Many people are aware of kata only as a collection of techniques in a prearranged order, in a solo format or with a partner.
Some Tomiki practitioners believe that a kata is a set of techniques practiced with a partner for teaching the basic principles of various aspects of Tomiki aikido.
The question can be asked : What are the basic principles of Tomiki Aikido?
- The principle of natural body (shizentai no ri), which concerns posture. This is a natural, unrestricted posture from which it is possible to attack and defend, adapting to any kind of assault.
- The principle of gentleness (ju no ri), which concerns the position of defense. It says, do not oppose the offensive power of any kind of antagonist with force. Rather, render that force ineffective by moving your body out of the way (taisabaki).
- The principle of breaking balance (kuzushi no ri), which concerns the position of attack. This says to go and build a chance of winning by taking advantage of the breaking of your opponent’s balance or by adhering to his body.
The words are easy to understand in a conscious way. But is it possible to understand with the body?
When researching the ways of training, we find out there are 2 kinds of training methods to study the principles.
- The traditional method.
- The modern or the alternative method.
And what about the randori method?
We can consider randori as an application of the basic principles in a non-fixed situation. But we are discussing a fixed situation or a kata-based situation.
Kata was or is the central training method for all bujutsu because it is the only way bujutsu can be practiced without the practitioners being wounded or killed.
Bujutsu exponents concentrate training time on perfecting the skills that would provide the base from which fighting techniques could arise when needed. This was done through innumerable repetitions of kata, practiced with one partner as “doer” (shidachi) and the other as “receiver” (uchidachi).
‘To prepare for randori (free training with or without resistance), it is important to realise, that functional strength needed to perform a technique or waza, can only be developed through exercises not only focus on major muscle groups but also improve the condition and flexibility of the fascia. Kata training has a huge effect on developing fascia strength and your ability to apply that strength in many diverse directions, while still maintaining your body’s centre and balance.
In today’s sport martial arts, the big trend is power that collides with your opponent. If one remains at that level of power, then that person will have a harder time as he or she grows old. Kata training is an ideal approach for older practitioners to keep their mind and body injury-free. By exercising the fascia the body becomes more flexible and has the ability to emit tremendous power without damaging the own body by overtension of the major muscle groups.
Kata training is not dull
Practice is not a matter of quantity but quality. If your inside (quality) has not changed, it will be pointed out to you during your training, your kata or randori. There is no positive development in the repetition of meaningless practice. It is necessary to think with the body when you are practicing. The important thing is the time that you have spent in quality practice, and not simply the years that have passed in physical exercise. You have to realize this. This is shugyo (committed practice).
The whole point of kata-training (kihon training included) is to be able to progress from waza (technique) to katachi (basic frame of different waza) and ultimately to kata or your understanding by body and mind of the waza sequences.
If you practise katachi to study “the words of Tomiki Aikido principles”, you are on the wrong road to understanding. You cannot study the words, but you have to study and practise the body-skills behind the principles. Everybody knows the principle of ju, the principle of shizentai, the principle of…..
But not so many people understand the body and mind skills behind the principles. It is only through physical and mental training that the body learns how to handle in a confrontation. The difference between Kyogi Aikido and Budo Aikido becomes non-existing if the body knows, because the body and mind will react with the correct method.
Studying is different from reviewing. Finding the body-skills within kata, this is studying.
Body-skills in kata
Body-skills can be learned through practising exercises focusing on a body movement priciples or Yōso.
Yōso : literally translated as “principle”, but in the context of our study we use “essential element” or “reality based upon laws and rules”.
Koryu no kata Dai Yon
Kata can have many versions with the personal interpretations of the performer. Koryu no kata Dai Yon is a kata with many versions.