Understanding Kata – part two

Continued from part one.

One of the purposes of this article when first written, was to ‘open a window on the past’ and a mere recital of uncertain facts is no real way to do this. Who is really ‘livened up’ by dry as dust academic history other that some specialists? I was going to recount the historical background of the Kashima Shinto-ryu and the famous master, Tsukahara Bokuden, but will keep this back for a separate article on this Renmei Website in the coming months. We have a number of records, some fragmented, concerning this remarkable warrior but we must freely acknowledge that he was an undoubted genius and, despite his background in the bloody strife of his lifetime, he lived through most of the extreme virtual anarchy of the ‘Age of War’ throughout the first three-quarters of the Sixteenth Century, and his legacy is still very much with us today, more than five-hundred years after his death. His passing, in itself, is remarkable as he died in his bed at the age of eighty-two – and for a samurai of his time that was very unusual, indeed.

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Understanding Kata

by Roald Knutsen
© Copyright 2018

Nihon Kendo Kata, Brighton

The following article was first written in the 1970s with the aim of helping experienced and newcomers to Kendo and Iai to understand more of the cultural background to these genuine martial systems than is normally done in the present day. The position then, compared to fifty years later, has hardly improved so this version of the original, with some editing and re-appraisal, is offered in the hope that it may help those who are looking for the serious background to the ‘classical’ development rather than the very one-sided image presented by ‘sport’. I make no apologies for the views expressed here; they are entirely my own as are the conclusions I have reached through the teaching of a number of very fine high-ranking masters both in Japan and here.

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Signalling Orders given by Taiko or Hyōshigi

These notes on non-verbal ‘Orders’ that are sometimes given by means of the taiko (drumbeat) or the wooden hyōshigi (signalling billets of hardwood) are based mainly on my own experiences in a very limited number of ko-budō dōjō in Japan, and, more reliably, in personal teaching initially by both Harry Russell-Robinson (The Royal Armouries) through the late-1950s to the 1970s, and Dr. Benjamin Hazard, late-Professor of Japanese and Korean History, in California, both acknowledged authorities on Japanese culture and military history, as well as a number of senior high-ranking kodansha in Japan.

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