Articles

A matter of time

Yesterday or Today.

The well-known series of books created by Master Masatoshi Nakayama, entitled "Best Karate", have long been considered one of the go to sources of information for many Shotokan practitioners. The books in this series that deal with kata, outline them both descriptively, and pictorially. They include all but two of the katas practiced today within the Shotokan system. At the end of each kata is a page entitled, “Important Points”. It is here that Master Nakayama offers his thoughts on the most critical points of each kata along with accompanying photographs. Lastly, he specifies the "about time" in which a particular kata should be performed. 

I consider this "about time" to be the historical approach.

Recently I watched video from a number of very well known senseis performing the kata, Heian Shodan. In each case the time it took for them to complete this particular kata, ranged from 23 to 32 seconds. Given their considerable talent, and their expertise, this range of time is most likely to be followed by karate-ka today.

I consider this timing to be the modern approach.

This then begs a question. In Master Nakayama's book he describes the "about time" in which Heian Shodan should be performed as "about forty seconds". So when you do this kata which timing most closely fits your performance, the modern approach, or the historical approach"?

The answer I suggest to you, is a product of the passage of time. Since the publication of Heian -Tekki in 1979, more than forty years have passed. In that time attitude towards the performance of Heian Shodan, as well as the other Shotokan katas have changed considerably. Perhaps it has something to do with the talent, and the skill, of that second generation of JKA senseis who were sent through out the world to spread the art of Shotokan Karate-do. They were young, talented, physically fit, and very skilled. As such their approach became our approach where the emphasis was placed on power, speed, and quality, with no time wasted.

What do you think?

It is interesting to note that the last book in the series to include any reference to the timing of a kata, was book number eight, Gankaku & Jion, first published in 1981. Number nine published in 1985, number ten in 1987, and number eleven in 1989, make no reference at all to timing. Was the lack of timing simply an oversight? Or, from the time book number five was published in 1979, to the publication of book number nine in 1985, had attitude towards time in the performance of a kata become a less important factor?

I suspect that we may never know the answer to that question. But, one thing is certain. For each of us our individual performance of any kata remains a unique moment in time. One that speaks volumes about us, and our dedication to the art of Shotokan.

Remember, "If your are truly in the moment, time will not matter"