Friday, August 9, 2013

Kaishugata and Timing Part 3: Go-rei and Flow of the Kata

How many times have you caught yourself just practicing the steps to a certain kata?  Have you ever wondered why certain senseis count rhythmically during kata step practice, or does your sensei just count out the steps in monotone while you practice the steps in the dojo?  If you have ever wondered this, you are not alone.

In Part 1 and 2 we talked a lot of about the differences (mainly for Goju... but may pertain to your style of Karate) of Heishugata and Kaishugata.  In Goju Ryu, we always start with Sanchin, which is one of our main Heishugatas and close with Tensho, Sanchin's counterpart of the pair of Heishugatas.  In between we have 10 Kaishugatas which may or may not be familar to you or your style of study. Here, in this article, I'd like to discuss, regardless of which Kaishugata you study, that there is an important factor in regards to the Kata's Go-rei... or step counting is crucial to help your students understand the flow of a kata.

You may be already thinking... why would step counting be crucial to the flow of a Kata?  I'll be honest, I didn't pick up on this technique until I was in my advanced ranks.  This is probably because while you are still a novice, you are earnestly trying to focus just on the patterns of techniques and not so much the Bunkai or the application. 

Just a side note... if you are trying to figure out the Bunkai before you have learned the steps (trust me... this shows your enthusiasm but there is a gradual progression you should follow)... take a step back.  Learn the steps first then have a senpai or a Sensei gradually help you with the application... trust me... it makes a big difference.  First you learn to crawl, then to walk, and finally to run.  Natural progression.

However, Bunkai is the key.  If you do not understand the application of the Kata, then you will also have issues with the flow of the Kata.  Those who have a certain mastery over a certain Kata, understand that executing the Kata is not just on a set of monotone counts.  There is a living energy to the Kata... sometimes enough that you will have to focus on playing or executing the "pauses" or the non-active parts of the Kata so that the Kata flows the way it should be.

Many of you may know the Kata, Seienchin... this Kata is the 2nd Dan required Kata along with Sanchin and Tensho for JKF testing (Japan Karatedo Federation Goju-kai).  This Kata has a lot of changes in sequence combined with change in 4 corner (NW, NE, SW, SE) enbusen.  These transitions can easily be rushed through and the practitioner can move on to the next sequence without properly finishing the series of techniques.  I see this flaw in tournament quite a bit.  While this Kata is beautiful with its large flowing upper body techniques, for someone who understands the Bunkai or application of this Kata can easily see, feel, and anticipate the movements even just by watching someone else execute the Kata.  In Kata, Seienchin, playing the "pauses" are as important as the flow of the kata... the pauses help transition and make the kata more fluid rather than trying to push through sequences.  The pauses also help with breathing through the kata.  Learning this was the key to understanding this kata in more detail.

For those who do not practice Goju, take this back and practice with some of the Kihon (basic) kata.  Try to feel the flow of the techniques.  Remember, Kata should start with a block.  All Goju Ryu katas start with a block... and then transition to counter-attack.  This should give you the intial feel of the Kata.  Work with your senpais and your senseis to understand the flow and hopefully this will give you a better understanding of your choice kata.