I am reposting this blog post from January 21, 2008. That way, I can more easily write some follow-ups to it.
Most "styles" of Karate consist of a certain set of kata and a core group of basics. The kata and basics, and an emphasis on such things as kumite and kobudo, tend to identify the style. As with any curriculum, the students need to know what to do in order to do it. The style is a matter of "what."
I have mentioned before that Kishaba Juku, in my opinion, is not a style per se. It is a private training group. The emphasis of training is not on "what" but on "how." Essentially, Kishaba Juku is about learning how to move, how to generate power, and how to transfer power. Again, this is just my opinion.
Since the emphasis is on "how," the "what" is not so important. Shinzato Sensei has often said that the principles of Kishaba Juku can be applied to the kata of any style or system of Karate. In other words, the Kishaba Juku principles of movement could be applied to Shotokan, Shito-Ryu or Kyokushin. It is not necessary to learn Kishaba Juku kata in order to move the way that we do. The same movement principles could be applied to just about any kata.
Again, the emphasis is on "how" rather than "what."
In Kishaba Juku, we generally practice the kata that the senior instructors practiced before they formed their private training group. It was the movement principles applied to those kata that mattered, not the kata themselves.
Thus, a person could practice the very same kata we do but move in a completely different way -- a way unlike Kishaba Juku. And a person could practice completely different kata but move exactly like we do (to the extent that "we" in the juku move alike).
I can watch a person move and tell you very quickly whether they move like Shinzato Sensei or not. My seniors can say the same about Nakamura Sensei and Kishaba Sensei -- they can recognize their special way of movement.
You cannot tell this by the kata itelf or even the basics. What counts is how the person moves.
The format of Karate tends to require that students learn a certain curriculum. A student cannot achieve rank and seniority by simply being able to move.
But when it comes down to it, knowing a million movements means nothing at all if you cannot move well. And a person who can move well can make just about any movement work.
The other day, I attended a training session with some senior instructors here in Hawaii. When it comes to the form of kata, I am closest to Sensei Pat Nakata, who practices Chibana Shorin-Ryu. Our kata are similar.
But when it comes to movement, I move most like Sensei Alan Lee. He learned from Sensei Tomu Arakawa, who learned from Sensei Kanki Izumigawa, who learned from Sensei Seko Higa. Lee Sensei teaches Goju-Ryu. He is my senior and moves much better than I do, but our way of moving is very similar.
My form is closest to Shorin-Ryu but my movement is closer to a branch of Goju-Ryu.
This may sound strange, since I have only learned Shorin-Ryu, but with Kishaba Juku it makes perfect sensei. What is relevant is how to move, not whether we do Shorin-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, or some other style.
I am confident that I could teach a Shotokan student how to move like I do, using his own kata. Of course, this assumes that the student wants to learn this.
I am not a musician, but I imagine that there is teacher somewhere who can teach students how to play with more feeling and soul. That is a lot like what we do.
I have to qualify this post by saying that I can only speak from my own experience as a student of Kishaba Juku. I can speak for myself and my dojo, but not for others, and certainly not for Shinzato Sensei.
After a student learns what he is supposed to do, the question becomes how to do it. That is the essence of our group, in my opinion.
Charles C. Goodin