Kata Lab: The Process Of Making A Kata Lab

20 Apr

“Come into the Lab and see what’s on the slab.” (See Endnote # 1)

KATA LAB

Welcome to this teaser post and video from my Kata Laboratory Series, “Kata Lab: The Process Of Making A Kata Lab” ©

Background:
I thought it would be interesting to take you behind the scenes into the making of a Kata Lab. I have already written many of the lab “experiments,” my training is a continuing, daily process. Therefore all lab experiments can never truly be written; many remain unwritten and pending discovery.

Recently, I had an idea that led to a new addition to my Kata Lab syllabus. The working title is “Blink-Of-An-Eye Bunkai.” Here’s how this future Kata Lab submission developed. I’ll outline the general process and then provide the working example of how training Ananku Kata led to the development of the Blink-Of-An-Eye Kata Lab.

Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory Development Process:

Step One: Train!
Without exception all Kata Labs, in fact all posts on this blog, begin with kata training. It is utterly impossible to create a kata lab sitting idly at the computer. There must be daily, even hourly, kata training. I regularly take a ten to fifteen minute “kata-break” from my work routine.

sensei_johns_kata_lab_vintage_clipboard          I always have a clipboard loaded with blank paper and index cards, a voice recorder and sometimes, even my laptop handy.

As kata training is for the sake of training and not writing, I do not develop an idea during such sessions. Rather, I simply spontaneously record something that I may notice about a particular kata or an idea that may simply pop into my mind. These notations are either a few words or a sentence or two. After the session, I pin the index card to a large cork board for future development.
Working Example: I was performing the Goshin-Do Karate-Do (hereinafter “GDK-D”) Ananku Kata. A thought came to mind. I grabbed my clipboard, made a brief note on an index card and continued training. The thought pertained to the transitional stages that occur in the first four moves of Ananku Kata. These transitions from one kata move to the next contain brief, almost hidden, postures. These brief postures are worthy of bunkai (analysis). The movements are described in Endnote # 2 and # 3. There is also a video below.

Step Two: Think & Sweat:
Prior to a training session, I’ll look over my note cards. Some more than others tend to grab my attention. These notes stay at the forefront of my thoughts as I practice. If any ideas develop from the brief notes they are written down. Over time, I hope that the idea developed from one specific kata will ripen into a generalized concept that applies to any kata.
Working example: Intrigued by my notes on hidden postures in transitional moves, I practice my kata very slowly, paying particular attention to the transition from one kata movement to the next. An awareness as to postures that result from the combination of body shifting, hand and foot postures occur when moving from one kata movement to the next. These postures occur very briefly, in the blink-of-an-eye. They occur so quickly that they may not even be postures in the truest sense of the word. As they occur within the “blink-of-an-eye” practitioners are not even aware of their existence. No attention at all is paid to them. They are often ignored in in both kata and kata bunkai (analysis) in favor of the more overt or apparent kata movements.

Step Three: Experiment:
Now that I have developed a concept, I must determine how it relates to kata outside the GDK-D curriculum. If the concept does not apply to a broad based audience, it cannot become a Kata Lab topic.
I am fortunate to have been exposed to kata from styles of karate-do other than GDK-D, most notably Goju-Ryu and some Matsumura Shorin-ryu kata. In addition, I have learned fifteen kobu-do kata (Matayoshi-Ryu, Yamani-Ryu and Uefuichiku Kata). I use this kata base to test the concept developed with the GDK-D Kata.

It is at this stage that the overall kata laboratory starts to take shape. Through these extraneous kata (including the kobudo kata) I strive to find a procedure for anyone to analyze my concept using the kata of their particular style of karate-do.

Working example: I begin to slowly and methodically practice the kata outside of the GDK-D system. Again I pay particular attention to postures that occur when moving from one kata movement to the next. With this particular kata lab, kobudo kata with the bo were extremely helpful. I can only speculate that the length of the bo, which magnifies hand movements exponentially under normal circumstances, helped to intensify the effect of these hidden postures.

Step Four: Design a Practice Procedure For Others To Follow

I document the steps that any kata practitioner can use to analyze their own specific kata and still be able to understand the overall concept and subject of the Kata Lab. I also consider whether a video would be helpful to the reader. If so, production on the video begins.

Working example:
Here is the video I produced as a companion to the “Blink-Of-An-Eye Bunkai” Kata Lab.

Step Five: Administrative Matters Of Writing a Kata Lab

Now is the time to write up the Kata Lab itself. This process is similar to writing a monthly lesson plan for the Dojo where each class is designed to form a cohesive whole. The Kata Lab must be given a name which conveys the subject of the lab. Hopefully, the name of the lab will contain a catch-phrase that makes it easy to remember. Once the lab is written it must be fit within the overall kata lab syllabus. The numbering of the Kata Lab is determined from this step.

Working example: With continued practice and thought, I understood two things, first, practitioners concentrate bunkai (analysis) on the overt, apparent moves of the kata, not in the transitional postures and second, these postures occur so briefly (in the blink-of-an-eye) that they were hardly present at all. So, how to convince practitioners that movements that occur in the “blink-of-an-eye” are worthy of bunkai (analysis)? Simple. I’ll use a phrase that was embedded into my psyche throughout my training in the GDK-D style.

According to Shihan Thomas DeFelice, Ku-dan (9th degree black belt) Karate-Do No Hanshi, Goshin-Do Karate-Do,

“Life and death in the street occurs in the blink-of-an-eye.”

Thus, if the above was correct, it is logical and necessary that our bunkai (analysis) must extend to the kata movements that also occur in the blink of an eye. For, surely, if one’s own life depended upon such a brief interval, then one’s analytical attention must be drawn to it.

Step Five: Finished

If all is done correctly, a Kata Lab that a reader can practice themselves has developed and been uploaded to my blog. A reader can use the Kata Lab to assist his or her own kata experience. Better still, the reader may desire to use the Kata Lab as part of a class within their Dojo.

And that is how the forthcoming “Blink-Of-An-Eye” kata lab came to be. Look for it to be posted in a short time. Once posted, I will provide a link here.

Step Six: Oops, Not Quite Finished:

The last step is to extend, if possible, the Kata Lab into the remaining aspects of bunkai. You may recall that I submit that there are three aspects to kata and that bunkai (analysis) must extend to those aspects. The three aspects are the physical aspect (combat applications), the spiritual aspect (state-of-mind, emotional and psychological concepts) and metaphysical aspect (the performer’s connection with his natural environment).

Working example: The “Blink-Of-An-Eye” Kata Lab above is a physical Kata Lab. My next task is to extend the “Blink-Of-An-Eye concept to the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of kata. And, so, the entire process begins anew, again. And, again. And, again.
Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

lab-collage-6

HANKO
Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (With the privilege and permission of the superiors)

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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ENDNOTES:

1. Dr, Frank N. Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)

2. The first four overt movements of the GDK Ananku Kata are (facing North) in ready posture (you may also refer to the above video):

  • pivot West to a cat stance, raise hands to the challenge position;
  • pivot East to a cat stance, raise hands to the challenge position;
  • mawate 180 degrees facing West to a left front stance with a left open middle block followed by two punches to the solar plexus;
  • mawate 180 degrees facing East to a right front stance with a right open middle block followed by two punches to the solar plexus;

3. The brief, hidden postures that came to mind are (You may also again refer to the above video):

  • pivot West to a cat stance, raise hands to the challenge position;
  • First hidden posture: as you begin the next move, you rotate back to North with both open hands lowered as in hache-dache position, then you continue to
  • pivot East to a cat stance, raise hands to the challenge position;
  • Second hidden posture: as you prepare to pivot, you look over your left shoulder to West, transfer your weight from your left leg to your right leg, lower your left open hand and bring to your right open hand to semi-center line (to cover your left middle block) – equals: a left cat-stance-like posture with left hand low, right shoulder height*
  • mawate 180 degrees facing West to a left front stance with a left open middle block followed by two punches to the solar plexus;
  • Third hidden posture: as you prepare to pivot, you look over your right shoulder to East, transfer your weight from to your left leg, lower your right open hand and bring to your left open hand to semi-center line (to cover your left middle block) – equals: a right cat-stance-like posture with left hand low, right shoulder height*
  • mawate 180 degrees facing East to a right front stance with a right open middle block followed by two punches to the solar plexus;

* the exact stance that is inferred in the posture depends on how far the front foot is retracted in relation to the rear foot, full retraction with feet touching (an implied heisuko-dache, ready stance), partially back (an implied kokutsu-dache, back stance), no retractions (an implied rear-leaning stance).

Sensei John is now on Facebook, under – FLY FISHING DOJO, you are invited to send a Facebook friend request.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
LOGO-WEBSITE  my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
DOJO STICKER-1 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

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