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Thread: Anyone practiced only kata for years

  1. #1
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    Default Anyone practiced only kata for years

    Hi, my karate style is called wado ki kai in SF Bay Area. We primarily learn kata (weapons forms too, sai and staff). We spar from time to time, about 3% of total class time, and pad work about 8%? There is some interpretation of kata, but very very little application, and never against a resisting opponent. I'm hoping to hear from anyone who also has had this type of class, and if it's mattered for them in terms of effectiveness -- self defense, sparring in general, etc.

    I'm well aware of the many arguments against kata without true application, but never have I heard from someone who has had this same experience, and felt a bit cheated after years of study.

    I will say, what keeps me coming back to this class is the amazing amount of technique of my instructors, and the emphasis and knowledge of foundation. I took judo for a year, and must say I was impressed by my ability to pick up the forms and footwork, having such a great sense of movement that I learned from my karate. So it definitely has served me well. But I'm at somewhat of a crossroads, where I will receive black belt in about 6 months, and would like to try something else, such as MMA, where I get more training in boxing, ground work, takedowns, and the combination/mixture of all three. But perhaps that's not necessary?
    Thanks!!

  2. #2
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    Really good question.
    Ultimately it all depends on your goals.
    If you are doing judo you are pressure testing some very practical techniques. If you want to continue karate to learn kata or just have fun etc. you can fall back on judo if you truly need self defense.
    Point sparring teaches you things about timing, angles etc. that you might use for self defense but I would not count on it as my primary tool for realistic training.
    Kyokushinkai sparring is what I started with but it has some weaknesses as a training option for real fights as witnessed by the early UFC fights.
    I have zigzagged though a number of karate schools and seen this approached different ways:
    A lot of ippon kumite and two person line drills from the beginning.
    No sparring for the first two and a half years
    Knock down knock out sparring from day one,
    Point sparring within the first month
    A lot of two person self defense drills but no real sparring.
    Each teacher had his reasons and each is valid within his school.
    Even things you don't think of as solo practice like wrestling and fencing have solo drills and a lot of time the truly great practitioners spend a lot of time on solo drills.
    Good luck
    Len McCoy

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    Hi Len,
    Thanks a lot for your reply. Very helpful, and great points. Honestly, I go back and forth on this topic so much. The judo I took was definitely helpful, especially getting comfortable with the concepts.of being thrown, to off balancing, to throwing. Also the ground work. What 'scared' me away was the good chance that I would eventually become injured. I feel it's inevitable. However, when comparing it to BJJ (gi and no-gi), judo spoke to me more. The cool thing about BJJ is the focus on ground work, where throws are less focused on. I could be wrong, but I almost think a beginning judo practitioner with 1 year, would lose to a BJJ with 1 year, the BJJ would have more skill in the area of grappling, where the judo person may have better throws, but it wouldn't save them from the grappling of the BJJ person. If that makes sense.
    I guess I'm looking for a good balanced mix, but bjj's ratio between throws, grappling, and strikes/kicks would be more beneficial in the end if you already practice a striking art. Ugh, I also know that I think too much : )

    Really though, I think that Judo or BJJ would help in deciphering the kata, because I know those moves exist in the kata. But finding a school that teaches bunkai and it's application with a resisting partner is tough. MMA, as far as I know, uses Thai
    boxing, which sort of goes counter to my karate training, I think.

    If nothing else, it's fun to ponder all this.

    Thanks again!
    Ryan

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    There have been karateka that have done well in UFC. A lot of it is just rounding out your game to include grappling and studying what else to expect. Grapplers of any sort do get joint injuries, sometimes severe. I am a little old to seriously consider MMA competition but watching it is a good way to see if things work. Of course in any melee the ground is a terrible place to be, but it is even worse without ground fighting skills. Another thought is since you are close to black belt you must know your sensei well. You could politely suggest you would like to work with more resistance in bunkai drills.
    Another possibility is to get a few classmates to work with you outside of class. Of course be careful and if you are free sparring having a neutral referee to stop things if they get out of hand is a must.
    Len McCoy

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    Quote Originally Posted by len mccoy View Post
    There have been karateka that have done well in UFC. A lot of it is just rounding out your game to include grappling and studying what else to expect. Grapplers of any sort do get joint injuries, sometimes severe. I am a little old to seriously consider MMA competition but watching it is a good way to see if things work. Of course in any melee the ground is a terrible place to be, but it is even worse without ground fighting skills. Another thought is since you are close to black belt you must know your sensei well. You could politely suggest you would like to work with more resistance in bunkai drills.
    Another possibility is to get a few classmates to work with you outside of class. Of course be careful and if you are free sparring having a neutral referee to stop things if they get out of hand is a must.
    Len McCoy
    Hi Len,

    Awesome, thanks again! Good point on grappling and getting joint injuries, as I certainly want to avoid that -- I'm 41, and have had enough injuries so far! And being on the ground, I definitely agree in that it's the last place I want to be. I have some ground skills, and I think karate (or any striking art), would serve you well in that a well placed strike could allow you to escape, etc. The thing that's a bit frustrating is that a good grappling game allows one to perhaps stop a threat without harming the person. That's sort of cool. I guess too in the 'play' sense where if my older brother asked me what I've learned, I'd like to be at least able to demonstrate some things without injury. I mean, I wouldn't be able to do this with a strike as very well. It's just sort of a silly desire I have, based on ego. Perhaps I know more than I think, though, etc.

    Not sure, but I hesitate to ask about practicing more resistant bunkai drills, as though it's a 'secret' thing or off limits, especially in that our particular class is taught at a junior college rather than the main dojo... not sure why this would make much difference, though. What brought my attention to bunkai lately is that last semester a girl took the class who had some wing chun background, and not much. We were going over some bunkai drills with a partner, but only as an aside since the 2ndary instructor was teaching while the main instructor was on vacation, and the 2ndary instructor was showing some things from a self-defense course the main instructor teaches (it's an extremely basic course, and surely the skills learned are more 'awareness' based, rather than physical... how good could one get in two Saturdays, 8-5pm?). The 2ndary instructor went to assist at one of these self-defense classes. Anyway, the particular bunkai drill we he showed us was a basic situation where someone has placed hands on your shoulder, etc, and you manipulate their hand, and as you turn around their hand goes over your head, and twists with the rotation, etc. Well, the girl, with her very limited amount of wing chun displayed a similar way out of this that was different, but actually somewhat easier to learn, and she could almost do it with some good force! I was like, hmmmm..., and what the heck! Sort of sucks. In addition, I have asked the secondary instructor about more of these 'bunkai' drills, training, etc, without actually using the word bunkai. He said, well, we practice more of the 'art' here. And at the beginning of the last couple semesters, he mentioned, 'this is not a self-defense class, and I always tell people, we focus on the art (or something like that?), and you pick up self defense along the way.' Well, the bunkai that was shown to us from the self-defense class my main instructor teaches draws a further conclusion in my mind about my particular karate class, in that I just MIGHT not be getting a complete lesson, or training in karate. Yes, we do pad work, and spar occasionally, and I'm okay at sparring, but sparring shouldn't be a substitute for bunkai. And I think more folks would be interested in the class if bunkai was taught, rather than the above situation where a girl with little experience is making me turn my head in question, after my 5+ years of training, and four months to go to get my black belt. She, and probably others are probably turned off by our lack of real world application.

    I could be missing something, where their training may include bunkai later, but when? I've heard that a black belt (shodan), you only really know the 'foundation'. If it's true, I'm cool with that, as I definitely think this important. If not, then I may go elsewhere. Time will tell, and soon!

    Sorry for the rant! I've spent a lot of time pondering this, and maybe too much. Of course, I could always go somewhere else. It would be great though, if I didn't have to, since I do like our style. But, I would be embarrassed to say I'm a black belt, if folks in other schools might think otherwise, based on my lack of skills. In addition, if this is 'not a self-defense class', then what's the point of it? Isn't that the whole point of a martial art? I mean, I get the spiritual aspects, the rituals, the tradition, the physical and mental attributes. I've heard 'masters' say that karate is not about competition, and winning, and rather, it's about kata. But if you don't get to come to that conclusion after years of work with the experience and spirit of 'competition' included, then I don't think it's possible to be truly competent and satisfied in the journey.

    Thanks!!

    Ryan

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    For me, Doing Kata & Bunkai is Karate

    Funakoshi Sensei taught the kata was a huge part of the sole of Karate. For starters practicing kata alone on a regular basis benefits your health and keeps you in shape. I'm in my fifties now and if I don't do kata my body starts acting like a rusty gate that never gets used.. One can't always have a training partner & doing kata with the right mind set, the right focus, & drawing from one's practical experience, kata acts as a huge training tool when your alone.

    For me, Kata if trained correctly hones my techniques to instinctive Reactions or close to it (side note: at my age my reactions are not all that fast anymore lol... so I've come to believe it's even more important for karateka on the flip side of middle age to be diligent on practicing kata.. )

    Just for starters when you Kumite, your kime should take in what the opponent is doing, being attentive to your maai, looking to manipulate the opponents use of maai Gen no Sen or setting a Gaeshi (counter attack) etc... there is a lot of what one should be doing in kumite and struggling with the employment of kyhon waza isn't going to work... hence the value of kata I believe can not be over stated.

    Then there is Jissen (actual fighting) For me it's obvious where kata and bunkai come in



    P Calugaru Shotokan Karateka

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    Depends on what you want.

    You learn to fight by fighting.

    Fighting hurts.
    Ed Boyd

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    I come from a kata-centric tradition, and as such, for me... kata teaches/cultivates:

    1. The Goju body and Goju movement
    2. The skills and methods of effectuating the Art
    3. The theory and strategy of our lineage
    4. A holistic method of improving and growing in the arts
    5. Emotional stability and the proper mindset.

    I'm also in agreement with Ed that "fighting" is "fighting"...and training is training.

    Karate training will never guaranty a victory in a fight, but hopefully it will make the fight go easier for you.

    When any of my students ask me about fighting and the arts, I usually tell them that there is nothing like fighting other than fighting...full stop.

    I'm a big believer that everyone should get into at least 2 fights in their life...one they win and one they lose...

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    actually most elite military personnel learn to fight by two man drills.. which in karate are 2 man drills derived from kata.. OR.. bunkai.. point fighting or sport fighting with rules and a ref... that teaches bad habits... and if your going full out.. well you wont last for to many years for sure.. . bunkai is the secret to defence
    Old Dragon

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