Kata Changes

Gichin Funakoshi Sensei admits early in his biography "Karate-Do, My Way of Life" that he not only invented new kata, but changed some of the kata that he learnt from the old masters so as to make them easier. His reason was simply that times change and that we and kata have to change and evolve to take into account the changes that happen daily in the way we live and to the world that we live in.
Without going into much detail; street violence has been around for decades, if not centuries. The reasons for street violence are the same, but the nature of how attacks take place are different. Sure, knives, guns & alcohol are still used, but the increase in attacks from people using drugs is increasing at an alarming rate. That is down to the dependency of the attackers' needing more money to pay for their new and ever addictive habit - drugs.
Being attacked by someone who is on and addicted to certain drugs is not the same as someone who is just drunk or mentally impaired or even just angry because you looked at him in a strange way. These attacks are from much more determined people now and the drug has such an effect on that person that it makes them so much physically & mentally stronger than the very same person would be if they were not taking that drug. Plus the added incentive that money is so much more of a driving force these days. The attackers are also under a great deal of pressure from their gang leaders to obtain "more for less" as it were
Then there is the relatively recent cult of "Happy Slapping" and the like, a new vogue of attacking people purely for the fun of it created by peer pressure from their so-called mates, in order that they can film the cowardly attack on an innocent, vulnerable, single individual and have a laugh at the expense of the victim. Often these attacks are fatal!
Sometimes our civilisation moves forwards, sometimes backwards. Being human often means making mistakes, sometimes over and over again. In time though, we eventually learn from these mistakes and it is natural to try and improve the way we do things, this analogy applies to the design of kata too. Kata's don't really change as such, it's more a case that the technique of a particular move is improved.
I believe that most of the reason for this is that martial arts, in one form or another, has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years and it is only in very recent history (during the last hundred years) that people have started to record such things as kata or forms in books etc. Up until this time they were handed down by word of mouth and remembered in ways as local village dances. We have had to rely totally on these people to remember what the kata were used for. The moves may (or may not QED?) have been remembered correctly, but their interpretation and meaning may not. It has been left up to us and recent generations to figure out what the moves and combinations (bunkai) meant.
I believe this is why there is such a diversity in karate today. This isn't necessarily a bad thing either, but it does make the job of finding the right style of Martial Art or Karate all the more difficult for the non-practitioner to decide to take up and choose. Another difficulty facing the novice is which club one should join amongst the plethora of clubs and styles that spring up every day, mostly due to the success of the internet.
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page last updated on Thursday 16 September 2010