As a mnemonic practice, kata, by itself, was never developed to teach the art of fighting, but rather, to culminate the defensive lesson already imparted.

In an effort to combat unwarranted acts of physical violence that plagued their plebeian existence, early Chinese pioneers of quanfa (the precursor of Uchinadi) developed hsing/kata. In addition to providing its (now) obvious physical & holistic value, each ritualised form served as a collective template with which to address both specific and generic acts of physical violence.

By identifying which acts of physical violence needed to be addressed, and then cataloguing them into individual lessons, innovators were able to, 1. Re-create each act of violence in a safe-learning environment, and, 2. Explore which defensive responses might best accommodate each issue. In order to actualise this process pioneers established two-person drills (what else could they do??) to flow back and forth so that each learner might experience both the individual act of physical violence and its corresponding defensive theme. This simplistic, yet unique, concept provided the opportunity for each learner to progress progressively or exponentially, depending entirely upon nature & nurture. Those learners who excelled at this practice achieved a functional spontaneity enabling them to virtually negotiate just about any act of physical violence or variation thereof.

By eliminating the attacker (i.e. The act of violence or contextual basis to which the defensive response applied) in the two-person training drill, what remained was a solo re-enactment of its corresponding defensive counter. Learners were required to memorize not only the defensive counters for each act of physical violence used in the two-persona drills, but also their solo re-enactments. With their own individual names (double Dragons going out to sea, Guardian closes the gate etc.) each re-enactment was ultimately ritualised into individual templates.

Early pioneers of this tradition commonly introduced the individual act of physical violence first and then used the supporting two-person drills to build competencies. The ritualised re-enactments/templates provided each learner the opportunity to not only practice movements on their own but also to express individual creativity and physical prowess. More importantly, however, the practice became as much mental as it was physical. Taking the practice into the realm of the mind revealed the location where all battles must be first fought and won before it could be effectively used elsewhere. Finally, teachers who used this format could visually observe and evaluate progress by simply calling out the individual names of specific templates in any order during training. What made hsing/kata unique to specific schools (i.e. styles) was the varying signature geometrical configuration of these individual templates.

At the height of their sophistication, pioneers had identified no less than thirty-six (36) habitual acts of physical violence (HAPV), seventy-two (72) variations on these common themes and a total of one hundred and eight (108) individual defensive application principles.

Fundamental training included reception (how to best receive an attack…erroneously referred to as blocking) developing the simple tools of penetration (fist & foot etc.), posturing & mobility. Supplementary training focused upon developing strength, physical fitness and improving individual skills. This entire process was enhanced when learners discovered the need to improve their knowledge of the human body, its unique function and common anatomical weaknesses. The art was further enhanced through understanding what biomechanics best supported the transfer of both low intensity (for pressing, seizing & squeezing etc.) and higher velocity kinetic energy transfer (collision-style impact).

The fundamental defensive themes used to impede motor function include:
1. Seizing nerves,
2. Arterial venous obstruction
3. Attacking connective tissue structures (membrane, tendon, ligament & cartilage)
4. Twisting bones & locking joints
5. Take-downs,
6. Strangulations
7. Throws,
8. Grappling,
9. Ground-work,
10. Counter attacks
11. Impacting anatomically vulnerable zones,
12. Attacking, seizing & digging into the cavities of the body unprotected by the skeletal structure

Uchinadi old-school kata practice, unique to the later part of Okinawa’s old Ryukyu Kingdom, trace their roots to Fujian quanfa and this heritage.

Best of luck in your training

Patrick McCarthy www.society.webcentral.com.au