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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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KATA – Striving to Live in the Moment

Shaun Banfield

 

 

Shaun Banfield practicing KataI am striving to live in the moment. I am striving to indulge in the fruits of the present. But I am far too invested in the future.

 

I never sit with a hot cup of coffee and enjoy the taste; I never live for the moment. It seems I am forever looking ahead, so invested in what will or can happen, that to truly enjoy that which is happening there and then is almost impossible. My biggest frailty it seems is my inability to just be…

 

I couldn’t describe right now how a good steak or a nice bottle of red wine really tastes. John Lennon once said ‘Life is what’s happening when you’re making plans’, and in many respects I question whether I really need these luxuries if they are so inconsequential. 

 

Kata is the one exception.

 

A few years ago I reached what I can only describe as a significant watershed in my karate study. I had achieved, as far as I was concerned, the superficial and trivial achievements. I had competed, albeit not to my fullest potential, I had achieved a certain standard of form, and I knew enough about the technicalities of karate. My Kata looked as it should on the exterior, but there was little spirit fuelling my machine.

 

I felt somewhat hollow. I had, granted only for a short period of time, been very interested in competition, and at that time it served its purpose. I would train to make the appearance of my kata more impressive, more showy, more fake.

 

People now ask me, why at such a young age, I don’t still compete. This is the very reason why.

 

I had lost sight of the purpose of kata. I had lost sight of why I should be doing it at all, and it was then that I realised that a deep evaluation was needed.

 

Sensei Hazard teaches that Kata is for yourself. There are naturally times when kata is called upon for other reasons, but the actual execution of kata is for you.

 

Coming back to where this all started. I don’t live in the moment. Kata for me however is the only exception. When I bring my feet together to bow, everything truly goes away. Years ago I would make it look as though everything went away, but in fact it never really had. I would do one technique in one direction and then think ‘Sharp Head Turn’ in the direction of the next technique…referees love this kind of psuedo-fighting-spirit.

 

When you have the bitter realisation that what you have been practicing is nothing but a fake, it is quite a sobering slap in the face. Enough to make me completely re-evaluate my entire approach to karate.

 

This new direction took me on a somewhat introspective study. My study of kata itself grew far deeper and more functional, which opened so many new doors of discovery (Which I will discuss in another article), but from a personal point of view I completely stripped my kata back to a truer and more honest state.

 

I think, only when you have nothing can you really achieve something. During my Fine Art study at University I was told by my lecturers that only when you have a degree of destruction can you achieve creativity. I was actively encouraged to destroy the parts of the painting that were working, as when you become too precious about the parts that work, you hinder creativity, so you destroy that which works in order to be liberated.

 

I personally found that only when I destroyed my kata, metaphorically speaking, I could really take it to a new level. Only when I cleaned the slate of the frills and fancies could I take the kata where it needed to go.

 

My kata now gives me time in the present. It is the only time when I live in the moment, and for the moment. There is a particular mentality that I am seeking, that I long to exist within, and with every moment I practice kata I get closer to it. I try not to solely execute kata for kihon. I execute it for kumite, for a fight so violent. I execute it to put a resounding silence to the chaos of conflict. I want my kata to become more violent, not reckless and careless, but intense with a lethal intent.

 

I want this internal intensity and passion to seep through my pores, and surface itself externally. I am no longer looking for form. Rightly or wrongly, this is where my current study takes me. I am not just interested in executing the techniques accurately, but I want to supply them with my entire being. We all train hard to hit with as much physical energy as possible, but this invaluable mental energy and commitment will turn dangerous techniques into killing techniques.

 

I bring my feet together, bow and then I call my kata’s name. From the time where my feet come together to bow, to the time they repeat the same action at the end of the kata, I am wholly invested in the moment. My kata is now for me. My mental approach is for me, and study is just for me. Karate is just for me…in the moment and for the moment. I am now working on taking that mentality to the rest of my life.

 

Shaun Banfield