Kata is Conflict Resolution!

Betchya didn’t know that!

Our teachers tell us all the time “The Kata is the art”. So I always feel sometimes students feel guilty when they don’t practice their forms/Kata. Without them we don’t get our belt and that’s the only incentive. Most teachers have also heard folks tell them they love Kata, but because of the exercise component. There is so much more to it than a series of movements and cool self defense moves.

While some folks gravitate to some modern arts, wellness clubs or even a college course to learn a “new concept” called conflict resolution, The Asian cultures have been doing it for centuries. Through KATA.

Students practicing Kata

Some of the modern arts that promote this don’t even include kata in their curriculum. This surprises me.

Nothing connects our mind and bodies to seek out that perfect day better than Kata.

I’ll explain what you’ve been missing….

So picture this, you are driving to work to a very challenging job and you say to yourself “Today will be a great day!”. You arrive at work and don’t even get past your coffee break to realize your day is going downhill fast. Usually it’s because of something that’s out of your control.

One the way home from your lousy day, you choose to go workout or take your art class, go running or whatever it is you do for recreation. You picture in your mind what a great evening you are going to have because now YOU are in control of the event or activity you are attending with high hopes of it being PERFECT!

Guess what….you have a bad workout, or your head just wasn’t focused that evening. So you feel you wasted the expense when you could have been doing something else worthwhile.

Sound familiar?

So how do we deal with this?

Kata

Kata won’t fix your day or your dance class, but it will help YOU deal with the disappointment and teach you to strive for perfection. So maybe, just maybe…. you’ll get a realization it was you and not your boss or your cheap running shoes that ruined your day.

Kata is so important because it connects you with how you think your day is going to be and how it really plays out. I call it “Reality check training.”

Here’s why,

Which martial art has a teacher with the perfect kata?

NONE! why?

Budo is the strive for perfection knowing that we will NEVER achieve it. So we practice it week after week to give it a try. The old masters used to say “Training ends with death”. The older I get the more I agree with them!


You see, budo is very challenging, so on the way to the dojo we create in our minds, visions of awesomeness only to get humbled each and every time, then that reality check comes. And sometimes we don’t even need our teachers to show us. We can just FEEL it. And that is what kata is, a feeling of your own being. Kata is where you come from and where you are going, It truly is in your own control, regardless of mental or physical challenges.

It differs from a regular workout with short term goals and a personal trainer blowing smoke up your behind for your credit card number.

Your personal reality of expectations consists of your thoughts, goals and dreams. This what you have on the inside

The reality check consists of things like your mean boss or those lousy running shoes. This is what you have on the outside

Rarely does the outside and the inside of us match perfectly in daily life. We live all day with tiny little reality checks.

The current trends of the youth (and the adults) not being able to handle life’s stress could be because they don’t know to deal with life’s reality. We have no teachers and we don’t know how to teach ourselves without help. Counselors these days have very busy waiting rooms..

The “reality check” is caused by a situation in which a person’s vision clashes with new situation perceived by the person. How we train to handle it is up to us. It’s not easy

Student practicing Jo-Staff Kata

Social media’s quick gratification of “Likes”, absent parenting and a quick “good for you!” or a trophy from peers can do more damage then you may think. Kata can help…

Kata is a drill of little “mini reality checks” for a period of time with constant feedback of correction both inside from yourself and outside from your instructor. (There’s that inside and outside thing again).

The more Kata you do in one session, the more tired you get both physically and mentally while dealing with the reality check. One can imagine the heartbreak and pain of kata the more fatigued one becomes.

No Pain no Gain!

One big difference between Kata and a gym workout or a treadmill is Kata is so much more than a stress outlet, it teaches you about your character, not just how far you are willing to run or how many reps you are willing to do. Kata takes practice practice practice with a teacher. If you skip the gym for a month you may have to “start over” at that lower weight or reps again and you’ve lost everything you worked hard for.

Kata stays with you for life…. including the lessons.

Oh and you learn self defense techniques which is what brought you into the dojo to begin with….Right? Think about it.

Kata never stops, when I was a young Bruce Lee fan learning Pinan/Heihan style forms in a Tae Kwan Do school, A down block was a down block. No questions, that was the end of the lesson. Just get stronger for the bigger kicks coming at you. As I got older and developed my kata I was able to understand when an older teacher told me the down block is really a throw while escaping a kick.

Huh?

Kata grows with us. Ask any Orthopedic Doctor how many non-competitive martial arts injuries they get in their office per week. Then ask them how many football kids limp in the waiting rooms. Yes as we get older Kata means something different to us…

Not only does A Kata performed for a lifetime bring back memories of lessons and teachers but it also teaches it’s own little “reality checks” in the Kata itself, which means we need to reach even deeper to swallow the life lesson!

Iaido Sword Kata practice

Imagine how I felt when I was told I had been practicing a sword Kata wrong for 12 years….

ANGRY?

No, I got excited. It was a new lesson and it’s easier and actually enjoyable to absorb because I have been practicing that Kata for 12 years…..incorrectly. Also I was able to apply that lesson to other Kata. It was an eye opening budo experience that I would not have enjoyed if I didn’t practice.

Make sense? It may not, unless you practice Kata.

YOUR Kata will NEVER be as good as you think it can be.

It’s human nature to judge other people based on what they do on the outside which are their actions. In the meantime we judge ourselves based on our insides which are real intentions. (There’s that inside-outside connection again.)

Wait, so Kata teaches us Human Nature?

Yes

Every time you practice. Study yourself instead of the students beside you. When you study yourself, you are studying human nature. Most humans behave the same…

And none of us are perfect, right?

Once you figure this out, your lack of perfection no longer matters because your journey to the achieve the perfect kata is gone. Working on making it perfect is the desire and the fun.

How many times have we heard that famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote “Life is a journey not a destination” He was a pretty smart guy and teacher. He would have been a great Martial Arts teacher.

Pinan Kata

   Kata helps us on this journey making the world at least a place that’s understandable through our own little private checks and balances. It also provides a physical/mental workout and awesome life preserving skills as well. Not to mention the fun, especially with a room full of others yelling and screaming and hitting things….

Give it a shot!

So what happens when that dedicated student does mange to perfect a kata (In his or her eyes) and makes that destination with nothing left to look forward too?

We have more kata….

Now go practice…

Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

Tom, Rhode Island Budo Academy

Martial Arts Symposium March 29,30,31 Manchester NH

Brush Fist and Steel 2019 Seekonk MA September 7th.

The Gathering 2019, Reno Nevada October 12th

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www.skski.net

Studying Ourselves

What an incredible weekend with Hanshi Bruce Juchnik’s instructor/curriculum seminar this past weekend hosted by Sensei Jeff Driscoll at his dojo in Potsville PA.

Accompanying me was my senior student and good friend Valerie and also another good friend Sensei Brian Kreizinger the director of the New England Martial Arts dojo in Seekonk MA which is were our group is located. Both Valerie and Brian wanted to meet Hanshi and the other Yudansha from the Kai and they weren’t disappointed

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Other instructors from all over the country and even my friend Sensei  Bart De Baker of  Belgium was in attendance. It’s incredible that Kosho Ryu is even in Europe amongst other countries around the world and each time I attend, I make new friends and learn from them, especially Hanshi.  It’s always important for the teachers to get together to learn and share with each other.

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We started Friday and went all weekend right up until Sunday afternoon. Hanshi spent a lot of time helping us understand natural law and how and why the body moves the way it does. Everything from the ground up was covered even sight and sound was demonstrated. The emphasis in all of his lessons are the three levels of study called the Sho Chiku Bai. These words are familiar to most Kempo practitioners, however when they are explained as what they really are which are Low Mid and high arts, it really put things in perspective.

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This three level study includes everything including eye direction, breathing and all movement no matter how slight! Slight and subtle movements were highly appreciated and concentrated on. Tension and release of not only ourselves but our partner played a big part. One plus one equals one I was told…. It was incredible and I have so much to work on and share. So much to think about!

Hanshi also took us all really deep into the historical aspect of martial arts and how most arts really do come from the same origins. Some styles of the same art may have been created for political, religious or physical limitations of the teachers but the origins of the teachers before us is the essence.  It was very interesting and informative. Hanshi also  mentioned that when practitioners segregate themselves from other “styles” it does nobody any good because no one learns from each other and no one grows. “Look for similarities” I was also told, that is Kempo….

We then were told to observe while some of us tried to  imitate each other when we walked talked and then engaged each other physically.  It was easier to do then they thought, and the laughter in the room proved that it really isn’t hard to imitate each other when you spend time with them. The lesson here was that it is true that we emulate our teachers both in and out of the dojo. A Great lesson and a great time.

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On the final day we studied Kata and it’s importance in preparatory movement before each “step” or “move”, and that transition of movement is were the study really is. At the same time focusing on the three levels of study. Sho Chiku Bai. It never left us all weekend. Also to break free of kata and REALLY study it in different forms of movement. A lot of eyes were opened including mine.

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At the end of the seminar we then took some pictures exchanged gifts and goodwill to each other and parted ways to go back to were we came from keeping in mind we really do all come from the the same place both in budo and in life in general, a humbling weekend.  I’m privileged to be among these folks and an incredible organization with outstanding teachers.

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What I took from it all and sometimes I forget, is that Kempo is simply the study of ourselves, natural law and how the mind, body and spirit works as one. The hard part is the application. But like Hanshi told me. “Just don’t be Stupid!”

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I would like to sincerely like to thank Sensei Jeff Driscoll for hosting and to Hanshi Bruce Juchnik and the other Yudansha for making the trip and sharing with my friends and myself what they have so we can then share with others. We look forward to the next Gathering in Reno Nevada in Ocober. For more info on Kosho Ryu Kempo and the upcoming events go to www.skski.net 

Yours in Budo,

Tom