I call it the fallacy of expanding time in kata. It’s pretty simple, we do a kata and at some point someone says “what if I do this” and we say “well then I’d do this” and “but then I’d do this” and we say “well then I’d do this”.
Pretty soon you’ve got a kata that’s twelve minutes long.
Yesterday we had a nice seminar in Peterborough, iaido in the morning and Niten Ichiryu in the afternoon. The fallacy is never a problem in the iaido class, it would require students to actually see that invisible opponent doing something different, and since we tell them to do just that, to see their invisible opponent, they never do.
But in a partner practice, there’s a whole different situation. When students are just starting on a kata they go slow. When they go slow and get confused they stop, but when they learn the steps all the way through they get working on the embellishment. It always begins the same way, the hand goes up and I hear “but what if… ” I wander over and sure enough, they’ve got a good point. If the uchidachi stopped there or didn’t swing through past the body in the other place then sure, the kata breaks down.
That’s the point, you’re supposed to notice those things, that’s how the kata teaches you. Why can you step in when he swings at your wrist? Why doesn’t it work if he’s swinging at your face?
Great questions, great teaching moments.
On the other hand, it’s less useful if we figure that we can put in an extra swing at that point where our partner stops for a moment, and then we figure we can block and respond with another swing of our own… It’s at that point we have to figure out if the time for that really is there. I mean, the kata has a pause right there, but why? Is it for safety or would you really stop half way through that movement if you were trying to hurt your opponent?
Tricky, but trust the kata and keep doing it the way it was designed. Eventually you will start to see the rhythm, the fast and slow parts, the parts where you stop, then continue on for safety, the parts where you swing through and miss, creating an opening, because you can’t do anything else. Then you and your partner will start to wonder why that three step kata is so long, you stop adding in moves because you start to see that in all liklihood, one of you would have been on the ground bleeding after the very first move.
I got all balled up with that yesterday, one kata started with a move that ended a previous kata. I was suddenly trying to explain why the kata didn’t end right there, why we were going on to the next bit. I was sure I heard that question from someone. Turns out it was from inside my head and after five minutes of trying to explain that “maybe he did this, or perhaps you’re actually doing that” I looked around to see a lot of patient faces waiting for me to get on with it. “You guys really don’t care about this do you?” Nope. “I’m talking to myself again aren’t I?” Yep.
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