Niseishi II

The Theme of Niseishi Sho:

There is something stupid about trying to explain a kata in words.

Niseishi is.

I can only defend my discourse on kata as a means of bringing awareness to the critical components of a kata so that a student may explore the kata more thoroughly. This is an effort to describe not the kata but where to begin to appreciate and experience the kata. It is, perhaps, a minimal vision of a far more spectacular vision, within yet a far superior vision. You be the judge.

First of all, kata exist in unity. They do not exist as parts. The sum total of a kata is far more than its components, no matter what those components are. As living beings people cannot be considered as just arms, or just legs. People are more than the sum total of their parts even if we can describe the parts. Kata is the same. The sum total of the ki of the kata is far more than the ki of the parts. With that I will begin the something stupid of trying to explain a kata in words.

Twenty-four is a number. It is how many hours we have in our day. The oriental day has twelve-hours each being divided into half. Arakaki couldn’t use the name of twelve, which would have been the correct number of hours in a day in his culture because a kata of that name already existed. So he used the name of twenty-four. Actually, that was rather handy for us.

The theme of Niseishi is NOW! This theme involves the living in the present moment. Advanced martial attitude requires facing one’s own demise as if there is no tomorrow. When a martial artist comes to grip with death he becomes a veritable unconquerable warrior. He will die willingly but he will not give in to an enemy until that death.

Such abandon of fear of death inclines the martial artist to seek a higher quality of life. Higher quality of life involves abandon of future fears, shall we say and living in the present.

Arakaki wanted to express NOW! in the art of karate, no easy task. In order to do so he needed to remain free from enduring substance and focus on ephemeral life. Niseishi emerged as a triumphant creation of a repetitive circle of life. Just twelve (hmmm?) moves long the kata repeats, develops, delivers, reframes, redelivers and points upward to the deliverance of the martial artist from the grips of time.

The first two movements of the kata are dynamic tension and release, followed by recurrence of the dynamic tension and release. These movements are poor for bunkai. They were never meant to be pugilistic although they can be interpreted as such with a bit of imagination. The first two movements are recurrent for the purpose of creating the feeling of repetition of the incoming and outgoing ki, of the doing and receiving of experience and of the tension and resistance of experience in the NOW!

The third movement delivers on a combined front. The feeling is challenge in the course of daily living. Shattering the enbusen for the only time in the kata Arakaki pinpointed the past and future in a block reminiscent of Indonesian dance movements. Significantly, these blocks are executed simultaneously as if to remind us that blocking the illusions of past and future leaves us only on the NOW! The remainder of the kata will not deviate from the strictly laid path either in stance, block, kick or strike, in fact, not even the vision will wander from the enbusen, although it will be reversed several times. I hardly have to remind the aware practitioner that the feeling created at this juncture of the kata is one of a delicate balance reinforced by tenuous stances (sequential kosa dachi at perpendicular angles) and that this delicate balance is in marked contradistinction to the first two movements reinforced by adamantine sanchin dachi.

The fourth movement is a solitary kick on enbusen out of a kosa dachi. The feeling is vulnerable. Connecting two kosa dachi at perpendicular angles and a driving forward by okuriashi the vulnerable balance in the kata and, perhaps, of life is disturbed. I find it little coincidence that precariously moving at this juncture in the kata resembles the precarious movements in my life’s experience with NOW!

The fifth movement is a strangulation. The breath of life is squeezed out of the opponent. What contrast to the first two movements of the kata where breath is the unifying force for the performer’s dynamic tension and release. The symbol of breath and of life itself is ki and as the breath is squeezed from the opponent so is the vital life force ki squeezed from those entrenched in living in the past and future oblivious to the NOW!

The sixth movement is a backwards glancing temple blow leaving the opponent strangled and stunned, an obvious kyoo in the physical world opponent and a deeply provocative question as for the artistic world. How, indeed, is it possible to strangle this opponent at your waist and within an instant have to hit him in the temple at full standing height? Does the past resurrect the past from the NOW! while fear of the future never be squelched?

The seventh movement reverses the enbusen while delivering an unorthodox archer temple strike. (In the original I believe this was an orthodox archer temple blow as in the current Pinan Yodan.) Here is the past that we think we must face as the archer shoots at his designated target. And we are facing it, but the past is not real in that it is an impossible target to hit.

The eighth, ninth and tenth movements are a recurrence of the fourth, fifth and sixth movements of the kata. These movements are carefully reiterated to appear as the same but they are not. First, they face the past not the future. Second, one follows the other in inappropriate order so as nearly diabolically to confuse the performer. Which is first, the future and then the past? Arakaki’s brilliance here is remarkable. The answer I do not have to give if one has a present NOW!

The eleventh movement is the same as the seventh. People living in the past jump to the future without passing NOW!

The twelfth movement is not pugilistic at all. It is retreat to the original position, the original space from out of the volume of the kata while presenting an open hand of surrender to the NOW!

There is something stupid about trying to explain a kata in words.