Friday, September 25, 2015

Deeper than I thought

It's very hard to explain to normal martial artists what it's like to practice a single kata for years. I believe that they think they can imagine it, but I know that I never imagined that a kata could go so deep and yet be so simple at the same time. The closest I can come to explaining it is relating it to language.

A kata for the most part is almost like an alphabet. Kind of. Except some of the grammar is written into the alphabet itself. Almost like "i" before "e" except after "c." If it were written "A" "B" "Cei" "D" "iE" "F".

The steps for example in the Seisan kata I practice tell you how to power the hand movements, but also whether you are the one giving pressure or if you're receiving pressure. If you try and flip them around they don't work.

I'm digressing a little here.

Practicing a single kata is like being fluent in a language. You know it front and back, inside out and backwards. You can play with the words and structure to make jokes or whatever you want. It's also designed to work together.

The hard part is that for many martial artists, they feel that practicing the alphabet is speaking the language, and they assume that if something looks the same in two kata than it must be the same movement. Since there are no real hard and fast rules regarding kata analysis, I can't say this is wrong, but it would be foolish to make the same assumption about language. The English and Russian alphabets both have letters that look like a "b." If we assumed that they made the same sound we would be wrong. The "b" letter in Russian is pronounced like a "v" in English. Yet, they look exactly the same. It's only by comparing the letters around it and the words that they make that we see that they are different.

It's also hard to explain that the kata movements can be proactive and not necessarily reactive, and in Seisan at least the directions and movements have more to do with where you are in relation to the opponent and where you want them to be rather than a defense against any specific attack. This breaks the kata down into pretty easy to swallow chunks. It's really the only thing that we can know for sure about the opponent. They can either be in front, behind, on either side as well as inside and outside of the arms. It's rather simple, but the ramifications are rather large.

We can also assume that movements that are not done in a mirror fashion do not require the opponent to be in any specific orientation where as movements that are done with a focus on the right side and then practiced with a focus on the left side are for specific orientations because the left side needs to be trained equally as the right side. Like a left hand punch and a right hand punch, but grabbing someone's head and yanking it around doesn't require you to balance left with right. You'll get pretty much the same result no matter what.

This is just a little bit of the picture. When I first started practicing in this fashion, I couldn't imagine Seisan being more than just a simple collection of punch combinations and reactive drills to prescribed attacks, but the more I practice the deeper it goes.