Saturday, November 21, 2015

No Explanation Required

One hears many stories about those "olden days" of karate when men were men and karate was toudi. Something that comes up fairly consistently in what little stories we have is that karate teachers gave little to no explanation of kata and didn't allow questions. The pioneers of karate-do I think carried on this tradition of no explanation. It doesn't seem that this is possible, but I'm beginning to figure out that it makes a lot of sense.

When one is taught one kata there doesn't need to be a lot of explanation, not because the subject matter is small or that you'll just get it in time, though I think you will with practice and thought, it's because karate is like riding a bicycle. All the explanation in the world won't help a person learn to ride a bike. They just have to get on and try and only until you feel yourself balance and push the pedals do you finally understand what everyone's been telling you. Explaining to someone the myriad ways a kata movement can be used doesn't help. If they don't understand the abstract concept that one thing can be many things than they won't be able to use it. The way you make them understand is by attacking them.

The teacher attacks the student not with prearranged movement like yakusoku kumite, but rather creates the correct environment and opportunities for the student to use a particular kata movement. The student is not told what attack will be used. The student will then either succeed or fail. This continues until the student understands the movement by using it through trial and error with the correct circumstances for the movement. No explanation of the movement is required to learn in this fashion.

I'm not saying this is what happened, but it seems very plausible. It's almost a precursor to one step sparring and yakusoku kumite, but with real violence replaced with sport style attacks for the tournament platform. It's just one theory.