Today I had a long conversation, as part of the bi-weekly or monthly chats that we have, with my sensei Hidetada Narumi. He remains in Japan whilst I am in Wales; the telephone is our primary means of contact as he is not very computer literate.

We spoke about some of our Gima-Ha Kata and why they may now differ from the way that we used to execute them under the banner ‘Shisei-Kai’ (Gima ‘Shōtō-Ryu) system.

I asked why ‘Shōtōkan always predominantly used Kiba-Dachi in Bassai Sho when Shisei-Kai used to use Kokutsu-Dachi; or why we used Kokutsu-Dachi before, in move 4 of Jitte but now use Kiba-Dachi etc. I asked why we now seem to prefer the Kiba-Dachi. It was a general conversation, almost reminiscing, but with a purpose.

He said words to the effect of “you know for some there is not such a big difference between those two stances, referring to Kiba-Dachi and Kokutsu Dachi, they are kind of similar”. I challenged back with “yes, but the weight distribution is different, the Jūshin no Ido and Jūshin no Otosu, (or Jūshin wo Sageru) is crucial” He thought about that for a few seconds and then answered “some people do not look so deeply, they are more simple in their karate.”

This made me think. We know, of course, that the other styles have higher stances, and they employ the use Shiko-Dachi (a more stable stance?) instead of Kiba-Dachi; still with the 50/50 weight percentage. Does that 4-corner stance make more sense?

We spoke about changes in the ‘Shōtōkan system over the years, and why Kata seems to change so much. Whilst he could not offer a definitive answer, it is clear that tides in Japanese Karate, continue to change.

I wonder – Why did we not use ‘Shiko-Dachi’?; why did we not keep a higher Nekoashi-Dachi instead of the Kokutsu-Dachi? Has our Karate changed so much? Am I looking too deeply? Is it just me? Are there no answers to the questions I ask?

The answer, whenever I question this, always come back to the influence of one man in particular.

The answer – in many Shōtōkan Dojo is always – “just train”!

And there is the crux of the matter. For some the have the ‘how to do it’ and for others the ‘why do we do it’? Some take the more simple road, and just do Karate! I take a combination of the two – just do it, correctly where possible then understand it.

And that brings me to the final point of this post. Modern Karate is technical. Old Karate is functional. I wonder if we should take a step backwards and teach the techniques first as a ‘Bunkai’, then when the sequences are natural and understood, we put them all together as the ‘Kata’?

Onko Chishin!

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