Thursday, August 20, 2009

A new look at old kata

It would seem that my sensei's new-found (or perhaps renewed) interest in examining our kata and where they came from has infected me somewhat. I haven't even begun to delve into the complex history of our kata, as Lowry sensei has, but I've at least been looking at what other Tomiki systems do with their current katas. That alone has proved rather eye-opening.

In particular, I've been working with a fellow budoka, Scott Weaver, on the last half of koryu dai yon kata. After looking at several other videos, I realized there were some techniques that we a little different than what I was used to. In particular, #22 jyuji garami nage and #24 tentai hiji garami.

I don't have a video of the way I was taught, but I there are a few on YouTube showing the typical Tomiki-ryu approach. The main difference with the other schools is that, with 22, uke grab tori's left hand and steps around behind to grab uke's right hand; the way we've always done it is without that second grab. I believe we worked under the assumption that uke was on his way to grab and we snatched his hand out of the air and got the second, kote gaeshi, grip. We also tended to throw it as a flipping sort of breakfall; others get uke's arms really twisted up and then use that as a lever to send him into a rolling breakfall.

With 23, the others have uke step around behind uke again and grab tori's collar. One tori steps under and trades hands to tentai kote hineri, he brings uke's arm down in front of the arm uke is gripping the collar with. Then tori peels off the collar grip, gets his kote gaeshi grip. Again, we've always done it from the idea that uke is in the process of reaching and we snag it out of the air. On both of these, we never twisted up uke's arm the way others do.

Frankly, I think the way the others do it makes sense. If I start 22 and 23 as if I'm doing a normal # 5 release, then why not just do any number of other techniques from the 17 like we would in the renzoku waza (chaining technique drills)? To me, uke's second grip is what causes us to do something unique, to deal with a unique set of circumstances that force us to do something a little odd, though still within principle; if it isn't unique, if it's already been covered in earlier kata, than why repeat it?

I've also noticed a similar difference in a couple of techniques from san kata, the sixth technique of tachi waza (standing techniques). We always did it as a #5 release, but we turned quickly or early so the body contact was close, and you did mae otoshi. Again, the others do it with uke's second hand involved. It's that second grip that keeps you from doing a normal release and you have to do something unique. The name is ushiro waza mae otoshi, after all: a mae otoshi from a rear attack.

All of which makes me wonder: why the difference? Or perhaps more accurately, why the change (if indeed it was actually changed by conscious decision)? Perhaps it's those sorts of discrepancies which have prompted Lowry sensei to delve into the past so vigorously.

In a way, I almost feel what I imagine an Amish kid would feel like when stepping out into the "real world". It's definitely different out there, not like what I grew up with. But, as all Amish kids must decide for themselves, is that new world necessarily any better?

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