It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything about karate. Since this is a karate blog, I guess I should get to it. I’ve been thinking lately about how an individual’s style comes into play when performing kata (forms) or kumite (sparring). Often what we criticize as failed technique is really a matter of style. Here are two examples.
This is a video of Kanei Uechi performing sanseiryu kata. It’s not the highest quality, but notice how relaxed he is. He’s not trying to kill anyone with his strikes; he is maintaining a smooth flow of techniques. He is very loose, and you can see some little things that might be criticized in most dojos these days: a little light on the feet, not gripping with his toes, strikes are a little too high, etc.
Now take a look at Tsutomu Nakahodo, a modern Hanshi-dan in Uechi-derived Shohei-Ryu.
His kata is much different than Master Uechi’s. It’s more focused and powerful. He pauses in different places, he steps differently, and he is generally more aggressive in his stances. I’ve been lucky enough to see him perform kata in person, and it is quite impressive!
So who’s way is best? Is there a “best?” We’re comparing the man who named and popularized his father’s art and one of the art’s most formidable practitioners. One of the best aspects of the style is the blending of “soft” and “hard.” You can see that each master has a different way of achieving that balance. Neither can be wrong so long as their training is effective: it’s just a matter of style based on personal preferences, training focus, interpretation of technique, body type, and even your mood on any given day.
It’s easy to watch the quirks of someone’s kata and proclaim them “wrong.” It’s hard to watch someone’s kata as a whole and proclaim it “wrong.” Everyone does things a little differently, and it’s important to keep this in mind while training together.
With that said, have you run into a training partner that’s a little too tough on you–picking on every little thing? Has anyone let you off way too easy, simply saying “nice job” when you know it wasn’t? What are some tips for delivering good, beneficial feedback? Consider any discipline that involves some peer review; consider golf, writing, or even driving. Tips are greatly appreciated!