The Dynamic Nature of Judo Kata

An Interview with Steven R. Cunningham 6th Dan Kodokan Judo, 7th Dan Takagi-ryu Jujutsu, 6th dan Mugen-ryu karate by Linda Yiannakis 4th Dan USJJF; 4th Dan USA Judo

© 1998, 2010 Linda Yiannakis  All Rights Reserved

Steve Cunningham began his study of judo at the age of 6 with Taizo Sone, who attended classes and lectures with Jigoro Kano at the Kodokan in the early part of the 20th century. For many years, Sone-sensei studied at the Kodokan with and was uke to Hidekazu Nagaoka (later 10th dan.) Cunningham’s years of study with Sone-sensei included training in all aspects of traditional judo. He is well versed in Japanese history, philosophy, language and culture. Cunningham-sensei teaches Judo in Manchester, Connecticut.

Jigoro KanoThe Kodokan today recognizes a number of official kata. What are the origins of each of these kata and what does each contribute to the complete syllabus of Judo?

How many kata there are depends on how you count. The first two kata that are typically taught and learned are the so-called Randori no Kata. These are Nage no Kata and Katame no Kata. Nage no Kata is the Form of Throwing, and Katame no Kata is the Form of Grappling. The kata are not specifically kata to teach you how to do randori, but rather they are kata made up of techniques that are also used in randori. The old Kodokan used to differentiate between randori waza and goshin waza. Randori waza are techniques that are appropriate for randori and goshin waza are techniques that are not appropriate for randori. Now that is not to say that the randori waza would not also be used in self-defense. It simply means that among all the techniques, those are the ones that one would be allowed to use in randori. So for example, kote gaeshi, throwing with wrist twist, would be a good example of a goshin waza. It is not legal to apply that technique in randori. But certainly we would apply osoto gari in self-defense. So that’s what these two kata are about. Both kata were developed, I think, in 1888, and they were then modified and standardized with two major revisions: one in the summer of 1905 and one in the summer of 1907. This was in response and in preparation for the kata and syllabus committee that Kano put together made up of various masters from the Kodokan and from various ryu that had agreed to help him. It was quite an illustrious group of people that went to work on the kata and syllabus.

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