Must we really return to the starting point in our kata?
When we do kata is it really mandatory that we come back to the exact spot where we started? I can almost hear your reply; “Yes. Nakayama sensei said so in Best Karate.“ You are absolutely correct. He listed 6 important points for kata in that famous book:
1. Correct Order
2. Beginning and End
3. Meaning of each movement
4. Awareness of target
5. Rhythm and timing
6. Proper breathing
For item 2 above, he clearly stated that “Kata must begin and end at the same spot on the embusen. This requires practice.”
If you are in a tournament this is absolutely a requirement, isn‘t it? If you are off by, say, one meter, I am sure those careful judges will take some points off of your performance.
Have you ever wondered why there is such a requirement? Nakayama sensei did not explain why in his book. Maybe it is such a natural thing and you may think I am wasting my time asking this. But, I have wondered about this and foolishly investigated why for many years. I was curious to know if the creators of kata (Itosu for Heian kata for an example) really designed all kata in such a way a performer will always return to the starting point. After much investigation and direct questioning I concluded that this was not the case. Someone changed the rule and created this new requirement of coming back to the exact starting point. I wanted to find who was behind this and for what reasons. This is a mystery and I wish to share my findings and my theory on this mystery with you today.
If you are a Nidan and above, you must have learned Chinte and this kata could be your tournament kata, especially if you are a female practitioner. We know this is a very unique kata (Chinte literally means “unique or strange hand”,) but do you realize it also has a very unique (strange) ending (three hops backward)? I have researched for many years and asked many sensei about these ending steps. For the longest time, no one could give me a believable bunkai for these “unique” moves with the feet in heisoku dachi and hands clasped together. It had been a big mystery to me, as I could not figure out the meaning of these strange hops.
The following is what I have found in the process of investigation. One Japanese sensei, whose name I cannot reveal, told me it was for balance training. Yes, it is indeed difficult to keep the balance with your feet and hands put together. But if you think it through, it just does not make any sense as you wonder why they were put at the end of the kata. After the final delivery of a kime technique (right gyaku zuki to chudan with ki-ai), we can expect a zanshin move as seen with the last step in Enpi. However, why would anyone put three backward hopping steps that are not stable as a zanshin move? Even if you buy this idea of having this balancing move there, why hop with two feet together? Hopping with only one foot is more of a martial art move (like a tsuru ashi dachi in gankaku.) No matter how much I considered the possibility, I cannot buy into this theory. (read more...)
Shihan Yokota has published numerous articles and books: