Here is an article written by Mitani Kazuya, 7th Dan Seitokukai Karate. Mitani is the most senior student of Kinjo Hiroshi, 10th Dan, who has often been referred to as a walking and talking encyclopedia of karate.
About the Kata of Karate
By Mitani Kazuya (edited by Bob McMahon)
There is big misapprehension in foreign countries that Japanese people study a large number of kata. Perhaps a few did a long time ago but our seniors (sempai) were happy to study just two or three. It is not useful to learn a great number of kata.
Kata is not technology (waza) but a style (yoshiki). It is not the style but the technology of fighting that is useful to us. Technology is in a style but the style itself is not technology. Many Japanese karate teachers do not know this.
Thus the great difference in the relationship between a style and technology is not usually known. Traditional karate differs greatly from other karate at this point. Although nobody knows it, this is the difference between Shurite and other karate.
I do not agree with kata competition. There are very few kata that relate to kumite. The only karate kata that I teach my students are Naifanchi Shodan and Pinan Nidan. I use the technology from these kata in kumite competition.
The technology of a kata competition is mostly the technology of dance. This is the reason I do not favor kata competition. I teach other kata only for kata competition. This is not karate but more like freestyle dance. I teach the following kata for this purpose: Nipaipo, Oyadomori Passai, Matsumura
Passai, Anan, Heiku, and some others.
Pinan Nidan is the simplest kata. It is the stepping punch (oi-zuki) and the correct timing and proper distance (maniau) that I teach from Pinan Nidan. I do not know any others that teach this. Maybe there are no other teachers in mainland Japan who understand Pinan Nidan.
The stepping punch is delivered before the foot lands. It is the method of putting weight into a punch. There are few people who can understand oi-zuki from the instruction of many Japanese karate teachers.
When I see the Pinan Nidan (Heian Shodan) of Shotokan, Shitoryu and Wadoryu, I have to believe
that Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Hironori Ohtsuka could not have understood karate. It is clear to me!
There is no oi-zuki in the kumite lesson from Naifanchi. One of the features is not switching the body. It is
“ushiro-te sabaki maete-zuki” that is demonstrated. It means that kizami-zuki is carried out, by defending with the rear hand. This is difficult waza in a kumite tournament. Therefore, I only teach this to experienced adult competitors.
I teach neither sanbon kumite nor ippon kumite. I do not teach ido kihon either. This kihon is for kata, not for karate. These are all methods developed by Shotokan. In the Japanese mainland, karate is wholly based on such training. I think it is a big mistake and will not lead to understanding karate.
I carry out the methods for practicing original karate. Karate practice methods are not about learning kata. Karate practices fighting techniques by using a makiwara. This is the difference between true karate and other karate. The “10 teachings of Itosu” is our textbook.
We can see that Mitani doesn’t pull any punches when referring to Japanese karate teachers. His argument is that Japanese karate teachers were only taught Physical Education karate, or the outer shell, and therefor do not understand the difference between original karate, and PE karate. Mitani has had many Japanese kumite and kata champions, and is not well liked in the Japanese Karate Federation (government recognised, and world recognised karate federation in Japan), and it is easy to see why! 🙂
Sensei Bob first came across Mitani via a website Mitani had that denounced the majority of Japanese karate teachers, and immediately Bob was enthralled. We invited Mitani and his wife, along with a couple of his top students, to Australia in 2001. We immediately changed our karate. There were no if’s or but’s about it.
We are planning a trip to Japan later this year, or more probably early next year, where we will train under Mitani, and also compete in a local competition. The trip will be for around 10 days, and will check out some famous karate places, as well as do the general touristy things. If you want in, let me know. 🙂