I enjoy practicing Kobudo and Karate in the morning by myself so I can polish and work through techniques. True it’s probably not enough time, but I concentrate on only a few things so I feel I can make a little bit of progress or at the least not get any worse. The other day I focused on two kata, Maezato no suruchin and Minowa no suruchin; the first created by Taira Shinken and the other created by my late teacher Minowa Katsuhiko.
You might be asking why we have two suruchin kata in our curriculum while other Taira lineages have only one or sadly don’t practice Maezato no Suruchin anymore (the exception being the Inoue group which practices cho and tan suruchin)? That is a good question, and I posed the very same one to Minowa sensei a long time ago. He told me that he felt that Maezato no suruchin was an excellent kata but served more as an introduction to the weapon. As such it focused on simple techniques and proper weapon handling. In addition during Minowa sensei’s time there were no two-person sets for most of the weapons. Therefore, he took it upon himself to create a second suruchin kata which focused more on practical applications (oyo) and now bears his name.
Which brings me to the point of this post, the kata that Minowa sensei created. He was, IMHO, successful with some of them but not for all of them. Looking at the kata he created for nicho kon and ticchu objectively, and with my limited experience with these weapons, I can see that he was not successful, yet for sansetsu kon and suruchin he was. I realize that by saying this I may come across as arrogant (aren’t all deceased teachers canonized as saints?), but I think its important for students to be critical of what they’re learning and where they’re investing their time. Indeed, students are not disciples and shouldn’t follow blindly. This doesn’t mean contradicting the teacher all the time, but a healthy dojo should have an atmosphere that allows dialogue between the teacher, student and the material being taught.
Good luck in your training.
[As an aside, questioning your teacher, seniors, boss, etc is something that I never experienced when I lived in Japan; especially in the dojo. When questions were allowed it was rare and was the exception, not the rule. The exception being that sometimes my seniors would ask me to ask sensei a question as I could “get away with it” because I wasn’t Japanese and sensei would tolerate the break in protocol from me, but not from them. LOL. This happened both with Minowa sensei and Kanzaki sensei.]