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The reason for the Shotokan Kata is as follows:
During decades past in the homeland of Okinawa, where the foundation of Karate was assembled, Kata was studied very diligently and was used as a method of practicing empty handed fighting. You should note that Kata of old and the Kata of today are practiced differently and for dissimilar reasons.
Today, Kata is not practiced with the intensity, the concentration, the power, the focus or the intent of using the techniques as lifesaving procedures of combat as in yesteryear. Another example would be Ken Do, which is now taught for the advancement of the spirit and body, and not for surviving on the battlefield with a sword. We have all seen “made up” Kata at tournaments that, in truth, have no practical value but may be pleasing to the eye as a dance routine.
As most of you know, or should know, Okinawa had an empty handed fighting method as far back as the fourteenth century but due to Okinawa’s cultural exchanges with other countries the Okinawan people were exposed to numerous fighting methods. One of the methods of transmitting a fighting method to the Okinawans was via Kata. These systems were assimilated into the Okinawan fighting arts; thus, taking on Okinawan distinctiveness. This was systematized into what later became known as Karate.
However, in those days there were a limited number of Kata because each Kata held and transmitted the waza and tactics of the complete Ryu Ha. Master Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju Ryu Karate stated, “Sanchin Kata should be practiced thirty times a day; in fact, if one were to practice Sanchin Kata all one’s life, there would be no reason to learn anything else, Sanchin Kata contains everything.”
This all changed when Karate was introduced to Japan. In Japan, the students were taught the extensiveness of Karate instead of the intensity of Karate. The Japanese were of the opinion that additional Kata meant enhancement; therefore, they composed more and more Kata and practiced them on a shallow plane instead of digging deeper into the layers of Karate as was done in Okinawa. Plus, with the incursion of firearms on the battlefield, hand to hand combat, swords, etc., became less of a priority. Thus, Kata became a method of teaching the rudiments of Karate instead of teaching precise confrontational techniques for life and death situations.
By teaching the masses, the methods were imprecisely changed and in many cases, completely lost. This meant that different values were placed on Kata and therefore, much of Karate was lost and it became Karate Do. This, too, is another reason why the few of us who trained in the 40s and 50s trained differently and learned things that are not taught today. With each generation, we have lost part of what was a beautiful thing and the beautiful thing is dying. As you will recall, the same thing happened to Jiu Jutsu which was a deadly Martial Art. However, to be accepted by the Japanese masses, Jigoro Kano removed the deadly techniques and the Martial Art became the Martial Way of Judo.
This is another reason why I, personally, have little involvement with or admiration for what is being called the “Masters”€¯ of today or their Karate Do. Perhaps you now have a better understanding why I say: “Dexterity of the appendages does not signify that the individual truly understands a Ryu Ha.” Kokubashin Ha Gendai Karate will be taught to the masses of UMAAI Members. I feel that Shitoh Ryu has too many Kata that are unnecessary, therefore, I have elected to use the Shotokan Kata primarily.
Kokubashin Ha Goshin Koryu Bujutsu may have Kata or may not have Kata. Shihan Charles L. Thomas and I are discussing the pros and cons of Kata for these techniques. If there are Kata, they will be designed by Shihan Charles L. Thomas and I, and will only be taught to a select few of UMAAI Regular Members and is not to be confused with Kokubashin Ha Gendai Budo Karate Ryu Ha, which is taught to the UMAAI masses. There are many variations in Kokubashin Ha Goshin Koryu Bujutsu and Kata could be useful in remembering the different waza. Even after eleven years, Kokubashin Ha Goshin Koryu Bujutsu is still a work in progress.
Shuseki Shihan Hugh Kelley, 10th Dan UMAAI Founder, Director, Chief Instructor and High Dan Board President