Articles

Ohyo Kumite

From Form To Function

Wado Ohyo Kumite is the link between the pursuit of a precise elegance in the form of Kihon Waza and Kata and the pragmatic function of Jiyu Kumite. It is the proving ground where its core principles are applied and tested by more realistic and rigorous methods to assess the basic truth in their function. If the applied principles of Kihon Waza and Kata are the basis for all that follows then Ohyo Kumite will decide if its truth is plausible, pragmatic, realistic and dependable or just needs some fine tuning to make it so.

Ohyo Kumite then, is the application of Kihon Waza or a section of Kata applied in a fighting encounter to examine specific core principles at work. Its function is to physically attest the application drawn from specific parts of a kata using the physical dialogue of torimi and ukemi practice. When applied to kata, the analytical practice known as kaisetsu in wado or bunkai in Okinawan systems, seeks to uncover in more functional and graphic detail the allusive pragmatism of self defence and protection from this wellspring of kata’s physical manifesto. This veiled pragmatism, partly hidden by time and the wisdom of the old masters also carries the key to decipher the elegant codes of each kata and uncover its message for successive generations. In wado this analysis then falls to the anvil of ohyo kumite for validation in a dynamic practice that will only be limited by the level of understanding of its participants.

Ohyo Kumite, when applied to the kihon waza of kata should transform the sequence to a balanced rhythmic fighting form to bridge between the strictures of shaping one’s physical body with kihon waza and the more unified ki ken tai no ichi of wado kihon kumite and progressively on to the freedom of ‘no rules’ jiyu kumite.

“For example”

Anyone who has trained with Wado Sensei Suzuki Tatsuo will know of his key 8 ohyo kumite series which he introduced as part of his UK and European wado pioneering days in the early 1960s In many instances these 8 Ohyo kumite still form a part of the wado syllabus in many dojo in the UK, Europe and in may countries across the world.

In my opinion the genus of these 8 syllabus ohyo were due to the necessity being the mother of an invention for the pioneering difficulties of language barriers and one man’s spirit and resolve in those early days.These early years of United Kingdom wado ryu that were in fact hampered to a large extent by the language differences between Sensei and student, led inevitably to the minimalist patterns of speech in dojo training. For instance any question, on kata or later kihon kumite, asked of Suzuki sensei would, after the briefest pause, invariably invoke the reply “Ah, for example!” followed by a physical response that would take the substance of the question and deliver a practical demonstration to the questioning student who then functioned as a rueful uke.

Following this his usual “renshu – renshu” would drive a further stint of exhausting practise that would imprint the ohyo application in the mind and body by leaving its mark in various places on the body for your consideration throughout the night and into the following day. Any drawbacks of the sparse verbal explanation did not lessen the value of this training, in fact the benefits of this ohyo – application – unlocked the kata enigma or kihon kumite practice by the sheer physicality of the practical ‘learning through the body’ process. In this way the kata was absorbed beyond the mind through the arduous repetition.

Irimi : Kuzushi

Of course Suzuki Sensei was able to create these ‘examples’ from the wisdom of his body which is tempered by years of training and shaping according to the Wado principles. His series of 8 Ohyo Kumite were developed to:

  • suit the needs of that time
  • and his unique place in the wado development beyond Japan.

In this brief article I have suggested what I feel were the reasons for Suzuki sensei’s development of his Ohyo Kumite series of that moment, also the notion of Kaisetsu as the theoretical analysis for application and Ohyo Kumite as an aspect of the proving ground for a more functional application of techniques.
From one man’s understanding of a way of life, Wado has grown into a worldwide practice. However there are many differing perceptions gleaned from kata analysis and the Ohyo Kumite for each individual will differ. These varying perceptions – some prompted in part by the early Wado diaspora and also by the subsequent divisions within diaspora – find many knowledgeable Japanese and now Occidental sensei from Wado Ryu Renmei, JKF Wado Kai and WIKF, etcetera, developing Ohyo Kumite from their own training and understanding.

If we understand Wado to be a process then this is the natural process of human development within the individual, within groups and within nations.

Ohyo Kumite is, like each of the Kihon, Kata, Kihon Kumite, Tanto Dori, Idori etcetera, yet another stage in the shaping of the body towards a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of Wado movement. It is also an easing of the restraints of that precise elegance of Wado Kata in favour of the budo fighting mind and a loosening of the strictures of early Kihon Waza training to foster that deeper assimilation of Wado as a fighting system.

It is important to realise that Ohyo Kumite is a dialogue of the moment and as such is not set in stone. Its practice must always be shaped by its core wado principles and this fighting mind. Its practice should be viewed not just as another set piece for torimi and uke ritual but a dynamic experience that should be fluid and – always – subject to the changing demands of the moment.

Implicit in its name is the understanding that wado is always a dynamic process:  one of learning and understanding the sum if its parts. Like other aspects of education, its wado teachings are incremental and linked in such a way as to take a beginner from zero to an accomplished practitioner in this particular martial endeavour. Part of this process is the ohyo kumite link between kata and kumite – between form and function.

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