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Inside Kata's shell

posted 13 Jun 2011, 17:28 by aikidorepublic
Some thoughts from last weeks practice…

Aikido practice is based on paired practice of techniques, which are the Kata of the art. Uke and Nage have defined roles. This differs somewhat from our perception of Kata gathered from arts like Karate, Taekwondo etc where Kata is usually a series of movements done solo. Our Kata are instead a Koryu concept (ancient martial traditions of Japan) which were often practiced in pairs. The role of Uke was the teacher, who would challenge the student (Nage) with just the right amount of intensity and speed and variation of attack to further their development.

Kata are the essence of the art put into a codified form so that it can be preserved from generation to generation. Each Kata (or syllabus teaching technique) contains multiple teaching including entry, atemi (strikes), joint locks, correct body positioning and projections. Each Kata reveals multiple possabilities as exit points but proceeds down a path to cover them all in a single practice. The revealing of these things are part of the higher level teachings (or Hiden) to be revealed, or in the case that they have been lost,  to be rediscovered by an aspirant. Some ways to do this are through exploring Bunkai (application of Kata),  ShuHaRi or the breaking of the kata and exploration through open hand and weapons attacks of all types.

In the early days of learning the Kata from Kyu grades to early dan grades, disciplined study of the Kata is paramount as they need to be learned and remembered by the body before they can be explored. Once this stage is complete the next levels of training can be undertaken.

Should, and this is somewhat frequently the case, the higher levels of training not be sought and the kata are practiced for themselves, practice may take on a hollow formalism of the art and the art suffers somewhat in this case.

Remedies include understanding that it is Uke's job to be the teacher and that Uke must push Nage to their limits. This limit is where Nage's form during the Kata starts to break down but not beyond. Initially this is achieved by attacking with authenticity to control and unbalance through grabs, to strike and penetrate a target on Nage. If Uke moves to avoid or has incorrect posture this is highlighted and can be corrected. Another is for Uke to continue to attack during the Kata, looking for openings for atemi and takedowns. Nage must then close these gaps in the Kata to re establish form.

It should be apparent then that Uke has a lot of responsibility for the authenticity of the training and must have the sensitivity to know when to press Nage further and when to hold back.

Bunkai concepts can be explored through the application of the Kata to open hand and other techniques 

Hiden concepts very from school to school, are often apparent from day one but not spelt out formally, for example in our school moon shadow foot, aikiage and aikisage are just a few of these ideas inherited from the fore runners of the arts. Others also are lurking for rediscovery

Image by Westbrook and Ratti