Thursday, February 25, 2016

Changing Gears and Getting Started

I'd like to try and switch gears a little bit with this blog and try and focus on its true intent, which is encouraging the individual study of karate through the practice of a single kata. While this has always really been the case, it's easy to get pulled into tiny little details regarding different types of practices and traditions. This usually involves a lot of critiquing, which can be fun and enlightening, but overall it can be very negative and exhausting. It does very little to encourage people in their own independent study. I'm going to try and remedy this as best I can.

There are many obstacles that can stand between a person and their ability to practice karate in the conventional sense. Time, money and location are the biggest three hurdles that keep a person from engaging in this very fulfilling activity. Money can be tight, a good place to learn can be far away and many people work odd shifts to support themselves and their families. Luckily kata can be both the textbook and the tool.

The study of karate can be achieved independently from any other person or organization with the practice of a single kata. It is however a very daunting prospect to undertake, but no more daunting than practicing at your local commercialized school. With diligent practice and an inquisitive attitude, it's possible to learn a great deal from one kata on your own. It's important to note however that because you are only focusing on one kata, you will not be learning a style, brand or type of karate. You will be studying your karate and it will be whatever you can make it. This is exactly the same as any other karateka, but you will not have the luxury of claiming status, legitimacy or the accomplishments of others through an established organization. There will be no cookie cutter template of acceptable practice, and there will be no one to hold your hand and point out any mistakes. You will be solely responsible for yourself. This is as it should be.

I am sometimes hesitant to characterize my own practice as karate, because karate in many ways is more of a combined cultural heritage made up of many kata rather than any single kata on its own.

To start, one must first find themselves a kata. You may already have a little background in karate and know a kata or two, but if you don't there are usually plenty of books available at your local library and there are thousands of videos on the internet to use as reference material. The Seisan and Naihanchi kata are fairly simple foundational kata. There are many different variations of each kata and there is no "true" version. Each usually just emphasize different aspects of the kata.

Even with personal instruction at a commercial dojo there is no guarantee that you will receive proper instruction. It's best to be patient, go slow, pay careful attention and practice. All the movements will feel unnatural and awkward in the beginning. This is normal. Keep calm and carry on.

To be continued...