Posted On: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?
Posted On:4/13/2012 2:51pm
"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." -- H.L. Mencken
12th level logic wielder
Posted On:4/13/2012 6:49pm
Style: BJJ, judo, rapier
Originally Posted by DARPAChief
…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…)
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“The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.”
Posted On: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.
Posted On: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!).
Last edited by DARPAChief; 4/13/2012 8:03pm at .
Posted On:4/13/2012 10:38pm
Originally Posted by DARPAChief
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.
Originally Posted by DARPAChief
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".
Originally Posted by DARPAChief
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".
Originally Posted by DARPAChief
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.
Originally Posted by DARPAChief
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).
Posted On:4/15/2012 4:33pm
Posted On:4/15/2012 7:04pm
Last I heard, Ellis Amdur required all his Jujutsu students to have at least six months training in some kind of alive grappling discipline as a pre-requisite to join to dojo...
...so I have no idea why he would try to argue something as silly as "sparring isn't necessary".
I have training in Koryu Jujutsu, BJJ, SAMBO and MMA, have been in the military, plus have had live experience in streetfighting and working as a bouncer. Koryu plus Judo or similar could be a very, very good way to go, but no way in a million years would I ever tell anybody that kata alone might be enough.
And, as has been pointed out already, the assertion that they don't do "sparring" in the military is false. Some of our training resembled kata but our combat drills always had plenty of aliveness. We did use lasers and I have witnessed first hand the Australian SAS using simunition (a more realistic form of paintball) in counter-terrorist/hostage rescue drills.
My guns bigger than Scrapper's!
Posted On:4/17/2012 4:08pm
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)
WRONG! We do just that. During train up for war we do indeed "spar" be it with lasers or simunition (paint rounds). Hell what do you think OPFOR is for?
Xiao Ao Jiang Hu Zhi Dong Fang Bu Bai (Laughing Proud Warrior Invincible Asia) Dark Emperor of Baji!!!
Didn't anyone ever tell him a fat man could never be a ninja
You can't practice Judo just to win a Judo Match! You practice so that no matter what happens, you can win using Judo!
The key to fighting two men at once is to be much tougher than both of them.
Posted On:4/18/2012 8:26am
Style: Siling Labuyo Arnis
As a contrast, the British cavalry manuals had both solo and two-person "kata", and to tell by history, they seemed to do okay.
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