In a guest post Steve Rowe 8th Dan talks about how looking deeper into kata can help us appreciate it more.
“I hate kata!” Peter was obviously not in a good mood and the days course today was on kata……
“So why bother to attend?” I asked.
“Because if we don’t it will affect our grading….”
Peter was not going to be a bundle of laughs today so I made sure that I was as far away as possible so that I wouldn’t have to partner him in any pairs work.
Sensei entered the Dojo, conducted the formalities and began the course….
“Chinto Kata, what do you know about it?”
“It’s a Crane Kata,” said one.
“Good, what else?”
“It’s called “Gankaku”, “Crane on a Rock” in Shotokan,” said another.
“Well done!” said Sensei. “Anything else?”
“It’s a flowing kata requiring balance, control of the spinning turns and narrow stances…… and its b****y hard to do!” Exclaimed Peter.
“Ah Peter, my Kata expert…….” Everyone laughed, he hadn’t stop complaining since being here this morning.
“OK, let’s look at the history, legend has it that Chinto kata was created by a famous martial artist called Matsumura. Chinto was a Chinese sailor shipwrecked on Okinawa during a typhoon and was forced to steal food from the locals at night to survive. Matsumura was sent to find Chinto and arrest him.
When they met, Chinto was able to side step and counter attack all of Matsumura’s best techniques and he was unable to hit Chinto even once, this obviously left him perplexed and Chinto managed to escape and hide in a graveyard. Matsumura falsely reported Chinto’s demise and then befriended him, agreeing not to report him if he taught him this amazing style of Chinese boxing.
Chinto’s style of Chinese boxing was Chuan Fa, which was popular on China’s southeastern coast, Matsumura learned this style and formulated the kata from the knowledge gained”.
“So the kata is of Okinawan origin, but from Chinese roots?” Asked Peter, now becoming intrigued
“Yes, that’s correct. Chinto has been translated as “Fighting to the East”, “Eastward Fighter” or “Calming the Waves”.
“Why should we learn it?”
“It is good for learning to be able to fight on uneven ground, pivoting and side-stepping to defend against an opponent, then following with rapid counter-attacks.
Chinto can also be classed as an advanced and deceptive kata, it includes clever stance shifting with unpredictable counter-attacks. It moves quickly with a “wave like” motion, a bit like fast Taiji, and uses several spinning techniques. The footwork follows a straight line with the strategy of using angle attack/defence across it.
Because you don’t remain in any stance for long, you are taught to think more of rhythm and timing than of a rigid position. Continuous movement requires you to give each technique clear intention and to retain balance.
Chinto teaches “illusive fighting” which is challenging to master, but also difficult to defend against. With good footwork, flexible twisting of the torso, and rapid-fire execution of counters, Chinto’s lessons prepare you for broadening your awareness within the Martial Arts.”
“Sounds interesting….” Said Peter now completely “hooked”.
“If you can add these qualities to your arsenal, then you won’t fall into the trap of the “stiff” Karateka, make the techniques “blend”, don’t treat them as basics put together, but learn to blend them without losing their original clarity.
Practise the form non-stop, slowly at first and increasing the tempo as your skill improves.”
Sensei then gave a demonstration of the form that brought the Crane to life, he “took off”, spun, twisted, rose and fell like a Crane in battle, he “shook” like a crane shaking off water, using his arms like powerful wings. By emulating the spirit of the bird he weaved a magic over the onlookers that served to inspire them.
He then demonstrated how the kata was constructed so that the applications could be put together in a multitude of different formats, it seemed that any technique or combination could be combined with any other technique or combination in the entire kata!
“All Martial Arts are based on the snake and the crane, in mythology, the snake represents all that binds us to the earth and the crane our aspirations towards the heavens, this is the state of the human being, stretched between heaven and earth.
Kata is our oral tradition, when you are bored, Peter, by fighting others and mindless training, then you will be ready to open the doors to the instruction of the past generations and learn how to defeat the real enemy within yourself, and only then can you find real peace……..”
Wado Ryu founder Hironori Ohtsuka (10th Dan IMAF) performing the Wado Ryu version of Chinto: