Bruce Corrigan Pan American Jiu Jitsu

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The weapons of the traditional fighting arts are designed to be wielded in a martial manner, not as flashy accessories for kata competition, the author says.

Actually, I'm just kidding. About the title of this column, that is. The thought of me giving tips for tournament displays of karate kata is almost laughable. The last time I competed in a tournament of any kind was back in the early 1970s, before many of you were alive. And it was judo, not karate. And it was an entirely different world.

We had to sit in the formal posture of seiza until we were called to fight. If we showed any emotion—anger at a bad call or excitement when we won—we risked a severe lecture from the referee, even a disqualification or a technical foul. It's about fighting, they would explain. You don't have the luxury of getting angry or being happy. You have to regard your opponent as an enemy and watch him all the time. Then they would explain how judo is a true form of budo. As such, it places a premium on deportment, self-control and good technique, whether you're winning or losing.

So, as you can see, my advice would offer little benefit for the tournament champions of today. But occasionally, I watch a videotape of a modern tournament or read about one in a magazine, and in doing so, a few observations come to mind.

First, it seems that weapons kata has become a standard feature of the Great American Karate Tournament. This is interesting inasmuch as most of the spectators and presumably all the participants know that karate means "empty hands." But it's not so much the stretching of the meaning of karate that seems odd as it is the misuse of the term "weapons." Weapons, as I understand them, are tools used

The weapons of the traditional fighting arts are designed to be wielded in a martial manner, not as flashy accessories for kata competition, the author says.

to inflict damage on another person. Now, of course it's possible that many weapons-kata competitors don't agree with my definition. So I'll put it this way: If the only weapons violence suffered by our society was that which is meted out by these competitors, we'd all be pretty safe.

I suggest this form of competition be renamed "accessories kata." Aren't most people swinging, twirling, poking and slicing with these things for dramatic effect, rather than as a demonstration of the potential for doing damage? Aren't these weapons used the same way Victorian women

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