Jim Neeter wrote:

However for the most part the classical kata cannot/are not found in China and the majority of Chinese Arts look significantly different form the Okinawan ones, my view is that this is because the classical kata are indeed Okinawan creations based on various learning sources of Chinese Kung Fu.

... Mike, I do like what you are doing but I feel that you may be jumping to conclusions in your presentations, Im not sure what classical Okinawan Karate background you have, or indeed what spear art background - understanding this would help me get where your coming from


First, I would like to address the issue of my background. I have had a variety of training over the years in empty hand arts and kobudo arts. But in my opinion, my training is not really all that relevant to my study of the use of karate kata for use in propelling a spear.

It is my opinion that anyone with little training could do what I have done, and that is use the movements in empty hand kata to propel a spear. Part of my efforts on my videoblog will be to document this. I have begun training complete novices in the martial arts, and will show that one does not require any special training in the kata, or in the koryu weapons arts, to quickly learn the body mechanics inherent in the Chinese kata for use in propelling a spear.

Here is a clip of a student with 20 hours of karate training, and about 2 hours of training in Naihanchi Shodan with the spear. I can assure you, that at the end of the next semester, she will be able to make that spear fly. (She was very nervous to be filmed and her performance reflected that. But two night before, she performed these movements accurately and quite gracefully.)

My motivations for looking at kata as useful in propelling a spear have been numerous. Initially I began using weapons of various sorts as mechanisms solely to improve my empty hand kata, kind of like light-weight chishi, using weight to increase strength. Rather than just practice bo kata, I tried to adapt empty hand kata for bo movements to strengthen empty hand movements. Two things happened. One, it worked. I did feel stronger and faster mixing this kind of training with empty hand training. The second is that some movements really seemed to be very well designed for a bo staff.

But not all. So out of curiousity, I tried the sword, and the same thing occured. Some movements have the hands close and moving together, and seemed to be designed to hold a weapon with the hands together. But again, not all. As noted above, some work well for a bo-like weapon where the hands are held apart using push-pull mechanics.

One day I was spinning a hanbo and thought how much that movement seemed like a movement from a kata that I had known for years but chosen not to practice (I am a Shito Ryu student, the system of too many kata). So I looked further, and upon analysis, every movement of that kata worked for a long stick, held primarily at the end. To me, the kata just came alive. Mysterious movements made great sense. Suddenly instead of a host of movements that seemed ill-suited for actual empty hand fighting made great sense as spearfighting in the melee of numerous attackers.

From there, I turned my attention to the kata that I did train in, and again, the same thing. Movements that appeared to be of dubious value in actual empty hand fighting just came alive with meaning. In reality, propelling a bladed spear tip at high speed has an inherent effectiveness that just can't be matched with puny hands and feet. But the way that karate kata generate power, and the way that power can generate speed in the blade of a spear is to me simply astounding.

Since that time, I have had a real challenge in trying to find a balance of practice in the kata that have made up my training (about 10), with an exploration of many other Okinawan forms. And I mean that. It has been a real challenge. I have announced on my blog, and on this forum and others that I will demonstrate 40 kata over the next several years. What is important to note is that I don't feel it appropriate for me to do a kata a few times and demonstrate to the world that it works in propelling a spear. I need to have some bare minimum of competence. Mastery requires years of training. I am not going to wait until I have mastered all these forms before sharing any of them. I am 52 and wouldn't survive the length of time needed.

So I have decided to roll this art out somewhat deliberately, one kata at a time. I will document months of training in repetitions, 1000, maybe 2000, maybe more, and when I achieve some bare minimum of competence, I will show what the training has taught me in terms of applications, and general fighting principles. To demonstrate 40 kata in this way will simply take a number of years.

To complement this study, I will conduct an extensive review of the available literature to further document what I believe are clear indicators that Chinese military personnel taught Okinawan people military arts for the purpose of supporting the tributary system, the trading relationship with China that was the foundation of Okinawan economic life. That too will take some time.

I will look to contributors to this forum and others for useful sources and references in support of this effort.

In the meantime, I invite all comments and inquiries, and will attempt to answer them all, over time. I fully expect that my ideas will result in responses of utter disbelief. I am not naive. I recognize that my concepts are iconoclastic, and that many would never accept them, regardless of the information I present. There is simply no getting around the terrible state of the historical record. The supporting evidence, pro and con, is fleeting at best. I am hopeful that some on this forum and others will helpfully point out where I have overlooked some important documentation.

For example, in an earlier post on this thread, Reboot noted the following:
I believe you should read George Kerr's book 'Okinawa:The History of an Island People'. You can buy inexpensive used copies and new copies from Amazon.com. This would help your understanding of the Okinawan people and their culture and history. It's not a martial arts book.

Reboot followed up with a discussion of evidence supporting his view. In response, I would point out first that Kerr's text is indeed is a wonderful resource that all karateka should read. I will be referencing it extensively in future posts. I used it as a reference in a recent post post I made on my blog. Reboot saw no support in Kerr's work for my hypothesis that it is arguable that the Chinese had strong motivation to teach the Okinawans military arts rather than non-military empty hand arts. I believe the text supports a very different conclusion, that indeed the Chinese had good reason to teach military arts for the protection of tribute trade. Much of Kerr's text deals with tribute trade. Further research and publication will be a fundamental part of my blog, one that one that will draw on Kerr and a number of other sources. (For those unfamiliar with Kerr, or with the Chinese Tribute system, I recommend you read what is available on Google books which has pages 42-104 online.)

Now I would like to address another couple of statements you made above.
"my view is that this is because the classical kata are indeed Okinawan creations", and "I feel that you may be jumping to conclusions"

Above I noted that I am seeking sources so that I do better job of not jumping to conclusions. Can you provide any historical resources that "classical kata are indeed Okinawan creations." Nagamine in the Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do wrote
Through oral tradition and hand-to-hand training, the secret performances of Chinese masters in the art of self-defense came to be known and the kata integrated with te.
My reading of Nagamine leads me to conclude that his research, to some extent, contradicts your view. It appears to me that Nagamine states the kata were Chinese in origin and not Okinawan creations. And in my reading of Miyagi's Three Hypotheses (As translated in McCarthy's "Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts") he really doesn't give us much guidance on the Okinawan role regarding the origins of kata.

I would greatly appreciate any historical references you may have that touch upon the origins of kata in support of your view. Many thanks for any references you can provide.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate