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My personal "Interpretive" Lens!
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"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon
Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.
Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.
What is the purpose of the embusen line in kata?
Embusen is that line that also provides guidance as to proper stance to the technique associated with it. Each technique has a specific stance, posture, pose, etc. that maximizes that techniques application. When you follow embusen it provides a means to indicate if a stance is properly assumed or not which affects the applied technique. A blueprint if you will.
It also provides you a means to orient the body to the proper directions, stances, postures, and application of techniques for range, targeting, etc. If you are not orienting your body and direction properly it will show in the initial stages by a loss of proper embusen. You can say it teaches using movement and kamae to cover distance and to gain proper distance to target for the particular technique in the kata.
Once a person learns the fundamentals of the entire kata and set of kata then is the embusen still as important? Less so as the practitioner progresses there is going to be changes and adjustments to suit that particular individual due to many factors such as size, weight, leg length, arm length, etc. which affect momentum, distancing, focus, range to target, etc.
Embusen is the signature of the base gross movement of kata and can be tightened as progress is made until its need and purpose no longer exists. This can happen quickly or in years depending once again on the individual.
Yes? No? Maybe?
Once you achieve proficiency you have to remember strict adherence to embusen means you lose the ability to adjust both stance and technique as it relates to the present moment stimuli. Remember in real fighting you are going to adjust many things according to space, environment, surrounding stuff such as rocks, uneven ground, parked cars, and other obstructions to include the difference between a bit of distance that separates to close up body contact fighting.
You need to adhere to learn but have to adapt when required by the current present moment situation, etc.
I remember watching a practitioner working on Chinto-no-te but kept ending up facing the wrong way and applying a technique ineffectually. I kept an eye on the practice/struggle and it then dawned on me, they are not working or using the embusen; they were not taught what it is and how to use it, etc.
- It was argued that embusen plays no role in applications. [not exactly accurate: embusen does play a role for it provides a way to "see" how a kata moves, transitioning between kamae, proper stance to application of waza, etc. Ergo it does play a role but not what most think.]
- It was also argued that it has no significance to kata bunkai. [not exactly accurate: In its usage as a tool to the kata as explained fundamentally it does provide guidance in applying bunkai correctly and efficiently.]
- It was also argued it applied to the teaching of body movement. [Hm, yes and no depending on what you mean by body movement. As to changing and transitioning so that your body mass remains directly behind the direction you move in relation to the application of a technique to create momentum along with range and targeting and such things as focus of application to the vertical axis then it works as it should. It provides a basic/fundamental view or blueprint in learning, practicing and applying various techniques with a caveat that this is a fundamental learning system that will be less stringent as one progresses.]
- Embusen is a tool or strategy for instruction in kata, etc. but also a tool as described above in applying karate to various scenario's in preparation for street protection, combative applications, and fence.
Caveat: one must know how to measure the embusen line to accomplish all the goals of its intent. I would bet that most if not all including Okinawan Masters do not have the dimensions of the line for each kata. It still serves a purpose to orientation, etc. but as to exact stance positions and distance moving in any direction, etc. having the ability to actually create the embusen, for each individual according to height, etc., is difficult or impossible. I suspect it all got lost because it was not transmitted to most, if not all, American Service Persons due to a variety of reasons. Can you recreate it? Possibly.
Note: One statement I read on embusen as to Isshinryu, "To make it work, remember that all steps in kata are adjustable." This made me stop and think to myself, this is backwards sorta. In my view steps should not be adjusted to fit embusen to make it work because returning to the exact start point at the end is achieved by setting proper stances in relation to the techniques and those other factors that make technique effective and powerful. The embusen should work regardless of the person's leg length, their height, and other body factors that differ from person to person. It is a good idea that a part of kata training is to learn the embusen pattern of the kata and then work out the measurements necessary to achieve a proper stance to waza, etc. In my view this is how we associate things to achieve a solid memory and encoding of kata, kata waza, and how it all applies to varying stimuli in combative situations.
Note: I quote another reading, "All things being equal, the person closest to the start of his kata will win in a kata contest." This is of course secondary simply because this involves competitive forms of a tournament. To me this is applying embusen to achieve a pretty form that impresses judges for trophies. The real value in this is the effects felt when competing as they simulate some of the effects one feels to fear, anxiety, etc. in other situations. There is good and not so good in all things, i.e. all bottles are good, they all serve a purpose!
Note: Another quote I wanted to express "my very personal view on," is, "It is important to stay in your embusen in a dojo other wise you run into another practioner." I am not actually disputing this or the other quotes but today this may or may not actually apply and in the end it should not be a focus of great concern as it is not to me a primary goal of this tool of practice and training. To me embusen in relation to others during practice in a small space tends to overshadow the true instruction which is to remain mindful and aware of your surroundings and while performing/practicing kata your awareness, not embusen, should alert you when you are coming into another's space, i.e. a collision is immanent with another, etc.
Note: I would wholeheartedly agree that embusen's start/stop point in most cases being the "one" point is important to both proper execution of kata but more so as to its relation to Yin-n-Yang, i.e. the ken-po goku-i and its connections to the teachings of the Chinese ancient classics.
Note: It was posed once, by another and by me in a post of mine, that embusen actually spell or represent something like a kanji character. I suspect, but cannot prove, this is another American creation. When looking for reasons to express as to why one practices or even learns about something like embusen it is sometimes patched or filled in on the fly to create a more alluring reason why one would bother learning about, researching on, etc. a particular subject or practice such as embusen. My view, in does not matter as long as you and your readers know it is a theory or hypothesis so all who read of it can be inspired to go find answers and learn more.
Question: Which came first, kata or embusen? Good question, so look for my theory/hypothesis in a blog post. :-)
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