Monday 18 December 2023

Technical Form: 'find what's best for you". — T. ASAI

One action that I’ve been asked about is Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei’s sliding up of the rear foot when executing 右上段揚げ突き (Migi jodan age-zuki), which is performed four times: on movements six, ten, 20 and 26 respectively. Needless to say, I’m talking about 燕飛型 (Enpi Kata).


Some claim this an error, or just a bad habit… Both of which is incorrect. For example, he did not do this when doing Chinte Kata, where 'Nihon-nukite jodan age-zuki' is executed. These points are  ideal to allow me to explain an important aspect: in regards to karate technique'for advanced practitioners.'


To begin, I need to emphasize that in competition, I would not do that as maintaining the elongated zenkutsu-dachi is the set form. Consequently, by sliding up the rear foot—in this case—would result in a lower score.


However, from a bujutsu perspective (and a higher level) sliding up the rear foot results in more impact power via getting ‘more body’ into your tsuki. This is because moving your center forward and advancing into shokutsu-dachi allows for greater gyaku-hanmi torque. Considering, say, Asai Sensei’s smaller physique, you can readily understand why he’d do that with any seiken-zuki. He needed to increase the impact. Likewise, you can also see why he didn't need to do that with nihon-nukite in Chinte. From a self-defense perspective this is all obvious stuff... And this is the origin of our art of Karate and Shotokan-Ryu Waza.


To conclude, I want to stress that high-level ‘technical karate form’ is about ‘optimal effect in self-defense’. While ‘kata in isolation’ is unrealistic, in the greater picture—via ‘the bujutsu habits’ its training ‘should instill’—it contributes to optimal actions when facing a violent attack.


Simply to do the form well, with good speed, power and poise is not enough. This is nothing more than a ‘karate form of gymnastics’, which is what the majority of karateka around the world do now. Ironically, this type of ‘performance’ always results in robotic looking kata, where the unique characteristics of the different forms are inevitably lost.


Rather, bujutsu karate requires ‘active kata’. Yes, the aforementioned gymnastic attributes are there; however, the budo karateka actively seeks how to increase effectiveness of the actions as opposed to being locked into the external form. I like to say the kata are organic. They are ‘alive fighting forms’. This is why many instructors, for kata, use the kanji as opposed to . However, that is worthy of another article. Accordingly, out for respect for those who read this, I will write that: and post that here on the site soon.


OK! So, I need to stress here that “…this doesn’t mean that one goes off onto a strange tangent where the form disintegrates, and Shotokan becomes unrecognizable”. Nevertheless, at a high level must find what best works for them in their constant seeking of ichigeki-hissatsu. Without this constant aim in daily training, one’s maximum potential cannot be attained.


This is the reference point for all of the great masters here in Japan; moreover, it is why the older generation all have ‘unique styles of Shotokan’. In this regard, rather than look at the differences from an aesthetic standpoint (and be blown around by different opinions and various teachings), “…seek the optimal effectiveness of your own karate-waza" and then, via training and systematic testing, THE FORM WILL FIND YOU. This is the traditional way of kata.

押忍, André

 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023). 

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