Translate This Blog

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Kata Counts??

The kata begins. Ich, ni, san, shi . . . and the count drones on. With each count the class executes another movement of the kata.

In another dojo, same kata, same count but in this dojo each count elicits a response of a series of movements.

Another dojo, same kata, same count, and yet a different sequence of techniques.

Why? I've always wondered how dojo to dojo the kata are the same but the count is different. Learn it one way and then a different count/sequence makes you feel like a white belt again.

The question is simple; Why the differences?

There are several good answers: behavioral conditioning, classical conditioning, even "that's the way we've always done it." However these answers are all only partially correct at best.

In nearly every school the count initiates a combination (i.e. block-strike or strike-block) sequence. They do this not because they have thought it through but because it "seems" right or "it just makes sense, you would block then stop before striking!"

Well, yes you would.

But I digress.

I just finished reading this month's edition of "Classical Fighting Arts" (if you're not subscribing you REALLY should be). Graham Noble, in his article "Chosin Chibana's Shorin Ryu" quoted Shinpan Shiroma Sensei as saying "Each movement found in a karate do kata contains both the means of attack and defence." He then explained "until this is understood kata will appear as a pointless dance. When the purpose of kata is understood, that it contains the technique of attack, and defence, one will be deeply moved and excited by a kata performance" (Shinpan Shiroma, as cited in Noble, 2018).

Therein lies the answer of count and sequence.

If we practice true traditional Okinawan Karate-Do, i.e. "One Strike, One kill", if we practice true karate no point karate then the whole world is contained in just one count. Blocks ARE strikes and strikes ARE blocks.

If a chudan-uke is delivered with sufficient force it is both block and strike. Think of the yakusoku kumites. We so often practice the dance but without really focusing on the point of the sequence.

You can go as far as to say "karate ni sente nashi" is really saying "There is no first strike in karate because, in self -defense, the block is sufficient to disable your attacker so a strike, as such, is not needed."

O'Sensei said "Ken Zen Ichi Nyo" (Zen and the fist are one) - they are. The study of karate without the study of Buddhism (you don’t have to convert) leaves it incomplete.

Zen icons such as D. T. Suzuki advocate approaching everything, regardless of the repetition. Remember O'Sensei? Remember "Shoshin"? Translated it means "beginner's mind".

If every technique, in every kata, is delivered with the solid intent to kill, then a "one-count" is sufficient.

Yes, I know the one strike , one kil may sound antiquated and inappropriate in today's millenial, emo, politically correct, vegetarian approach to life, but we are talking about the 1500's on a little island 320 miles south of the Japanese mainland constantly subject to pirates, Samaurai abuse, and other such politically incorrect niceties of the day.

One count, one technique equals One technique, one kill.

The basics work best, lets go back and stick with them.


Cox Hakase


Noble, G.(2018). Chosin Chibana's Shorin Ryu: His Legacy and Students, Classical Fight Arts, 56, (29-46).