What is Kata? What is a Technique? When all is said and done, what is the value of a 'Style' to begin with and why learn it?
There was a great book I read a few years ago called 'Five Years, One Kata' by a Karateka named Bill Burgar who had taken the Kata Gojushiho and ripped it apart for five years, coming to an understanding so deep that it would literally take him weeks to go through even one portion of the Kata.
By the end of the book he had reached an insight that it would be far better to study one's self and create their own Kata based on their findings than to study someone else's Kata because it, ultimately, made no sense to do so... Especially if a Student's goal is to apply what they have learned and apply it right away.
There is another great book I am reading right now written by a man named Richard Moore and it is basically about empowering the individual to utilize their FIRST nature because it is always much faster and more effective than what they have programmed into their SECOND nature.
It is an interesting concept, it does go a long way to put down repetitious training and the like basically stating that everything you have now is everything you need, you just need to pay attention and trust it, but how does one come to trust it if not through repetitious trainin (exposure)?
I agree wholeheartedly with both authors...
The Human Body can only move in so many ways and what does Kata amount to but the stringing together of the same basic movements in different patterns?
The Author, Richard Moore, says it best when he says, and I am paraphrasing, it is better to see what happens with what you have in different situations than to learn hundreds of different techniques to deal with hundreds of different situations.
This is true when you watch various fight videos that show people using some of the most basic things to put down an attacker on the street, or snapping back from a position after being taken by surprise, but again, with some of the simplest of things in order to put down the attacker... Situations vary, but the goal remains the same and so do the basic movements, just varied depending on things like distance, position, and circumstance.
With Kata being basically the same thing wrapped up in different ways, what is the thing that has been wrapped up?
The original findings of the original practitioner pointing to something they came to understand that was important enough for them to pass on... These things do have value, but only insofar as they can teach something.
If one becomes stuck on these things to the point of reverence then what is it they can actually teach? Have they not died at the point they can no longer lead to personal growth and point toward the deeper levels of the practitioner him or her self??
If they are utilized properly then they are powerful in that they provide deep lessons, but point beyond themselves at the same time... Pointing to the true center of your practice, which should be the path to your true, unhindered self.
What this means is that the Kata themselves are unimportant, the basics are unimportant, the techniques are unimportant, even the deeper concepts of mechanics are unimportant.
Broken down to the least common denominator, reacting with what you ALREADY HAVE is the most important thing to learn, thus you must unlearn all the other crap and get back to basics, there is nothing OUT THERE that is worth more than what is already WITHIN.
My Sensei would teach a new Kata and when you went back through it to repeat the sequences and forgot a step he would NOT help you, he would LET you work it out just to see what you came up with on the fly.
It didn't matter if it was right or wrong, what mattered was that it came from within and THAT is the true essence of Budo... Rediscovering what Richard Moore calls your First Nature and utilizing THAT as your primary way because its authenticity makes it most effective for YOU.