What We Offer
What We Train
Our base discipline is Wado kai karate as taught by the late master Sensei Masaru Shintani, 9th Dan, the founder of the Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation. This foundation consists of striking and blocking waza (technique), kata (forms practice), and kumite (controlled sparring). In 2006, Sensei Freeman and Sensei Pettie began to further enrich their understanding of Wado -kai karate through study of material from Sensei Iain Abernethy, 5th Dan, and through study of translations of primary sources from various martial arts masters. This has led to further understanding of karate’s short-range fighting techniques or Te gumi (grappling hands), which can be broadly broken into the practices of Tuite (Grabbing), Nage waza (Throws & Takedowns), Kansetsu waza
(Joint-Locks), Shime waza (Chokes & Strangles), and Ne waza (Ground- Fighting). All are an integral part of the karate as it was originally taught.
Students have access to tournaments, clinics and gradings across Canada throughout the year. The opportunity to join the SWKKF National Team also exists, which opens the door to further coaching and travel to national and international tournaments.
For adults, we offer additional training in a progressive strength training program that includes benchmark testing. Over the years, the club has invested in fitness equipment such as stability, BOSU and medicine balls, dumbbells, and resistance bands. Our students now have access to benchmark fitness testing twice a year, in order to quantify the benefits of our training program.
We often arrange for guest lectures on topics such as nutrition, yoga, and personal training from other sports professionals in the Edmonton community.
The literal translation for the term kata or gata as it is sometimes rendered in English is “pattern” or “flow”. Commonly known, kata has been defined as a person “fighting against imaginary opponents.” This claim, to some extent is true, but at the same it is also misleading. It might be better to depict kata as “a handbook of self-defence techniques.” By viewing it this way, a better picture of kata will emerge. Kata is indeed an encyclopedia of techniques, helping to recall techniques that an ancient master thought necessary to perfect. In ancient times, kata was a way to preserve techniques that might have been used to protect one’s life. A master places ideas on how one can fight effectively against a common street fighter or armed assailant in his kata.
Learn More About Kata
What is kata?
The literal translation for the term kata or gata as it is sometimes rendered in English is “pattern” or “flow”. Commonly known, kata has been defined as a person “fighting against imaginary opponents.” This claim, to some extent is true, but at the same it is also misleading. It might be better to depict kata as “a handbook of self-defence techniques.” By viewing it this way, a better picture of kata will emerge. Kata is in- deed an encyclopedia of techniques, helping to recall techniques that an ancient master thought necessary to perfect. In ancient times, kata was a way to preserve techniques that might have been used to protect one’s life. A master places ideas on how one can fight effectively against a common street fighter or armed assailant in his kata.
The pursuit of the primary kata (see below) imposes a curriculum on the student’s training by introducing more complex techniques and principles as the student gains proficiency with the previous kata. This is concretely illustrated by the numbering of the Pinans from 1 through 5 (Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yodan and Godan), forcing an order to their instruction. Pursuit of the Pinan kata culminates in Kushanku, which serves as an amalgam of key techniques introduced in the Pinans.
History of Kata
Kata, as with martial arts in general, has a lineage from China. It doesn’t really matter whether the transfer of knowledge was through Okinawan martial artists travelling to China and studying kung-fu or by Chinese masters visiting Okinawa. Around the mid-1700’s, three key individuals seemed to form a melting pot for the birth of modern karate kata: Shinjo Choken, Karate Saku- gawa (1733-1815), and Chatan Yara (c. 1750). Choken was one of the earliest practitioners of Shuri-Te. Both Sakugawa and Yara travelled to Fukien Province in China and probably studied martial arts and weaponry while there. Both studied under the Chinese envoy, Kusanku, either in China or while Kusanku was in Okinawa in the late 1750’s. Kusanku was reported to be an expert in the martial arts and had learned his abilities from a Shaolin monk. From this combina- tion of individuals in the mid-1700’s karate kata began to focus.
The original Okinawan karate forms were developed during the 19th century under two major divisions of styles: Shuri-Te (Shuri Hands) and Naha-Te (Naha Hands). Though they were both derived from similar Chinese forms, each developed differently based on location and the social position of the developers. The Shuri-Te was practiced in and around the city of Shuri where the king and members of the nobility lived. Naha-Te was practiced in and around the coastal city of Naha, which was a large trade centre. Another style developed which is closely related to Shuri- Te, which was named Tomari-Te. Tomari-Te was practiced in the Tomari village populated by farmers and fisherman. The three styles have differences that can be traced back to the social- economic position of the practitioners. At the bottom, was the worker class studying Tomari-Te. The middle level was merchant class students studying Naha-Te. The upper class noblemen were then studying Shuri-Te in and around the capital.
Most Wado katas were born from one of the three ancestral styles described above. While none of the three are superior to the others, they approach kata differently. Shuri-Te and Tomari-Te were light and quick, while Naha-Te was heavy and powerful. These influences are still evident in the katas that derived from these regions. Shuri-Te gave rise to the 5 Pinans and Kushanku, Seishan was derived from Naha-Te and Tomari-Te was the area from which Chinto and Wanshu developed.
Hironori Ohtsuka chose 10 core katas for the Wado-Ryu system plus 6 supplementary katas. Likewise the Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation (SWKKF) has adopted the same 10 katas as part of its formal curriculum: Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yodan, Pinan Godan, Kushanku, Naihanchin, Seishan, Chinto, Wanshu. The SWKKF has a large number of supplementary katas, reflecting Sensei Shin- tani’s earlier training in Shorin Ryu. The origins of some of the secondary katas practiced in the SWKKF are obscure, since they do not appear widely in Shorin Ryu kata lists but they do appear to trace back to Okinawa origins, since they display similarities to other Okinawan katas. Though these core katas are the focus of the SWKKF, as with Wado’s founder, the pursuit of the other 6 supplementary katas is encouraged. The supplemen- tary katas help the students to generalize the application of technique and to broaden the students’ understanding of karate principles.
“Bunkai Jutsu” or the art of interpreting kata movements is important if kata is to be understood either as a fight against imaginary opponents, or as a handbook of self-defence techniques. It is important to realize that there can be multiple interpretations for a given set of movements. This relates in part to the versatility of the movements, but also is related to their historical development.
Learn More About Bunkai
“Bunkai Jutsu” or the art of interpreting kata movements is important if kata is to be understood either as a fight against imaginary opponents, or as a handbook of self-defence techniques. It is important to realize that there can be multiple interpretations for a given set of movements. This relates in part to the versatility of the movements, but also is related to their historical development. See Itosu’s 6th precept earlier in the manual for additional details.
Kata were developed to ensure that the most effective methods of a particular individual or style were not lost. Contained within each and every kata is a complete system of fighting. In 1926 Choki Motobu (who was one of Okinawa’s most feared fighters) wrote, “The Naihanchi, Passai, Chinto and Rohai styles are not left in China today and only remain in Okinawa as active martial arts.” The key word in the preceding quote is ‘styles’. This implies that Motobu believed all the kata listed to be systems in their own right. Seen this way, we can infer that training different kata is tantamount to training different fighting styles, and this is certainly evident in the practice of some of the black-belt kata that we practice in Wado and in the SWKKF. The kata were not intended to be used together – although there is no reason why they could not be – but were all intended to be used as a stand alone self-defence system. This is a very important, and often over-looked, fact.
In a real situation it is highly unlikely we would be attacked with complex manoeuvres or high kicks and hence it is very unlikely that a master would have spent much time developing methods for dealing with such attacks. We have a far greater need for defences against wild swings, head-butts, tackles, etc. The vast majority of real fights also take place at close range and hence the vast majority of kata applications are also for use at that distance. Techniques such as close range strikes, throws, takedowns, chokes, strangles, arm bars, leg locks, finger locks, wrist locks, neck cranks, ground fighting, etc. are common place within the kata. These methods are rarely removed from the kata and practised in the majority of modern dojos. If we wish to practice karate as the complete art that its founders intended it to be, then we must study our kata in sufficient depth and include all aspects of the art in our regular training.
1. Kata were closely-guarded secrets
The first thing to bear in mind is that the kata were closely guarded secrets. In his book Karate- do Nyumon Gichin Funakoshi states that an elderly Okinawan karateka once contacted him as he wished to pass on a kata before he died. Funakoshi was unable to go and asked that the kata be taught to Gigo (Funakoshi’s son). Gigo was taught the kata in a locked room with shuttered windows. The old man told Gigo that in his lifetime he had only shown the kata to one other person, and when he did he had crucially altered it. This tale helps to illustrate the level of secrecy that originally surrounded kata and its instruction. A kata would only be taught to students who had proved themselves worthy, and only after it had been practised for a sufficient time would the master then reveal the hidden techniques that the kata contained. The kata were put together in a way that was deliberately meant to conceal the techniques within them (the very fact that the opponent is not present is often enough to hide a movement’s meaning). This was to prevent the casual observer from learning the methods of a particular master or school and then devising counters or using the skills in a dishonourable fashion.
2. Safer kata practice was required to widen karate’s appeal
It is also important to take into account the changes in approach that karate instruction underwent in the early part of the last century. In 1901, Yasutsune Itosu placed karate onto the physical education program of the Shuri Jinjo elementary school. As it stood, Itsou believed karate to be too dangerous to be taught to children and set about disguising the more dangerous techniques.
As a result of this, the children were taught the kata as mostly blocking & punching. This enabled the children to gain such benefits as improved health and discipline from their karate practice without giving them knowledge of the highly effective and dangerous fighting techniques that the kata contain. This is significant as the majority of modern karate uses Itosu’s terminology and hence the labels attached to various techniques may well have no relation to their intended use. When teaching the kata to his adult students, Itosu would give full instruction in all the highly potent techniques that the kata contained (when the student was trusted and ready).
The main difference between adult’s and children’s training would simply be a matter of approach as opposed to any change in subject matter. Kata can be practised for health or for fighting skills – the kata are the same but the approach is different. In his writing, Itsou reminds us to be clear as to our intentions. In 1908, he wrote, “Karate kata should be practised with the idea of whether it is for physical training or for its practical use”. This new labelling of techniques undoubtedly mislead many as to the true applications of many kata movements.
3. Changes to kata were required to support introduction to Japan
A third reason as to why the applications of the forms are not widely practised today is the shift in emphasis that karate underwent when it was introduced to Japan. The Japanese required a number of refinements if karate was to be widely accepted by them. There had to be a standard training uniform (a lightweight Judo gi was adopted). A method of competition had to be devised. There had to be a grading system (again the kyu /dan grade system was plagiarised from Judo).
Given the backdrop of growing Japanese militarism and anti-Chinese bias through the 1920s and 1930s (recall that Japan invaded China in 1931 and again in 1937), the art had to be distanced from its Chinese origins (hence Funakoshi changed the name from “Chinese-hand” to “empty-hand” as explained in Karate-do Kyo- han in 1935). And, most significantly of all, it was requested that the more unpleasant aspects were omitted as the Japanese felt much of karate was excessively violent. The eye-gouging, throat- crushing, testicle-seizing and other such unpleasant (but highly effective) methods were further hidden away within the katas and no longer taught openly. This led the great Choki Motobu to proclaim that the karate of Japan was “imitation karate, not much more than a dance.”
The evolution of 1-2 step sparring, as encouraged by Sensei Ohtsuka, is jiyu, or free, kumite. This type of kumite introduces a level of complexity to karate training that melds unpredictability, explosiveness and strategy in a combination that is lacking in kata, kihon, randore and 1-2 step sparring. This type of kumite is characterized by explosive passes, which are resolved when one of the participants successfully delivers a convincing and decisive strike.
While self-defence focuses on escaping from an attack, self-protection addresses a much larger scope: how to avoid becoming a target of violence in the first place. Of course when awareness and avoidance have failed then the next step is self-defence.
The BKA has a team focussed on kata and kumité competition in Shintani tournaments and WKF tournaments in the region.
We offer a progressive strength training program utilizing the latest in sport science and equipment like BOSU Balls, Stability Balls, Resistance Bands, Medicine Balls and free Weights. Our students have performed up to 15% better than students of comparable training and age in a variety of standard fitness test. The ultimate goal of strengthening and conditioning in a karate program is to improve the karateka’s performance in the dojo. This improvement is achieved as a result of the following:
- Increased muscular strength and power (through better muscle fibre recruitment)
- Increased muscular endurance (building muscle stamina)
- Reduced risk of injury (strengthening the connective tissue supporting the joints)
- Improved cardiovascular efficiency (providing the muscles with more oxygen faster)
The instructor team offers a summer challenge every year for youth and adult members of the BKA program. This program encourages active participation and study of the martial arts in a fun and engaging way. Our annual challenge runs from mid June through August every year.