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DARPAChief
4/12/2012 5:05pm,
In a blog post entitled Why Aliveness (http://aliveness101.blogspot.ca/2005/07/why-aliveness.html), the celebrated martial arts skeptic Matt Thornton says that he not only sees no use in kata, but that it is "most likley to be counter-productive." Reading his post, he outlines the reasoning behind his approach and addresses some particular examples of why he considers things like hubud in FMA extraneous.

Ellis Amdur is lesser known on the site, though perhaps some in the JMA forum know him from some of his publications (an excellent video on Aikido ukemi, three books on JMA, or even his myriad of conflict resolution books). Although having trained in combat sports, Amdur's main pursuit has been in two classical schools of Japanese martial arts. In an e-budo thread entitled Kenjutsu training (http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?t=41927&page=6, post #87), he responds to some criticism of Donn F. Draeger, an early and distinguished American practicioner of JMA old and new:

...On another matter - I happen to train in one koryu in which we do include a "sparring" component. Another does not. I've found it a very useful training device, but have never confused it with real fighting.
AND: Given that most Japanese ryu, including some of the most historically powerful did NOT include a "sparring" component, it is hubris to assert that it is NECESSARY to do such sparring to develop combative efficacy. Such an assertion reflects an ignorance of how sophisticated real kata training in a traditional ryu can be. If you've never had such training, how would you know?
Consider this: basic training in the military does not include sparring (I'm not including BJJ or LINES - I mean that prospective soldiers do not train with paint-ball to prepare themselves for the battlefield in Iraq, and honestly, that is the equivalent of "sparring" in kenjutsu). What happens is that they learn "kata" - and then are deployed and learn to enact the forms they learned, in real life - if they survive. BAck in the day, when one wanted to test one's swordsmanship - really - one had a duel. And even this is not the same as a battlefield. The former is one-on-one, and there are rules that are formalized. That's not a battlefield, anymore than a boxing ring or "octogon" is the equivalent of walking down a street in Falluja looking for IEDs. (emboldened emphasis is mine)

Juxtaposing these two, there does appear to be a contradiction here. However, given the disparate nature of the comparison, some caveats: it's not clear how much, if at all, Mr. Thornton has been exposed to Koryu methods. "Kata" as it is used in mainstream English martial arts describes some variety of practise, and within that scope there are the particulars of individual Japanese koryu arts. So, it is concievable that Thornton might have a different response when it concerns koryu kata, but I think it unlikely. Additionally, these posts are dated to 2005 and 2008 respectively; if there have been changes of heart since then, I am unaware of them.

Moving along, I wonder if there's no reconciling these two divergent views. It's undisputed that when it comes to many unarmed grappling techniques, the alive approach produces skill just as if not more reliably than dead approaches and in any event produces results more quickly. However, competition has been known to eliminate otherwise effective techniques. Anyone passingly familiar with Judo history can detail the development of rules for shiai including the exclusion of certain waza for safety (e.g. those targeting the spinal cord, striking, etc.) As they are out of sight, they are out of mind; fewer clubs bother with these techniques at all. Similarly, the domain of weapons presents problems of degree. While reasonable approximations of light edged and blunt weapons can be employed in an alive manner, analogs of heavier instruments (e.g. naginata, rokushakubo) are in and of themselves too dangerous for freestyle sparring.

Furthermore, Judo's history also relates to Amdur's citation of "historically powerful" ryuha. Eighth dan Judoka Syd Hoare writes:

(http://www.sydhoare.com/development.pdf, pages 3-4)

During the early period judo slowly gained its ascendancy over the surviving ju-jitsu schools but did not have its own way by any means. Jujitsu schools such as the [Fusen-ryu], Takeuchi-ryu and the Yoshin-ryu and others gave the Kodokan masters some very hard times especially with their groundwork and leg locks. There was a much touted match between the Yoshin-ryu and the Kodokan about 1885 which the Kodokan apparently won mainly with ‘small techniques’ but there is no record of the rules of engagement. Author EJ Harrison who went to Japan in 1897 and began studying the jujitsu of the Tenjinshinyo school and later Kodokan judo wrote in his Fighting Spirit of Japan that while his teacher would not be a match for the Kodokan masters and their throwing techniques on the ground he was phenomenal. ...Groundwork continued to be a problem for the Kodokan up to the mid 1920s when its new rules greatly restricted entry to groundwork.

Wayne Muromoto of the Takeuchi Ryu also relates a curious anecdote of this period:

(http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?t=33050&page=2, post #17)

I earlier mentioned that several Takeuchi-ryu sensei were very influential in the creation of judo's early kansetsu waza and shime waza methods. That didn't hold the Takeuchi-ryu back from engaging in matches with the Kodokan, apparently. In one match, my sempai said that a Takeuchi-ryu sensei (I forgot the name) fought Kodokan's Yamashita to a hikiwake; a draw. Yamashita threw the TR person cleanly and the judge initially indicated it was an ippon (full point) for Yamashita. Then Yamashita fell back, grabbing his arm in pain. While being thrown, the Takeuchi-ryu sensei had grabbed Yamashita's throwing arm and used the momentum of the throw to dislocate it. The judge amended his call to hikiwake, a draw, because both techniques happened at the same time and were both equally worthy of an ippon.

If anything, the above is an example of how tough the shiai used to be in those days, and as Joseph Svinth noted, Kodokan judo didn't necessarily always win. Its ascendancy owes much not only to its eclectic adaptation of methods from any and all sources, but also to its ability to be seen as a "new," scientifically-based style with roots on Japanese jujutsu.

In summary, I have little doubt that for what he's trying to do, Thornton has little cause to explore archaic and obscure training methods that teach in a way very alien to most combat sports. However, based on the apparent struggle the Kodokan had with jujutsuka, I suspect that their kata training led them to skillfulness in conflict. Of course, since the early 20th century a lot has changed; Yoshin Ryu is extinct, and I am unaware of whether or not Kiraku Ryu and Takenouchi Ryu have been able to produce effective fighters in the interim. Nevertheless, I believe Thornton's criticism to have been generated by the typical western kata experience, which is to say not the experience of koryu jujutsuka that trained in the fullest. I'm also convinced that there may be instances where high risk techniques or implements are more or less guaranteed to cause serious injury or death in a truly alive scenario as defined by Thornton (e.g. Amdur's comment about the military's training with firearms). Therefore, I conclude that Thornton's dichotomy of alive and dead training is not completely accurate. Rather, things like classical kata considered dead training are potentially valid methodologies misunderstood by outsiders who mostly just don't need them anyway.

Thoughts?

Petter
4/12/2012 5:32pm,
…Based on the apparent struggle the Kodokan had with jujutsuka, I suspect that their kata training led them to skillfulness in conflict.
Though you are also assuming that Fusen-ryu jujutsuka did not have any form of randori, or otherwise trained in an alive manner (e.g. by going out and picking fights)—unless you have evidence of this? Do we know this to be true? I don’t think that anyone has argued that no randori ever happened in any ryu-ha before the Kodokan, although Kano may have made it a more core component and adapted his curriculum around it to an unprecedented degree.

Thus the assertion (or, as you put it, your “suspicion”) that judoka’s trouble with jujutsuka means that kata training made the latter competent fighters rests on the implicit assumption that their training was strictly kata-based: an assumption that you neither stated nor substantiated in the post. (Mention has occasionally been made of Fusen-Ryu student Yukio Tani, who when instructing in London did use randori, suggesting—though far from proving—that his non-judo, JJJ background had included it.)

More generally, I’m not sure it makes complete sense to compare kata training in weapons arts with kata in unarmed martial arts, for two reasons:


As you point out, with certain heavy weapons, it is not possible to safely practice with reasonable facsimiles. Thus kata training may be the best available method even if it is inherently a bad one, simply because any “alive” training would either be unacceptably dangerous, or use facsimiles so much lightened that the skills no longer transfer.
Wielding a weapon is a very great deal less intuitive than moving your own body around. Simply getting the feel for a weapon and making it move in the way you want it to, with the speed and fluidity you want, can be pretty difficult, let alone the co-ordination required for paired weapons such as sword and dagger, sword and shield, spear and shield, &c. Thus, it may be argued (I would argue) that solo training can be relatively more productive with weapons than in unarmed martial arts. (Still I should not want to attempt to learn fencing without plenty of freeplay.)

Lindz
4/12/2012 6:00pm,
I mean that prospective soldiers do not train with paint-ball to prepare themselves for the battlefield in Iraq,

Yes they do at 22:50 you see a soldier fire his weapon with laser tag sensors on his helmet. A few seconds later you can see the barrel plugs that shoot frikkin lasers.

and then at 23:50 paint ball.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiiI9vDUCNA

maybe she should learn more about the latest training methods before going off on them



Mr. Thornton has been exposed to Koryu methods. "Kata" as it is used in mainstream English martial arts describes some variety of practise, and within that scope there are the particulars of individual Japanese koryu arts. So, it is concievable that Thornton might have a different response when it concerns koryu kata,

so what are koryu kata like? how do they differ from gendai kata?

DARPAChief
4/13/2012 2:10am,
Though you are also assuming that Fusen-ryu jujutsuka did not have any form of randori, or otherwise trained in an alive manner (e.g. by going out and picking fights)—unless you have evidence of this? Do we know this to be true? I don’t think that anyone has argued that no randori ever happened in any ryu-ha before the Kodokan, although Kano may have made it a more core component and adapted his curriculum around it to an unprecedented degree.

Thus the assertion (or, as you put it, your “suspicion”) that judoka’s trouble with jujutsuka means that kata training made the latter competent fighters rests on the implicit assumption that their training was strictly kata-based: an assumption that you neither stated nor substantiated in the post. (Mention has occasionally been made of Fusen-Ryu student Yukio Tani, who when instructing in London did use randori, suggesting—though far from proving—that his non-judo, JJJ background had included it.)


Actually, the Fusen Ryu is one of the few examples of Koryu that heavily emphasize randori, even today. Other Ryu like Takenouchi Ryu IIRC had randori around the Meiji era whereas there were others like Kashima Shin Ryu which pointedly never accepted randori, and yet produced bulldozers like Kunii Zen'ya (certification was contingent on taryu jiai, or duels with other ryu practicioners; this continued until at least the latest shihanke, Humitake Seki, was fully licensed in the 1960s. During the same decade taryu jiai were outlawed). To be sure, in the earliest days of martial ryu the country had been at war for decades and the national pastime of sumo was extant. There was also musha shugyo, the period after training for some time that samurai like Takeuchi Hisayoshi used to prove themselves (http://www.koryu.com/library/wmuromoto5.html) However, kata is more or less consistently the hallmark of koryu training. There are a few exceptions, and there certainly was change during Meiji times, but inasmuch as training on the whole kata was still paramount.


More generally, I’m not sure it makes complete sense to compare kata training in weapons arts with kata in unarmed martial arts, for two reasons:



As you point out, with certain heavy weapons, it is not possible to safely practice with reasonable facsimiles. Thus kata training may be the best available method even if it is inherently a bad one, simply because any “alive” training would either be unacceptably dangerous, or use facsimiles so much lightened that the skills no longer transfer.
Wielding a weapon is a very great deal less intuitive than moving your own body around. Simply getting the feel for a weapon and making it move in the way you want it to, with the speed and fluidity you want, can be pretty difficult, let alone the co-ordination required for paired weapons such as sword and dagger, sword and shield, spear and shield, &c. Thus, it may be argued (I would argue) that solo training can be relatively more productive with weapons than in unarmed martial arts. (Still I should not want to attempt to learn fencing without plenty of freeplay.)

I can more or less agree, except it isn't always clear-cut between weapon and non-weapon kata. A kata might have a change in weapon possession on the part of the uke or tori, and many weapons kata have grappling components to them; in fact, the earliest known codeified grappling in Takenouchi Ryu et al is mostly just that. It was only later in peacetime that schools began to eschew extensive weapons curricula and pursue a more purist approach to grappling.


[/I]
Yes they do at 22:50 you see a soldier fire his weapon with laser tag sensors on his helmet. A few seconds later you can see the barrel plugs that shoot frikkin lasers.

and then at 23:50 paint ball.
...
maybe she should learn more about the latest training methods before going off on them

That was fascinating. Are those simunitions? I was under the impression that although they'd been around for ages for some reason they didn't get used for training often. Aside from how widespread they are though, the majority of firearms training for soldiers is historically "dead", right? If technology makes aliveness possible all the more power to them, but does that mean that no one could competently fight with their weapons from the 20th century backwards?


so what are koryu kata like? how do they differ from gendai kata?The primary distinction I wanted to draw was between Koryu kata training and the kata in karate or forms in CMA, the latter two being considerably more commonplace among western practicioners. Whereas it's nearly never that Koryu have single person kata, these are de facto in schools like Goju Ryu, Shorin Ryu, etc. Japanese kata are more or less always two-person affairs. Although there are the roles of uke and tori with the latter prevailing as apparent to onlookers, every attack is potentially decisive, regardless of role. This is also descriptive of the kata in Gendai arts; the distinction between these two is much less obvious. A quote from Karl Friday I used here (http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=115433&p=2671959&highlight=#post2671959) should be helpful in that regard. An expression I've heard used about Gendai kata is that it has been "deblooded", which relates to the crucial role kuden (oral teaching) has with the kata. Being in a ryu, one tries to understand and internalize the founder's experience through the kata, kuden, scrolls, and perhaps other esoterica. I don't believe that's been Thornton's experience, and FYI Amdur is a dude.

PointyShinyBurn
4/13/2012 8:15am,
However, kata is more or less consistently the hallmark of koryu training. There are a few exceptions, and there certainly was change during Meiji times, but inasmuch as training on the whole kata was still paramount. So which kata-only practitioners, without extensive sparring in their training, beat Judoka in challenge matches?

foreveralive
4/13/2012 8:55am,
Just a few questions and comments:

I was under the impression that the gear used in Kendo, the shinai etc, where originally developed by koryu systems because they saw the need to be able to train at high intensity without hurting students to the point that the training would be counterproductive. I can't remember exactly where I read this, but it was certainly in a pretty old instructional book on Kendo, and it's a strain of thought I've seen mirrored elsewhere.

IMO this seems to imply that at least some old systems of fencing(and other weapons training) in Japan relied on aliveness in training, even with weapons(after all, how hard is it really, to make wooden and padded substitutes for most feudal weapons?).

This might be completely off, but a personally theory, taking the above into account, and with what I was tought about Japanese history at the university - it seems likely that kata wasn't actually such a prevalent way of training prior to the Edo period where fighting men generally spendt more time on actual combat than on theory and talk.
Consider that things like "human rights" and making sure as many students as possible walk out to spread an art for commercial purposes where likely to have been much less important(if at all) as opposed to making sure that the systems worked in warfare, and making sure that the only the very best managed to carry on the lineages.

After the Sengoku period however, warriors didn't fight as often, and teaching methods probably changed alot from there(for the softer) as a result of a more peacefull and more materialistic society. I imagine that a lot of the dojo culture back then wasn't so different from the culture we have now, with the Mcdojos etc.

I've always wondered how "traditional" pure kata training really is when thinking along those lines. Personally, it seems more likely that it's a "bad habit"(at least when done to the extreme) that arose in post-sengoku era when a bunch of people wanted to teach the sword to a lot of people, quickly, for money, stipends and so forth.
Knowing that injuries would drive away customers, and that the nature of armed combat would make it so that producing many students(regardless of quality) would still probably profit them more in the end than producing a few good ones, would make Kata a pretty viable way of instructing.

After all, blades with their high damage output and thus large margins of error, render most encounters highly uncertain in any case. Producing many students increase the chance of at least some of them surviving encounters and spreading the word of the style's efficiency. Besides, in Japanese dojo it was the trend to have a few favoured students that the master would invest more time in anyways, so any fallen student other than these, could easily be written off as people without only a passing knowledge of the system, and thus save face.
So Kata is a great way of teaching many, over a short span of time, while giving the teacher time to devote himself to the few he actually deems good enough to teach properly.

It seems to have developed into a curse though, when we start having culled societies where the bad students actually live long enough, in their comfort zones, to grow old and teach their Kata based art to others under the belief that it's how the system is best transmitted - Especially, if all the people who practised the art in an alive manner has died off, or developed their stuff into new systems(Kenjutsu-Kendo, Jujutsu-Judo etc)

Not to say that everything is bad about Kata. I remain firmly in my stance that it's a good way to introduce new techniques, a systems curriculum, and have the body grow accustomed to a new set of unfamiliar movements - Especially in enviroments with many students.
That's pretty much all I think it's good for however, and it shouldn't be confused for anything more than that. Doing so, IMO, is just as inane as thinking that doing primary boxing drills, and bag work alone will make you a good boxer.

In any case, I don't buy the "Too deadly argument" for Koryu anymore than I buy it for hand to hand combat. The fact is that using that argument, and relying only on Kata for weapons training is laziness to the extreme - The fact of the matter is that there exists workarounds for most weapons(padded substitutes etc), and while less realistic than the real thing, is still more realistic than relying only on Kata.

Ok, I get it, you can't spar with live blades - still no excuse for accepting a sub par training method without even attempting to create some sort of alive training methods.

And ok, I get it, practising sword play with fake swords might build bad habits where cutting is concerned etc - Still doesn't change the fact that I'd rather have poor cutting technique than have good cutting technique but no proper sense of timing and distancing in dealing with an agressive opponent that is fighting back.

In summary, I still think Thornton's point stands, even in regards to training with feudal weaponry.

thorthe power
4/13/2012 9:25am,
That's why I think a lot of practitioners opt to use both training methodologies...kata for proper cutting technique, and padded weapons/protective equipment sparring for timing/distancing?

Lindz
4/13/2012 10:58am,
That was fascinating. Are those simunitions? I was under the impression that although they'd been around for ages for some reason they didn't get used for training often. Aside from how widespread they are though, the majority of firearms training for soldiers is historically "dead", right? watch the whole show and you'll know more than I do. i just remembered seeing them using rounds that let them shoot each other with aliveness but still do it all over again the next day.
If technology makes aliveness possible all the more power to them, but does that mean that no one could competently fight with their weapons from the 20th century backwards?
No, but if a vastly superior training method comes along people trained with the older method will be at a huge disadvantage.

DARPAChief
4/13/2012 12:20pm,
So which kata-only practitioners, without extensive sparring in their training, beat Judoka in challenge matches?

Kunii Zen'ya of the Kashima Shin-Ryu was well known for challenging rival schools. In Karl Friday's book Legacies of the Sword, he lists sumo wrestlers, western wrestlers, and judoka among his conquests (p. 3). I believe Kunii was chums with Takeda Sokaku and some Yoshin Ryu practicioner(s); in the case of the former he won a lot of sumo competitions and was known for dojo yaburi. I'm not sure what if any sort of encounters he had with judoka, though.


That's why I think a lot of practitioners opt to use both training methodologies...kata for proper cutting technique, and padded weapons/protective equipment sparring for timing/distancing?

That would seem to be the mentality of Kano and the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei when incorporating kata into their curricula. However, like I mentioned before there's an important difference in their pedagogy vs. the old school's.


Just a few questions and comments:

I was under the impression that the gear used in Kendo, the shinai etc, where originally developed by koryu systems because they saw the need to be able to train at high intensity without hurting students to the point that the training would be counterproductive. I can't remember exactly where I read this, but it was certainly in a pretty old instructional book on Kendo, and it's a strain of thought I've seen mirrored elsewhere.

IMO this seems to imply that at least some old systems of fencing(and other weapons training) in Japan relied on aliveness in training, even with weapons(after all, how hard is it really, to make wooden and padded substitutes for most feudal weapons?).

That's touching on the controversy folks like the Jikishinkage Ryu in the 18th century were whipping up among swordsmen. Sure, it's possible to make something resemblant of a sword and train with it, but it can never replace the real McCoy. Consider Kendoka today: many go for years (if not forever) never using a sword. As I understand it, those put on the spot tend to encounter great difficulty test cutting. Aside from the biomechanical nuances of using the instrument however, is the mentality that comes along with it. Donning bogu and having shinai swung at oneself is hardly threatening at all compared to kata practise with a shinken or even a bokken. So in the 1700s when training gear came into play, not everyone was on board. Of those that did adopt the equipment however, kata wasn't just dropped either. Jikishinkage Ryu along with various schools of Itto Ryu, Jigen Ryu etc. still built everything around kata.


This might be completely off, but a personally theory, taking the above into account, and with what I was tought about Japanese history at the university - it seems likely that kata wasn't actually such a prevalent way of training prior to the Edo period where fighting men generally spendt more time on actual combat than on theory and talk.
Consider that things like "human rights" and making sure as many students as possible walk out to spread an art for commercial purposes where likely to have been much less important(if at all) as opposed to making sure that the systems worked in warfare, and making sure that the only the very best managed to carry on the lineages.

After the Sengoku period however, warriors didn't fight as often, and teaching methods probably changed alot from there(for the softer) as a result of a more peacefull and more materialistic society. I imagine that a lot of the dojo culture back then wasn't so different from the culture we have now, with the Mcdojos etc.Again, you've brought up a good point. With the end of the warring states period and the beginning of what could be called the most successful Totalitarian regime in history, there were a lot of new restrictions in place that curtailed musha shugyo. Directly speaking, there was a ban on duelling instituted sometime thereafter, however we can't discount the multitude of services samurai were expected to perform as retainers (e.g. doing the clan's finances, politicking with nearby regions), sankin kotai (the system of having Daimyo as residents in Edo half the time), and restrictions on travel in general. It was also during this time that a lot of schools popped up. The efforts of Jikishinkage Ryu et al were definitely in response to the general decline in ability around this time.


I've always wondered how "traditional" pure kata training really is when thinking along those lines. Personally, it seems more likely that it's a "bad habit"(at least when done to the extreme) that arose in post-sengoku era when a bunch of people wanted to teach the sword to a lot of people, quickly, for money, stipends and so forth.
Knowing that injuries would drive away customers, and that the nature of armed combat would make it so that producing many students(regardless of quality) would still probably profit them more in the end than producing a few good ones, would make Kata a pretty viable way of instructing.

After all, blades with their high damage output and thus large margins of error, render most encounters highly uncertain in any case. Producing many students increase the chance of at least some of them surviving encounters and spreading the word of the style's efficiency. Besides, in Japanese dojo it was the trend to have a few favoured students that the master would invest more time in anyways, so any fallen student other than these, could easily be written off as people without only a passing knowledge of the system, and thus save face.
So Kata is a great way of teaching many, over a short span of time, while giving the teacher time to devote himself to the few he actually deems good enough to teach properly.Except the schools that introduced competitive elements produced great students and became very popular (Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu and Ono-ha Itto Ryu were formally accepted by the Shogunate as trainers). There might be some truth in what you've said about wanting to control information; individuals like Takeda Sokaku in the Meiji were notorious for keeping things to themselves. This is kind of intertwined with an approach to training were you have to "steal" techniques that you're being "shown"; "if you can't figure it out, then you aren't worth teaching" is the thinking here.


It seems to have developed into a curse though, when we start having culled societies where the bad students actually live long enough, in their comfort zones, to grow old and teach their Kata based art to others under the belief that it's how the system is best transmitted - Especially, if all the people who practised the art in an alive manner has died off, or developed their stuff into new systems(Kenjutsu-Kendo, Jujutsu-Judo etc)I think it's important to keep in mind that the transition to Gendai Budo is not exactly linear. A lot of people did jump on the judo bandwagon and gradually phase out in place of that judo, but the koryu schools that survive today did so because they didn't want to be judo. A lot of these individuals were also highly ranked Judoka.


Not to say that everything is bad about Kata. I remain firmly in my stance that it's a good way to introduce new techniques, a systems curriculum, and have the body grow accustomed to a new set of unfamiliar movements - Especially in enviroments with many students.
That's pretty much all I think it's good for however, and it shouldn't be confused for anything more than that. Doing so, IMO, is just as inane as thinking that doing primary boxing drills, and bag work alone will make you a good boxer.

In any case, I don't buy the "Too deadly argument" for Koryu anymore than I buy it for hand to hand combat. The fact is that using that argument, and relying only on Kata for weapons training is laziness to the extreme - The fact of the matter is that there exists workarounds for most weapons(padded substitutes etc), and while less realistic than the real thing, is still more realistic than relying only on Kata.

Ok, I get it, you can't spar with live blades - still no excuse for accepting a sub par training method without even attempting to create some sort of alive training methods.

And ok, I get it, practising sword play with fake swords might build bad habits where cutting is concerned etc - Still doesn't change the fact that I'd rather have poor cutting technique than have good cutting technique but no proper sense of timing and distancing in dealing with an agressive opponent that is fighting back.

In summary, I still think Thornton's point stands, even in regards to training with feudal weaponry.I'm not sure these criticisms have to apply to koryu kata training. The good doctor explains it thusly:

It should be emphasized, however, that the potential problems inherent in pattern practice are just that: potential problems, not inevitable ones Not all ryuha lapsed into kaho kenpo during the middle Tokugawa period. Some were able to keep their kata alive, practical, and in touch with their roots, their kabala in the hands of men who had genuinely mastered it.
...
Kata purists, on the other hand, retorted that competitive sparring does not produce the same state of mind as real combat and is not, therefore, any more realistic a method of training than pattern practice. - Karl F. Friday, Sword and Spirit, 1999. p. 165, 166

Coming back to the original post, my main contention is that at least koryu kata are not counterproductive when it comes to creating their fighters. For conflict, perhaps a particular mindset is just so important such that the skills themselves are only secondary. If there's something Kunii, Takeda, and Takeuchi had it common it was tremendous balls.


That's why I think a lot of practitioners opt to use both training methodologies...kata for proper cutting technique, and padded weapons/protective equipment sparring for timing/distancing?

That would seem to be the mentality behind kata in Judo and Kendo, however as I mentioned there is an important difference in their pedagogy, and it's not as if timing and distancing is bereft from kata either.

Petter
4/13/2012 12:41pm,
We still seem to be at a bit of an impasse.

Furthermore, Judo's history also relates to Amdur's citation of "historically powerful" ryuha. Eighth dan Judoka Syd Hoare writes:

(http://www.sydhoare.com/development.pdf, pages 3-4)

During the early period judo slowly gained its ascendancy over the surviving ju-jitsu schools but did not have its own way by any means. Jujitsu schools such as the [Fusen-ryu], Takeuchi-ryu and the Yoshin-ryu and others gave the Kodokan masters some very hard times especially with their groundwork and leg locks.
The clear implication here is that kata-only jujutsuka were able to put up a good fight against judoka.


Though you are also assuming that Fusen-ryu jujutsuka did not have any form of randori, or otherwise trained in an alive manner (e.g. by going out and picking fights)—unless you have evidence of this? Do we know this to be true? I don’t think that anyone has argued that no randori ever happened in any ryu-ha before the Kodokan, although Kano may have made it a more core component and adapted his curriculum around it to an unprecedented degree.

Thus the assertion (or, as you put it, your “suspicion”) that judoka’s trouble with jujutsuka means that kata training made the latter competent fighters rests on the implicit assumption that their training was strictly kata-based: an assumption that you neither stated nor substantiated in the post. (Mention has occasionally been made of Fusen-Ryu student Yukio Tani, who when instructing in London did use randori, suggesting—though far from proving—that his non-judo, JJJ background had included it.)

Actually, the Fusen Ryu is one of the few examples of Koryu that heavily emphasize randori, even today. Other Ryu like Takenouchi Ryu IIRC had randori around the Meiji era whereas there were others like Kashima Shin Ryu which pointedly never accepted randori
So out of the three ryu-ha specifically mentioned as posing a challenge to the Kodokan (Fusen-ryu, Takeuchi-ryu, Yoshin-ryu, at least one did heavily emphasise randori and is at best irrelevant to the question of whether kata are useful.

So which kata-only practitioners, without extensive sparring in their training, beat Judoka in challenge matches?
This question remains unanswered, and directly bears on your strong implication in the original post that kata-only jujutsuka were able to successfully challenge Kodokan judoka, with the possible exception of a Kashima Shin Ryu guy

Kunii Zen'ya of the Kashima Shin-Ryu was well known for challenging rival schools. In Karl Friday's book Legacies of the Sword, he lists sumo wrestlers, western wrestlers, and judoka among his conquests (p. 3).
But quite apart from the objection that one impressive specimen does not validate a training methodology, it sounds like he just plain got in a lot of fights. It’s not an organised training regimen, but someone who gets in a lot of fights certainly has some of the advantages of aliveness! The question is, did Kunii Zen’ya emerge from kata-only training already a competent fighter; or did he become a competent fighter by getting into a lot of fights (where for all we know he may have lost a lot of fights in the beginning); or was he already a competent fighter (e.g. from a violent background, lots of tussles as an adolescent) when he embarked on randori-free training? And perhaps more importantly: Was this skill generally reflected by Kashima Shin-Ryu students? The Kodokan, after all, did not gain its fame from having just one notable exponent. Judo is validated by the observation that lots of people benefit from its curriculum.

DARPAChief
4/13/2012 12:59pm,
True that, Petter. I'm kind of frustrated at the vageury in English language resources thus far; I guess I'm premature in not having found better evidence. If I can zero in on some contemporary accounts or really anything more descriptive I'll try to post it here.

Yet at the same time, am I really claiming anything that extraordinary? I don't think Thornton's criticisms can apply the same way to koryu kata training as they do the kata of mainstream American MAs. Even if these skills relate more to a mindset or just simply aren't as refined, it doesn't seem as though they were a counterproductive exercise among the budoka of old, sparring or no sparring. Additionally, isn't it a bit of a misnomer to lump musha shugyo, dojo busting, duelling, etc. into alive "training"? Naturally, it's invaluable experience, but it's not in the same basket as the formal training that would have preceded those events. If one just jumped into an MMA bout, wouldn't there have to be training for that "training" to be a valuable experience?

Styygens
4/13/2012 2:51pm,
Hmmmm... Subscribe.

Petter
4/13/2012 6:49pm,
…Am I really claiming anything that extraordinary?
Please don’t construe my posts as being an attempt to say that you are necessarily 100% wrong across the board; I just feel that your judo example (or rather, your use of mentions of traditional JJJ vs. judo as described by others) does not prove the point you attempt to make.


I don't think Thornton's criticisms can apply the same way to koryu kata training as they do the kata of mainstream American MAs.I don’t know enough about those kata, or what the difference may be, to have any opinion.

I do think that alive training with randori, rolling, or what have you is inherently superior to training without it. I know from ample personal experience that much of whatever skill I possess is down to getting the feel of grappling—of knowing when I must adapt, and if necessary, improvising on the spot. I very firmly believe that kata are poor methods of teaching improvisation. And, of course, in modern times alive arts dominate the fighting scene, presumably not by coincidence.


Even if these skills relate more to a mindset or just simply aren't as refined, it doesn't seem as though they were a counterproductive exercise among the budoka of old, sparring or no sparring.I don’t think anyone has ever argued that kata are counterproductive, have they? My own opinion (whether or not it reflects any sort of consensus: I thought it was close) is that kata are by and large unproductive; that is, a waste of valuable training time that could be spent on better drills and/or sparring. That doesn’t in any way imply that someone doing kata can’t be a good fighter (absurd idea). We might take the position that kata are helpful in a manner similar to shadowboxing; we might think that they are inferior to shadowboxing (because less free-form) but still better than nothing; we might think that they’re just a waste of time…as a judo beginner, I feel that uchikomi/nagekomi is more productive than nage no kata…but I don’t think anyone has ever suggested that kata prevent anyone from learning to fight.


Additionally, isn't it a bit of a misnomer to lump musha shugyo, dojo busting, duelling, etc. into alive "training"? Naturally, it's invaluable experience, but it's not in the same basket as the formal training that would have preceded those events.Agreed, and I didn’t mean to equate them. (I know that I wouldn’t want to exchange my alive BJJ rolling and judo randori for picking fights!) Regarded as training, that sort of thing would obviously be a terrible idea (lots of injuries for very little mat time, as it were.)

What I meant is rather that we also shouldn’t equate “did nothing but kata and got in three fistfights every weekend” with “did nothing but kata”. Kata and static drills can of course teach many of the skills we use in sparring and/or fighting, and we all start learning our techniques on co-operative partners. What we need to get from sparring is timing and the gut feel for angles and opportunities, ability to adapt, and getting used to taking a few shots (accidental or purposeful) without panicking. If you get into a lot of fights, I expect you can get at least some of that. This is especially true when, as yet, we have only one person mentioned as an example of a kata-only-training guy who beat up judoka, without knowing anything else about him. There are after all exceptional individuals.

To make it fully explicit, I’m not suggesting that “he had only done kata, but he had dojo-stormed twice before so it doesn’t count” would be a useful argument against your position, but if e.g. the man grew up in a rough area and got into frequent fights, that may change things.

But again, too: That’s just one guy. We don’t respect BJJ in MMA just because Royce won the first UFC, but because BJJ verifiably helps lots of people excel and many people gain some fighting competence (and on the flip side of that coin: Machida). The more important question remains whether there were entire ryu-ha that routinely produced students of a competence comparable to the Kodokan.

Going back in history, the exceptional individual thing becomes even more problematic, because the individuals we hear about—the Musashis who won duel upon duel—are selectively the winners. We don’t hear about all the people who did kata all day long and were cut down in their first real fight. (Of course, Musashi is also known for carrying a bokken…)

Petter
4/13/2012 6:53pm,
On a perhaps not entirely irrelevant tangent, weapon simulators have a very long history. In medićval Europe they had wooden wasters; in ancient Rome, wooden practice swords were called rudes; a wooden waster has been found on Orkney dating back to the late Bronze Age (~3000 years ago?)—for all I know they may have been in use much longer; we can’t expect wooden practice swords to survive all that well. I gather the bokken gained popularity in Japan as early as the 14th century. Alive training, even with weapons, has been at least possible for a very long time.

DARPAChief
4/13/2012 7:58pm,
RE Counterproductivity: Sorry if I gave you the impression I'd put words in your mouth, the quote from Thornton in the original post states his position is that kata are probably counterproductive.

My position is that there's probably something to koryu kata-centric training, or else scholarly types like Friday and people with considerable experience in alive arts like Toby Threadgill and Ellis Amdur wouldn't have pursued their koryu. It's a possibility that they're all just crazy, but they appear to convicingly informed in their writing and in what spare performances I've seen committed to video. Nevertheless, I concede that there is a dissuading absence of really solid evidence. However, I'm keen to figure out just what the deal is with koryu kata training, so I'll be poking around for more information. It'll probably be a while before I can come up with anything and even if I do, it might be in Japanese, so we'd be going with my own translation (which may or may not leave something to be desired!).

foreveralive
4/13/2012 10:38pm,
That's touching on the controversy folks like the Jikishinkage Ryu in the 18th century were whipping up among swordsmen. Sure, it's possible to make something resemblant of a sword and train with it, but it can never replace the real McCoy. Consider Kendoka today: many go for years (if not forever) never using a sword. As I understand it, those put on the spot tend to encounter great difficulty test cutting. Aside from the biomechanical nuances of using the instrument however, is the mentality that comes along with it. Donning bogu and having shinai swung at oneself is hardly threatening at all compared to kata practise with a shinken or even a bokken. So in the 1700s when training gear came into play, not everyone was on board. Of those that did adopt the equipment however, kata wasn't just dropped either. Jikishinkage Ryu along with various schools of Itto Ryu, Jigen Ryu etc. still built everything around kata.

I have to disagree with some of this. I've done both(being an idiot an all that), and after doing so, I'm still a firm believer in pressure resistance built through competition rather than prescripted exercises.

The only thing slightly scary at all about Kata training with wooden or live blades, is the nagging thought of what might happen if your or your partner messes the timing up.
The irony in this, is that it turns the Kata into a partner exercise built on repore with the intent of harmonizing movements, much like pair dancing(waltz etc), because both parts are taking care not to hurt the other(consciously or not). This is problematic, when in actual combat, the ability to function despite lacking partner repore is a main component.

The point lies in how much the opponent is resisting and trying to cut you back - If the partner is cooperating with your movements, your senses and movements are not being challenged, and thus they do not develope - much like how you don't get stronger when lifting weights if you never attempts to go beyond your comfort zone.

I also disagree that one can discount substitute weapons by pointing to how they'll never be the same as real weapons as a means of defending Kata. The last part of my post still stands.
It's not like you have to choose just Kata, or just sparring. However, if you're going to do just one, I'd choose sparring any day.

At the end of the day, a weapon is supposed to make it easier for people to kill/damage eachother - The fact is that even if I swing a sword like a baseball bat, it's still likely to be lethal or close-to-lethal.
The elitist criticism of Kendo practitioners, that they cannot cut properly, which I've often encountered when talking to Koryu practitioners, rings shallow when you consider that the Kendo practitioner, due to the aliveness of his training, would probably be much better equiped to fight in a real encounter.
As I said, flaws in timing and spacing, are much more apparent and dangerous than flaws in cutting technique when you consider the above.


I think it's important to keep in mind that the transition to Gendai Budo is not exactly linear. A lot of people did jump on the judo bandwagon and gradually phase out in place of that judo, but the koryu schools that survive today did so because they didn't want to be judo. A lot of these individuals were also highly ranked Judoka.

Yeah, I'm aware of this - It was more of a simplfied example than a serious argument on my part. It still seems to be the case that most a lot of Koryu practitioners practised aliveness, either by cross-training, or within their own arts. I think this reflects an understanding of the need of aliveness on the part of koryu practitioners, that IMO might indicate that the pure Kata methods you see in some extreme cases today, are not accurate historically in terms of reflecting how the traditions where prior to the Edo/Meiji Jidai. I find this interesting, especially when one considers all the debating on "traditional vs sport/Gendai budo".


I'm not sure these criticisms have to apply to koryu kata training. The good doctor explains it thusly:

It should be emphasized, however, that the potential problems inherent in pattern practice are just that: potential problems, not inevitable ones Not all ryuha lapsed into kaho kenpo during the middle Tokugawa period. Some were able to keep their kata alive, practical, and in touch with their roots, their kabala in the hands of men who had genuinely mastered it.
...
Kata purists, on the other hand, retorted that competitive sparring does not produce the same state of mind as real combat and is not, therefore, any more realistic a method of training than pattern practice. - Karl F. Friday, Sword and Spirit, 1999. p. 165, 166

I see no reason to accept this argument out of hand.
Firstly, because the "potential" problems inherent in Kata training, are IMO no longer just potential if no additional training with aliveness is introduced. The problems are inherent, and they are only "potential" if you're in a school that are aware of those problems, and doing their best to resolve them.

The extreme Kata approach does no such thing though, and schools that emply this method would rather spend time excusing it, than actively trying to find ways of compensating for those problems.

Secondly, even if we grant that sparring does not produce the same state of mind as real combat, it's ridiculous to go from there to "therefore Kata is better". This reasoning does nothing to support that Kata somehow is more suited to replicating this state of mind, and based on experience, I'd say it's usually the other way around.

Because Kata puts little(or no) stress on actual application of skillsets and ability(reaction concepts, timing and spacing against uncooperative opponent etc), it creates false security by giving you foreknowledge of what's going to happen and who's going to win, and instills bad habits that you won't see for what they are before you get into an actual fight. I fail to see how this exercises will somehow instill you with experience of "the real mindset of combat".


Coming back to the original post, my main contention is that at least koryu kata are not counterproductive when it comes to creating their fighters. For conflict, perhaps a particular mindset is just so important such that the skills themselves are only secondary. If there's something Kunii, Takeda, and Takeuchi had it common it was tremendous balls.

I agree with this - But I don't see the relevance to Kata training. How is that Kata training builds "balls" better than sparring and alive training?

It also doesn't go into the entire heihou perspective of it: After all, sometimes just having balls isn't enough. There are a lot of "traditionalists" that have had the balls to go toe to toe with experts of alive arts, only to face the wall. Skills and strategy get's people a long way. Balls is means of building up around these skillsets, not as an excuse to fall back on because you lack them.

In any case, I'm of the belief that alive training builds larger "balls" than pure Kata training. Alive training ensures experience to back up your theories, and thus strengthens resolve and spirit. Kata practitioners will always have to live with the nagging doubt that what they're training might fail them because they haven't actually tested it. Now some people can ignore this doubt, however if they actually get into an encounter and find it going worse than expected, that itself might be enough to completely crush their spirit.

A proponent of alive training however, can make realistic estimation of their own skill level, and don't have to face nasty suprises of failed techniques for the first time in their encounters.


That would seem to be the mentality behind kata in Judo and Kendo, however as I mentioned there is an important difference in their pedagogy, and it's not as if timing and distancing is bereft from kata either.

Ironically, that's the problem. Football(soccer) has timing and spacing as well - The problem is that the timing and spacing of football, isn't particularly relevant to the timing and spacing of fighting.

Similarly, the timing and spacing of dead patterns does not teach people to adapt their timing and spacing in a dynamic situation like that of an actual encounter, hence, in most cases it isn't particularly relevant.
The biggest detractor is the foreknowledge involved in Kata training.
When you fight people, you don't know what they're going to do, and your going to have to anticipate and read your opponent before you react. This is arguably the most important facet of all combative scenarios, and is a facet completely lacking from Kata training.

It gets worse when the people who engage in this type of training think that their training will allow them to magically anticipate the opponent, or that the opponent will somehow magically move according to the dictates of whatever Kata it is you have practised.
You move with confidence, and flair, only to find out that your movements are ill-timed and ill-tuned to your opponent, and that you don't have the experience or reaction time to participate your opponents movements.

In a closing note:
Kata without suplementary training, is little more than glorified fight koreography. I have no doubt that Keanu Reeves can throw pretty side kicks, but the fact that he mastered lots of complex fight koreographies in making the Matrix, does not make him a good fighter(something most people would agree on).