View Full Version : Getting a Jump or Jumping Off?

16th October 2005, 08:28
Seems the last couple of threads here have gone into some Kata around the 4th and 5th Dan. I would also guess that some people are working out how to do some of these Kata on their own from books or videos. While I wish everyone luck in their studies I have always cautioned people to try to learn from flesh and blood rather than page or screen. There is just no substitute for having the kind of interaction that you get with a teacher being there.

In recent years Kobudo has had a bit of an upswing in popularity. I know that some of the interest is simply because there is an additional category in commercial competitions to win some cheap trophies in. That has lead to all kinds of sillyness not worth our time here. Out side of the sillyness however is some effort to learn some Kata from what is available and it seem that print and video are more available that qualified teachers.

What I would like to discuss is the merits of "getting a jump" on learning a kata from book or video vs. possibly ingraining poor habbits and jumping off the path so to speak. I personally have let things come in their own time. I have used video to refresh memory only and do not try to learn anything new from that medium. I also have the advantage of living just 2 hours from our Hombu and can host Akamine Sensei from time to time here in the Tokyo area so perhaps my decision on using video is influenced by my location.

I would like to hear some other thoughts on this.

Mitch Saret
17th October 2005, 18:54
And points on both sides that could be argued ad infinitum.

However, my opinions are these.

Most videos do a poor job of explaining kata in detail. On how to avoid common mistakes of the form, subtleties of hand/arm or foot/leg positioning, and so on. This reinforces the problems you mention. Additionally, without competent live instruction, you get no feedback on correcting deficiencies or irregularities.

On the other hand, well done videos can be exceelent at home study guides. Or even refesher courses if you had already learned the kata.

It's not inherently bad to keep up with technology, you just have to make sure the technology, or rather the use of it, does justice to the art.

17th October 2005, 21:28
Video can be very effective as a learning tool, but it is no substitute for actual instruction. I like to have a video of a kata I am trying to learn, so I can work through the whole thing once I've been shown the sequence by my instructor. It allows me to practice with some hope of being correct while waiting for my next lesson. I can ask better questions when I have something to help me.

17th October 2005, 21:29
I also believe that you cannot learn proper technique, kata, etc. from a book or video. These are interesting for historical analysis in delineating the evolution of a tradition, but not in gaining skill or understanding. These require hands on experience and tutelage under a qualified instructor.

Like Tim, I use video to review material that I have already learnt and not for material that I do not know. Viewing video helps jog the memory at times and also opens your eyes to smaller details - especially when it is your own performance :-)

In my limited experience, it is easy to identify kobudo students or teachers who are attempting material that is beyond him/her or that they may have picked up from a book or video. The signals are are invariably there - poor focus, bad alignment, incorrect positioning of the weapon, etc.

I was very fortunate to study with my teacher for a reasonably long time and to visit him several times a year after that. Never, not once, was I allowed to progress until I could satisfactorally do what I was taught. To do this, would have been an insult to my teacher IMHO.

Kindest regards,

18th October 2005, 00:22
First I must say that I have been training for quite a short time so my opinions my change when I have advanced further.

A year ago or so I pretty much looked down upon instructional videos, I was not making very much distinctions between "Learn secret nunchaku in 2 hours" and more serious presentations. The thing is however that I do have a very poor memory for Kata, I do concentrate and try hard but it takes a great deal of time before I know the basics of the kata. First of all, my teacher will show me the Kata or kumite form, then at the same time I could take some help watching a video presentation of the kata many times over and practising this (presentation of serious practitioner), I could get some of the form right, not details and not understanding. When I have made it this far I can start work on the details, and at this stage I dont use the video for much at all. But I must say its very interesting watching different styles and practitioners performing on tape. But then its not for the sake of learning but just to see different ways of doing things.

Now not all katas are to be found in this way, but some are. And I also think its good to record ones performence of kata and then watching it yourself, and its also interesting to compare the performance over time and see how I evolve in my movements.

I have really a heard time to believe that someone would actually try to replace a good teacher with a VHS or DVD. A good teacher who knows things is always the best. But Video in my opinion does have a place, and let us not forget. Not all of us have the oppurtunity to visit a teacher regurarly. In that case Video can play a part just because there just isnt any option really.

I use video sometimes for not wasting my teachers time since I would have to ask him things many many times, but when I have get some grip of the basic form, then bye bye video. I only use it in the beginning. I hope this doesent seem to unorthodox. :)

18th October 2005, 21:58
Luddites unite. Videos suck they will make you go blind.

In a way I feel sorry for the students who have subjected themselves to celluloid representations of their ryu. Especially those who have viewed what it is they have yet to be taught. There is something special about learning a discipline such as Karate or Kobudo that is handed down in a teacher-apprentice relationship. The magic of being taught something you have never before laid you eyes upon.

I can tell the difference when teaching a kata or a weapon basic to someone who has not subjected him or herself to celluloid contamination. They haven’t lost that special sense of wonder. I remember when I was taught Suparunpei. It was a holy thing, a spiritual experience. Hell now you can buy it on DVD for $9.95.

What I enjoy are videos of arts I do not practice.

19th October 2005, 16:12
I agree to LEARN kata from video is not the way, at all. But as a refresher for a kata that is ALREADY learnt IMHO is not a bad thing.

On the other side of the coin a higher dan instructor should have the discipline to practice all the kata in their system, enough to keep it fresh without a reminder. Hence no need for a video.

Flip the coin again… With that said, in our school we do study some kata that are not from our system (for my instructor has cross trained and shared with us) these kata are not gone over as much as our system kata, so a refresher video would be nice of these “added” kata.

Some have argued that “The old masters would not approve of using video.” I would have to disagree with this statement, for I have seen some masters on video doing kata, and some on the internet. Regarding the real real old masters, hard to tell what they would have thought for most of the technology did not exist during their time but, I would guess that the issue would have been controversial as some may view it as having the ability of being abused. This is easy to see with the “study at home black belt” courses that are offered all over the place.

Nothing replaces a competent instructor and time.

19th October 2005, 19:54
I agree with you all, and I believe most people do when you say that the best thing is to have a teacher. But if you don´t have a teacher what is then the second best thing?
In my opinion it must be video/dvd.
Again I agree with you all that you don´t get the right instructions, the important one to one instruction/correction, the atmosphere etc..
But if you don´t have the option or money to travell to another country (e.x Japan/Okinawa) (I think about all the people in the third world contries), video/dvd is a fairly good learning tool.

Some people are visualy learnes (some listeners, other learn by doing), and I have experienced some of my students who learn faster when they watch, should I tell them that they should not watch videos/dvds?
But then again, it is a necessity to know the basic movements before you "easily" can learn from this media.

my 2 cents.

Doug Daulton
20th October 2005, 09:10
I'll echo what has been said by Tim, Mario and most everyone else. There is NO substitute for personal instruction from a qualified, experienced teacher. NONE.

Video and books are, at best, a reference for someone trying to remember the embusen of a kata they were already taught. And, if one has a lot of experience with their teacher and has been permitted to tape the teacher and/or a training session, the video can serve as a valuable retention/rediscovery aid. In rare cases, it can shed new light on waza/application/intent as well as embusen.

However, all of this value is predicated on having an active student-teacher relationship. Absent this pre-existing relationship, mistakes WILL happen which are not only potentially dangerous, they are very likely to hinder one's development rather than further it.

Finally, I say this as someone who has helped my teacher develop video material for her students. Video is a like a hammer. Use it correctly and it can help drive the nail home a little bit each time. Use it incorrectly, and you end up with a bent nail, a hole in the wall or a broken thumb. :D