Getting home

Finishing on the spot.

In Shotokan karate it is not uncommon to be taught that each kata, regardless of its length, or complexity, should start and finish on exactly the same spot. Over the years, however, I have come to believe that the objective of "getting back home" as it is commonly referred to, was never the original intent.

Now I have taken a bit of flack for my point of view. So, it was with great interest that I one day came across an article by Seamus O'Dowd, at that time a 5th Dan with the SKIF. The article appeared in issue #71 of Shotokan Karate Magazine, in May of 2002.

The article detailed an interview he had in October of 2001 with Shihan Hirokazu Kanazawa shortly after the European Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the article Seamus quotes Shihan Kanazawa who states: "It is also true that stepping forward and back three times will assist in returning the performer to the same place as they started the kata. But, originaly kata mostly did not finish where they started. This is a modern concept."

It is likely that this "modern concept" began life around 1956 when Master Funakoshi finally agreed that Shotokan katas could be performed in a public setting for the very first time. History tells us that this lead to Master Funakoshi and Shihan Nakayama spending a number of days together going over each kata, and modifying the movements as needed, so that each practitioner would now start, and end on the same spot. The idea being that in addition to the quality of the kata, this would be another aid in helping to determine a winner in a tournament setting. 

There is of course nothing wrong with this methodology. However, as tournaments grew in popularity, something inevitable happened. The way kata had always been practiced in the dojo also began to change. Where previously the journey, and the feeling of the kata mattered more than where you finished, soon gave way to kata where "getting home" became the primary goal.

 So, by all means practice for tournaments. But, always bear in mind that how you practice kata for the masses, should never be confused with how you practice kata for yourself. 

Remember: "In classical karate home is always wherever you finish".