Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Kata we Practice: Fukyugata Ichi

The most basic of kata, but as advanced as you want to make it. This is how I usually describe Fukyugata Ichi.

Fukyugata Ichi is the first kata that brand new beginners learn at our dojo. As kata go, Fukyugata Ichi is very easy to learn. It follows a very simple pattern and the movements are easy and linear.

Beginning students learn to simply move from place to place and coordinate hand movements with foot movements. Fukyugata Ichi is an excellent tool for teaching this skill. The symmetry of the kata allows right handed students to learn how to use their left side and vice versa. The kata makes use of low (front stance) and high (natural stance) stances. The transition between these stances teaches the beginner to be flexible in their movement and begins to teach the basics of distance. Fukyugata Ichi also teaches beginners basic applications of blocking and striking.

As students progress and become more comfortable with the movements of the kata, the practice of the kata can progress to a more intermediate level. At this level, the student learns to coordinate the upper and lower parts of the body using exagerated koshi and big arm movements. By using rotational koshi movements and rising and dropping of the transitions between high and low stances, the intermediate student learns to make power in their techniques. Applications become more complicated and incorporate hikite and in-between movements. The student focuses on learning to isolate the practice of kata for speed, power and gracefulness.

There is no set time period for a student to move from the basic level to the intermediate level of practice. This is an individual thing and needs to be cultivated by the teacher.

Fukyugata Ichi offers much for the advanced student, as well. At the advanced level, use of koshi is much less noticable and internalized. Use of hand movement is whittled down from big motions to very short motions that are coordinated with foot movement. Applications are more subtle and natural. Speed, power and gracefulness are practiced together. There is no wasted motion and performance of the kata looks relaxed yet quick and powerful.

Again, there is no set time period for transitioning from intermediate to advanced practice of Fukyugata Ichi. This is an individual thing that depends on natural ability, diligent practice, careful introspection, good instruction, and personal choice.

I have included the last point, personal choice, because some students may not feel they are ready to make the jump from beginning, to intermediate, to the advanced way of doing kata. As the teacher, it is my job to oversee the student's progress and encourage them to make the transition at the right time. The actual transition is always up to the individual.

Fukyugata Ichi is the most basic of kata, but with practice, it can be as advanced as you want to make it.