NBK wrote:Interesting. What is the overall purpose and context of the document?
It´s a short - if I recall correctly 3 (sorry: 6 pages) pages - study paper written by one of the members of Daigo sensei´s Koshiki-no-Kata group.
The paper includes a final sentence about Kata Competition: "But, it still benefits to the spread of Judo Kata.
That´s exactly the point, IMHO.
As far as I understand it's the most recent Kôdôkan Koshiki-no-kata instructions paper. Since it is written in English it was not directly written by Daigo-sensei himself, although much of the contents does as several of the other paragraphs can be found back in earlier Japanese language versions authored by Daigo, and in translated versions in either French or English, such as the 2010 versions translated by Jérôme Galbrun.
As wdax point's correctly points out the piece indeed contains the sentence "But, it still benefits to the spread of Judo kata" (...) which is obviously true. Without the mechanics and the basic understanding of the form you can't evolve. So this part must be properly learnt. A couple of things though to avoid confusion. Although wdax writes, "that's exactly the point", I want to clarify that what is meant there is neither the point of the paper, nor of the paragraph, but the point of the importance of practicing the basics and mechanics. It seems though that my post is somewhat misunderstood. I did not post this to lash out against kata competition. As I have previously indicated I have competed in kata myself. The reason I posted this is that the Kôdôkan (or at least the author and the opinion he reflects) finally devotes attention to the importance of shu-ha-ri and that by no means the geriatric, slow, dead way of moving is what SHOULD be done, but is merely an initiation. Secondly, it properly recognizes that there can be considerable differences in how kata is performed and that some absurd standard sheet of what it should conform to makes no sense. That is exactly the point of the PARAGRAPH in the paper. Extrapolated, indeed it suggests the absurdity of the way kata competition is judged, though not the idea of kata competition itself. The two are not the same. If the performances of Kanô or Mifune would be judged according to current kata competition judging rules and there would be a way to do this blindly without any judge being able to see that the performers were Kanô and Mifune himself they would end among the last way behind many shodan holders. It is that which makes absolutely no sense as both gentlemen clearly perform kata at the highest level and are way beyond the mechanics. A good way to compare this with is shodô or calligraphy, of which I followed weekly lessons for 6 years, and which I have been studying for about 32 years. When you write a character initially it is all wrong. The order of strokes can be wrong, the left part can be out of balance with the right part. It is very frustrating to do so. Sometimes I see Western artists who write or copy pseudo-Japanese since they don't speak or know Japanese. They are much better than me in copying this since they have artistic painting and drawing talent which I lack. But what they do makes no sense. It is dead, it is wrong. No matter how smooth the lines are, everything is wrong about it. Most of those years I spent trying to get a character divided over all the background boxes. I struggled and many other students were much better than me initially, succeeding in doing this much quicker. That's all they got. By year 3 there were 4 of us left, and by year 4 just two of us. I was the only one who made it through year 5 and 6.
My teacher when he drew a character, never calculated anything. Every singe thing he did was perfect. when I did it, the lines were'nt proper, there were blotches, too much or not enough water, ink running out, and I had to constantly try to correct it, which does not work since unlike Western writing with a pen, you can't correct Japanese calligraphy. It has to be correct from the first time. So, all we focused on was the mechanics, and there are a lots of it. This is the same as the part of kata that virtually everyone does or practices. It is the katachi or form. But as in the paragraph I quoted, that isn't at all the purpose of calligraphy, and really it hasn't anything to do with calligraphy.
At the second level, the ha level, if one ever gets there, the calligraphy looks quite different and at the ri level you can't even read it unless you really are specialized. It is there that the power and subtility and true art emerges. The absolute masters, such as for example Tesshu, wrote extraordinary calligraphy, none of those kanji look at all like what I would be able to do or what is in the books. That is the purpose of kata, someone who reaches perfection through practice.
There have been other recent voices of criticism at the Kôdôkan with regard to the overemphasis of mechanics and misunderstanding of kata by so many people as supposedly some rigid mechanics which one has to copy, one of the most vocal having been Umezu Katsuko. Looking back, that also makes sense. When I performed jû-no-kata before her many years ago I did many things taught to me by Fukuda that were different from how Abe Ichirô did it. She remarked that she could clearly see "Fuuda style". So, it differed from what the Kôdôkan was teaching, but ... she did not mark me down. There are still things in jû-no-kata that I will do the way Fukuda-sensei has taught me and were I will bluntly refuse to do it the way some of the current Kôdôkan teachers do. One needs to be prepared to stand up against influences if one is confident it is grammatically correct and reflects pure jûdô in the sense of the intent of the exercise. At the time I practices jû-no-kata with Umezu-sensei herself, which was lots of fun and quite an ordeal since I am at least two heads taller. It was fun for her too as she enjoyed me sticking her up all the way in the air !
I did, of course, not write this post or thread for wdax, who knows very well the differences between shu-ha-ri, but the majority of the jûdôka and judges do not, and cannot and are not judging according to this fundamental principle. The challenge for the Kôdôkan will be to change its pedagogy so that mechanics-focused dead kata which we are seeing everywhere today is only the most basic and elementary starting point and not at all what is meant. Currently this is totally misunderstood. One cannot deny this. One can make a case and say that it is understandable that the focus on the mechanics during Kôdôkan kata courses is logical and makes sense since the groups are so heterogenic and some have never even done certain kata, so they have to start at the beginning. Fair enough, I can see that, but not EVERYONE is still at that beginning, and they do not offer anything beyond that. Secondly, and more importantly though is that when you see the current Kôdôkan sensei deonstrate these kata at the Kagami Biraki or All Japan Championships, they still show nothing but mechanics and kata that is dead and these are 7th and 8th dan holder who are the teaching staff and thus should be the current experts. So whilst it is permissible that in the majority of their teaching to lower level jûdôka they remain at the shu-level, nothing justifies why they can emerge from this basic mechanics level themselves while not teaching and while they should be demonstrating the kata at their utmost skilled level. When failing to do that, the only reasonable conclusion one can make is that they sadly do not master, or those who can do to the impairments of old age cannot any longer demonstrate the superior level. If so, then there still is a level because when those who are so old and senior that they can no longer demonstrate this level themselves, but still have not succeeded to lift their successors' skills to this level then the prospects are very gloomy since that implies that whenever these very old and very senior sensei pass away over the next few years we will be stuck with teachers who only know the most basic level. That's really the purpose of my post, not to seek an excuse to criticize kata competition, for Christ's sake ! People, be a bit less paranoid ! So, in the light of these problems, it is terribly refreshing to finally see a reaction from within the Kôdôkan even though this doesn't take the form of a "formally annnounced new Kôdôkan Constitution". But as said, it now remains to be seen if they will actually be able to pour this into deeds. Because as much as I said, that I have been able without any feeling of discomfort to demonstrate MY jû-no-kata before Umezu without being marked down, there are are many others on the current teaching staff who do not have such insight and who will think that any 'deviation' will mean subtracting marks. How can it not be when one actually has a stopwatch with him and thinks that if your koshiki-no-kata is not 8 minutes long that this refers to mistakes ... Poor Kanô Jigorô whose own Omote kata is of a duration that if you add the shorter and more swift Ura kata would end up nowhere in the 8 minutes region. Seems that good ol' Jigorô posthumously was failed once again by one of his great-great-grand-children ...