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FISHER SHOTOKAN KARATE

KATA

By Charles Rhodes, P. Eng., Ph.D. and Sensei Malcolm Fisher

The following notes have been made from Sensei Fisher's classes, comments and emails:

KATA IS KUMITE:
Kata is kumite. Kumite is kata. Kata should always be practised with the same mind set, posture, speed and energy as would apply in a real combat situation. Otherwise kata has no useful application. Kata should not be done on high friction mats because such mats prevent safe execution of rapid turns.

TIME FRAME:
Every technique in karate-doh must be completed in <0.5 seconds. This time frame accurately reflects reality. To train in a time frame of >0.5 seconds is to deny reality.

In order to operate in this time frame both the upper and lower halves of the body must be loaded simultaneously. Sequential loading movements lead to >0.5 second motions.

BODY MECHANICS:
Sensei Fisher has identified a number of issues, particularly relating to foot position detail, where JKA kata manuals are wrong because the foot positions shown in these manuals are not consistent with the body mechanics required for execution of the specified technique with maximum delivery of energy in minimum elapsed time.

FOOT POSITION:
In many stances such as shizen-tai, kiba-dachi, zenkutsu-dachi the outside edges of the feet should point straight forward in order to achieve maximum engagement of major leg muscles.

KATA RANKING:
Sensei Fisher believes that the most important Shotokan katas to learn correctly are Heian Shodan, Basai-Dai and Kanku-Dai.

KATA EVOLUTION:
The JKA stayed true to what and how Funikoshi and Nakayama Sensei's taught kata and has never strayed from their movements. From the earliest days of karate in Okinawa and on to mainland Japan, knowing katas that others did not was a very big deal. Knowledge of those katas was power. And once taught, there has been a dedication by the JKA to replicating those kata movements that continues to this day.

In the past knowledge and seniority in karate has been substantially measured by how many kata one knows. Knowing a kata meant, the order and pace of movements and the bunkai(applications) to fit them. The Fisher One Page introduces additional methods of measuring knowledge of a kata and takes the next step beyond the order of kata's movements, pace and application.

The Fisher One Page introduces the elements of "Maximum Energy Development and Delivery" and the "Half Second Time Scale". These two elements cannot be separated, for one constrains the other. If one carefully studies the Fisher One Page, one begins to understand how it changes all aspects of karate, including the detail of many movements in kata. Should you have difficulty grasping this issue then send Sensei Fisher an email. He will use the Fisher One Page to provide an answer to almost any shotokan kata movement detail question that can be posed.

THE RIDDLE OF HEIAN SHODAN:
There are many problematic situations in kata that are blissfully ignored and explained away, as Tanaka once did a few years ago when he said at a clinic in Canada: "Some kata techniques are for training purposes only". Sensei Fisher disagrees with this statement. The Fisher One Page, if you understand it well, shows that kata is kumite and kumite is kata and that maximum energy development within a half second time frame is their common ground. All kata movements, from the defender's perspective, should fit the reality imposed by the attacker. The Fisher One Page in combination with the physical constraints of bipedal motion will show you how to find the proper movement detail in each case.

When Tanaka made his statement, he was referring to the first 270 degree turn in Heian Shodan. Tanaka rightly believed that a JKA instructor could get in with a front kick before anyone could complete the 270 degree turn and block the kick in the manner taught by the JKA and illustrated in Nakayama Sensei's Best Karate series. The issue of how to execute this turn with sufficient speed and energy to avoid the kick and immediately counter attack is the "Riddle of Heian Shodan".

The "Fisher One Page" alters karate techniques from the way that they have traditionally been taught because the Root Definition contained in the Fisher One Page defines karate techniques differently than the way these techniques have historically been defined. Historically, rote knowledge of kata movements was sufficient. The Fisher One Page focuses on the requirements for maximum energy development and delivery within the half second time frame. Application of the Fisher One Page to kata takes the historical knowledge of kata movements and drills down into the detail of how each movement must be executed to conform to the Fisher One Page. This process reveals how to realize the order of magnitude increase in speed and energy required to match the reality of an attack by a skilled JKA instructor. This speed and energy increase is the answer to the “Riddle of Heian Shodan”.

BASSAI DAI:
Optimum execution of the first movement of the kata Bassai-Dai requires that the feet initially be together, touching only at the balls of the feet. The outside edges of the feet must point straight ahead, which forces the heels to be slightly separated. This position allows instant full engagement of the leg muscles without repositioning the feet. Most JKA manuals show the initial position of Bassai-Dai with the feet entirely together so that the outside edges of the feet point outwards at an angle of about 30 degrees from the embusen.

Movement #1 is a continuous one composed of two phases that are executed in the 1/2 second time frame. During the first phase this move creates tension along the entire right side of the body as the muscles on that side stretch, exerting torque against the left foot and hip which remain in the original starting position. It is important to note that during the first movement the head remains looking straight ahead. The upper body turns around the spine but, the head remains in it's original orientation. The tremendous amount of torque created in the first movement when done this way is only possible if the left foot is in the aforementioned starting position. With any other foot position the developed energy goes way down and the time frame increases significantly, by as much as double.

At movement #6 Bassai Dai contains an apparent right hand leg hooking technique that makes little sense as it is classically taught. Sensei Fisher points out that the real purpose of this technique is to develop the angular momentum that is necessary for rapid execution of the accompanying 90 degree turn and the follow on soto uke technique. For maximum turning speed the sweep must pass close to the body trunk and the spine must remain erect. The right arm should be almost straight through this movement to maximize its usable angular momentum.

At movements #10 t0 #13 Bassai Dai contains chudan-zuki front punches immediately followed by chudan uchi uke blocks or strikes. Sensei Fisher points out that between each punch and the following chudan uchi uke the punch should be withdrawn straight back to reset the hips so that maximum power is available for the chudan uchi uke which involves a hip counter rotation.

HEIAN SANDAN:
The uraken in Heian Sandan travels in a vertical plane. Provide energy to this uraken using the opposite leg. The upper and lower halves of the body must load at the same time so that they can unload at the same time. Hence, the elbow of the striking hand and the knee and ankle of the opposite leg must all finish at the same time.

This web page last updated October 15, 2012.

Contents Blogs Introduction Fisher One Page Contacts Links