“The basic movements are largely divided into five categories: Kamaekata; Tachikata; Semekata; Ukekata; Kerikata.”
-Nagamine Shoshin Sensei
Today, we are going to do a cultural dive into this sentence and translate these terms.
Firstly it is important to note the use of the suffix -kata. This is not the same Kata as what you are accustomed to hearing about, such as Pinan or Bassai. The suffix -kata, used here, utilizes the kanji 方 and translates to, “method of…”. Kamaekata are, “the methods of doing Kamae.” Tachikata are, “the methods of doing Tachi.” Etc.
Kamae can be translated several ways, the most common in the nuance of martial arts is Posture or Readiness. In Matsubayashi Ryu you will most likely see Kamae translated as Ready Stance, which is a decent enough translation due to the fact we often use out Kamae at the begging and end of Kata (型) to show we are ready to begin. In The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, Nagamine Sensei lists three Kamaekata:
1. Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi
Tachikata, and it’s synonym Tachiwaza (立ち技), are commonly mispronounced by Western practitioners. Before we translate the term lets get this preliminary out of the way! Looking at the above list of Kamaekata, one can see where the confusion comes in. What is the difference between Tachi (立ち) and -dachi (~立ち)? Seeing them written in that manner kind of explains it already, but I am all for kicking a proverbial dead horse! When at the beginning of a compound word, or as a stand alone word, 立ち is pronounced Tachi. When it appears as a suffix in a compound word, ~立ち is pronounced -dachi. This change in pronunciation is called Sequential Voicing or Rendaku (連濁) in Japanese. We will discuss this again later, continuing to “kick” the dead horse.
Tachi simply means stand or stance. Tachikata are methods of standing, while Tachiwaza are standing techniques. There’s not too much more to say on Tachikata. In The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, Nagamine Sensei lists ten Tachikata:
2. Jun shizentai-dachi
6. Naname zenkutsu-dachi
Semekata are probably the most iconic techniques in karate. Seme (攻め) comes from the verb Semeru (攻める) which means, “to attack.” As such Semekata are the methods of attacking. In The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, Nagamine list four Semekata:
1. Seiken Waza
2. Yubi Waza
3. Uchi Waza
4. Ate Waza (pronounced “ah-tay”)
Uke (受け) is probably the most abused of the terms presented here. Mainly because it has two somewhat conflicting definitions in martial arts. The first comes from the verb Ukeru (受ける), to receive. The second is more nuanced for, defense. Many people want to translate this term as “to block.” However, it is extremely important to note that this translation is so limited in scope that it is debilitating, and should generally be avoided. Ukekata is best translated to, methods of defense, in my not-so-humble view. In The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, Nagamine Sensei lists five main Ukekata:
2. Shuto- and Haiti-uke
Remember that dead horse we were kicking? It is time to bring it up again! Keri (蹴り) is another one of those terms that is pronounced differently when placed at the beginning of a compound word versus later in a compound word. As a stand alone, or prefix, it is Keri (蹴り), however as a suffix it is -geri (~蹴り). This is perhaps even more important to mention, as the stand alone word Geri means diarrhea, and one should not practice, “methods of diarrhea,” on the training floor! However, “methods of kicking,” are perfectly acceptable to practice on the training floor. In The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, Nagamine Sensei subdivides Kerikata into five categories:
Now, prior to getting to this point you may have wondered, “But, Matt? What about this particular stance? That particular uke? Etc?” Within each of the subcategories listed there are more techniques, for example, Nagamine counts Neko-ashi-dachi under Jun Shizentai-dachi. However, for brevity’s sake, it is not worth mentioning each and every individual technique here.
But lets recap:
Kamaekata (構方): Methods of Posture/ Readiness.
Tachikata (立方): Methods of Standing.
Semekata (攻め方): Methods of Attack.
Ukekata (受方): Methods of Defense/ Receiving.
Kerikata (蹴り方): Methods of Kicking.
Tachi as Prefix, -dachi as Suffix.
Keri as Prefix, -geri as Suffix.