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Making Sense Of The Universe With Kata/Form


“As Above – So Below”

In ritual magic you affect the macrocosm by understanding and changing the microcosm.

If you want to really understand kata/form and what was in the mind of the originators and you have enough knowledge – try inventing your own.

Why would you invent one?
It would have to improve the understanding and standard of the practitioner.
Do you want to categorise an entire training system into one form?
Maybe there are specific ideas and principles that you want to put together and train in one sequence?

Very quickly you will begin to understand the problems the originators had and how they had to overcome them. You realise that some are an entire training system compressed into one form, that you have to look beyond the technique to see the ideas and principles that are being trained, because there’s no point in endless repetition of the same idea with different techniques, then some are focusing on body skills like the internal system, core manipulation or power sourcing. It’s only when you try to do this and walk in the shoes of the ancestors that the doors of understanding open to you.

You can’t communicate on a broken phone….

On a deeper level, by widening your perspective, you realise that the basic ideas behind all martial training is align the body, breath and mind ( ‘Sanchin’ the resolution of the conflict of mind, body and breath) that brings about a harmony where the wordless language of your body and the rest of universe can be perceived, felt and heard. When the mechanism of your universal communicator is fixed, an entirely new perspective is found.

This gives you the opportunity to understand the universe around you, how do you do that?

By using your newly found skills to ask the questions.

Why would you invent a universe?
It may be the result of one mind or an evolutionary process by accident, or most probably something well beyond the mind of mankind, but the result is the same.
Does the universe have a purpose?
If it does what could it be?
Why does it have to be a world of opposites?
How is everything joined up?
How does it communicate?
Who am ‘I’ and what is my place in it and how do I fit in with harmony?

You realise that you’ve taken the first steps by fixing the communicator, that the universe was talking to you all the time but your communicator was broken.

Now you can receive as well as transmit more fruitfully.

The meditative conversation begins…..

“When you speak it is silent, when you are silent it speaks…”

Articles, Uncategorized

Fighting Yourself

steve pad


In the Martial Arts we often talk about how ‘the biggest opponent we have to fight is the one inside of ourselves’ and that ‘when performing solo moves we must have an opponent in mind’ although I think the statements are self evident  I would like to put the two together and give it a bit of perspective.

We are most likely to die of ill health. A good part of our health is our sanity and happiness, so emotional intelligence is an essential part or our daily training routine. We know how to do this through meditation and mindwork and I’ve already written a lot on the subject. But what about ‘fighting the opponent inside of us’?

When I’m practicing kata or form of any kind, including weapons I envisage the opponent being present and on the end of my techniques, but who is the opponent?  Who do I see?  Do I see someone I don’t like? That wouldn’t be mentally or emotionally healthy. Do I see myself? That would definitely be self destructive.  So who or what do we see or visualise?  Who or what should we recommend to our students to obliterate with their deadly moves?

I see my demons. I see FEAR, I see APATHY, I see ANGER and I destroy them. I give them shape, I make them ugly, I make them people and demons and I defeat them with skill.  I use my mental awareness, focus, sensitivity and intensity, I use my martial strategy, weapons, posture, internal connection, core and spine power to break their structure and take them apart. I kill them. I disembowel them. I cut their heads off.  I smash them to smithereens. I am merciless.  They are my demons and I will not tolerate their presence.

In a sense I am fighting myself but also they are not who I am. They are invaders that will creep in to a mind that is either distracted or unaware, so each training session enables me to root them out and defeat them with a strong, aware, focused, sensitive and intense mind.  We are our habits and need to develop a daily routine that reminds us of how we should and shouldn’t be and a method of defeating those sneaky demons that we might let in when leaving our mind unattended.

So now you know who to fight!




How To Do Kata

Mick Nursey

How To Do Kata

What was it that made him so special?

A middle aged man going through some Kata, he wasn’t that fast, he wasn’t that sharp, nothing like you would see in the Martial Art movies, absolutely nothing like you would see Kata performed at competitions…… and yet his was so much more……..  Whenever I watched Sensei practising I knew that I was witnessing something very special, something far deeper than just Karate…….  It was almost as if the perfect Kata was doing him……  It always struck me as “other worldly”……………

That was it!  He was putting nothing in the way of the Kata being perfect, that was the difference!  Where others imposed themselves over the Kata, he didn’t!  Others tried to do it harder than necessary, or softer than necessary, they would add theatrics to make it “look” better, extra tension, extra breathing and noises…….  Sensei put nothing in the way and allowed the Kata to be exactly what it was…….  So this was Zen, when the ego became nothing and you became one with the Kata!

I remembered when I was trying to convince some other Karateka that our way was the “proper way” to practise……… Sensei chided me and told me that Buddha had said “don’t go out to do good………  simply refrain from doing harm”…….  I could see how that could be applied to Kata practise……..  “Don’t try to do a good Kata………  simply refrain from doing a bad one!”

You could see his mind working with his awareness, when he was not dealing with an imaginary opponent, his awareness was 360 degrees and his mind unfocussed, then you could see his mind focus on the threat, leaving “remaining mind” for the opponents in other directions, as his mind moved, his eyes followed then his body, his feet driving his centre and then his centre driving his technique……..

As his eyes caught up with his mind and focused on the threat, the Ki powering through his “look” was enough to make the bravest man wilt, his physical technique was not fast, powerful or sharply focused, the best word that I could find for it would be “unhindered” with the power being appropriate for the application of the technique.  Those of us that had been on the receiving end of these moves understood that were far more effective than the “flashier” versions……..

As he moved from Kamae to Kamae I remembered him saying that a Kamae was not just a body position but an “attitude” it had to be a position with the appropriate “attitude” of Ki…….  His moves were seamless as he flowed effortlessly changing “attitude” as if it were the most natural thing in the world………..

He reminded me of and ancient magician performing his rites, invoking and being possessed by various deities, it was as if he had invoked the Master who had devised the Kata and all of those that had spent lifetimes in it’s practise…………  It was as if he had raised them from the dead and been empowered and inspired by their knowledge……  I wondered if this was how inspiration came to us when we practised in a traditional system…………………  Just as Magical systems and traditions were passed on orally through the generations and each successive generation had to discover the “source” for themselves, so it was with traditional Martial Art schools……………..

It was just amazing how he managed to make it look like it was “nothing”……..  But then I suppose that any skilled operator would also make their work look easy………….  A dancer, a gymnast, a musician, they would all train for years to make the most complex moves look easy and Oriental systems are renowned for appearing “understated” and the effectiveness being “concealed”……..

Sensei finished his Kata and knelt down for a short period of meditation, his back ramrod straight and in a state of deep contemplation, I felt privileged to have known him, trained under his instruction and been able to watch the “source” in action, unhindered by human ego………

There is an old Zen saying “open a small door and penetrate deeply”, with Kata it’s not how high you can grow in the visible realms, but how deep you can burrow in the invisible, how concentrated you can become with the most simple aspects of the art.  Total concentration gives you absorption into the movement where you cease to be someone “doing” the Kata and become it.

Our problem is that we often view things from the outside, like what other people will think of us doing the Kata, or whether it is good enough to pass the next grading or whether it would work in self defence application, instead of viewing it simply from the inside and allowing it to do it’s work.

“A beautiful Kata, Sensei…..”  I said as he passed.

“Yes…..” he said casually. “You should try it sometime…………..”


Freestyle (Ji Yu) Kata

Dennis eye poke

Ji Yu Kata is a natural evolution of formal kata training.”  Sensei was beginning the lesson…

“In some ways it is like formal kata but in other ways very, very different.  Tonight I’m going to show you why….”  It looks like it’s going to be an interesting lesson. “If your formal kata training doesn’t lead to ji yu it will definitely  be lacking.”

‘Ji Yu’ means ‘free style’ and most people these days when they hear the words ‘free style’ kata think of music, flashing lights, glittery gi’s, box splits, flips and cartwheels, but we knew that Sensei wouldn’t be talking about that!

“Okay guys, pair off.”  We each found a partner.  “What I’d like you to do now is for one to attack the other in slow motion using a ‘street type’ of attack from any angle.  The defender should wait until the attack is initiated and react in slow motion with a strike that would disable the attacker.”

“How’s that possible Sensei?” queried Jeremy, “surely we would have to block the attack first before we can respond?”

“That is is what this training is all about” answered Sensei, “I want you to see what your natural reactions are and train them.  I want them to be the reactions of a hunter.  I want your awareness to be heightened and you to have the confidence in your reactions from your training.  If you think, you lose – even at slow speed.  If you think of defending and blocking you will probably lose.  The only thought you should have is that of attacking and disabling your attacker.  Trust your reactions, trust your training, you should utilise the ‘wedge’ and ‘spirals’ naturally in your response.  If you feel that its life and death, go for vital areas, go for targets that will do the job, not ‘tournament’ style responses.

Then I want you to go into ‘overkill’ mode, taking the opponent to the ground and finishing them so that they would not be able to get up and continue fighting.

Remember to keep it ‘street’ keep it slow, keep it safe, don’t get excited and don’t panic.  If you’re going to make mistakes, here is the place to make them.  Make sure you’ve got it right for the street.

Okay reihajime..

It was hard to stop myself from thinking, I couldn’t help ‘planning’ my attacks, but when my opponent did the unexpected, it all went awry and I couldn’t adapt.  Then I remembered Sensei’s ‘hunter’s mindset’ and stopped planning and started to ‘hunt’ targets, it then gradually started to come together and I could react more spontaneously.

“Yamee…. Some of you are still intimidated by the attack and need to let go and trust your trained responses, others are still planning techniques that are bound to fail in a real fight.  Use the hunter’s mindset, hunt the vital targets, trust in your training and work on distance, angle the principles and timing in the way that you hunt.  Change partners!”

Practising with different shape, weight and gender partners really helps.  It’s too easy to train with the same people each time and get into habits and techniques that only work on one type of person.  We continued training in this way and with varying partners for some time.

“Okay guys, now let’s up the ante…  split into groups of 4 and this is what I want you to do…  Whilst the person in the middle finishes off the first attacker, I want the second to attack so that the defender has to defend from an ‘unusual’ position.  As the defender finishes the second, the third attacks and so on…  Again, keep it slow, keep it safe, don’t get excited and trust in your training and instincts.  Also keep changing the defender so that you all get an equal go.”

Not getting too excited was not as easy as it sounded; Sensei had to calm us down several times as the process started to speed up.  Now we had to deal with a variety of people quite quickly and from unusual positions, usually bending over or still being held in some way by the previous attacker.  To do this properly we really did have to utilise the principle based thinking that Sensei expounds alongside the hunters awareness.  As soon as we started to panic, everything went  wrong.

“Yamee…”. Sensei then produced a variety of weapons, rubber knives, foam baseball bats and plastic bottles and passed them around.  “This will heighten your awareness and a little bit more….”

And it did, as we moved around Sensei then dimmed the lights, turned on loud music and moved some chairs out from the edges.  Now it really did feel like a controlled version of a real fight.  Sensei spent most of his time grabbing people and saying ‘calm down’….

When we stopped Jeremy asked: “This is all very well Sensei, but didn’t you say that this lesson was about ji yu kata?”

“Well timed Jeremy, because as it happens, this is the point where we have done the bunkai and now need to do the kata.  ‘Free style’ kata is where you now remember what it was like to be the defender, with multiple opponents, some armed, with loud noise, lots of aggression, and various things lying around that you can fall over or use as a weapon.  Now find yourself a bit of space and use your imagination remembering how the experience felt, visualise your opponents attacking and just react principally based with the hunters awareness.  I will set the clock for 5 minutes and if you stop moving at any point you have to drop and give me 20 push ups.  Hajime!

We all moved with a much stronger intent and the 5 minutes seemed like a 30 minute workout!  When we finished we were all dripping with sweat….

“Shouldn’t all kata be like that Sensei?” asked Jeremy.

“It can’t be like that until you’ve got the tools to be able to do it, once you have the tools, you can reintroduce the ideas into your ‘formal’ prescribed kata because your level of understanding has been raised” answered Sensei.

“Free style kata is often misunderstood these days with the musical, gymnastic forms performed at various tournaments, but traditionally it is learned at the point that you have learned the basics and have the tools to defend yourself and need to put them to test, gradually and as safely as possible.  Freestyle solo form is the process of training this method when you are on your own and a means of developing your fighting techniques from the training techniques traditionally found in kata.”

“So formal kata isn’t about fighting then Sensei?”

“We have already covered the answer to this question many times Jeremy, it’s about health, skill and application, you need to develop these ideas before leading up to free style kata which, although containing the other facets, focuses on self defence.  This changes the way in which they are trained.  It would be very difficult to become a martial artist without developing the tools in basics, formatted pairs work and kata and then putting them into free style in the most realistic way possible to test how they work.”


Kata – Wearing The Skin Of Your Ancestors

Chris Rowen 08 004

Kata – Wearing The Skin Of Your Ancestors

“Tonight I want to teach you how to study kata.”

“You just do it don’t you Sensei?”

“Just do it, is a big term Roger…”

“It’s an advert Sensei.”

“I know that Ged, thank you.  I’m more concerned with developing the right mindset in which to study.”

“That’s bunkai isn’t it?”

Bunkai means to ‘break down and explore’.”

“You’ve often explained that Sensei, and then gone on to explain the ‘trinity’ of kata, if I remember it right it’s medical, skill and then application is that right?”

“Yes it is, well done.”

“The medical I get, posture, breathing, no excessive tension, good mindset and so on – the application has probably been done to death!  But the ‘skill’ I don’t get, how is it different to the other two?”

“Good question.  Pick a kata.”

“Pinan Nidan.”

“Okay, everyone, Pinan Nidan!  Nori, rei, yoi……  Yamee…” we all stopped.

“First comes reiho or etiquette, it’s a skill in itself, when you stand in nori, stand properly, with good posture and a good strong, confident attitude. With rei you bow with correct spinal and head alignment to 45 degrees, you use your metsuka to see all around you and only hold the bow for 2 seconds, yoi means that you are ready and take the left foot to the left and the right to the right, lining the feet under the LU 1 points with the arms hanging loosely without any excessive tension in front of the thighs.  Even before the kata begins, the level of skill is evident.  If the etiquette is sloppy, you can bet that the kata is…”

“But that is only old ‘samurai’ style manners isn’t it?”

“It’s good etiquette from old times and from a foreign country – yes, but that is the nationality of the art that we study and a lot of the thinking comes from that time and place, so ‘wearing the skins of the ancestors’ helps.

Now Roger, whilst I’m standing in yoi, grab my arm.” Roger grasped sensei’s arm firmly with both hands, sensei just seemed to expand or flex and Roger rocked back, off balance onto his heels.

“Controlling your own and your opponents balance is a necessary skill, if you can’t do this, everything you do will be hard work and you will be fighting yourself as well as your opponent all through your movements.  The Chinese classics say that first you investigate the form in feet, then inches, then hundredths of an inch and then thousandths of a hundredth of an inch… In other words – very carefully!”

Sensei then just turned his waist slightly away in a spiralling motion and turned his thumb upwards taking away Rogers centre changing his grip into a wristlock dropping him to his knees, sensei had still not moved more than 2 inches.  He then used his other hand to easily take Rogers hands away breaking his weakened grip. He used his forearm in the next six inches of the first movement to strike the kneeling Roger in the face

When Roger stood up, sensei showed how the technique could then be used in many different ways for each inch of movement using him as an uke sensei demonstrated strikes, locks, throws, dislocations and blocking movements.

“The use of the arm depends on the alignment to the body and the altering angles, the applications are borne out of the skill.  Next we step forward to punch, not in the way you might use it directly in a fight but in a way that will enhance your skills, the legwork, the use of the spine and head, the opening and closing of chest and back, the use of the waist against the hips, the stretching and compression of the sides, the vibration of the hips, the use of the shoulders and arms are all separate skills that can be enhanced for various application.”

“So the applications are borne out of the skills?”


“And might not be exactly as practised in the kata…”

“Would a boxer take his skipping rope into the ring?”

“I think I’m beginning to understand….”

“In kata you enter and exit techniques in a variety of ways – so if you practice kata correctly you virtually never do the ‘basic’ technique, you turn in all different directions, sometimes you slide forward, sometimes step, sometimes turn, the techniques are specifically ordered and structured to skill build, not directly for application in fighting.”

“So in fact there are no basic techniques in the form, kata varies them from and to positions you are likely to find yourself in when fighting?”

“Yes.  It takes the principles from basic training and combinations and puts them into a unique sequence.  Different kata serve different purposes, some are complete systems and some are parts of systems and some are to train specific skills. They are then combined in a way that enhances your skill training.

Remember you are also often doing a separate kata for each side of the body and for each limb.  The ‘skill’ can be separate in each part of each limb, in each part of the body and the head.”

“I’ve often heard you talking about the ‘trinity’ of kata and thought I understood the idea of ‘skill’ but my idea was really associated directly with application, now I can see why you regard it as something different.  Thank you sensei..”

“I’m glad you’ve got it!   Now lets get on with Pinan Nidan!


Is Kata A Waste Of Time?


Is Kata A Waste Of Time?

Is there a point to doing kata?

Or is it just a waste of time?

Does it have an application?

That is magical and sublime?

By the time it came from China,

To Okinawa and Japan,

It had been changed so many times,

In each and every land.

The true meaning has been lost,

And by the time it came to the West,

Nobody could remember,

As the value became less than less.

Then along came competition,

Where it just had to look good,

Nice shapes, crisp and focused,

But empty, loud and awkward.

Before internet, video and books,

People learned using mnemonics,

Remembering with rythmn and cadence,

Kata had harmonics.

Tribes used to chant,

Then they would dance to a drum,

Learning was a social event,

Where the wizened would teach the young.

Health was always important,

So posture and breath were trained,

Along with mental intent,

The young became fully engaged.

Fighting moves were too simple,

More complex skills were desired,

Life was very active and diverse,

So a complexity of skills was required.

Battle and hunting was always with weapons,

It was rarely with bare hands,

So most of the moves were armed,

According to the weaponry of the lands.

If the warrior lost his weapon,

His opponent was still armed,

So his techniques had to be effective,

Against those that would cause great harm.

After World War Two in Japan,

Martial Arts were banned,

When Karate was finally allowed,

It was sport and empty hand.

So the reasons for kata are clear,

It is health skill and application,

Like a knot it has to be unraveled,

And studied with imagination.


The Structure Of Kata


It’s nice to get away on courses with Sensei…….

He had been invited to teach on a course that includes many students and Instructors from different styles of Karate so it was interesting to see what their interpretations of the same movements that we practised were and also how they reacted to Sensei’s teachings.  It was also fascinating to watch Sensei’s diplomatic way of dealing with the differences……

Everyone was keen to share knowledge and were all patient with each other to get to the bottom of each interpretation.  Often with a lack of good instruction many of the attending Sensei had worked hard and researched well to obtain application and understanding to the Kata that they had been taught.

Some had explored atemi applications and had a vital points application not just for each move but even each part of a move!  Some of these were painful to learn but worth every twinge……

Others had researched Aikido and Ju Jitsu applications and had excellent blending, locking, throwing and dislocations to each move….

Some had gone to the Okinawan roots of their Japanese art and explored the additional training aids and weapons, also exploring the Bubushi, the much vaunted historical text of modern day Karate…….

Others had been to China and explored the Kung Fu roots, with fascinating Chi Kung uses of some of the moves and applications from Chinese grappling and animal forms, the philosophy and cultural explanations of the names and their applications was fascinating……

We were having a great time and the discussion and demonstration got deeper and deeper………

Finally someone got to ask Sensei what he thought were right applications…..

“They all are” replied Sensei diplomatically……

“Very diplomatic……”  replied one of the other Sensei.  “C’mon we’re all friends here, commit yourself……”

“You didn’t let me finish…..”  replied Sensei realising that his usual thoughtful pauses had been mistaken for a finish…..

“You have to be able to penetrate the underlying purpose for the construction of a Kata to find its underlying principles, when you have discovered those, then a myriad of application becomes apparent, in which case, most of the application we have seen today would be correct.”

“Nah….  That’s still diplomatic gobbledegook, you should be a politician – now tell us what you really think……”

“I still haven’t finished” said a resolute Sensei, determined not to be pushed into a “quick” answer.  “Some Kata are a complete system, remember that that when they were invented virtually no one could read or write so they are the product of an oral tradition.  Many teachings were passed on in story, song, dance or play form, rhythm also played an important role in memorising them, kata falls into all of these categories.  The myriad of techniques had to be reduced to a “shorthand” of mnemonics brought down to their body principles and condensed into sequences that taught advanced skills and strategies.  These training methods also had to be concealed from the prying eyes of adversaries.  Thus Kata like “Kushanku” and “Chinto” came into being, each one being a complete art or style of it’s own when the underlying reasons and principles are penetrated the body skills can be trained and then each skill has applications that include atemi, locking, throwing, dislocation, escaping and so on.

Just think – if you go to the roots and body skills of any of those applications, what have you all just proved?”

“That it’s the same movement?”


“Yeah, but what about the other Kata?”

“I was coming to them.  Other Kata isolate and categorise specific skills, for instance Sanchin works the postural alignment, different levels of breathing to enhance mental awareness and concentration – and the Chi Kung using spatial mental imagery for vital point protection and increased vitality.  Naihanchi categorises and trains the methods of obtaining power through the body like expansion, contraction, rotation of the waist against the hips, vibration of the hips and flexion of the spine so they are designed to work along with and empower the major Kata.”

“I’d never thought of it in that way…….”

“I haven’t finished yet”, Sensei was on a roll.  “Other Kata like Rohai are additions to to the major set in that they take specific skills that the inventor may have thought were lacking in his/her system so he/she created an additional form for their training.”

“So that’s why you are saying that you have to understand the purpose that the Kata were created for to understand their role in the system, their training principles and therefore the applications – it makes sense….”

“So how come you know all this?”

“I don’t.  You asked what I thought and that was just my speculation……”  said Sensei in his most annoying airy fashion……