Thursday, 26 March 2015

Kata For Life

Kata champion Rika Usami

 run this routine in my classes sometimes. It’s especially good after a solid bout of Kata, when there is plenty of hard core training and the windows are thickly coated with sweat. And yet…something is still missing…sort of the be all and the end all to the class. The climax, if you will.

So I turn off the lights.

Picture this: the students stand in several rows; at first, there’s nothing but a dark blur, but then the lights from outside turn each student into a somewhat recognizable shape, each separated from the dark background.

Their mission: each student must perform her/his favourite Kata. Great. In no time, voices call out various names of Kata. I see the shapes bow. Then the blocks, punches, strikes, kicks, etc. follow. You can just tell what most of them are thinking…that I want to see whether they know their Kata well enough to perform it in the dark.

Of course that type of training does make sense. Each of us should be able to do our favourite Kata, at the least, blindfolded when asked to. We should have that ability, if we’ve trained long enough.

Well, there’s a lot more to this style of training -

“I don’t believe in what you just did!” Silence falls. “You ran through you’re Kata like it was nothing more than an exercise!”

The lights are out, I tell them, because in the dark there are no boundaries. In the dark, when you stand ready to do your Kata, the place where you stand runs deep into the ground and when you stand with your head up, you can feel your own self expanding into all directions. In the dark, there are no limits to your existence.

You never perform Kata, I tell them, you live it.

“Start again!” I say. “And this time, when you call out the name of your Kata, make believe that you’re reaching across to the other side of the world. In fact,
you’re fighting at the edge of the world, and every movement contains your whole life.”

Now the voices reach not just from the hara but from the ground below. If I wanted to, I could slip out into the hallway and the seriousness – the completeness – of every movement would continue to thunder on. Stances, timing, focus, hip rotation…mix with a deep expression of living.

When the students finish, and stand once again at the ready in the dark, the silence is qualitatively different. If I can associate the feeling with a force in nature, I’d say electromagnetism. The field around these bodies is strong and dynamic, and pulsating.

Similarly, I enjoy taking this type of training outside. I refer to a night full of strong wind and hard rain as “Kata weather”. There is nothing like a bit of harsh weather to make you – as the old masters said – live your Kata

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