Yesterday evening just prior to sharing some training together, I was having a discussion with a friend who is also a fellow Karate Ka of many years. We were talking on Karate when he spoke about a kata from his chosen style that he hadn’t really done for a while but had been practising the evening before. Of which he then proceeded to both demonstrate and ask if I knew the kata in question, of which I said that I didn’t, even though I’d seen it performed quite a few times before. My reply though went a little deeper… “What I do know though from what you have just mentioned is that this is one of the significant differences in how they deeply understanding Karate in Japan or Okinawa in comparison to most Dojo’s in the West or around the World”!
What happens in most clubs or Dojo’s outside of Okinawa is that for the norm or generally, training sessions are structured or set out on segments of the style or system. For example, many start off by working on some basic techniques, moving on to some Kumite training, then finishing off by working on one or two Katas’. Together with special training sessions on a chosen Kata. Of which there are many reasons for this approach, from lesson time restraints, lesson planning and structuring, goals of achieving grades and belts, even keeping students interested and motivated. All viable reasons I accept. I am not judging here but just trying to outline the differing approaches and how it can be very difficult to truly understand Karate without understanding the basis from which it was born and stands. I hear so many senior Sensei in the West make statements on Karate that are just so out of tune with the teachings of teachers in Japan and Okinawa that it’s an injustice, but so many believe them?
Let me explain… Call it a style a system a Sensei’s approach to training or whatever you like, regardless, most if not all Karate Dojo’s will work from a base. Now if you practise fragments of this basis infrequently, then like it or not things will become flawed or lack understanding. So, let’s say for instance your Dojo way has fifteen Katas, five differing Kumite, and ten other training drills as its core basis!? But… You don’t generally work on half of these let alone all of them during the course of a weeks training sessions over two or three evenings. Now… Can you imagine a Boxer only hitting the bag occasionally, the same with shadow boxing, skipping, doing pad work, sparring with partners or going on a run occasionally? Sorry but this wouldn’t happen as it’s their base, so they work all of this regularly and constantly! However, so many miss this point and approach their Karate training in a way that isn’t consistent with training in Japan or Okinawa, and it’s a little like a chef occasionally missing out the main ingredients of well-known dishes, a bolognaise without spaghetti?
The one thing that I have learned from travelling to train in both Japan and Okinawa over the years is their insistence on constantly working the Dojo/style base before everything else, yes, it is paramount. In Japan they talk of having good form and basics foremost before everything else, and this is what they mean.
I have been a direct student of Senaha Sensei for several years now and the one thing I can honestly say is this, I have never once in all of these years trained under his direction once, be it alone or within a group, without him making me do ALL of the twelve Kata of the Goju system together with some of the base drills before working on anything else. There is none of this practising the schools Kata or base Kumite or drills occasionally. No… your base is practised repetitively and constantly as this is how both a deeper understanding is achieved and effectiveness ingrained. Specialising or a deeper segmentation of Kata and Kumite and working on other areas to be found within Karate will be done after the Dojo or school base has firstly been worked on. You work on the base every time you train! To not practise all the Kata or the base Kumite and drills for a week or two would be unheard of…
Now let’s be honest and realistic here, do you really think that you are going to get any benefit or a deep understanding of a Kata or Kumite drill by only practising it occasionally or once a month!?