Surface Area or Depth? – Oct 24, 2014, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

Lots of schools and kata or stick to one school and drill down deep? I listed all of the kata we do in our dojo and came up with 240 or so in six or seven different schools. How useful is that? What about sticking to 12 kata and doing them really well, is that better?

One art or many arts, one kata or many, it’s the process that’s the key to what you’re trying to do, not the particular art.

For example, it’s the concentration on what you’re doing that provides the meditative benefits of practice, not the specific movement. You could be counting breaths, arranging flowers, making tea or tapping sticks together, as long as you’re being mindful of what you’re doing right now, in the moment, you aren’t cycling through useless and destructive thoughts about the rest of your life.

So learning kata after kata of different weapons, or doing a single kata with deeper and deeper understanding would both be about equal for keeping your thoughts about the job and the wife to a minimum.

Another aspect would be to consider what the “founder” of your lineage knew… if he knew a little about a lot, he’d teach that, if he knew a lot about one thing, he might teach that. Unless you’re making it up as you go, you teach what you know.

Third way of looking at big-kata-numbers schools would be as a “commercial” enterprise. Musashi made cracks about Katori Shinto Ryu being flashy “to attract students”. Why wouldn’t this be a simple statement of what actually happened back then, it happens now. Students like learning lots and lots of different kata and weapons, it gives the illusion of learning (stay on the steep part of the learning curve) and it’s more fun that doing the same boring thing over and over again. Let’s face it, those who choose martial arts for their self improvement over, say, zen sitting are probably a bit ADD to begin with, want new stuff all the time to distract them rather than just counting breaths and staring at the tip of their nose for hours, days and years.

Unemployed warrior, knows lots of moves with spear, sword, staff, and has no other job… lots of time to practice it all…. sogo bujutsu.

Later on you get a fellow with a job, wife, kids, Chamber of Commerce meetings, he may decide to concentrate on the sword since he likes that best… kenjutsu and the rest of it is “lost”.

A generation or so later, a headmaster finds sword students a bit rare, and stick fighting becoming popular… hey we just decided to start teaching the ancient stick arts of our school! Battlefield tested!

In other words, why would the martial arts world of 1607 be so different than that of 2014? Students show up to learn how to be bad-butt fighters, and end up staying because…. well they’re never really sure why but they do.

Along the way they may 1. become better people because martial arts make them better people or 2. become better because one becomes a better person as one gets older. Who knows?

Stick with the process, you can get the canoe across the lake with a teaspoon if you stick at it long enough.

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