Raw notes from flying to Japan…

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Posted by admin | Posted in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu | Posted on 25-09-2012

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I wrote these notes on the plane during my last trip to Japan, with the intention of sometime going over them and restructuring them into a semi-coherent post.  I leave in 8 hours for my next trip to Japan, and find myself having not done anything with them yet.  I will likely be inspired to write more notes down during my new journey, but I am compelled to share my thoughts from the last one, although they will be in “raw” form, with basically little editorializing.  Please be aware that they’re not all in their “nicest” form.  Also realize that these were spontaneous thoughts at the time, and reflect my opinions; feel free to challenge them, but I will likely not entertain derision, since I’ll think you’re an asshat and thus not worth entertaining.

  • The role of uke is not about winning; it is about helping tori.
  • Kata are not fighting techniques; they are teaching techniques developed from battlefield insights.
  • Although tori is scripted to win, tori should mindfully enter kata with the purpose of studying the lessons inherent within the kata.
  • Although it may be conceivable to view kata as a viable fighting technique, it is important to realize that kata are essentially codified patters of movement, and thus present a predictable sequence; predictability is easily defeated.
  • If kata are can be easily defeated, then why study kata?
  • When done purposefully and mindfully—taking the time for proper inspection—it is not difficult to not only identify fundamental techniques, but even the fundamentals within those fundamentals, the “meta-fundamentals” or kiso.
  • The proper study of kata inherently implies a deep understanding of fundamentals.
  • A potential analogy for a kata is to equate it to a cargo vessel.  Cargo vessels contain crates, and each crate it contains in turn contains pallets, which in turn contain a collection of smaller items, ad nauseum.  If the kata is the cargo vessel, the crates are the fundamentals—kihon—within the kata, and the containers within the crates are the fundamentals of the fundamentals.
  • Properly studying kata should make each and every one of us question our basics, and such questioning should in turn make us study said basics.
  • Big things are made up of little things.  I often hear how as individuals we wish to improve the “whole,” whether that “whole” is an organization we may belong to, family, humanity, or even universe, depending on our current level of existentialism.  Due to ego, most of us don’t realize that as “knots on the net,” we as individuals are part of the “whole,” and thus by simply improving ourselves, we can in turn improve the “whole.”
  • When we study kata, and get to a point within the kata we don’t “get” or understand, instead of succumbing to the ego-driven response to move through the sequence faster and stronger, in an attempt to “ensure” our “victory,” we should instead realize that the failure of the kata is likely due to a failure in our basics, and that by improving our basics, we will improve the kata, and in the process perhaps get a glimpse of what secrets and treasures the kata contains.
  • Too often I encounter a “class” where we will spend 5-10 minutes on a kata before moving into “henka.”  (Sometimes, a “class” will just “do henka,” but rarely is it explained what kata it is a “henka” of.  I’m starting to realize that to many “teachers,” “henka” just really means “I’m pulling this right out of my ass.”  Learn to discern this and avoid such “teachers,” as your time would be better spent drilling basics than trying to understand the horseshit they’re peddling.
  • How worthless are kata?  About as worthless as you want to make them.
  • Beyond being a vessel containing static fundamentals, kata also provide not only contexts to such fundamentals, but transitions between them.  So in addition to providing us with the opportunity to self-inspect the fundamentals within our fundamentals, kata also give us the opportunity to self-inspect the fundamentals within our transitions.  (Are we in kamae between our kamae?  Are we breaking namba?  Etcetera…)
  • Perhaps the inyo of kata is that by providing a repetitive and codified pattern of movements—predictable and defeatable—kata also provide us the tools and incentives to better understand our art and even ourselves.  Perhaps it is only through kata that we can become free of kata.
  • Over the centuries, the only constant to our art is the shoden within the densho, since kuden and taiden are and will always be open to individual perspectives, interpretations, and “filters,” and shinden is personal.  It is my personal belief that our ultimate goal is to discover the “treasures” of the densho, and we do this by “learning” from those that have been “studying” longer than us.  At the risk of sounding silly, from the kuden and taiden from our “teachers,” we strive of the shinden of the shoden.