Time Modification Of Kata – Sequence Adaptation – Kanto Kata Example

11 Oct

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Ah, I’ve just returned from a long weekend in Provincetown, Cape Cod. This annual sojourn gives me the time to think. And what better topic to think about than – time. Not the scientific concept of time, but time as it relates to martial arts.

Time is an ignored element of the martial arts. It is almost never considered in kata bunkai (analysis). Whether they realize it or not, most martial artist think in terms of distance as three dimensional. Distance is only defined as a function of the three dimensions of length, width and height. In reality, there is a fourth dimension that mandates exploration – time. Please see the resources in Endnote # 1 for an introductory discussion of this topic.

Exploration of the time dimension is facilitated by expanding your kata bunkai (analysis) to include consideration of time. How does time affect kata and its application is a subject limited only by the imagination of the karate-ka (practitioner).

The following two videos provide two examples.

The first is from the Gekisai kata. In the video the kata sequence whereby an open middle block followed by a front snap kick is manipulated. You can see how time is manipulated to gain an advantage over your opponent. This is commonly referred to as “speed.”

In the second video you see a sequence whereby a reverse punch is followed by a front snap kick; a very common sequence in many kata. In so far as one’s leg is longer than one’s arm, there is a distance problem (see the video). This is overcome by manipulating the timing of the punch and kick as show. Again, while the dimensions of length, width and height traditionally determine range to the target, the fourth dimension of time must be accounted for.

Once you begin to analyze your kata and practice kata with an awareness of time, you may be confronted with kata sequences that are not so readily manipulated. This results in a necessary change to the sequence of the kata to overcome the limits of the time dimension. An example may be found in the Kanto Kata of the Goshin-Do Karate system. (See Endnote # 2 for a video of this unique kata) Kanto translates as “Fighting Spirit.” It was created by Hanshi Frank Van Lenten to illustrate the techniques and ideology of the Goshin-Do Karate style. Within Kanto Kata there are sequences which are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve maximum time efficiency. One such sequence is as follows.

Move # 1: Stepping forward on a forty-five degree angle, a middle block is performed.

Move # 2: The blocking hand then executes a jab to the opponent’s nose.

Move # 3: This is then followed by a reverse punch.

To achieve maximum time efficiency in any kata, a block and a counter should be executed simultaneously. (see Endnote # 3) So in the above sequence, if not for the jab, it would be simple to execute the middle block and reverse punch simultaneously. The jab causes a problem. It is impossible to block and jab with the same hand simultaneously. To be sure, you can perform these two movements as fast as possible, but never at the exact same time. Further, if you perform the middle block and link the jab and reverse punch to hit simultaneously, you have achieved time efficiency with the two counter attacks, but you still have not linked the block and counter as simultaneous. To overcome this problem, you must modify the sequence itself.

You step forward and perform the middle block and reverse punch simultaneously (moves # 1 and # 3), then,

You perform the jab (move # 2)


In modifying the sequence, you will now counter attack as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Thus achieved efficiency in the fourth dimension of time. This concept can readily be applied to your other kata. I’ll soon post an article extending the concept to Seisan Kata.

You should strive to include the fourth dimension of time into your kata bunkai (analysis). I not only do this when I have a partner available to apply my bunkai, I also do this when practicing alone. I perform my kata using the traditional sequences and then perform the kata using the time modified sequences as above. In this manner you are performing bunkai solo while simultaneously performing your kata (more on this at a later time).

If you subscribe to the training maxim that kata is one tool that will help you achieve maximum efficiency in a self defense situation, then you must include this type of practice into you regime.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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1. Use this convenient link for a basic understanding as to how the three dimensions of distance – length, width and height apply to all karate technique and the necessity of understanding the fourth dimension of time –

2. Kanto Kata video

3. Those familiar with the five responses to attack will understand that transitioning from a block followed-up by a counter attack to a block and counter as one movement is a transition from the state of GO NO SEN (after, later-before): block & counter attack to a state of SEN NO TE (before-hand): block and counter attack are in one movement.

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