Articles

Getting home.

Finishing on the same spot.

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

Now I have taken a bit of flack for my point of view. So it was with great interest that I 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 Seamus had in the Fall of 2001 with Shihan Hirokazu Kanazawa which took place in Ireland shortly after the SKIEF European Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In the article Shihan Kanazawa spoke about original kata. He stated in part, "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 original 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 and kumite could be performed in public for the very first time. History tells us that Master Funakoshi, and Masatoshi Nakayama, spent a number of days together going over each kata, and modifying the movements as needed so that a student would now start, and end, on the same spot.

As a result the way kata had always been practiced in the dojo changed. Where previously the essence of the kata mattered more than where you finished, it now gave way to the objective of "getting home" becoming the primary goal. Today by all means practice for tournaments, and if the rules require, try to finish on the same spot. But always bear in mind that how you practice kata for the masses should never be confused with how you should practice your kata for yourself.

After all not all katas were originally meant to finish where they started. 

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