What is a decade?

I learned Chinto for the first time as a sandan, somewhere around 20 yrs old. It is beautiful and full of finesse that had been less prominent in the lower ranking katas. It stood out in this traditional style where kata historically focuses on bunkai and practicality, almost exclusively. Here is Chinto though, jump kicking its way into my world.

Some people grow bored of doing the same kata for decades. They get that itch right around sandan to start exploring new styles because they think they have found everything that can be found in doing a kata for two decades. I think that is more of a reflection on the karate-ka than the kata. I practice my kata differently than I did in my twenties; the kata may not have changed, but I have.

I practice my kata slowly, so slow my body fights my mind. I feel every move and perfect my hands within a centimeter of where I want them. You never notice that your foot turns out a little until you are moving at the speed of molasses. You begin to sharpen when to turn your head, and when to move your foot.

I practice my kata with no cadence. Did you know cadence is just a tool to teach a kata? Your kata has no numerical cadence. You can start to feel the energy of the kata without the numbers. When are you supposed to go hard, go soft, speed up, or slow for emphasis? The kata will tell you, after a decade or so.

I practice my kata alone. I study it, pause when I need to break down the bunkai by myself. I am self-studying as a martial artist here, not as a teacher or a student, directing or being directed. Some of the best answers come in the alone moments. That’s when I hear my kata the loudest.

I never really understood what Hanshi Kise meant when he said, “Good job. More practice.” Now, when I watch Chinto done by my teacher, Shihan Lazarus, I see that it resonates through him with so much more understanding than I have. It will take a lifetime of practice to learn my kata the way my teacher knows them, and I guess that was the point Hanshi was trying to make.

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