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Thread: Bruce Lee's take on Kata

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    Default Bruce Lee's take on Kata

    Hi,

    I've been reading Bruce Lee's book The Tao of Jeet Kun Do, and one of the things he stresses is how kata or forms limit the martial artist and restrict his (or her) ability to react naturally in a fight.

    What does everybody think about this? Can training in kata be "limiting", and if it is, how do you train to avoid that?

    Any input would be greatly appreciated!

    Adam Waugh

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    Adam

    I think this has been asked before.

    But in answer to your question, I find that there are many paths and ways, some work well for certain people, others do not.

    You may find that kata works well and shows gains, or you may not.

    If a given method of training does not show gains for "you" then I personally would not do it.

    Lee based his conculsions upon many years of training in very "traditional" methods--so he already had a solid grounding in traditonal arts when he developed his personal methods.

    To me that indicates that a solid grounding in traditional arts actually helped Lee.

    If nothing else it helped him figure out what worked best for him.

    I personally feel that problems--however you use the term--with martial arts in general are very much "individual" rather than specific to "style" or method.
    That "limits" have much more to do with the person involved and their individual strengths and weakness than any probelms with the "style" per-se.

    Just my opinion.


    Chris Thomas

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    I think I don't give a rat's about someone who only had 4 years (do the math) of formal training has to say about kata.

    Rob


    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Waugh
    Hi,

    I've been reading Bruce Lee's book The Tao of Jeet Kun Do, and one of the things he stresses is how kata or forms limit the martial artist and restrict his (or her) ability to react naturally in a fight.

    What does everybody think about this? Can training in kata be "limiting", and if it is, how do you train to avoid that?

    Any input would be greatly appreciated!

    Adam Waugh

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    Chris,

    The biographies that I've read on Lee state that he started Wing Chun when in High School. Prior to that, he just picked up here and there from his friends and from fighting in the street. After high school, he went to College in Washington, where he was not under anyone's tutelage.
    I think the premise that he was grounded in Traditional arts is a mistaken one, given his time line.

    Rob



    Quote Originally Posted by cxt
    Adam

    Lee based his conculsions upon many years of training in very "traditional" methods--so he already had a solid grounding in traditonal arts when he developed his personal methods.

    To me that indicates that a solid grounding in traditional arts actually helped Lee.

    Chris Thomas

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    Hi Adam,

    I totally agree with Chris's answer, but just wanted to add on a bit...

    Kata should be approached by a martial artist as a stylised practice of a given set of moves that are supposed to be (and this I believe is the important part) in reaction to a set of attacks or movements of an imagined enemy(s).

    I believe that the truly useful aspect of Kata is the mental side, where you are not just trying to move your body, but to make your body react to an imagined threat. Without the visulation of a attacker(s) firmly at the core of your Kata practice, you are just learning to dance.

    The students' who only memorize the body movements of the Kata without the understanding of what they are supposed to be defending against or responding to WILL find Kata to be useless in a combat situation as they have trained their bodies to move, but not their minds to react.

    Just my 2 cents (and I expect change!).

    Cheers and much respect,
    Dave Wilkins
    Broken axis of a turbulent motion results in grace or pain...Practice makes the difference.

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    Default Bruce Lee overrated

    I don't understand this cult of Bruce Lee...well I do understand it..its the movies substituting for reality. He was a big star in Asia as well but as to being a great martial artist, well there were many as good and some better I'm sure.

    As to his ideas about kata, well it worked for him and that's about it!!

    M
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    (='.'=)
    (")_(")

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    Rob

    Your totally correct as to time-line.

    I was just trying to point out (in gentle fashion) that Lee was exposed to traditonal training under a traditonal guy and thus developed his art from that base.
    He had a traditonal base with traditional training to build on--he didn't invent something out of whole cloth--but instead already had some training to work with.

    I have heard it argued that Lee's entire approach was dictated by his lack of long term formal training in Wing Chun.
    That the very reason he was disatisifed with it is precisly because he didn't really know much about it.

    I honestly don't know--could make an arguement either way, but in this case I was kinda trying to avoid an arguement.

    I personally don't put much weight to what Lee says for various reasons.

    (not the least of which is that many of Lee's most "famous" and oft repeated sayings in fact are taken directly from the very "traditonal" approachs he talked so much smack on)

    Again, just my opinion, that and 35 cents won't even get you a stamp these days.


    Chris Thomas
    Last edited by cxt; 23rd February 2006 at 18:46.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dull Blade
    Kata should be approached by a martial artist as a stylised practice of a given set of moves that are supposed to be (and this I believe is the important part) in reaction to a set of attacks or movements of an imagined enemy(s).
    And the important aspect of that is CHANGING what you imagine the enemy to be doing. If you only have ONE set of attacks and responses for a given kata move, then you are limiting yourself.

    For instance, if the bunkai teaches that the first move of a kata is a response to the opponent's front kick from four feet away, you will see it in one way. But if you imagine the same opening move against a punch from two feet away, you get a very different result. In that case, the "actual" opening move may be what we consider a "preparatory" move. In the case of a kick it has "no" meaning. But if the attack is a punch, the "meaningless" kata move may be a block.

    For example.

    In the case of karate kata, the person doing the kata is omote. The "invisible" attacker is "ura". The key is not how you do the omote, but how well you imagine the "ura".
    David Orange, Jr.

    -------------------------------------------------------

    "That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
    Lao Tzu

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    Hi all! Let my try to explain a big misunderstanding about Bruce Lee's opinion about" Kata's or forms". I think the missunderstanding came from Bruce Lee not clairifying what he meant in "the Toa of Jeet Kune Do". I read what Bruce told George Dillman when he was questioned about it. He told him something to the effect of " George, you don't need forms, I don't need forms, but beginners need forms just like children first need to learn their ABC's,then they learn to make words, then sentences,then pargraphs". I am a Jeet Kune Do practitioner myself and most JKD instructors teach Sil Lum Tao. There is a point where forms or Katas become quite a bit like "dry land swimming" when you begin to focus your training to street aplications. I personally love forms and still practice the Kenpo Katas I learned from my base art. I hope this helps!
    Gary Crawford I know the voices in my head are imaginary,but they have some damn good ideas!

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    Default Can't take the man too seriously.

    Couple of things. Rob, I'd say that Bruce Lee got more out of his 4 years of formal training than most people do out of a decade.

    But people are right, that doing the wing chun forms was the basis of what Lee developed later, when he was separated from his teacher and on his own in the states.

    That said, I disagree with the other posters who say that the forms are there to teach responses to attack. It's more basic than that. It's about the way they develop relaxed power. If you touch hands with a good wing chun practitioner, you feel it, when they move 2 inches and launch you into the wall, you feel it.

    IMHO, Bruce took the power he developed from wing chun and put it into everything else he did. But you don't have to take my word for it, there's a really good interview by Hawkins Cheung (can't find the link right now) that lays it all out. Bruce Lee, for all his new agey rhetoric, was at heart a Chinese guy, and so, I think that a lot of the time he was deliberately obscuring the point, in plain sight.

    Of course by that logic, no one should take my posts seriously either. I sure wouldn't
    Tim Fong

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    I dont buy into the whole Bruce Lee super martial artist business.
    i think a lot of his views pretty much sum up the ideas most beginners have when starting their own art.
    His view on forms is that of a novice.......sure he became a great technician and looked good in the movies, so what.

    I think his big selling point was him being chinese and teaching what he knew to anyone that would show up.
    Shawn Bailey

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    Too bad you just don't know the truth of Jeet Kune Do, after all you are a Kempo practitioner(which I have no problem with). What Bruce Lee did in the movies and what he practiced and taught in real life are two completely diferent things. I hope you didn't learn your negative opinion of Bruce Lee from your instructor,If so, I feel sorry for you. Sometimes styles are a little like religion,"we are right and everyone else is wrong". That type mentality will only cause you a painfull lesson some day.
    Gary Crawford I know the voices in my head are imaginary,but they have some damn good ideas!

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    Default Link

    Here is the link I mentioned:
    http://www.hawkinscheung.com/html/hcarticle3.htm
    Tim Fong

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Crawford
    1. Too bad you just don't know the truth of Jeet Kune Do,
    after all you are a Kempo practitioner(which I have no problem with). What Bruce Lee did in the movies and what he practiced and taught in real life are two completely diferent things. I hope you didn't learn your negative opinion of Bruce Lee from your instructor,If so, I feel sorry for you. Sometimes styles are a little like religion,"we are right and everyone else is wrong". That type mentality will only cause you a painfull lesson some day.
    I have had several people try and tell me the truth of jeet kune do.
    i used to live with a bruce lee fanatic who was also a martial artist......and was constantly subjected to the "bruce lee ideals"
    My opinions of Bruce Lee are my own.
    He did not have years of traditional training......Ive read the Tao of jeet kune do.
    While i am only a novice in the martial arts (10 years).....i understand the things that benefit me.....i also understand when a teacher says something will be beneficial even if i dont see it now, that i should give it a try.

    While i dont have a lot of real world martial arts experience (5 years doorman in a club, 3 as head doorman), i have learned that there is no form in formlessness, and that becoming the beer bottle is a bad thing.

    Forms are more than the ABC's, and knowing the alphabet doesnt make you a great writer.
    Shawn Bailey

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    If his credibility rests strictly on how many years he did Wing Chun, I wonder why he was considered the top student and fighter at Yip Man's school. I have read interviews with students from that era who are now some of the top instructors in Wing Chun in HK, and while they take issue with some of his comments, they all seem to acknowledge that he was one of the best at their school. He also boxed at his high school and I don't think that there's anything more qualified than real world experience, e.g. street fights involving h2h, weapons, and HK street gangs. Not that it is a good thing.

    Just wondering, since I don't think his (or most other people's) martial arts experience can be readily discarded or his arguments considered inferior just because someone else may have put more time into x style. It is what you do with your time that matters most.

    As for kata, I believe that it can be useful to learn and refine techniques, but there are people who look at it as something that will help you become a better fighter. I'd rather shadowbox and spar (fully resisting opponent) than do kata, because each time it is a spontaneous experience.
    Yohan Kim

    "I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth."
    - Umberto Eco

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