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Kata – Theory, Analysis, and Practice – Part 3


Theory, Analysis, and Practice

The Complete Philosophy of Dojo no Hebi – School of the Snake


Stephen F. Kaufman, Hanshi 10th Dan

Shodai Soke, Hebi-ryu Karate-do


 Concepts of Attack and Kata Terminology

There are three concepts of attack essential to the “warrior” mentality. Well-meaning, non-knowing teachers speak of these attitudes quite frequently via intellectual approaches to the reality of combat, and many people who talk about them do not understand the necessity to inculcate them into an overall sense of beingness as an aspect of consciousness. It is further unfortunate that the commercial endeavors of those who generally speak of these ideas do not know the distinction between being and doing, and unable to discriminate in thought, they are concerned with fashion rather than fastidiousness.


Attack/no-attack should be used in all aspects of your life without having to think about what you are doing while maintaining a personal moral imperative. This is so because you have trained yourself to react in a certain manner. It is not a matter of reacting to a situation, but rather acting in accord with the dictates of the circumstances and defusing them. It suggests that though you should be on your guard and prepared to act without becoming paranoid, you should always remain calm regardless of events. This becomes a state of alertness referred to as awareness—or—to use the Japanese term, zanshin. Focused training provides you with the ability to act and to know when and when not to do something. It is necessary to practice with this idea in consciousness to enable the mind and body to automatically function on the physical level when it is necessary. This is only accomplished with practice and WITHOUT spending countless hours in meditation, but rather by accepting accomplishment of awareness as already done. Thinking in such a manner will cause you to experience it as such. To develop the proper attitude of already done and to believe it, you cannot be nonchalant about an idea and expect it to be there when you want it. You want the attitude to be permanent; it is requisite to competence in anything you do.

Going into the Attack

Going into the attack concerns commitment to what you are doing. As specific techniques are developed, you will be constantly reminded to go into the attack. It is, therefore, required that you understand the specifics of individual tactics that include proper form and technique. This is sound thinking, and with continued practice, you will come to understand the reasoning behind it. It is an essential thinking for the self-realization of accomplishment of any action—certainly a martial scenario where life and death may hang in the balance. Though this concept may sound alien for any number of reasons, perhaps because of a natural reaction to flinch or to move away from certain forms of danger, it is, nonetheless, essential. The mentality of going into the attack takes some thought and much practice, plus an acceptance of yourself as the instrument for your desire to be fulfilled. It is not to be confused with rushing headlong into overwhelming situations. Your actions should be done with resoluteness—or not at all.

Practice and reality becomes the same thing when you are sincere in your endeavor. To further illustrate this, consider attacking the attack rather than attacking the attacker. Through this way of thinking you will come to understand that the function of the target is to accept your actions as an extension of its own beingness. Though this too may seem way out at this point in your training, the reality is that you will be empowered to alleviate the fear of thinking that you may be overwhelmed by an attacker’s size, bravado, or the weapon being employed against you. This idea will become clear as you progress and the sound thinking behind it will become apparent. Attack the attack and not the attacker with an intense desire to win—or don’t waste your time.

The Attitude of Going Forward

Always think in terms of having succeeded in your endeavor. If you don’t think in this manner, you can struggle for years on end and never arrive at a level of competency that you will respect. Leaving things to chance will not permit you to derive the joy and pleasure from any activity that you are involved with. The attitude of going forward should be a motivating aspect in all the matters of your life. Once you accept this attitude, you will never lose at anything. There will be no reason to experience loss because of the confidence you develop.

When you are too close to or too far from the target, it is very difficult for either attacker to complete any strikes. The attitude of going forward with right consciousness and endeavor of determination will provide you with the necessary strength and speed based on developed power and quickness along with the appropriate concept of distancing. You will see this more thoroughly as you proceed. Therefore, if you follow this line of thinking, it is necessary to put your whole self into the act whether you consider your actions practice or anything else.

Miyamoto Musashi, Japan’s greatest swordsman, is reported to have said, “You can only fight in battles the way you practice in training.” If you fool around during practice, you will never have the right attitude should it become necessary to employ your skills. Put your heart into it and constantly move forward into new levels of awareness. I put it as follows: If you are going to play, play. Don’t play!

The benefit to this type of training and thinking is that you will recognize other challenges in life and deal with them accordingly. By close examination of the pictures presented in the kata being taught, determine the difference in a strictly defensive mode compared to going into the attack with calmness and moving forward all based on the attitude of attack/no-attack. Develop the confidence needed to carry through and complete the act.

Kata Terminology

You must endeavor to understand my use of words throughout the entire text. All concepts and attitudes mentioned in this introduction apply to all martial art technique, armed or unarmed, and should be repeatedly reviewed by the student. If something confuses you, review it. In that way, grow and learn. It is further recommended that the student study, understand, and be apprised of the wisdom contained in The Martial Artist’s Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi’s Classic Book of Strategy written by this author.

The 5 Kata are related to each of the books in the Book of Five Rings. They are appropriately called Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and No-thing. Each of the elements named is specific to the actual kata, and in this manner, all of the potential considerations for martial combat are covered leaving nothing undisclosed. You, the individual student must discover for yourself the implications of your work and the overall meaning of them in your life.

Individual aspects pertaining to the sections in the Five Rings are explained in the specific kata, but relate to all kata irrespective of style. Philosophical considerations are brought to your attention, but they are not dwelt on. There are other sources that should be studied to round out your martial education, including this author’s Sun Tzu’s Art of War, The Shogun Scrolls, The Living Tao, Suzuki’s Zen and Japanese Culture, Takuan’s Unfettered Mind, Nitobe’s Soul of the Samurai, Kamerer’s Zen and Confucius in the Art of Swordsmanship, and Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery.

WARNING— Hebi-ryu karate-do methods and practices should not be confused with commercial karate and self-defense courses being taught in the majority of karate “schools,” kick-boxing clubs, etc. The methodology of “Dojo no Hebi – School of the Snake” is implicit and will have a dramatic impact on your overall lifestyle, martial arts notwithstanding. Expect changes in your conduct and approaches to everyday affairs as well.

© SFKaufman 2011

For more info on author and to purchase books, visit http://www.hanshi.com


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