I have been tasked by one of my teachers to develop a new bo kata using traditional bo techniques. This is an interesting project and it is really opening my eyes to new techniques. I want to integrate the traditional techniques that I have learned in class along with the techniques I am learning on my own but have been surprised by how hard it has been to find material on traditional bo. There is a lot of material on competition bo kata but not much on traditional kata. I have had to do a lot of searching to find materials since I want a kata that teaches fighting techniques.
After a month or so of research I found resources on Chinese, Japanese and Okinawan styles. I wanted to work within one style and chose Okinawan since that best matched the style my teacher teaches. I bought six books on bo techniques, unfortunately only two are helpful and I had to buy those two via special sellers since they are both out of print. These books show fighting techniques, which best reflects my style. I am a direct fighter, who likes powerful moves and forward motion. The kata I am developing will teach people how to fight with the bo. As I have mentioned in previous articles, books are not teachers and YouTube is not a dojo but they are good resources if used selectively. As mentioned above, there are books out there that are just useless and videos out there that are inaccurate. I do not recommend this kind of research for the beginner, but if you have some experience and a receptive teacher, books and videos can be useful tools.
This project has been much harder than I expected. Learning a kata, even a complex one, is one thing. Developing one that makes sense is another. In tournaments I have seen kata that have looked good but the order of the moves did not make sense to me. I do not want this kata to be like that. I want it to be correct in technique and in a sensible order. Accomplishing this requires a lot of research and practice, which is teaching me more about the techniques than I expected. One really needs to understand the moves, if one is going to put techniques together into a cohesive kata.
The lack of available materials indicates to me a lack of interest in the traditional weapons styles. That is unfortunate. I know people get excited about extreme and musical weapons forms but there is something to be said about learning weapons techniques that you can fight with. I am not against non-traditional weapons forms. They take discipline, skill and practice to execute well and if people find that satisfying, I am happy for them. However, I want to learn martial arts that I can use for fighting. If I am in a bad situation and all I have is a broom stick, I want to be able to use it effectively. When my kata is complete, it will reflect this desire to learn fighting techniques.
Although difficult, this project has been rewarding and I am getting excited about the results of this exercise. If you have the opportunity to work on a project like this, I recommend that you accept the challenge. You will learn more than you expect, and even though it may be a little frustrating, it is rewarding.