With the recent upsurge and popularity of Brazilian Ju-jitsu [sic] and Mixed Martial Arts one often hears, or reads, that kata is a complete waste of time, an archaic practice which has absolutely no combative value, whatsoever. As a progressive traditionalist and having taught hundreds of hands-on seminars all over the world it is no surprise to me that those who make such claims know little or nothing about the true essence of this valuable, but highly misunderstood practice. Originally, kata were never developed as competitive practices or even to teach the art of self-defense for that matter. Conceived by early fighters/teachers searching to develop mnemonic practices with which to culminate functional self-defense templates already imparted, in two-person drills, kata were designed and popularized as collective solo routines with holistic implications. As such, early learners enjoyed a free licensee to reinterpret and recreate abstract versions of these routines depending entirely upon individual creativity, physical prowess, and personal experience.
There is little doubt about the increasingly dissatisfaction with modern karate’s interpretation of kata, the dirty politics of big organizations, and of the conceited “our style is best” mentality, all of which permeate our tradition. Compounding this growing dissatisfaction is an inability for “qualified” teacher’s to adequately respond to a student’s question about the theory and technical application of kata. Even more disheartening is learning that such inquisitiveness is not openly encouraged and that enthusiastic students are more often than enough ostracized for looking outside their peer groups to find the answers their teachers are incapable of providing. Judging by the amount of ink spilt on this issue, and what a Google search brings up on the internet, it is obvious that we are at the dawn of a Renaissance eagerly seeking to penetrate its abyss, eliminate the ambiguity which has shrouded the inner-most intentions of this art, and restore its original teachings. This unprecedented desire for information has not only given rise to a generation of searchers it has also witnessed a plethora of whimsical writers with little or no understanding of the historical and tactical underpinnings of our tradition resulting in the exploitation of the all too often, gullible reader. Myth and ignorance, misunderstanding and rule-bound training methods, developed for the sport, and a narrow mindset, all too often disguised as a way to preserve the “purity” of this or that style, has lead to hypocrisy, fragmentation and isolation in karatedo.
In this time of politics and protectionism it is truly a rare occurrence to find teachers who think outside this box. Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder are two such instructors. I believe their grasp of the kaleidoscopic variations permeating today’s martial arts culture will have a penetrating impact upon the readers of their work. In the same way that early pioneers sent their students forth to other instructors for the purpose of learning and improving their overall skills, so too do I believe that by encouraging our students to study the innovative works of other instructors capable of unlocking the source of new information do we continue to strengthen our art, rather than obscure or distort it.
This publication not only advocates open-mindedness, and thinking-outside-the-box, it literarily demands its readers seek out supporting information from the very best sources available. Although I have never met these two authors in person it is obvious that we share many identical thoughts and ideas. They clearly possess a far-reaching and eclectic range of knowledge. May I encourage readers to look beyond the techniques and labels displayed in this book and use it as an opportunity to examine all kata using the same advice, concepts, and principles which bring us all together.
So few practitioners truly understand the essence of kata and even fewer understand how to decipher its original fighting applications. Kane and Wilder are two young innovators who provide a functional framework with which to help unlock the secrets of these coveted time capsules. Echoing the words of Sir Isaac Newton, “If we are ever able to see any further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Here are two such giants and I hope this publication reflects favorably on their important contribution.
Hanshi 8th Dan
International Ryukyu Karate-jutsu Research Society