Over the weekend I had a chance to study with Bill Hayes Sensei, a senior student of Eizo Shimabukuro. Whenever I get an opportunity to train with Mr. Hayes I am amazed at just how much I have yet to learn. This weekend he shared a little anecdote which I found intriguing.
To properly preface this story, I need to introduce you to the cast of characters. One day Bill Hayes was chatting with Jim Logue, a senior student of Taika Seiyu Oyata. Oyata Sensei is the developer of a style called Ryukyu Kempo, but due to complications, ultimately named his art Ryu Te.
While undoubtedly probing the deepest darkest secrets of karate, Logue and Hayes Senseis eventually turned to the topic of kata. Logue explained that one time while discussing the transmission and application of kata with his instructor, Oyata Sensei posed to him a question: “If I give you a book and you don’t understand it, is it the book’s fault?”
This wasn’t directed at Logue Sensei specifically, but more of an observation about how kata is treated in general.
The Blaming of Books
In regards to traditional training vs modern methods, kata is the oft mentioned reason for traditional stodginess and ineffectiveness. Certainly kata can be the cause of those bad things. But what Oyata Sensei suggested in just a brief thought was that the blame for kata’s problems may not necessarily lie in the kata itself.
A kata is like a book; one that explores the experiences and ideas of warriors from past generations. They encompass not just rote movements, but core principles that made these classical combatants so effective. As Hayes Sensei likes to say, “if you read a book many times over many years, the words never change. But if you are growing, the meaning and understanding of the book will grow with you.”
The understanding of kata is an extraordinarily deep process, made even more complex by generations of word-of-mouth transmissions and personal interpretations. It took many lifetimes to develop them into what they are today, and it would take just as many to unravel all of their possibilities. Making kata effective and valuable is not the kata’s responsibility, it is our own.
The Teacher Rosetta Stone
It would be careless to throw a Bible at someone and simply say ‘good luck’. It would be even more careless if that Bible was written in Latin. Students require guidance, a Rosetta Stone in order to have the best chance possible for extracting true value out of a text.
In martial arts and kata terms, it is the instructor’s responsibility to serve as that guide post. A Rosetta Stone won’t translate a book and spoon feed it to someone, but it will provide those critical junctions to put the student on the best path possible to understanding. As such, the collaborative effort of both teacher and student results in deeper and more meaningful understanding of not just the words but the core meaning as well.
Vigilant effort is required by both students and teachers as they continue to explore the concepts contained within classical training. The books need to be read, studied, memorized, forgotten, and read again.
I wish you continued luck and success in your studies!
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Hey everyone, it’s an early Christmas here at IkigaiWay. I’m pleased to bring you the second installment of my Community Prize Giveaway series!
One of the things that makes the internets so great is the massive amount of interaction possible. People with similar interests and passions can get together and truly benefit from one another. IkigaiWay has an awesome group of commenters and readers, and that is something I appreciate greatly. In addition, there are two quickly growing communities on Facebook and Twitter that are augmenting the message I think we are trying to spread on a website like this (that the martial way is a noble and worthy pursuit!). That being said, I’d like to continue to encourage/thank all the readers here with a giveaway of some really cool prizes.
How to Win
Winning one of the prizes I have lined up is really quite simple. Leave a comment here, on Facebook, or on Twitter. Commenters are submitted to my random drawing program which selects a winner. The contest will run for appx 1 month…starting….now.
What is There to Win?
For this giveaway I have the pleasure of teaming up with the good folks at TheMMAZone.net. Tony and his team are working hard to accommodate online shoppers and are offering a bunch of quality products, a few of which he was kind enough to provide for this giveaway. For the traditional artists out there, don’t worry – MMAZone has gear for people of all different styles.
Give em a visit!
The Revgear kicks far outperform more classic foam dipped foot gear. Foam dipped have the potential to crack and wear over time, where as the Revgear feature a more flexible brushed surface while providing great protection. Top quality elastic is also used for the hook and loop closure.
To qualify, join the crew on twitter!
The Tiger Claw Mitts are extended all the way down to the lower forearm to provide enhanced protection. the striking surface is thickly padded and features a very comfortable hand compartment for the trainer/partner. Dual wrist loops ensure stable usage.
To qualify, join the Facebook crew!
IkigaiWay Website Prize
The last prize is dedicated to anyone who leaves a comment right here on the website itself. I think you’re really going to like these – Tiger Claw Muay Thai Striking Pads.
These serious pads are designed to resist the crushing kicks and blows of Muay Thai kickboxers. They feature thick, durable padding with a quality leather covering. The bag is secured through one comfort handle and two wrist strap. Useful for a wide variety of training regiments!
To qualify, leave a comment on any post you see coming up for the next month (counts on old posts as well).
I’ll be coming out with some new content asap, and I try to keep things updated on Facebook and Twitter daily. Hope to see you around.
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Just this past weekend Branden Strickland, a friend and fellow karateka, tied the big knot. Branden and Laura had an outdoor service that went off with great success. The weather cooperated unusually well, the scenery was excellent, and even their corgi Yoda behaved like a little gentleman.
Over this past summer Branden had to balance his work life, his ensuing wedding, and his black belt test all at the same time. Needless to say every day was smooth sailing with little to no stress. Despite how easy all of that must have been, Branden successfully got his black belt in Okinawa Kenpo Karate/Kobudo…and now in commitment as well.
Here are two additional photos, one of a group of Branden’s dojo mates and one of me and the big man himself.
Big congrats again to Branden and Laura. I dispense small thoughts about karate and the martial way here on this blog, but I am certainly not capable of giving advice in the marriage realm. Perhaps some of the more experienced readers out there can step in for me and give Branden a few cents worth of wisdom!
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