"The Author, it must be remembered, writes from his own standpoint!"
My personal "Interpretive" Lens!

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"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour

"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

"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.

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It’s NOT Personal

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

I write, a lot, and I am honored to have people view, read and comment on what I write. I find topics in a variety of ways such as other blog articles where some part triggers something in my mind and I write about it. Sometimes, folks will perceive this as being critical of the source material but I want to ensure everyone who reads this blog, “It is NOT Personal!”

As a fledgling author I write and I love to write. My goals in writing is to learn, build knowledge and create ever greater understanding of those things to which I write about. In Boyd’s OODA it is understood, by me, that a process of analysis and synthesis is an ongoing process that helps to meet goals such as mine. I try to do that a lot but being human, I sometimes mistakenly write in a way that seems and may be perceived as “Personal” to the reader. 

One thing I have tried to add at the end of each article is to express, at a minimum, a form of acknowledgement to the person, blog and/or article that inspired the one I write, wrote and posted. It may seem that because I ‘tip my hat or ritsu-rei’ to that person, etc., that the article must be a critique of the other source and author - sometimes it is true, but mostly it “IS NOT PERSONAL!”

I am saying this here and now because, similar to Colonel Boyd when addressing seniors at his lectures, I want to ensure that the person on the receiving end understands that it is not personal and that everything I write is about “ME” and my learning process along with allowing others to be exposed because one of the most critical aspects of learning, studying and coming to an understanding is through the exchange of communications with others who have something positive to contribute. This occurs, if done properly, on the dojo floor, in the classroom, at seminars and thorugh exchanges in blogs, video’s, books and other media (through comments and reviews, etc.). You cannot achieve understanding in just your own mind because it just doesn’t work. 

Humans have survived and become the animal at the top of the food chain, so to speak, because over the centuries a few have used such strategies and tactics in learning thus building our societies and species into what it is today. If not for this we all would still be hunting with rocks and sticks, running from predators and gathering food on the Serengeti plains of a thousand years ago or so. 

If I got something wrong, if you feel it needs correction or if you just think I am full of shit, comment constructively because it is how I learn, change and grow - change is critical but only change that involves many, not a few and especially not just the ‘one’. 


Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Purpose of the Enbusen Line II: What is the reason/importance of the Enbusen in Kata?

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Interesting question with as many answers as there are kata in karate. I recommend reading the article by Andreas Quast Sensei HERE ( http://ryukyu-bugei.com/?p=4762 ) Short answers is, “It depends!”

Enbusen (also romanized as Embusen) [演武線] The first character/ideogram means, “Performance; act; play; render; stage,” the second character means, “warrior; military; chivalry; arms,” and the third character means, “line; track.” 

There seem to be rules regarding kata enbusen such as, “The rule of embusen is that any movements in one direction should be symmetrical and countered by an equivalent number of movements in the opposite direction.“ 

Another source to check out on this one is a response on Iain Abernethy’s forum site that states by CSS1971, “The embusen rule is basically that a kata should "balance". Each step in one direction should be countered by a step in the opposite direction. If they did the design of the kata right, you should always end up exactly back at the point you started, the kiten. It's good for performance of kata because you can run through a load of them without really moving, and in a small space, with a group of people. The limit to steps in any direction in okinawan kata is usually 3, giving approximately a  3mx3m (3yard x 3yard) training space.“

You can read Abernethy’s response to parts of the above quote/question HERE: (http://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/another-embusen-embusen-rule), scroll down to #4. 

In short, he states:

“Ending up in the same spot was never a consideration when the kata were created. Why would it be? It is something that has risen up relatively recently and it’s a mistake to see it as being somehow fundamental to the way the kata have been constructed. We have seen some kata modified to fit this modern dictate, but it was not a rule that was fundamental to all kata as they were created.” - Iain Abernethy Sensei

“If you were designing any of the traditional kata, you’d be living in a point in history where no such uniform rule existed. Such a rule would serve no practical purpose so you’d not even consider such a thing. It’s a bit like asking the tribal huntsmen of the past if they designed their spear throwing technique to ensure their foot did not go over the line (as is required in Javelin throwing in athletics).” - Iain Abernethy Sensei

“You were creating kata to record combative methods and to provide a supplementary form of solo practice. Starting and finishing on the same place has zero bearing on either of those two objective so it would never even be considered.” - Iain Abernethy Sensei

“ … many traditional kata don’t start and finish on the same place.” - Iain Abernethy Sensei

“ … While Funakoshi expressed the idea in Karate-Do Kyohan – but not before that – other style, which also have Itosu in their lineage, don’t demand kata start and finish on the same place. As I say, it’s primarily just the Shotokan branch that developed this idea and expressed it in their literature. Mabuni (regarded by many, including Funakoshi, to be Itosu’s senior student) makes no mention of the start and finish point being important in his discussion on embusen.” - Iain Abernethy Sensei

Joe Swift wrote: The meaning of the directions in kata is not well understood, and frequently mistakes are made in the interpretation of kata movements. In extreme cases, it is sometimes heard that, "this kata moves in 8 directions so it is designed for fighting 8 opponents" or some such nonsense.”

Joe Swift also wrote: “Looking at the embusen for Pinan Nidan, one can see that karate kata move in all directions, forward and back, left and right. When interpreting kata, one must not get too caught up in these directions. For example, do not fall into the trap of thinking that just because a kata begins to the left that the opponent is always attacking from the left.”

As to my perception and beliefs regarding enbusen, I feel that such things are from Japanese influences to kata-ize karate to make it more palatable to Japanese bu-do and I also attribute it to the educationilization of karate for the educational systems in those years prior to WWII. 

I would add in military influences along with how one learns and encodes patterns into the human mind. It seems that the creators of kata no matter at what time in history instinctually understood how humans rely on patterns to survive and that such patterns were most excellent in learning things such as karate. In addition, it was more a tool to my mind than a fighting pattern to teach and learn, it was more about teaching and learning certain principles that were, at the time, best taught from such patterns. It is why kata moves, generally, are not rendered in the kata form or patterns in actual sparring and especially in an actual self-fense situation and application. Humans, people, just don’t fight that way whether sport or reality self-fense in violent situations, i.e., what most incorrectly call street-fighting. 

In my beliefs, kata are patterned forms and formula’s used to teach and condition certain primal like responses that manifest naturally in ways that break the kata form and patterns while allowing creative creations of methodologies and force types/levels to achieve goals such as not get gravely damaged or killed while stopping the attacker from gravely harming or killing - you. 

We, the military, who brought kata and karate and other martial disciplines to the masses who found military patterned formation form like drilling and connected it to the educational driven form, patterns and drills of karate whereby our already formidable training and understanding came together like old friends and made for a wholehearted way that we adopted easily and quickly - necessary in short spans of time on duty to achieve the coveted gaol of wearing a black belt. 

Another, interesting perception and belief regarding enbusen, is found in my home karate system of Isshinryu, i.e., 

Embusen is important in kata because it keeps with the Oriental philosophy of beginning and ending. The old tombs of Okinawa are called turtle shell tombs because they resemble a turtle, but on closer examination they are supposed to represent the womb. Hitoshi explained this to several members on one of our tours to Okinawa. You are born from the womb and return to the womb. This can also be seen in the circle. Many times you see a sumi or black ink painting of a circle and this also represents beginning and end. So if you are looking for perfection, then beginning and ending are important.
  • All things being equal, the person closest to the start of his kata will win in a kata contest.
  • It is important to stay in your embusen in a dojo other wise you run into another practitioner. 
  • Embusen is the path or line of kata. Embusen on a highway is very important because if you don't follow the correct path or line of movement, or stay in your lane of traffic on a highway, guess what!
  • All styles or sensei do not teach embusen but it does exist. 
  • To make it work, remember that all steps in kata are adjustable.
  • In the videos I show how embusen and with the exception of naihanchi kata start and end in the same spot. 
per Arcenio J. Advincula Sensei

Several things I felt when reading this excerpt, it seems to be directed to a more sport oriented rendition and practice, i.e., winning in a kata contest. I kow that many who judge kata competition use the enbusen start/stop point as a means to judge accurateness thus what point value it receives. The issue with this one example for me is, “What is being judged regarding accuracy, etc.?” In a sense of self-fense, karate as a means of protection against personal violent encounters, because the ability to make adjustments in the performance of the pattern to start and end at a certain marked point on the floor is meaningless. It does train the mind tho to do things that will result in failure if you are training for self-defense. 

To allude also to traffic and accidents and not explain and define what is meant by saying, “Enbusen is about following a path or line of movement or staying in your lane on a highway” seems incomplete especially if it is not about performance competition but defending against an aggressor bent on doing grave harm or killing you. 

I can also see the concept of perfection being of importance in karate and kata BUT that is about, to my mind and belief, a more philosophical self-help form of practice because perfection of movement in self-defense is not appropriate for fighting, self-defense and predatory violence is chaotic, formless, confusing and not about perfecting a form or patter but acting under the duress of danger, damage, death, crowding, imbalance, structure disruption and fighting from disadvantage and the effects of the adrenal stress-conditions of the reality of violence. 

As a way it is awesome, but as a means of learning and applying violence to stop violence - not so much except to supplement and support philosophy as a minor part of a whole where physiokinetics and technique along with a minor role in theory are involved. 

Enbusen is also a novice level, to my beliefs, to teach novices about movement, balance, structure and other such fundamental principles so that one can learn at a more experienced knowledgable level how to learn, develop and apply dynamically multiple methodologies and varying types of appropriate force to stop damage and the attack/attacker. 

Then again, maybe I am wrong and maybe I am missing parts, principles and other factors that others of greater experience, knowledge and understanding have over my simple mindless meanderings. 

So, in a nutshell, take some time and do a bit of analysis of all the various informations and sources available, do the analysis and then develop a synthesized creation of a interpretation and meaning behind the concept of ‘enbusen/embusen’. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

The Enbusen depends on the kind of training place, the martial arts tradition, as well as the starting point and end point of the performance, which is called “matomari” (finish). It is said that starting point and end point have to be the same spot, that is, Kata are thought to have been designed so as to return to the original starting spot. However, by differences in the physique, power of expression, way of stepping, footwork of the performer, and others, the end point and starting point might not always exactly be the same. Moreover, there are Kata where the starting and end points are definitely not the same. - Andreas Quast Sensei

One of the most important functions of the intermediate movements is that of  “positional coincidence”; they cause the final position of the kata to coincide with the initial position. The kata begins at one point and ends at the same point so that symmetry of position, as well as movement, is upheld. … The theory of positional coincidence is also supported by principles of physical training. Well balanced movements in symmetry are essential to any exercise or sport.” - Shoshin Nakamine, The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do