Scotch Tape Kung Fu

You’ve heard about in class or from the rumor mill in the Kempo community. I didn’t invent the method; rather, I gave it a hip name. It’s really about sticky hands and hooking. Silat players call it adhering.

Scotch Tape Kung Fu is a silly name I gave to adhering. The Scotch Tape I’m familiar with is sticky, yet you can pull it off of things easily. Likewise, the hands and feet can stick to the opponent, yet they can be pulled off easily. The hands and feet can also be hooked to catch and snag the limbs of opponents.

What are the benefits of this concept? It provides sensitivity to the movements of the opponent. By touching the individual, you can feel when certain muscle groups contract and relax. It’s the body’s way of telling you what it will do next.

It increases control of the body. By placing your hands and feet at certain joints (often called the nine pearls), you can leverage limbs to control the entire body. When you have a repertoire of joint locks and arrest, you’ll notice how quickly and easily it is to control someone you’re “stuck” to.

Being “stuck” does not mean you’re really stuck. As with “Scotch” tape, you can pull it off. You have a quick release from the lock. This concept is not involved jujutsu locks and traps, rather it is a method of staying in contact. When you need to stop contacting the opponent, you just release.

A sticky example
One of the best examples of this concept is in the snake techniques. In Kempo Snake 1, you absorb the strike and flow into contact with the elbow. From there, you apply pressure on the upper arm to lock out the elbow. The other hand is adhering to the opponent’s face and neck. After the throw, you’re still adhering to the arm with your knees on the shoulder and hip.

Another use is found in blocking sets. A pushing palm often follows a palm block to the outside. The first contact hand “rolls” the opponent’s arm over to position their elbow for an attack. Continuous contact allows for proper checking of the weapons and opportunity for locks.

Seek to maintain contact with the enemy at all times using this method. After you become experienced with this type of contact, you will learn how to “read” your opponent and use their body against them.

The Right Ingredients

Adding the right ingredients to your cooking determines whether or not your meal is a success. The same is true for martial arts training. Do you add the right skills to your training? Do you focus to heavily on certain things?

Avoid practicing only the things you like to do or what you think you’re good at. Mix up these ingredients and blend all your material into a health, tasty workout. It’s important to work on those techniques you don’t like because they help the “taste” of other techniques.

The natural tendency is to practice the new material, until you get more new material. Once you get a “handle” on this new material, you let it sit. “Yeah, I know it. You taught that already. We did that last week.” With out practicing the “old” material, you’ll never develop the skills needed to defend yourself.

This is why intermediate level students workout with beginning and candidate level students. It reviews and polishes the foundation level material.

The early skills you learn at white belt allow you to build a “knowledge” foundation. This foundation allows you to learn more quickly, perform material correctly and maintain skills longer.

Stances and punches are the building blocks for later material. Black belt level kata have horse stances, half-moon stances and front punches. This is true in white belt kata.

When you perform a great horse stance to punch-block combination, you can build more techniques off of that. During kata instruction, the sifu can teach you the next part by say, “now, perform Combination 19 at this point to the northwest corner”. You can remember that more easily since you have a repertoire of foundation skills to draw from.

All the material taught is interrelated and interlocked. As you progress through the ranks, you’ll notice material appearing again and again. These new techniques explore the “other” possibilities that the foundation material alluded to.

And now for the analogies:

Soup - You can relate techniques to the ingredients of soup. As you add more and more ingredients, the first items you put into the pot settle to the bottom. If you don’t stir the soup occasionally, they will burn at the bottom. Soups are best if they simmer. They should be cooked over time, just like martial arts skills need to be developed over time.

House Building – Often, you hear martial arts described as building a house. The foundation materials (the basics) are the foundation and framework. Later material is analogous to the insulation, plumbing and electrical wiring. Finally, the dry wall is put up, and paint is added. Through out the process, your foundation needs to remain strong and steady or else the house will crumble. So to will you martial arts skills if you don’t maintain your basics.

Painting - Training can also be related to painting. When a master painter begins his piece, she’ll begin with large areas of light and dark paint. The painter will then build these dark and light areas up with dark and light color respectively. Eventually, the image will become clear. The artist will never begin a painting by detailing the eye of the subject, nor will they start with the bark of a tree. Each step builds upon the ones before. The foundation paint allows the details and beauty to come out. As with martial arts, the foundation skills are seen, however subtly, in the advanced techniques.

“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.” — Bryan Bagnas

You can take this quote in two ways. The first is an impetus to practice more. The second extends the first more fully. Practice all your material or it will get worse.

Teaching material is a great way to improve basic skills. The best class for a Black Belt to teach is brand new students. They need to know everything in crystal clear detail. As a teacher, the Black Belt needs to do each technique perfectly every time. Not just some times, or often, but each time. That is the goal for all techniques, do them perfect every time. This comes from repetition through practice.

Cycles and Cyclones
Always return to your foundation material. As you advance, you’ll return with a better understanding the information. The new material will allow you to grow and improve. You’ll gain insight and skill. Once you reach that point, circle back and return to your foundation material, this time with a better understanding. Continue this cycle over and over again. Each time, you’ll return with more insight, a little further than when you were there before. This spiral is like a cyclone, always moving up, yet always returning back.

Add the right ingredients and stir the soup of knowledge. Allow nothing to atrophy because you’ve worked to hard to get what you have.

Softening Moves

Most of the entry moves in Kempo are softening moves. You smack the enemy to distract them. This provides the time necessary to perform complex maneuvers, especially locks and traps. They play a vital role in your arsenal of weapons.

Sometimes termed the wet blanket, softening moves are distraction strikes. Most are medium-intensity, relaxed-whipping motions that produce painful stings. Some are painful nerve plexus strikes. Both cause to opponent to wince and think about something else. This creates an opening for you to apply a technique. Never delay the offensive, but don’t rush either.

Any competent fighter will be able to slip out of or avoid locks. What softening moves provide is a painful feint that allows your attack to slip in undefended. You can also stall by continuous application of softening moves until you can position yourself into an optimal offensive location. Remember that Kempo stylist control the “flow” or “rate” of the attack. Use this to maintain control.

Moves You Know
Two of the grade level crane tricks contain nerve plexus strikes to the face. Right after you derail the attack with your wing, you step in with Crane’s Beak strikes to the cheek and jaw hinge. This allows you to hook and uproot your opponent.

Another example is found in 5 Kata. The opening moves are blocks and softening moves. You don’t break bricks and boards with the backhand, but you can cause momentary stings across the face. Sometimes, that is more effective then breaking bones.

Finally, many of the Escapes and Grab Arts contain softening moves. For Lapel 1, you slap the hand and the face before you proceed with the arm bar and wrist lock. The wristlock is the second softening move in that technique. When you grab the hand, your thumb presses the nerve point in the web of the hand. That allows you to dislodge, seize and lock the wrist.

Know Your Moves
Which techniques have them? Which techniques could utilize them? Take it upon yourself to investigate your Kempo. Remember that each move should flow into the next. Distractions precede complex finishing moves. All practice is research, and perfect practice makes perfect.

The Right Angles

Many of my students use to shudder when I explained that trigonometry is used in Kempo. “How can that be?” they would protest, “This is karate, not math.” To me, martial arts are applied mathematics. Just as math has “laws” and “theorems”, so to does Kempo. In fact (according to several masters), the translation of Kempo is “law of the fist”. Not the judicial law, rather it’s the biomechanical law, the laws of applied mathematics.

This article is not a dissertation on the subject; it is a quick explanation of my understanding of this concept. Joint locks require both correct (right) angles and 90° (right) angles for maximum effect. Takedowns and other body manipulation should make use of the X, Y, and Z-axis.

What I have noticed in several techniques is the right angle in controlling locks. Be they arm locks, joint freezing or body checks, the right angle hides in the technique. For the sake of brevity, we’ll use one example.Figure 4 submission

An Example
In overhead club defense #5, there is a T-bar lock on your opponent’s arm that requires three right angles. The first is shoulder. The second is the elbow and the final angle is the wrist. Once you lock in these angles, you can leverage the arm over easily.

In this example, if you allow one of these angles to become greater or less than 90°, it allows the opponent to slip out. The elbow is especially important. If the elbow lock is less than 90°, then the take down maneuver is very difficult to perform.

The X, the Y and the Z
Two-dimensional space can be organized using two axis; the X and the Y. if you’re unfamiliar with this concept, don’t worry. On a piece of graph paper, draw a vertical line and a horizontal line. They should share one point, which makes them look like an oversized “L”. The vertical line is named Y, and the horizontal line is named X.

Where the two lines meet is called the origin. Each square you move away from the origin is one step away. The Y and the X record this information for you. If you move two squares up the vertical line, you move to the two spot of Y. If you move three squares across the horizontal line, you move across to the three spot of X. To note this information, we use the structure (X, Y). This makes our example equal to (3,2).

Now it gets complicated. There is a third axis that runs into the origin point. We call this axis Z. however; we can’t draw the Z-axis on the graph paper because it sticks out of the paper. Take you pencil and place the point at the origin point. Make sure the pencil is straight up. This is the Z-axis.

To note things on this axis, we add another number to our list. The first square on the Z-axis is 1. This makes our continuing example (3,2,1).

Unfortunately, you’ll need a good trigonometry book to teach you more. I highly recommend browsing through old math books to keep you skills sharp. You never know what you’ll remember. Hopefully, this is enough to understand what I’m saying about the three axis.

“Zero”-ing Out the Axis
To “zero” out an axis, you eliminate diagonal pulls. This brings the coordinates of an axis to 0. If you imagine your opponent having the X, Y, and Z lines sticking out of their body, you can understand this concept. Where the lines meet, in the middle of their body, is the center point (0,0,0).

When you pull the opponent forward only, you are increasing the Z value but the X and Y values remain at 0. Likewise, if I pull the opponent directly down (not towards me), the Y value decreases (because you’re going in the negative direction. The Z and X values for that pull are 0. Should I pull the opponent’s ear exactly on the horizontal plane, the X value increases, but Y and Z remain at 0.

How does “zero”-ing out one or more axis control the body? The body is amazing well equipped to deal with being pulled in “funny” directions. All joints and muscles can accommodate the pull and fold up. Also, it’s easy to pull someone in a “funny” direction because our bodies are full of joints and muscles. Should someone pull an opponent in only one axis, the body’s joints can not adjust to the steady pull.

The best example of this is the classic “mother ear pull”. The mother grabs the tender earlobes of her child and pulls them out of the store. She neither pulls down or to the side. These would be the X and Y-axis. It’s just a grab and she walks out of the store. Her walking is a pull in the Z.

The Opposite for Joints
Joint locks turn in two or more directions. Many of the locks require two joints to be placed in a 90° angle. For example, “nikajo” places the wrist at a 90° angle to the forearm. You also place the shoulder at a 90° to the body. For maximum effect, place the arm at 90° to the back of the uke. Other joint locks work in a similar fashion.

There’s a structural “law” in the application of the right angle to the skeletal system. The body has a difficult time recovering from such a position, unless it has been trained properly. The bones, ligaments and tendons are designed for “natural” positions. When they are placed in these specific angles, it looses its ability to move. Just Do It

Observe during your practice how this works. Fiddle with your partner to determine which fine application of the technique works best and most often. There is no substitute for working this out. You need to do and feel the subtle differences. This is how you make the art yours. You must practice, practice, and practice.

Peaks, Plateaus and Valleys

In all mental and physical training regiments, a person moves through three stages of learning. These stages reflect the body and the mind’s synergy, or lack thereof. In a sense, these stages are the yin and yang of learning. Martial arts are no exception. Below are definitions to the three stages — peaks, plateaus and valleys.

Peak
When you experience a peak in training, your progress in the art is quite apparent. You often feel a sense of euphoria over the hard-earned gains. It is, in fact, a peak in the learning curve. This is a time when you learn quickly and easily.

This is a result of background information that can be leveraged to acquire new information. Rarely will you enter in the peak stage at the onset of martial arts training (white belt). Expect the peak to occur after you can internalize some of the fundamentals and basics. This internalization is also known as chunking information into manageable units.

In a perfect world, you want to maintain the peak stage for most of your martial arts career. A rough estimate is 60-70% of your entire career if possible. Beware, however, of creating a burnout condition.

Kempo students can expect to reach the peak stage in the latter part of the candidate level and throughout the beginning levels. It also occurs after plateaus.

Plateau
Have you ever experience a time when you forget techniques or merge two kata together? This is a sign of the plateau phenomena. This stage is a stalling in the learning curve. Your skill doesn’t improve as noticeably as in the peak stage. The brain needs to time to integrate your new skills and abilities to its program, if you will.

Equate the forgetfulness to this metaphor. When you clean out your desk, you pile everything in the middle of the room. From here you can go through each item, one at a time, and place it in its place. If someone asks for a phone number, you can look through the pile on the floor, but it will take awhile. This is the same thing that happens to the brain. It’s organizing the material for quicker access. You’ll have to wait until it’s done.

When does it end? This stage just ends abruptly. It’s a eureka phenomena. I’ve watched students struggling with techniques for many months. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, they’ll be able to do it right. Eureka! During this stage, it is very important to continue practicing until you emerge from the plateau and move into the peak.

Kempo students will experience plateaus at blue, green, brown and Black Belt due to the necessary quality improvement demands of rank advancement.

Valley
This stage is the most important and the most dangerous of the three. The valley is degradation of skill and time off. You’re mentally exhausted, thinking of ways to avoid training sessions. Often, valleys are results of burnout, occurring after heavy training for tournaments, testing or exhibitions.

When used properly, it’s a scheduled break from the arts. A time to give your mind a break. It’s a vacation of sorts where you avoid martial arts completely. Take this time to pursue other interests. It can also be used to prevent burnout, renewing your vigor and determination.

If a peak period last for long stretches of time, the increased learning can begin to wane. When this happens, allow yourself to slow down otherwise the peak will become a burnout or extended valley. This stage is only beneficial if you have control over it, scheduled it for a set time. The worst thing to do is let emotion rule. You may never return to the arts.

In Kempo, the valley occurs as needed. Some students need it every three months, others every three years. Most people lie in between. Sometimes, this can result from remaining too long in a plateau due to lack of practice and motivation. The valley is yin. The peak is yang. They need each other to create a better whole.
A Natural Cycle

This is a natural cycle. Don’t fight the urge to move from one stage to the next. Recognize it for what it is and work to move from plateau to valley to peak. Open your awareness; listen to your body and mind. Though seemingly contradictory, it actually helps speed progress in the martial arts if you move through this cycle.

The next time you’re feeling frustrated and stalled, remember you may be in a plateau stage. Don’t get angry and quit. Continue practice knowing everyone else has or will have the same experience. Also know it will end and you will encounter an explosion in your learning ability. Good luck and train well.

Remember Your Kempos

“I can’t remember that technique!” Do you recall saying this? Does your instructor show you the technique again and you say, “Oh, I used to know that?” If these comments are familiar, then you must endeavor to learn these techniques more thoroughly. Martial arts moves must be more than familiar, they must be remembered correctly. Here is how to improve your memory.Pinning the attacker

Before you can improve your memory, you must understand something about memory. The brain has several cooperative memory schemes. Two key schemes are long and short-term memory. Each of these two schemes can be broken down into sub-categories with specific recall mechanisms. We are only interested in short term memory and ghestalting.

Short-term memory can hold five items with relative ease, plus or minus two items. This leaves a range between three and seven items. Notice that US phone numbers are seven digits long. The Phone Company utilizes this phenomenon. For our example, we will use the optimal number five.

To remember your Kempos (one-steps or tricks), practice your first five techniques five times each. Now, repeat this set of five at least three more times. This will help imbed five Kempos into your mind. Do not do more at this point; we are trying to train your mind.

The next step requires an explanation of ghestalting. Ghestalting is a phenomenon of grouping things into units. As an exercise of this theory, say aloud as many different types of animals you can. You will notice that you recall between three and seven animals between pauses and that these animals can be grouped in some way. That is what we will do for your Kempos.

Once you have completed the practice of the first five Kempos, to be called Set 1, you can move to the next five Kempos. Practice your next five Kempos five times each. Repeat this second set as a whole, at least three more times. We’ll call it Set 2. Now you have two sets of five or ten remembered Kempos. Practice these two sets again to reinforce the sets or units.

What we’ve accomplished is to establish units or Kempo sets. Two of the items short-term memory can store are now groups of five Kempos. We’ve increased your memory 250% already. Repeat this procedure in the following days with Set 3, Set 4 and Set 5. What you will find is a dramatic increase in your memory of Kempos.

Always perform your Kempos in these sets. If you do one Kempo in Set 2, for example, then you should practice the other four. This reinforcement of these units or sets helps utilize the brain’s natural mechanism of ghestalting to help memory improve.

The old masters recognized this phenomena and implemented it in their training. Forms and katas are methods of ghestalting. They group various direction changes and body movements into sets of movements. When linked together in a form, they create the katas we know today like pinan or kusanku. Advance students can adapt this technique of ghestalting to their own kata training. Use it. This works.

Last Possible Moment

There is a vital element to the effectiveness of Kempo techniques. Wait for the last possible moment (LPM) — and maximum committal of the enemy– to begin your counterattack. Once they fully commit to the attack, they’ll be unable to adjust to (or counter) your counterattack.

LPM provides time to build a better defense. The distance between the initiation of the attack and the LPM forces the enemy to “show their hand”. Once they attack, that attack has inherent weaknesses, which can be exploited for the counterattack.

But how do I apply this to combat? You must have composure under pressure; the confidence to stand still while someone is aggressively attacking you. Of course, you don’t play target board forever. You must have the ability to know when is the right time to move. This is only gained through practice.

How to Practice
The best way to practice this concept is with Kempo waza. Which ever Kempo technique you’d like to practice, or need to practice, begin in a relaxed posture. Be sure the uke is out of range forcing him to close the distance in order to make contact. Allow the uke to initiate the attack with any strike they wish. Wait until you must begin the counter.

When you first start this type of practice, remember to start slowly. You need to ingrain the proper form before you allow speed to be a factor. Repeat the same attack three or four times in order to build a comfort level with that attack. Alternate sides and partners so each side and each person develops equally.

In a Nut Shell
You want to exploit the over commitment of the attacker, allowing him to “telegraph” their intentions. Additionally, you want to reduce your commitment time and hide your combative intentions. The LPM is one of the devices Kempo players use to maximize their martial results. Of course, once you engage the enemy, you don’t give quarter or relent until they are no longer a threat. Know when that condition is met.

The Lost Teachings of Shaolin Kempo

For an style which is relatively new, it seems strange to say there are lost teachings. Many would claim otherwise, yet the astute observer will notice a difference in what is taught and what is explained to students of Shaolin Kempo. When you take a step back from the rush to be Black Belt, an instructor or a devotee to a particular lineage, you see pieces of the art most miss. I challenge you to think about the art and find insights to the things you have already learned.

Shaolin Kempo is often described as an art that is “50% punching and 50% kicking”. However, as any student of kyu-rank will attest, there is an emphasis on punching and hand techniques. Is this a discrepancy? No, and here’s why.

Like many other styles, Tai Chi Chuan to name one, hides many techniques within its kata sets. This is also true in Shaolin Kempo. Kicking attacks and defenses are hidden in the required Combinations and forms. For instance, when a foot is unweighted, as in the cat stance, you can execute a kick. Therefore, many of the wazas which have cat stances can include a kick to the groin or mid-section. Additionally, the use of legs, knees and feet in the trapping and grappling arts is an important element to effective Kempo techniques.

A similar situation occurs with another aspect of Shaolin Kempo. Jujitsu is reportedly a core element of this style, yet very little time is spent on grab techniques and escapes maneuvers. Is this too a discrepancy? No.

Just like hidden kicking techniques, grabs are also hidden. Jujitsu, or grabs, are applied in a myriad number of techniques. They are found in Combinations, during the initial attack and defense, and later on during the follow through. A perfect example of this hidden quality occurs in combination 16. After the initial “Snapping the Twig” attack, the next technique is “ikajo” — an arm and wrist lock. Besides these hidden maneuvers, there is another interesting fact about relation of Jujitsu and Kempo.

The true founder of Shaolin Kempo, Grandmaster Sonny Gascon, trained many years in Jujitsu. When he developed Shaolin Kempo (or Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu), his previous skills in Jujitsu were retained within the traditional curriculum. However, many “later” masters have allowed this portion of the Kempo curriculum to atrophy thereby eliminating this vital skill from the Kempo repertoire.

In most Shaolin Kempo schools, there are six katas and five pinans. Students often ask, “Why aren’t there 6 pinans?” In fact, there are six pinans. Since the 1940s, this mysterious sixth form has adopted the moniker, “the lost pinan”. One of the key principles of Kempo is symmetry. This symmetry is reflected not only in the techniques but in the organization of the style.

Pinans originated in Okinawa, developed by Okinawans who were taught by Chinese gungfu masters. “Yasutsune Itosu (1830-1915), of the Shuri-Te system, developed the Pinan, peaceful mind, series of five forms around 1905.” (N. Paranto, 1996.) Early Kempo (from Okinawa and Japan) only had five pinans. The sixth was added during the 1940s during the development of Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu as a curriculum.

One aspect of Kempo which is lost and harder to discern is its relation to the Pilipino arts. For those artist who cross-trained in Pilipino Kali-Escrima, you may have noticed a familiar flow of foot work and hand work. This is no coincidence, nor is it parallel evolution. It stems from Shaolin Kempo’s roots and origins. Below is a quote about the founder of Shaolin Kempo.

While Victor [Gascon] was a child, his father ran chicken fights in the back yard. There always were several old and young Filipinos which could be seen playing sticks during breaks in the fights. Victor especially remembers them showing the “dancing” footwork and empty hand applications. [KGS/BBS, 1995]

Weapons training make up a portion of a complete martial arts style. The training exist within Kempo, yet — like so much of the style — it is left to atrophy. Without this portion of training, Shaolin Kempo is incomplete. It is vital to learn the Pilipino weapon sets and the traditional Chinese weapon sets to truly understand Shaolin Kempo.

Why do portions of the Kempo curriculum disappear? Shaolin Kempo is becoming a diluted art form. Incomplete training of the instructors exacerbates this sad fact. Many schools rush aspiring students into instructor positions to establish their lineage and satisfy their egos. The patience expected of Asian students by their Asian masters is missing in America. This patience has its rewards — a full and complete martial art style.

The splintering of Kempo in the 1970s and 1980s has obscured the true lineage and roots of this style. Cross training has also diluted the history of Kempo as instructors try to fill in missing gaps of their training. Hopefully, new organizations like the Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu Association can help educate and train others in the remaining portions of the Shaolin Kempo system.

The solution to this dreadful trend is to re-commit oneself to learning all about Shaolin Kempo — true or false. Then eliminate the false. Research the roots, discover other students of the style to exchange knowledge and techniques. Shaolin Kempo is not only a martial art style, it is a family which needs to stay together.

Ego and the Humble Student

Keep your ego in check. Don’t permit the beast of vanity create emotional openings. The humble warrior can see a fight for what it is. A warrior who believes his own rhetoric must constantly alter the fight to prove his own thoughts. Ego leads to delusion, which leads to defeat

Let the world be your teacher. The true master is always a true student. A student is a student until he becomes a master, then he is just a student.

Rank can lead to bloated ego. I’ve seen many great instructors allow their ego and position cloud their judgement. They often call others to be loyal to them without showing, or being loyal to their instructor. You can only expect from others what you do.

Rank means nothing really. Skill in the arts is more important than stripes on a belt. If you show “Black Belt” attitude in your efforts and endeavors, that demonstrates more “mastery” than someone who brags about their accomplishments does. The best martial artist I know all practice in the corner quietly, always seeking improvement over political maneuvering.

Your actions show your true abilities. The cloth on your body only signifies the responsibilities awarded to you by your instructor. Increased rank demands more humility because you have an increasing responsibility to pass on the art and give back to the community.

Humility and kindness are the greatest characteristics of a martial artist. Being kind to those who need it. Helping those in need. Anything to help your community is the goal of the martial artist. The most visible way to help the community is in the physical defense of your town. When that opportunity is not available, you help cleaning, washing, feeding and building. Give of yourself to your community.

You’ll reap the rewards in quite ways, meaningful ways. Letters from former students detailing how Kempo has changed their life for the better bring tears to my eyes. I want to help others feel good and desire to help others. Standing on a podium, proclaiming your fighting prowess will never produce the rewards a true warrior seeks.

Allow yourself to remove your rank and travel the world as a no belt.

Should Katas End Where They Begin?

To answer your question on kata and the ending point is not easy to give a definitive answer. Some feel that it is a spiritual emotion and others feel it’s a place to start your life and still others feel its nothing more than to structure the kata and build discipline.

  1. Spiritual: One that starts kata in a place is setting an area of dominance. This is to say that she owns that place and that she is on a journey to defend herself. The ending place is where she should return as one solider returns home from battle.
  2. Philosophical: Others feel that its a place that you are born and the ending of kata, after you have defended yourself and lived life to its fullest, is a place to end your life, passing. And that is why kata ends in the same place it starts from.
  3. Structure: Most, however, Feel that it is nothing more than to help build discipline. Meeting in the same spot is very important.
  4. Impeccable: One thought is what I feel is most correct is this. If you finish where you start it will show that you performed the stances correctly and that the technique you executed is correct. Or at least done correctly!
  5. Journey: One Soke from Japan, that I have never meet, feels that the start place is just that, a start. And that the ending is just that and ending, nothing more. He felt that the technique itself was most important aspect of kata and not if you end up in the same place you start in.

I had some one ask the same question a few months ago and as I research it I found that most Okinawan katas did not end up in the same spot. The Chinese systems did not either. I also found that some Okinawans did in fact demand that kata end in the same spot as did some Chinese arts.

Black belt teacher helping a yellow belt child

Black belt teacher helping a yellow belt child

So where does this leave you? And the question you asked?

It leaves you here. You must decide what is best for you and how you feel! I, myself, try to keep in the rule of structure and spiritual means, as this feels best for me. I never take away from a student that does not end in the same spot, but I will assist then in making sure that their stances are correct as well as technique. Then after years of practice they find the spiritual side for themselves and this is when you see your student really shine!  It makes me feel proud when I see them find their own way in the arts and not leading them 100% of the time.

Find you own path in kata and find that special spiritual breath that you are seeking. You will. I know it.