I like to begin by apologizing to all of my faithful readers, I believe there are four of you now, for taking so long to present installment to the ramblings of the red bearded ninja.
Over the past couple of years in various tie ties and seminars I have use the cooking analogy to describe what I thought was the role of the Kihon Happo, the sanshin, and kata.
I have chosen to use this analogy, because there are many people in the Bujinkan, who are attempting to imitate the style and freedom of Dr. Hatsumi, without having undergone the training in a fashion that is similar to what he went through. In keeping with my analogy, they are attempting to be master chefs, or iron chefs, without ever having gone through basic culinary school, or worse, having never worked in a restaurant.
In my way of thinking, the Kihon Happo and the Sanshin-gata are the basic ingredients and the basic seasonings that a chef use in his martial recipes for dinner. We can think of the Sanshin as the base ingredients: beef, chicken, fish, pork, veal. The Kihon Happo are the fundamental spices that would be used to season the base ingredients: dill, garlic, pepper, salt, etc.
Simply hitting these ingredients in hand, or should I say in the kitchen, does not make one an iron Chef. To become a true master of the culinary arts, one must learn how to cook the base ingredients, seasoned with the proper spices, and accent them with sauces and garnishes. Without someone to guide us it could take forever to learn which combinations of spices are delicious with certain meats. We could spend years creating dishes that are unpalatable.
Through the years, in order to learn how to prepare delicious meals, people have either learn to cook by working with and imitating someone whom they thought was a great chef and by collecting the recipes for those dishes which they enjoyed and which tasted delicious to those who try them. The recipes are, in effect, the kata which comprise the fundamental techniques of our schools; and the master instructors of art with whom we study.
Dr. Hatsumi has related on many occasions the very difficult training he went through with his teacher to perfect and refine his basics. Mr. Noguchi related to me on a recent trip that he spent so much time the first two years of his training perfecting his basic rolls that his wife threatens to never ever do his laundry again, because she got so tired of washing his training gi. Our elders and the dojo spent years learning the basic ingredients and the basic spices with which they were going to cook.
Then they spent time with their respected teachers, going through the recipes which have been handed down from the ages, to study
how these basic ingredients can be combined together to make tasty meals. Eventually each of them develop their own style that was different from their teacher’s. However, this only occurred after decades of time studying being ingredients and perfecting the recipes that had been given to them.
The kata of our schools are the recipes which show how the basic techniques of our art can be combined together into most effective manner. They are also recipes which show how slight changes in ingredients can give an equally effective but different tasting result.
We are fortunate to have great chefs from whom we can learn to cook, so we rarely need to refer to the written recipes. In effect, the cut to become reminders to the master chefs; and they serve as a collective cookbook so that we don’t serve up the same meal over and over again as teachers.