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January 2010

76. To Kata or Not To Kata; Is There Actually A Question?

In many regards most if not all martial arts could/may/can be reduced to an intuitive understanding of, comprehension of and reflexive use of the following three areas:

  1. Control/manipulation of Ma-ai (combative distance),
  2. Control/manipulation of Happo no Kuzushi (8 angles of off balance with the corresponding positioning of tori relative to uke),
  3. Control/manipulation of Sen (timing as in sen, sen-no-sen aka ato-no-sen and sen-sen-no-sen)

When considered from the aspect of these three areas being, in a sense, the absolute most basic and fundamental levels from which to consider in our study then as a beginner of white belt up to ikkyu, all of our focus must be only those kihon, kihon waza and bunkai that best illustrate and make reflexive our understanding of those three areas (distance, angles, timing).  Experimentation, variety, divergence from these basic principles will only convolute our understanding and make imperfect our ability to control a non-cooperative uke.

As an intermediate player we still must only focus on those areas and continue to internalize their specifics except now we begin to learn how they apply and give efficacy to an ever broadening range of kata, and additionally we begin to explore the truly random in randori applications.  Even as an intermediate player (Shodan to Yondan) our internalization is relatively incomplete; another function that precise kata practice can correct. 

As we expand our foray into more and more advanced kata we look at waza that in reality we would likely never ever use in conflict; the waza simply being so complex that the opening for it would likely never spontaneously create itself.  However, the waza as seen within the advanced kata is a vehicle by which we look at finer and finer applications of a very specific principle or part of a larger principle much like a physicist looks at protons at first and then as his understanding increases he begins to look at quantum particles, quarks and then finally dark matter.  That finer and more detailed understanding serves to "clean-up" the gross motor skills based waza that we will "most" likely use in real life.

As an advanced player (Godan and Rokudan) we slice the onion (or quark) thinner and thinner.  Now the principles become even finer and more subtle in their application, the waza become seemingly more alike in view but very different in feel.  The waza become increasing academic but paradoxically more important in their view of distance/angel/timing.

Many players believe that precision in kata practice is a "fool's errand" and that variety, clouds of waza and exploration is more important.  IMHO that only indicates a lack of proper kata training and corresponding appreciation of what kata can give us and that their ability to do "on the fly" changes in randori is stunted because they lack a fully reflexive and intuitive usage of distance/angles/timing; abilities that only hours of training in the fundamentals as defined by a well-thought/designed kata can give us.

Using kata, precise and not sloppy kata practice, to internalize and make reflexive the concepts of distance/angles/timing and show their use in a variety of attack/defense situations by correct demonstration of specific waza is the only way in which to acquire the ryu/system and then to eventually be able to roll into a totally spontaneous burst of random creativy and make artful our Aikido.

Professional Broadway dancers such as Twila Sharp are considered to be great artisans, capable of spur-of-the-moment creativity but, they spent literally years building their fundamental principles of discipline and kinesthestics before their creative side was able to spontaneously create art that reflected their profession's principles.

Precise creativity or imprecise invention; which do you want?

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

January 2010


75. Blog-Dori

 First, if you want to follow an interesting blog you should mouse over to Mokuren Dojo.  Pat is the blog-meister and he has interesting comments but I esp. enjoy the film clips he digs up; some of which are interesting and some of which are just .... interesting.

I have found that blogging is ...... well ............. best viewed as this ..... since it seems to take so much time to do well and since it can be slightly frustrating at times........................

Keyfacepr3
Pat and I both have been writing about Kodokan Goshin Jutsu here lately.  He laughingly describes it as blog randori which some people view like this .....

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but I think that Pat/Mokuren and I just look at blog exchanges, whether it be this one or any other, as a friendly way in which to put out detailed info that will, with any luck, change the way folks addr
 ess their MA vision; a means by which to spur a new thought or view or paradigmatic shift .... get the bulb to light-up as it were.

Light bulb

This will have to be short today due to work commitments but ........... Pat/Mokuren considers kata practice in two ways, neither of which is incorrect in the least since I think the timing is where the rub comes.  First is the detailed/specific approach  ......................

 "Uke steps in (tsugiashi) from ma-ai with his right foot forward and grasps both of tori's wrists at the same time.  As uke attacks, tori slides (tsugiashi) backward 45 degrees to his left, pulling uke into offbalance in a line parallel to uke's feet and frees his right hand by pulling against uke's thumb.  Tori then executes a back-knuckle strike to uke's temple, grabs uke's right wrist with right hand on top and left hand below, turns his body 90 degrees to the right, and steps away from uke, applying wakigatame."


The next is the generic approach ..............


"Uke steps in from ma-ai and grasps both of tori's wrists.  As uke attacks, tori evades offline, draws uke into offbalance, and frees his right hand.  Tori applies an atemi to distract uke and keep him at a distance, then applies wakigatame."

I view both as correct.  It's the timing when to apply each that can become the bone of contention.

I would view the detailed as the only way in which to; (1) teach a beginner who has never seen the material, (2) re-teach someone who hasn't trained in the material in some time (several years in some cases) in order to "re-learn" the principles and, (3) do it yourself on a regular basis (even if you already know it very well indeed) in order to maintain a pure line of the application of principles, including control of ma-ai (combative distance), happo no kuzushi (angles of attack and off-balance) and sen (control of timing).

You just have to keep the fundamentals intact both your sake and the sake of teaching your students.

No matter how good we may think we are all of us get older and slower, sloppier, and just plain forgetful.  We may have been the cat's meow in the kata at one time

A screaming cat
but if you don't stay current in every single nitty-gritty detail then you'll lose it.  This is the rationale behind a detailed, stay-in-the-template, no deviation from correct form, style of practice.

On the other hand doing the generic, looser, broader form of training in order do a little exploration here and there and see how far you can stretch the boundaries before it fails utterly has its' positives also.

 My contention is that in order to learn it properly then do the detail only until it's fully internalized and then experiment generically.  But, still go back on a regular basis and roll back thru' the detail in order to avoid your subconscious beginning to respond with the looser form (because it begins to feel more "comfortable" and "familiar") and then having it fail when you least need it to.  "Bad Mojo" that one could be.

How much of each?  IMHO ............. only the detail version for at least a 100 pass-thru's (100 as tori and then 100 as uke) and then maybe 50/50 beyond that.  You be your own arbiter of that one based on your dojo circumstances.

Wait ............. you said 100 pass-thru's before I should do the more relaxed version????

Yup.  Remember I posted that when I learned roku kata we worked on it for about a year to a year and a half?  Do the math grasshopper.  Training an average of 3 to 4 days a week for 12 to 18 months steady with each session comprised of at least one time thru' as tori and one time thru' as uke makes approx. 150 time as tori and 150 times as uke (one year) to 210 as tori and 210 as uke (18 months).

If you are going to be Sensei then you have to do the same work (if not MORE work) that you require of your students in order to stay "ahead" of your students and fully engaged in the training flow on the mat.  I have one student coming up for promotion to Godan and I plan on being his uke even tho' I'm the Sensei and theoretically don't have to.  I just want to stay "in the game" and not become a "Sensei Dog" .... that's the blood hound that sits in the corner and barks but doesn't do any work..............

Good work Pat and I look forward to your next post and topic(s).

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

January 2010


74. Self-Set Limitations

As we progress though our martial arts career we set out goals and how we will reach them.  The rub sometimes comes however in how we maintain that or those goals once we actually do reach them.

I was involved with a filming project years ago with my old Sensei and I was taken through just about the entire advanced kata system with personal one-on-two lessons (me and my uke).  One film covered Koryu Dai Roka Kata and my uke and I must have spent a year to a year and a half working on that one kata of 39 waza in order to get right to Sensei's satisfaction before we filmed it and demo'd it at a summer clinic.  That was some work and he covered the correct way to illustrate each principle (as embodied by "a" waza) plus how to allow uke attack and confound (or attack and then attempt to cancel out tori's efforts).

Notice I said "illustrate each principle as embodied by a waza".  This is probably one of the most confusing and least understood rationales behind correct and principled kata practice and staying within the template.  You are not simply "doing technique" after technique; you are using a physical koanMeditate to illustrate a universal principle.  You can argue with me that varying a specific technique can be done but it's difficult to state that "modifying and changing" a base-line principle has any efficacy.


After all that work some 15 or so years ago, I looked up one day and realized that I had forgotten big sections of roku and could no longer simply step on the mat and throw it so I went back and pulled out all my notes and old VHS tapes (this was all pre-DVD) and re-taught myself the kata correctly.  As we worked back through it all the old comments and excessive verbosity that Sensei had made came back and in fairly short order the kata started to feel the same.

Thinking on this phenomena I realized in a moment of mental insanity (partially fueled by sitting at the sushi counter, where I do some of my best "ki-analysis", with too much uni and sake in me while I screamed "omakase" at the cutter and with him yelling back "gomen nasai") that if I had not made a committed effort to go back and remember it the way I was taught I could have lost it forever and simply have gone forward doing progressively weaker and weaker versions while fooling myself into thinking that all my new variations are the way that it's always never been done before.

The difficulty, and indeed the trap that waaaaay too many Sensei fall prey to, is that of mental laziness.  Much has been written about the proclivity of the human mind to work on learning something and then once it starts to feel "good" we slack off and never progress past that point.  This is likely where the phrase "good enough for government work" comes from.  A real danger here from the ego standpoint is that of knowing more than everyone else around you but not knowing as much as the person who originally taught you and who was billed as the "go-to" all those years ago.  If not careful, a Sensei at that point will begin to self-reference, fall prey to the "halo-itis"and now you're really in a tsukemono (pickle) barrel.

Much of what has been bandied about on the web lately pertains to Kodokan Goshin Jutsu but it could pertain to any kata or set of waza/kihon drills.  If we attend a seminar 10 or 15 years ago and learn a new kata (goshin/roku/whatever) and then we take it home and play with it for the next couple of months and then mostly put it down, our memory becomes hazy about the specifics.  We cover some part of it now and then, or base some other lesson on it but we never really go back and do it right.

Now, it may be 10 or 15 years later and suddenly we have the opportunity to go to another seminar and do the exact same kata.  We show up, tighten our obi, trim our eyebrows and lick our lips (or is it lick our eyebrows and ...... oh never mind) DependsSmiley
and walk out onto the mat and walk saying "Wow, those were some interesting variations and some of that looked totally different from last time".

Question is (or should be), why does it appear different?

*Having not seriously studied it in toto' for the last 10 or 15 years did you forget?

*Did you "modify" or "change" it without realizing that you had lost portions of the principles?

*Have you spent the last 10 years self-referencing?

*Did the Sensei who may not have practiced it him/herself for the last 10 or 15 years forget part of it and have to remember on the fly in front of a large crowd (called "lack of preparation")?

*Was the uke worth their salt or did uke attack 85 different ways for 21 different waza?

*How many "Sensei" were out there on the mat simultaneously, each "teaching" the same kata in two different ways (and which one do you take home)?

*Did you originally learn it from your Sensei who didn't learn it right the first time or fully understand and now you have the wrong version second hand but you think it's the "right" version?

*Or, having gone through it as say a Shodan/Nidan or a kyu rank, did you not understand it to begin with but thought you did and now all these years later you're confused about what you didn't see then but may be seeing now, leading you to conclude that it's really two different kata when it's the same one taught the same way that you were unable to fully understand the first time around?

In being honest with ourselves we really need to explore all the possibilities, even some I haven't laid out here.

After my sake experience and realization (part of which was applying all of the above to myself to be certain that I hadn't just gotten into some low-grade maguro tuna) I and my seniors had a moment of energetic discussion and changed what we require for promotion; all to ensure that material was understood, not lost and could be successfully passed down.  This was after taking every 35 year old beta-max and vhs tape of every one of my old Sensei I could find and converting it to DVD for a very large library of kata, waza and lessons on kihon and then going back and reviewing all it.  (My biggest surprise    Icon_eek   was that all those old bald guys I hang out with these days used to have hair).

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My GAWD!  I had no idea how painful it was to actually sit thru' and watch decades of lessons.

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.............. but in the end it was worth the effort.

At our dojo you have to demo every single kata in the system to make 6th dan.  Goshin Jutsu for example is required for Nidan and I and the Hatamoto pick it apart to be sure it's up to snuff.  Then, as part of being uke since we require full fledged promotional demo's for every rank ikkyu and above, a yudansha will have to uke for it after teaching it.  This process of learning, demo'ing, teaching, uke'ing happens over and over again such that no yudansha can ever go longer than 2 or 3 years without essentially making a second pass through everything they had to learn to get to their current rank.

Our demo's are not a pass-fail system (it's all pass) but with so much practice of a kata/topic, the promotional candidate couldn't do badly if they set out to try to.

This system we have found (for the dojo as a whole and for each of us individually, including me as Sensei) works to keep the information fresh and on line for principle.  Indeed, after this system was set up several years ago it began to work so well that I had no compunction at all in allowing all my senior yudansha to begin to openly experiment with any technique or kata they wanted since I had confidence that having established a "personal principle benchmark" that they would never "lose their way" and forget the important parts; nor fool themselves into thinking that they have no more to learn.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

January 2010


73. A "Quickie" on the Way Out of the Door Heading Home for Hot Sake

Since we're all banging on Kodokan Goshin Jutsu I stumbled across this.  The excerpt is below and here is the link to the site.

The overall article is excellent but the comment below pertains directly to Goshin Jutsu.

http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=2138

".......In 1956, Kodokan Judo added an eight, and perhaps final, kata, Kodokan Goshin Jutsu, to the Official Kata of Kodokan Judo. A committee composed of twenty-five senior Kodokan Judo yudansha, chaired by Sumiyuki Kotani (Kodokan Judo Judan, Tenth Dan, and deshi of O’Sensei), developed the Kodokan Goshin Jutsu over a period of three years. Kenji Tomiki (Kodokan Judo Hachidan, Eighth Dan, and Aikido Hachidan and deshi of O’Sensei) served as a special technical adviser to the committee and author of an instructional book on the kata, Goshin Jutsu, published in 1958. As one would expect, an examination of Kodokan Goshin Jutsu reveals the dominant influence of Aikido in the formulation of the kata.36

In the preface to Tomiki’s book on the Kodokan Goshin Jutsu, Risei Kano, then president of the Kodokan, made the following comment.

“Kano Shihan made every effort possible to complete Judo as a modern physical education, but could not yet systematize the self-defense aspect of Judo which is contained in the classical Jujutsu even though he did study it deeply. The fact he was very much concerned about the self-defense aspect of Judo is clearly seen from the fact that he sent some of his students to Sensei Ueshiba to study Aiki-Jujutsu ….”

The comment of Risei Kano confirms the impact of O’Sensei and his art, Aikido, on Jigoro Kano....."


72. Budo Wowsers

As you travel thru' life you occasionally get a reminder that you aren't simply sitting on the beach in a chair sunning yourself with a bucket chock full of Corona and sliced limes sitting beside you while you drunkenly sing bad conjunto music to yourself.

     Sunny     Icon_cheers     Dancingbanana_2

When I started this blog some time ago I promised to make people think, not necessarily "flinch" per se, but think.  I deliberately took this tack because having been in the MA since the late 1960's in one form or another (Aikido and Judo specifically since about '74) I have always noticed that many players adopt a view and sometimes find if difficult to see outside what becomes the norm.

In many regards I'm very fortunate in my MA career.  I started in a small town in a community education center working on concrete floors with really bad gymnastics mats that had bad velcro that tore apart every time you were thrown.  After finding out about the man who became my primary Sensei for about  20-some years I finagled a job transfer to Houston specifically to be able to train with the Sensei of my first Sensei.  Barbara and Dave were fine people but they were not in the same class as someone who was trained in Japan and at the Kodokan and who was a direct student of Tomiki, Miyake, Owaza, Daigo, Kotani, Shimuzu, Kaminoda, Kuroda, etc., etc. 

When I found out about his pedigree I made myself two promises; (1) I was getting to his dojo to train anyway I could and as fast as I could get there no matter how long it took and, (2) I would follow his directions no matter what they were or how bizarre they might seem so that I could be as good as he was when he was in his prime.  I did the mental math and calculated that he had already done the map-drawing on how to learn so I simply took the map and his compass and followed the path he had already laid out.

If you make me go find the book I will but this week is really cold, I'm at my office trying to talk myself into doing real work and I don't want to go thru' cases of books in my garage to find it so hopefully someone out there will remember this story.

I cannot remember the name of the Sensei who did this but one day (I believe at the Kodokan) he was doing formal Judo kata, quite possibly Nage no Kata.  In the middle of a waza (Ippon Seionage I think) his uke had a major brain poot Head-exploding
and attacked out of order.  Tori did the correct throw for that "out of order attack" and then threw uke who got up, remembered what he had just accidentally done and then attacked on the left side with the same "out of order attack" allowing tori to complete that right/left sequence correctly and then go on to complete the entire kata.  Afterward, the spectators apparently couldn't decide whether or not he had left anything out because there was not loss of momentum, grace or zanshin.

There is a concept called "being in the kata" that old time Sensei mention occasionally just as mine did.  What this means is that the principles and the correct structure of each waza is so completely internalized that uke can attack and get the attack for that waza incorrect and that tori can still complete the move so effortlessly that unless the on-lookers understand what they are seeing, they can't pick up on anything done out of order.  It just flows like a river and cannot be stopped.

This I think is where all this discussion is coming from (or going to).

If a kata (or even a group of techniques that just doesn't have the "official" word "kata" on the end) is taught and passed down over years and several generations of Sensei then it should be logical to assume the following;

(1) the waza came from somewhere in the past, quite likely an older art from such as Kito Ryu or Daito Ryu and therefore has some level of historical precedent and efficacy and therefore is deemed as having value,

(2) the waza are grouped together as a whole or into sub-groups within that kata because they have a common relationship of form of attack or form of response or base underlying operating principle that is to be shown and internalized,

(4) the kata is to be demonstrated and internalized not solely for simply memorizing waza but for understanding (and being able to illustrate that understanding) of the principles and "flavor" of that kata and of the overall ryu as a whole,

(5) the theme or principle can be illustrated throughout the entire kata (such as Tomiki Ryu Koryu Dai Yon Kata) or each sub-group can illustrate a principle within it-self (such as Koryu Dai San Kata) with all the sub-groups taken together (in the kata in 'toto) showing a broad range of principles while each separate sub-group shows a singled-out and separately distinguishable principle of its' own. 

I think that if one considers Judo Nage no Kata or Tomiki Ryu Koryu Dai San Kata or the Seitei Kata from Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo then this should make some logical sense.

DependsSmiley
My rub (or take on this continual discussion) is that there is two ways to approach learning a kata.

One is to totally immerse ones' self into it with the best sources available and learn the flat template as stated.  That is; don't change anything, don't manipulate anything, don't experiment with anything.  Make uke do every attack the same and in the correct form and learn the kata rote in exactly the original form as is possible for you given your circumstances (and allowing for lack of access to high level teachers in the case of country dojo but making an effort to train under senior Sensei who know the material).  This is why I eventually moved to Houston.  I looked up and realized that the folks I started with couldn't take me where I wanted to go which is why I and they both, made many trips over the years to Houston.

The second way in which to study kata is to approach it such that it is always a laboratory with each training session subject to whatever whims accrue at the moment and with an uke who quite possibly attacks differently every time he steps into his gi-pants.  The problem here is the same as exists in randori; that is, if you do randori and throw a waza that is really slick and just puts lead in your pencil then it was luck and you will be unable to replicate it a sufficient number of times to internalize it; such is the random nature of randori and if you actually attempt to replicate that "slick" waza then it becomes kata ("pre-set technique"). 

Kata then allows us to replicate "AN" attack and respond with "A" evasion and "A" kuzushi and "A" termination over and over and over until that moment in the universe is understood and internalized.  This is possible only if uke attacks the same way each time and tori responds the same way each time.  Randomized and different attacks/responses can so expand what is happening that "seeing" the sequence correctly becomes impossible because every time becomes different in kuzushi, in direction, in ukes' response to the kuzushi and in the specifics of the atemi or joint lock.

Now back to "being in the kata".  Once the kata is understood in it's rote form and the underlying principles internalized then you will find that if uke attacks weird one time then the response is there.

It is there because the principles and movements have all been internalized and should uke attack differently then tori is able to make micro-adjustments on the fly without difficulty.  At that point ........... you're "in the kata".

NOW ............... once you have the ability to "be in the kata" now's the time to experiment, now's the time to allow uke to do weird attacks, now's the time to make the kata a true petri dish of differentiated movements, ideas and ukemi .............. after you have the template internalized.

So you see ............... I also experiment and allow my senior players to also experiment but I want them to have that pure line first so that no matter how far off-base their experiments may deviate from the principle, they'll always have that bench mark (showing the elevation) to come back to and touch when needed in order to remember where they are (to quote my old Sensei) "in space and time"; else-wise they could wander so far afield that they eventually become lost in a sea of extreme power games or martial "tricks" since at some point the principles will escape them.

Since many players out there at this point likely consider me to be somewhat of a gadfly

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then I'll make a proposal for us all.

Draeger and Otaki wrote book many years ago that I kept my copy of.  The books' name is Judo Formal Techniques-A Complete Guide to Kodokan Randori no Kata.  From what I remember the first half of the book is the kata and the last half is likely the best exposition written on the function of kata and how to study.

I think that for now, it's time for everyone (I'll include me in there) to go back and refresh our memories.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

January 2010


71. A New Year and A Thought About Kata

I monitor several blogs, Aikido and otherwise, and one topic that is surprisingly common is that of Kodokan Goshin Jutsu.  It seems to just be everywhere these days.  This seems to have become the so-called red-haired step child that everyone wants to claim but once possessed and after guardianship is established the parent has no idea what to do with it.  Everyone claims to understand the concept but then again.............

One recent comment made on web was that the kata was not the same every time; i.e., that if you stayed within a very loose set of parameters of what it was supposed to look like then any variation that you came up with was acceptable and experimentation was part of the practice.  Huh?  I'm sorry but, HUH?

So lets take a quick look at this bastard child of Tomiki and the rest of the "Group of 21".

The history is a bit dicey admittedly.  I personally think that most of the details have deliberately been obscured for (......... you think of one or three reasons and if you cannot then you just ain't been in the MA long enough to understand the Nippon mindset).  Some of what I've read stated that 21 Sensei took part ..... or 23 ...... or there were lots of guys hanging out but only two or three had any "real" input and the rest were window dressing. 

What-eveeeeerrrrr.  In my mind it really does not matter.  What does matter is that Tomiki was definitely and intimately and closely involved AND that as a reward he was, in essence, "dissed" big time.

From what I was told by at two of Tomiki's direct students, and according to some fairly good sources on Judo discussion groups my info was mostly confirmed, Tomiki was part of the group developing the waza set.  His participation apparently was invited due to the depth of his original relationships with Kano and with Ueshiba and his relationship with Waseda; all of which taken together gave him a viewpoint unique at the Kodokan, comprising a special intimate understanding of Kodokan Judo (from Kano's and Mifune's viewpoint) and Aiki-jutusu/Aiki-budo (from Ueshiba's viewpoint ....... and ............. pre-WWII/pre-Koichi Tohei/pre-Doshu at that) all of which was laid on top of his study of Kito Ryu (one of the least-known foundational cornerstones of Judo and of Aikido both ......... a future topic for blogging ......... if you don't know and actively roll thru' Koshiki on occasion then shame, shame on you and don't come to me claiming to understand Aikido).

The group met, had some sashimi ......... ummmm ............ fresh salmon and maguro tuna and sea urchin ............ (and probably one hell of a lot of sake) and over some period of time came up with a set of waza that some loved ............. and some didn't (so much).  Hmmmmmm ..... what to do, what to do.........!

I know!!  Lets take the waza as proposed by those Sensei who are more "politically connected" than the others.  And .............. lets largely ignore what Tomiki proposed.  Wow!  What a great idea!

Net result; a kata that only briefly touched upon what Tomiki viewed as important but that largely dealt with the stated issue at hand.  A kata that stands atop and between and straddles both Judo and Aikido ........ being both but neither ........ confusing both ......... enhancing both ............ difficult to see or feel ........... simple in principle ........... infinitely difficult in the fundamentals ........... yep .......... I understand that ........ you bet'cha .............

Tomiki had his own structure of the kata; one different in many regards than what later became "Kodokan Standard".  One example of this are the gun take-aways.  There are three; two from the front and one from behind.  Tomiki designed his from the aspect of the barrel always clearing tori but, the "accepted" version did not.  The second take-away was done in such a way as to fan tori with the barrel.  This waza was not changed until a police officer was killed.  According to one of my students who is an expert in Taiho Jutsu from Keisho, the teachers were mortified.  Imagine; one of our own police cadets killed by a pistol shot even tho' they knew Goshin Jutsu!  Tomiki's idea had already dealt with this issue of fanning tori with the gun barrel but the "accepted" version had not.  Hmmm.

Mr. Tomiki and his seniors began to teach his version in the early 1960's, independent of what the Kodokan was endorsing.  While he and his seniors were teaching his version the Kodokan and the affiliated associations in the states were evolving the kata into a "competition" kata that over the last 20 or so years has evolved into something that is no longer recognizable.  Over the last 20 years I have watched this kata be modified over and over ................. which leads to an apocryphal story. 

Ten years ago I taught a seminar at which the prime topic was; voila .............. Kodokan Goshin Jutsu.   I taught the kata exactly as I was taught.  On the last day a student walked up and asked the question of, "Can my Sensei teach me the "right"version.  Well, my explanation (intended to be polite and politically non-confrontational) was that "my" version was not necessarily the "right" version per se,  but ............ and that was as far as I got.  His Sensei walked up and angrily stated that he was teaching a lot of Judo players and that he had to teach the currently accepted version as done in tournaments or he would be guilty of martial arts malpractice and that my input was not wanted.  In short, I got my A__ chewed off  because I was teaching something that was not "up to date" but that I had been taught as being the version most endorsed by Tomiki. 

HUH! WHAT THE HELL?

OK.  So now we're teaching the currently approved version (for competition purposes)  of a kata that contains both Judo and Aikido principles and ignores the original version as proposed by Tomiki?  Pardon my Japanese but  ........ WTF???

Since when was principle something that had to be "updated" year to year to year for the convenience of the judges?  Again ........... WTF?

The Sensei I learned Kodokan Goshin Jutsu from was one of Tomiki's most senior players.  She is still alive today and from what I understand is considered a National Cultural Treasure in the Martial Arts with streets in Tokyo named after her.  She first came to Houston to teach this kata in the mid 80's (sorry but my exact memory escapes me from time to time) and I was her uke having been personally assigned to her by my Sensei.  She came back in the late 80's and taught Goshin Jutsu again and a Judo player named Gary B. was her uke and then she came back again in 1997 and my wife was her uke on a two month tour of the US teaching ............. Kodokan Goshin Jutsu.

Each and every time she taught the kata EXACTLY THE SAME WAY and with stresses on the same areas of the kata.  Every time she taught the kata she stressed exactly the same lines of off balance, the same joint locks, the same directions of movement and of throws.  She taught the kata exactly same all three times she came to the US to teach.  Hmmm!  The same way, the same exact way each and every time of all three times she taught exactly, exactly the same way.

Seems to me that there really is not some idea of doing the kata different ways each time. 

Seems to me that there is not some broad range of acceptable ways of doing the kata. 

Seems to me that the kata is designed to be done exactly the same way each time in order to teach certain basic principles and that once the principles are understood then you can "be in the kata" as you train but that the idea of experimentation or of doing the kata different ways each time is ..... ah ... hmmmm ... slightly off course.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

January 2010