The easiest truth

Although I “grew up” in a Dojo where Kihon was the meat and potatoes of the practise, and although I have always been intrigued by Kata, I have focused on everything BUT Kihon and Kata since I started my own Dojo. Why?

First, let’s look at what Kihon and Kata is.  Kihon is basic techniques, practised outside of their application. You line up and do a series of repetitions without considering the actual situation. Kata in Karate is when you have a series of those basic techniques lumped together in patterns, that people then try to bring some sort of order to in what is called Bunkai – “applications”. In Jujutsu/Judo Kata is normally made with a partner, so it’s already in a state of “Bunkai“.

So why did I stray away from this? I came to the conclusion that application is what I like to call “the easiest truth“. If you want to lose weight, the easiest truth is that you should spend more energy than you eat, right? That will not bring you down to 0, but it’s the easiest way to get rid of the first of the extra holiday kilos… You don’t ride your bike or drive your car as you first did when you tried to learn, but you had to start somewhere. That’s what I call “the easiest truth”. Not the most true truth, not the final truth, but the easiest – Something that works good enough for you to become better faster than in any other way.

So, what do I mean by application? I mean practising and learning techniques in the situation where you would actually use them:

  • Punching and kicking at pads or an actual opponent, instead of just in the air. Building in the opponents reactions/counters into the series.
  • Throwing in series with reactions/counters/combinations.
  • Using a groundwork based on movements, taking you from worse to better situations, starting with escapes and moving to more offensive attacking.
  • Combining all three parts above, from punching/kicking to takedowns (or takedown attempts), going from throws to groundwork, or how to get back up after you were thrown, etc.
  • Sparring, in all imaginable ways.

Application = understanding = technique, and the reverse order is not true very often!

So why did I write about this right now? Because in a matter of days, we will move to a new location, for the first time with unlimited Tatami time (apart from the obvious 24/7 limitation and that I might have to sleep once in a while)! And… The first thing I chose to add to the schedule is a class with Kihon & Kata. We already have a lot of the basic understanding in place, we can sparr in a decent way, but now it’s time to delve more into the most basic learning and evolve from that.

We have basically done Kata only for black belt graduations until now, since what I like in Kata is what you can learn when you practise it and think about what it means, when you figure the applications would be useful, and so on. Now we will have one class a week with this theme open for everybody!

Why not more? Why not all classes? Because what we have learned from the past is that starting with techniques without understanding gives a lot of Kyu graded students that have no idea what they are doing. When they eventually reach black belt level they begin to understand, and they begin to think “why the hell didn’t Sensei tell me these things years ago?”… Until I can answer that question, I will teach in this order.

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