Kata

How do you come to experience the principles of budo taijutsu?

When I refer to the principles, I mean Distance, angles and timing.

Where do you begin?

Kata.

Kata are the initial stages of practice within the Bujinkan.

The Bujinkan is a martial art. We must remember this. We must learn well.

Why do you attend the Shihan classes in Japan? When you see and feel their taijutsu, you are left in awe and the desire to develop similar feelings and skills aren`t you?.

How did they get to this level of training?

Think about it.

There are no short cuts.

Nagato said ” There are no short cuts. You have to learn the forms.”

The forms and the kamae we learn teach our bodies about many,many things.

Kamae teaches us a great deal. All movements need to be focused on with a feeling of them being a “moving meditiation”. We begin to feel and become more aware of ourselves, our environment, and our training partners.

Kamae are you shields. They are what help you understand the kukan.

the “Letting go of kamae”  is only when you have mastered the principles. Because when you understand the principles, you have become awakened to the kukan. From there, you “can feel” naturally the distance that the physical kamae were once teaching you.

The kamae are now in your heart, and you can make them appear or disappear at will.

We learn varied distances from fundamental foot work to move our whole body while forming a kamae to an angle/position of safety.

We then develop a sence of timing within these forms to learn how to draw ones attack and take the opponents balance.

These three principals and more are within the katas.

Through correct training we  come to appreciate Shin Gi Tai Ichi.

The Katas are dead until we train well enough to bring them to life ( Shin Gi Tai Ichi )

We can then move on toward the Ha level ( Shu Ha Ri ) and eventually make the forms transparent.

The principals, as well as the correct mind/heart for training bring these forms to life.

This is a martial art with deep history. We cannot just bastardise it into something to satisfy our ego and desires.

Studying Budo has a process, just like life.

Shu = birth

Ha = life

Ri = Death

But, this last level is not really death. It is really the “letting go” of all inhibitions that keep us from experiencing heaven.

As we become more natural and absorb the teachings correctly into our spine, our body movement will become more fluid,relaxed and resilient. However, we will still move with a solid foundation and sense of conviction ( even when moving from the subconscious.)

We can see this with the godan test. There is no practise for the test. However, if you have truly studied well, then your fundamental taihenjutsu training will move your body away from the danger as you “recieve” the sakki.

If you have bad kihon taihenjutsu, then maybe you would not be able to avoid being hit, even if you have felt intention.

My words are also demonstrated and discussed on occassions by Noguchi Shihan Eg: at the 2009 DKMYS.

“feeling alone is not enough!” Soke

Our movements will become more neutral in manner as we understand these principles that the kihon gata holds within.

Some people just say ” it`s all about the feeling, that`s all you need, etc.” I watch these people train. They move like they really believe they have got it. You can see it on their faces. They are unfortunately in a world of their own. They have no kihon. Why? Because they have told themselves that they don`t need it. There is no balance to their training mind or body.

I hope their wake up call is not too painful for them if and when it happens.

I believe Soke has said that he believed he had learned more about life from the practise of the kihon happo then anything else.

Life. This life could be the result of finding the secrets of the kihon of the kihon – the principals.

Without the principals, there is no life in kata,technique or taijutsu.

Our neutral manner still holds within it a structure based on solid fundamental training in the Kihon waza and the Sanshin. These kata also teach us the fundamental movements required to wield weapons.

Soke has often said,

” you can tell someones level of kihon through their ability with weapons.”

All our movements have the lessons of these waza within them.

If we have not understood the kihon, we will not recognise this. Our body will not recognise this.

Looking carefully at peoples training, will also tell you their level of understanding of the Kihon.

Nowadays, I see people punching at soke like “rag dolls”. Whenever I see the Shihan punching at Soke, they do so with their full body, in a controlled and structured manner. A Bujinkan punch.

People are getting lazy. Noguchi Shihan often reiterates this.

People have lost their foundations. I think you have failed if you believe your foundations are not necessary to practise any more.

If you don`t practise, how will the Bujinkan develop in the future? We need to really understand that as high ranks in the Bujinkan, we have a great role to play in helping the junior students know the correct way to develop.

Just look of the standard of training in the dojos where the instructor is only concerned with his own training.

Soke, often states in class that the 15th dans have a great responsibility.

If we don`t keep a vigilance with our own training, then our students will suffer.

Instructors often just go home and concentrate on henka. If there is no structure to the training, then how do new students develop?

Some people who live or have lived in Japan often go home and start a dojo. I see these people sometime later, and they all come back and say that they have to teach basics. But, they don`t know how!

People are listening intently to every word that Soke says in the dojo. He often says that we don`t need kata,forms,etc. But, please remember that he is talking to the people ( 15th dans ) that he believes have gone through the stages of learning and are ready to appreciate his words. Not before!

People have to be honest with themselves.

The way the Bujinkan is taught is very “old school” in approach, I feel. It`s a matter of the instructor showing something a few times and then giving the students some time to practise what they have seen. This approach is backed by Nagato Sensei`s words to us about having the eyes, and ears to record and absorb directly. Why? because we often have only one chance to learn from the master.

Ichi go Ichi e

There is rarely any very technical explanation, or personal attention for any length of time. The student is left alone to learn the virtues of budo and develop their sainou kon ki and perservere with their own musha shugyo.

The teacher stands back and watches for those that have an aptitude and heart for budo. It`s from there, that these students recieve more direct training. Isshin Soden.

People want to be spoon fed in this era. The teachers that offer “the answers”, will get the students. I hope that these students will one day see through the advertising and marketing that is real and false. There are traps everywhere for students who have a strong desire to “get the secrets” and “get good quickly.”

It is important for all of us to realise that like every other martial art, there is a process to develop. The Bujinkan is no exception. Train hard.

The Bujinkan is not a free art in that you can do anything you want. If you believe this, you have missed the point.

Soke and the Shihan have the level of feeling and skill sets that they have from diligent,sincere, and hard training.

We now see them effortlessly move with devastating effectiveness.

We try to copy, but we can`t. We can often mimic what they are doing with a compliant training partner but, do we really have the fundamental kihon movements and principles mastered to truly be free and effective?

This post is based on my thoughts regarding a recent Soke class. They are my thoughts only.

It might seem that I`m an advocate for kata training. I`m not. I try very hard to feel and then absorb into my life, this wonderful art of Sokes. I experience directly from soke nearly every class, his feeling. Even then, I don`t believe I understand. I just have the knowing that patience and time will tell if I have absorbed anything at all. You cannot rush these things. It may be 10-20 years before I begin to understand.

Soke says this. He says only those people that feel his taijutsu will understand. But, I think people automatically believe that they understand straight away. I don`t believe this. I believe his uke are just being conditioned over and over again until one day ( depending on their saino kon ki ) that they come to understand the teachings in their own time.

It all depends on ones ability to recieve. And, this is the art of being uke. If you cannot be a good uke, you will never recieve the teachings. Again, I believe this depends on sincerity and ones saino kon ki.

I believe that to truly understand, we need to work from the beginning ( where ever that may be ) lol.

I never liked practising my rudiments when learning to play the drums but, when I began to play, I realised how necessary good basics were. The more I played, the more I saw the need for good basics. So, I did both. With the band I was able to be free and experiment with my rudiments and fills, etc. when at home, I went back to basics.

Budo is the same I feel.

I am forever working on the “feeling” of Sokes art while maintaining a balanced approach to my training .

I hope you are too.

“Don`t walk too heavy nor with your head in the clouds.”

Keep yourself and your training REAL.

Good luck.

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10 Responses to “Kata”

  1. Thanks as always for sharing such important sound advice, Duncan.
    I’ll be in Japan from the 21st. Hope to catch up with you.
    Best wishes. steve

  2. Matthew Says:

    Great post Shihan Stewart!! I do have to ask, do people really come to Japan and say that they do not need to practice the kihon and san shin no kata? That is amazing!! The whole truth of our art lives inside these forms and methods. I am glad to have read this post and I will train even more diligently in the kihon and san shin no kata now that I have read this. I hope other people do too!

    Shidoshi
    Matthew R. Krause

  3. Very well written. I enjoyed your thoughts and thanks for putting them out there.

  4. This post in particular was very humbling for me… I believe much of what you’ve written will have a positive effect on how and what I practice. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience of Budo with all of us and I hope you will continue to do so.

    -Joe from Texas

  5. Tamouree Jordan Says:

    Some evident things you say in your post Duncan, although I do not entirely agree with ALL of your prepositions 🙂 Thanks for good reminders and wise words!

  6. Excellent writing Duncan. It’s very important for people to understand these things and you have stated this very clearly and elegantly.

  7. Perry Elstgeest Says:

    Thanks Duncan for putting it out so clearly. It is often difficult not to want to do the things we have seen in Japan. The students, and maybe me too, are not ready for this and have to train the basics.
    It’s also a struggel against my ego. Because i wanne do the things from Japan. I have to place my ego aside and teach what is important for my students and the bujinkan.

  8. As always your blog provides a wealth of insight & good sound advice. Thank you for taking the trouble & time to help us “remote learners”

    Interestingly this issue is an old one – I was reading a book by an English swordsman c1600 where he moans about the fancy fencing instructors from Italy. His point was that these instructors can be easily beaten by someone raining down strong blows on them. He defined a master of defence in a great way: something like you’re only good if you can beat two people after you’ve had a few pints

    It’s a good read and, in my view, quite consistent with the Japanese philosophy

    See you in the UK in Sept

    Dunc

  9. Mathias (Matti) Reisch Says:

    Great post, Duncan. I hope more people in Germany would read this.

    Greetings from Reutlingen Dojo.
    Mathias Reisch

  10. Alexander Says:

    Very good post/thoughts Duncan.

    But sometimes (on many posts on the internet) it sounds like it’s almost impossible to learn to defend your self and the ones you love via Bujinkan without 20+ years of training.

    Is this the right signal to send or is it the truth..?

    Alex

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