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Kata-RX Origins – Martial Utility

5 Feb

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Now, for this week’s installment: Kata-Rx For Wellness Origins (continued) – Martial Utility.

In continuing my discussion of the major events during my almost fifty years of training in karate kata that led to my Kata-RX For Wellness, one of the “light-bulb” moments occurred when I was a shy, introverted ten year old training under my first Sensei, Sensei Nick D’Antuono.

Sensei Nick, myself, Shihan Don Nagle, Circa: 1975

I had previously discussed the origins of my Kata-RX For Wellness as it related to how Sensei Nick would kill the last fifteen minutes of Saturday morning class. Basically, he would have us creatively modify an existing kata using combinations we thought of. (For more, please see https://senseijohn.me/2019/07/24/origins-of-my-1-day-1-lifetime-kata-killing-time-on-a-saturday/ )

Once I earned the title of “Sensei” and was authorized to start my own Dojo, I carried on Sensei Nick’s tradition. I encouraged my own students, even the children’s class (age 7-14), to creatively modify a basic kata – with one crucial difference.

I noticed students began to modify the kata with esoteric, acrobatic combinations. There was one very real problem. The combinations they created sometimes utterly lacked a practical martial utility. That is to say that the combinations were totally impractical in a self-defense scenario.

One week I decided to surprise the students. I had them demonstrate their created kata and identity the combination that formed the basis of the kata sequences. The next class, I had them engage in kumite (sparring). The one, new rule was that the only fighting combination they could use was the sequence from their created kata. Oh boy, did they learn something. What they learned is the cardinal rule for kata that distinguished it from any other ritual, formal movements, such dance.

What is that cardinal rule of kata that separates it from all other ritual, formal movement?

The initial purpose of kata is martial. Kata is first and foremost for self-defense. Yes, I extoll and celebrate even, the non-martial benefits of kata, but first and foremost there is a martial utility.

That same martial utility is found in my Kata-RX For Wellness. Every movement and every state of mind found within my Kata-RX has a martial purpose! This is true of each and every kata and component you will learn in my online classes, including the Ghost Hand Kata, Sanchin Kata and my 1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata.

The difference between my teaching karate kata and Kata-RX is not within the movements or mindset. Rather, it is my approach to teaching you. In a karate curriculum, I would teach the kata from a self-defense standpoint and teach as a “secondary” benefit – the wellness and mindfulness benefits. Whereas my approach in Kata-RX is one of wellness and mindfulness. I can, for anyone interested teach the “secondary” benefit of self-defense.

So, with this article I want to take away the fact that the origins of Kata-RX For Wellness include the martial (self-defense) nature innate to all kata. Though you perform Kata-RX primarily for wellness and mindfulness, innately you cast a glance towards the martial role of the kata.

Here is a brief look at the FREE Kata-RX For Wellness online course filmed in beautiful Cape Cod and the New Jersey shore – enjoy and feel welcome to enroll in my online school. https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

See you in class its FREE, https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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