In another thread we were looking at how Funakoshi’s karate had evolved during his lifetime by comparing two clips showing him doing the kata Tekki Shodan at various points in history. That got me thinking about putting footage of other masters performing the kata on the site so we can look at the differences and similarities. A quick run through Youtube later and this is what I came up with.
The thing that always strikes me is that the core structure is constant through all the styles, that the commonalties far outweigh the differences, and that those differences are not significant enough, in my view, to warrant viewing the style variations as separate independent entities. It’s essentially all the same stuff.
At the seminars I use the analogy of five blind men experiencing an elephant for the first time. The first one feels the trunk and concludes that elephants are like snakes. The second one feels the tail and concludes that elephants are like a frayed piece of rope. The third one feels a leg and concludes that elephants are like tree trunks. The fourth one feels the side and concludes that elephants are like walls. The fifth one feels all around the elephant and concludes that elephants are like elephants.
The point is that what the first four men experienced was the truth; from a given perspective. However they got stuck in the details and the “big truth” was only experienced when all those perspectives were combined. I think it’s similar with style variations of kata. While knowing and refining one core version of the kata is very important, being familiar with other variations helps us to look at our kata from “other angles” and hence get the big picture. It stops us getting stuck in the detail and keeps us focused on what is truly important.
I’m of the view that the core combative principles embedded in the kata are bigger than any style. The “message” remains the same, even if the “handwriting” used to write that message varies. I sometimes think that karateka get so hung up on the tiny differences between style variations that the big picture and the overwhelming commonalties get lost.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy comparing the clips. Please feel free to add links to other examples and I’ll embed them when I get chance.
All the best,
Choshin Chibana - Naihanchi Shodan – Shorin-Ryu
Hironori Otsuka – Naihanchi – Wado-Ryu
Gichin Funakoshi – Tekki Shodan – Shotokan
Tatsuo Shimabukuro – Naihanchi – Isshin-Ryu
Matsutatsu Oyama – Tekki Shodan - Kyokushinkai