or grand master, but other masters are granted the right to certify students, and in some cases, practitioners have come to Edo (Tokyo) to receive their master certification, and returned to their homeland to teach, giving rise to new schools. Unless there is a change in the technical knowledge, though, the style should be the same. They should be thought of as factions within the same style. Thus, the emergence of certain factions (ha) within the same style (ryu) will arise.
In karate, one can observe the peculiar phenomenon whereby two students of the same master may profess to belonging to different styles. This can be attributed to several reasons. Since there is no standard for the qualification of instructors in karate, and also, because the curriculum is unclear, it is understandable that instructors may develop individual interpretations of the technical knowledge. In fact the main reason that karate, unlike judo and kendo, which are moving toward a consensus, is moving toward a splintering is the confusing trend toward the emergence of different factions within the same style.
Also the different factions within karate are not moving apart so much from technical differences as differences in competition rules. The major differences are "non-contact rules", "protective gear rules", "full contact rules", and "glove rules". The basis for this problem lies in the fact that the rules for karate competition were not clearly defined.
It is clearly known that judo is the creation of Dr. Jigoro Kano, and that its roots are in Jujutsu. There is a vast difference between judo, a martial art that was developed by one person, and karate, which was developed by many persons. With this in mind, I believe it is necessary to redefine what karate is.
Section 4 Consideration of the Changes on the Mainland.
Since the teaching of the bunkai for katas was not complete when it is was introduced to the mainland, it was necessary to fill in the gaps, since "necessity is the mother of invention." As a result, karate developed in its own fashion on the mainland, and the gap between kata and kumite widened. I would like to organize the factors responsible for this.
Part 1 The Explanations for Katas Were Not Understood.
All of the problems can be solved if one rectifies the causes. Moreover, they are the result of the overlapping of various factors.
Those causes are:
1.The explanations were lost in Okinawa.
2.The explanations weren't passed down in Okinawa.
3.The explanations were passed on only to certain persons.
4.The explanations were passed on to certain persons, but they did not pass them on.
Part 2 The Ideological Difference in the Practice of Karate in Okinawa and the Mainland.
I believe there is a significant difference in the attitude toward the practice of kata in Okinawa and on the mainland. Martial arts on the mainland were practiced mainly by two persons paired against each other. Even Iaido is practiced with two people at the advanced level, even though one generally imagines that it is practiced by oneself, as in basic kendo.
In Okinawa, on the other hand, the thinking is the opposite, as characterized by the quote of Sensei Hiroshi Kinjo, that "Kata is a stylization, not the actual technique" in Gekkan Karate Do, and that of Sensei Kiyoshi Arakaki that "there is no value in applying the techniques of katas to kumite or real fighting situations." excerpted from "Karate Sangokushi" Gekkan Karate Do. They believed that through the individual practice of kata one would be able to temper and understand their body movements, and become able to use the katas and apply them to kumite.
It is possible that the masters who introduced karate to the mainland did not understand this difference in ideology, and that difference may actually have contributed to the fact that karate developed in a unique manner on the mainland. Free sparring, may have begun as an adaptation of bunkai kumite on the mainland.
Part 3 Characteristic Differences Between Judo and Karate.
In the history of the development of judo, one notes that there were confrontations with traditional jujutsu around the beginning of the Meiji period (1968~), with boxing around the Taisho period, and with wrestling around the Showa period (1926~). Also, Kodokan was engaged in a rivalry with the Butokukai of Kyoto, so they established the Traditional Martial Arts Study Association, and encouraged the senior students to study Aikido and Jojutsu.
The martial art, judo that Dr. Jigoro Kano envisioned was a modern martial art which included overall free sparring practice which included kicks and punches.
Master Gichin Funakoshi's demonstrations in 1916 in Kyoto, and in 1922 in Tokyo were held during this time, so I am sure that they were of great interest. Dr. Kano invited Master Funakoshi to come to the Kodokan and teach karate to his senior students for several months.
Then he went to Okinawa the following year, where he publicized karate, and encouraged Masters Kenwa Mabuni and Chojun Miyagi to go the mainland.
It appears that Dr. Kano considered making karate a part of judo. In 1931 he submitted a report to the ministry of culture entitled "Karate as a Part of Judo".
On the other hand, the major karate masters had hoped to establish karate as one of the three major martial arts along with judo and kendo. Accordingly, they elected to accentuate its uniqueness in order to keep it independent of judo. It seems that, even though Okinawan karate contained throws and joint techniques, the decision was made to emphasize kicks and punches, in order to distinguish it from judo and traditional jujutsu.
Part 4 Understanding Karate.
It is said that Master Funakoshi began the practice of yakusoku kumite (practicing with a partner) around 1929. Apparently, until then everyone only practiced katas or punches against a makiwara. Master Funakoshi had been teaching at the Tokyo University Karate Club since 1926, but they became dissatisfied with his instruction, and they began they own tournaments using protective gear.
In 1930 Mr. Jisaburo Miki of the Tokyo University Karate Club published a book entitled An Outline of Kempo. He wrote that book as an antithesis to Master Funakoshi's method of only teaching kata. Seeking the real thing, Mr. Miki traveled to Okinawa, and studied under the top masters. He was, however, unable to solve his questions. In one chapter, he questions the notion that karate does not include grabs, throws, and holds.
Part 5 Simplification Through Free Kumite.
What will happen if we introduce free kumite without any holds, and throws, only punches, strikes, and kicks? Obviously what will develop will be completely different from the original.
The original purpose of free kumite and kumite matches was to test the techniques that one had learned. One can easily imagine that once the idea of competition enters the picture, the notion of "testing" will change to "winning".
In to prevent this from happening, sensei Jigoro Kano explained that one must compete in free practice and competition with the "presumption of losing". For if one only concentrates on winning, one will not improve their techniques. This is because at first, one will not be proficient and they will lose often, but if one avoids losing then there will be few chances to test one's techniques and their progress will be impeded as a result.
Furthermore, since advanced techniques are more difficult to use, they will likely be exchanged for simpler techniques, which are easier to use, and the more they are used in competition, the more they are likely to degenerate.
Sensei Kubota commented that "no matter how much I teach certain techniques, if they are not applicable to competition, no one is interested in learning them." I hear similar stories from other schools and styles that if the students cannot use techniques in competition, they show no interest in learning them.
Part 6: The Abundance of Tournaments
There are tournaments, which decide the winner in overtime for kumite. It is human nature to want to win, as long as one has entered the tournament. One competes within rules, which are in place to guarantee safety. From a judging standpoint difficult or more complex techniques are given more value.
Long ago, people did not learn karate to compete, rather most people learned in order to become stronger. Also since there were so few competitions, only the very best students were chosen to compete. More and more, in order to win, competitors have begun to utilize their practice time efficiently by practicing only techniques, which are allowed under the rules. As a result, with the number of tournaments increasing, this trend is increasing.
Part 7: The Prevalence of Various Rules
After the war, karate became a competitive sport, influenced by judo and kendo. At that time non-contact and rules using protective equipment became prevalent. Also, the experiment of wearing gloves already existed by 1955. Then in 1965, with the appearance of full contact karate the karate world was a -------------?.
For all of the different types of competition, the goal was to maintain safety while coming as close as possible to real fighting. Each of these sets of rules, however, had their own advantages and disadvantages. Recently it appears that there has been even further minute differentiation of these rules. Since each these different types of rules are based on principle of competing safely, many techniques, which are found in kata, have been eliminated. Conversely new techniques, which are effective under certain types of rules, have been developed.
Section 5: Are Practice Methods Effective?
Part 1: Outside Block as an Example
From my limited experience, it seems that there are many questions about the manner in which karate is taught and practiced, especially compared to judo or kendo. It seems as though the more we contemplate such questions as "what is the correct bunkai for kata?" or "What are the correct stances or postures?" or What is the relationship between basics and kumite?" the more of a confusing maze we seem to find ourselves in.
When confused, the proper strategy is to return to beginning. Judo and kendo were preceded by jujitsu and kenjutsu. There are many articles and artifacts, which allow us to research their original basics. In the case of karate, though, there are no written records, and it is not certain whether or not it has been handed down completely, therefore it is difficult to get an idea of its original form.
As I was watching a program on TV about the Athens Olympics, I learned that there are many scientific approaches to training in order to establish new records. In particular, the swimming head coach earned his position essentially based on his analytical skill, and the gymnastics team produced wonderful results with the implementation of organizational measures over the last 20 years. Judo, under a plan proposed 20 years ago by Coach Yamashita sent children to compete abroad to gain international experience. Those children achieved exceptional results at this Olympics. Already, we can see that it is extremely difficult to set a world record at the Olympics solely through individual based efforts.
Recently, many books have been published which relate the shintai sousa of traditional martial arts to sports. In one of these that dealt with namba running (the traditional style of running in Japan whereby the same arm and leg are used together) it was written that, due to an error in translation, the Japanese were taught to run incorrectly. Upon reading this I strongly felt the need to research such issues as they relate to karate. There are many technical books on sports other than those in the Olympics, such as golf and baseball, in bookstores.
In comparison, it is true that there is not as much activity in the field of karate. When we think of a scientific approach in karate we usually come up with tests to measure the force of a punch or kick. I am sure that are other sports oriented theories, but if we take a diversified approach to the technical aspects and instruction methods, then it may be possible for karate to flourish again. As karate advances with the Olympics in its field of vision, varied scientific research is bound to take place.
Is the manner in which karate is practiced efficient?
Let us return to the topic. I have doubts whether the training methods, which were created after karate was introduced to the mainland, are effective. In the case of kata bunkai, if we look at each bunkai, it is possible to come up with something completely different, even if it is for the same kata.
The training method consisting of basics, moving basics, kata, one-step sparring,and free sparring, was said to have been created by Master Kentsu Yabu, and established after the introduction of karate to the mainland. Compared to other martial arts, karate has a relatively short history and it perhaps has not stood the test of critical analysis.
I would like to take a careful look at one example. Of the basic techniques; punches, strikes, kicks and blocks, while punches, strikes, and kicks are used effectively in competitive kumite, when it comes to blocks, it is not possible to say that the movements that we learn in basics and kata are not effectively utilized. In particular, let's take a look at soto uke (Shotokan terminology). As an exercise, let's look at various hypotheses', which would explain why a soto uke cannot be used in kumite.
1: The unusable technique was passed down incorrectly.
2: Insufficient practice
3: Incorrect usage
1: The unusable technique was passed down incorrectly. Since the same technique is found in many other styles, including Okinawan styles, the possibility of soto uke itself being incorrectly passed down is not likely. Next, one may imagine that the technique was incorrectly named, and that soto uke is not really a block. It is easy to imagine that the real purpose of a soto uke is to take out an opponent's elbow joint.
In maser Choki Motobu's "Kumite Technical Manual" soto uke is paired with a reverse punch, thus we can assume that soto uke is indeed a block.
2: Insufficient Practice
In practice, soto uke is primarily used in yakusoku kumite, and it is difficult to use in free sparring. Whether or not the amount of practice is insufficient, or whether the technique itself is so difficult that one tends not to practice it, is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. The result, though, has been influenced by both.
If, on the one hand, one increases the amount of practice and the movement in its basic form does not afford a difference in ability, then it is essentially unusable. Thus, I believe that it is not just a simple matter of practice time.
3: Incorrect Usage
In shotokan's 20 principles, there is an article, which states that "kata should be correct, and actual fighting is a different thing." If one takes that literally in actual fighting it is okay not to use the exact technique in its basic form.
Moreover, since it is true that kata is a stylization of kata, in actual kumite one can use it (soto uke) if it is used as a parry with the bottom of the fist to the inside. Therefore, one can see that there is no problem if it is used as a basic movement. I believe this is satisfactory to most people.
Is That Really True?
Why don't we, however, take it a step further and examine whether this is really acceptable. Let's approach it from a different angle, looking at the differences between kata and kumite.
The major differences are:
・In kata, soto uke is performed moving forward. (pic. 1, 2)
・In kumite, soto uke is performed moving backwards. (pic. 3, 4)
Thus, the difference is in the forward and backward movement. Unlike kata, it is impractical to move forward when blocking in yakusoku kumite. This is because, since the attacker is moving forward so if the defender moved forward, as well, the distance would be too short and the technique could not be executed. (pic. 6, 7) therefore, in order to maintain the correct distance in yakusoku kumite, the defender needs to take a step backwards when performing a soto uke. (pic 3, 4) If one blocks while stepping back, though, the attacker will not be taken off balance, so they will be able to attack again. As an example, if an opponent attacks with only a straight punch, then it is just like three step or five step sparring.
Furthermore, if the opponent throws a one-two combination attack, then the possibility of the second punch being faster than the defender's block and counter punch is high. (pic. 8, 9, 10) If that is the case then why do we even practice it?
From the above, we see that whether retreating or advancing, the soto uke is not effective. The question is "what can one do to use it effectively?" Let's look at the following experiments in an attempt to solve this problem.
1: Perform a Soto Uke Stepping Forward as in the Kata.
Try to do this by doubling the starting distance, and both the attacker and defender step in and block. In this experiment, we found that he opponent is thrown off balance. It is not realistic, however, for both to step forward. This is because the attacker would not initiate a straight punch that would not reach, and a defender would not purposely step in t block a punch that would not reach. (pic. 14, 15)
2: Add a Switch Step.
A switch step has been added to maintain a realistic distance. With a switch step, if one steps in half a step, and steps back half a step, from a visual perspective, it creates the situation as stepping in. Also, the entire body weight can be applied to the block, making the block stronger. If one blocks in such a manner, the opponent's posture will be thrown off balance, and they will not be able to deliver a one-two attack, and the defender can counter with a reverse punch. (pics. 16, 17, 18)
3: Why is the Opponent's Posture Thrown off Balance?
A fist in karate is typically made by clenching the first and second fingers with the thumb tightly around them. (Pictures 18) In this state it is easy to move the opponent's arm along the plane in the picturestures. (Pictures 19, 20) (ref. pictures 16, and 17)
In other words, when an opponent attacks with a left straight punch, it will be easy to take the attack off balance when moving backwards diagonally to the right. Therefore to defend against this attack, the defender should perform a soto uke while stepping backwards diagonally to the right. In this case, the opponent will be thrown off balance. (pic. 11, 12)
From the above experiments, we can see that in yakusoku kumite if a soto uke is performed while stepping back, the opponent will not be thrown off balance. Therefore, if an opponent uses a one-two attack, stepping back and performing a soto uke and counter reverse punch is not realistic. (pic 8, 9, 10)
When the One-two Attack is a Feint
What would happen if the one-two attack is a feint? In that instance, if one performs a junzuki (kizami zuki) with the front hand after performing a soto uke, there is a likely possibility of it getting in before the opponent's reverse punch. Sensei Choki Motobu said that "blocks must also be attacks" It is possible to recreate this.
Examination of Written Records
In support of the above hypothesis sensei Choki Motobu said that " In true Okinawan karate combination punches are not possible." That is because in true Okinawan karate, if a block is performed properly, the opponent would not be able to initiate another punch. In photographs of kumite left by sensei Motobu we can see numerous instances where he is using a soto uke. In all of these photographs they are using a half step forward.
Sensei Kubota's Kumite
Sensei Kubota's kumite can perhaps be characterized by many techniques, which attempt to move around to the back one's opponent. When asked in what manner one could move around to one's opponents back, sensei replied, " You must bump in to them" This conversation seems like a Zen riddle, but if we keep it in mind, we can understand the explanation that "if one blocks while moving forward, they will unbalance their opponent, and then turn them around so one can attack their back.
The Results of Testing the Premise
According to the above tests, the result is that the movement of the block is not incorrect. Rather, the movement of the feet is incorrect. Since these tests have not been applied to all situations, they are nothing more than test results of one hypothesis. These results do not necessarily prove that the method of practicing yakusoku kumite is incorrect.
It is quite obvious, though, that there is a need to evaluate if from various angles. Here, I have introduced one notion based on an idea from sensei Nagata's concepts. From this time forward, many old techniques are sure to be reevaluated and modernized by many people.
Part 2: The Divergence of Free Kumite and Kata
In his book entitled "Koubou Kempo Karatedo Nyumon", Master Kenwa Mabuni explained the relationship between kata and kumite by saying that the purpose of kumite is for the practical application of kata. Currently, though, kata and kumite have developed into separate entities. In Master Gichin Funakoshi's 20 principles, it says that "kata should be performed correctly and that actual fighting was different". I believe that this has been misconstrued by some to mean that kata and actual fighting are completely different.His real intent was that kata should not be used in its actual form, but rather, it should be adapted to fit the situation in actual fighting. Because the application of kata is not clear, problems arise where the techniques of kata cannot be used in kumite. Thus kata and kumite have developed in separate directions.
In judo, dangerous techniques such as punches, kicks and reverse techniques are not allowed in competition, but are practiced in kata. In karate, however, punches, and kicks, which are considered dangerous in judo, are the mainstay of karate, so they must be used in competition, making it difficult to differentiate between competition and kata.
Judo: kata= dangerous techniques
From the above we see that the guidelines for kata are not clearly defined. Furthermore, since the application of kata is unclear, the trend has leaned toward stylized esthetics, and very solid stances in an effort to show strength. Kumite, on the other hand has seen the need to adopt a different means of footwork in order to win.
Kata: solid stances
Kumite: light / quick footwork
One can see at a glance that the methods of practice will conflict. Because of this there are many kumite competitors who do not practice kata at all. This will obviously cause more and more confusion in the karate world.
Part 3: Karate and Okinawan Kobudo
In Okinawa Ryukyu Kobudo has been passed down in the same manner as Okinawan karate. On the mainland karate was introduced as a superior empty-handed method of fighting. It developed primarily within the framework of kumite and kata competition after WWII. Ryukyu Kobudo, on the other hand has not gained popularity in dojos in Japan. Of those practicing it, Sensei Kenshin Taira of the Ryukyu Kobudo preservation association is the foremost instructor. This trend has come about after the Showa period. Originally, it is said that bo and sai were used by the samurai class and the tonfa and kama (sickle) were practiced by the common people. It appears that Ryukyu Kobudo is commonly taught in dojos abroad. Whether this is because American servicemen, who served on bases in Okinawa, could learn directly from Okinawan masters, or whether there was more of an interest in the self-defense aspect, the interest level for weapons was high. Since both disciplines were developed simultaneously, it is best to learn both. Recently it has become possible to make special weapons using polyurethane, or rubber tubing together with lightweight protective gear enabling the possibility of weapons competition like some kind of samurai sport.
section 6: Is Karate Incomplete?
From what we have examined thus far, while it is only a hypothesis, we can see that as a school of martial arts, karate was passed down incompletely.
Compared to other martial arts of the mainland:
1: It has been passed down unclearly.
2: The application of kata is unclear.
3: The system for advancement is unclear.
Part 1Bunkai Has Been Passed Down Incompletely.
It is not clear who created many of the katas in karate. Oral tradition states that many katas were taught by Chinese teachers. The names have been passed down orally, but there remain few written records. The pronunciation indicates that they are essentially Chinese. The manner in which, and to what degree martial arts were taught by Chinese and to what degree they changed in Okinawa is absolutely unclear. Even the relatively new Heian katas, made by master Itosu in the Meiji period, are though to be based on a kata called Channan taught to him by a Chinese by the same name. Furthermore, since it was common to learn different katas from different teachers who specialized in particular katas, such as Naihanchi from A sensei, and Passai from B sensei, Okinawan karate was more of an individualized discipline. I look forward to further study in this area.
Part 2: The Application of Kata is Unclear.
Previously I have touched on the fact that the application of kata is unclear. It is inconceivable, though in other martial arts that the method of application could be unclear. The whole purpose of learning a martial art is to learn how to apply its techniques in a real situation. We know that the use of kata as a method of practice came from Chinese martial arts. Merely studying kata, however, is not the same as studying martial arts. It is only when one studies the application of techniques that one can say that they have begun to learn. Certainly other methods of practice, as well as methods involving weapons are necessary. The departure point for martial arts, though, is the study of the application of the techniques. If one is not taught application, the techniques will not function as a martial art. What can one hope to gain from ineffective study year after year?
Master Anko Itosu, the creator of the Heian katas, wrote in his 10 principles in 1908 that "one should learn each movement in a kata, making sure of their application before practicing that kata." From this statement, we know that the application did exist in Itosu's time, and it is unacceptable that the application of katas is unclear today.
Part 3Method of Advancement is Unclear
In the Shuri style of Okinawan karate, before the creation of the Heian katas it was common to learn Naihanchi and Passai or Kushanku. There was no specific order after Naihanchi, and as previously stated, it was customary to study under different teachers, so the system of advancement through novice, intermediate, and advanced levels as in other schools of martial arts on the mainland was unclear. Since the system of advancement was unclear, there was also no certification system, nor was there a clearly defined teaching curriculum. Under these conditions it is very difficult to get a full picture of the technical body of knowledge.
In those styles which have a historical background, one can see attempts to establish a system of advancement in ranking, since there was a need to establish a successor. In Chinese martial arts, which were there forerunners to Okinawan karate, there existed training methodology. The creation of the Heian katas by Itosu was an attempt to introduce a system of advancement. From Heian 1 to Heian 5, they progress in order of difficulty. In his 10 principles, Itosu stated that "one should be able to advance to an advanced level in 2 to 3 years, so we know that there was a method for practice at that time. Unfortunately, though, since the methodology is unclear, it is difficult to measure the results.