Koshiki no kata, the noble tradition of unbalancing
Koshiki no kata, the form of things old. Old, because the memory of them being practised has deep roots, misted by time that no memory can grasp. Like ancient stones that, despite the centuries, bear no scratch. Old, because they are faithful, steadfast guardians of a tradition so deep and valuable that it defies time and time’s inevitable changes.
And so Tori and Uke, in the first part of the kata, move slowly, seriously, forced by the weight of their heavy armour, which, though invisible to modern eyes, instantly cancels the distance and removes us to medieval Japan and the warriors who wore this armour on the battlefield.
Koshiki no kata is inextricably linked to its origins in the Kito School (where Jigoro Kano received much of his education and training) and in Ju jutsu. This kata is not only a formal exercise, but encompasses the whole essence of the Kito School and the principle of opposition between the two contrary yet complementary energies that govern the universe. The extraordinary nature of Koshiki no kata, of which Kano understood the greatness and in which he held a deep fascination, resides in creating an imbalance.
In and Yo, or Ki and To (from which the school takes its name), Omote and Ura. Gentleness and hardness, light and dark, positive and negative, front and back: Koshiki no kata gives a masterful demonstration of the power of kuzushi, unbalancing the opponent, but it is much more than that. It is tangible evidence of the profound essence that underlies throwing techniques. Whoever does Koshiki no kata is not limited to performing a sequence of techniques but deeply embodies, and in every movement, the principles of Kodokan Judo.
It is not the desire or the concern of victory to prevaricate, nor the mere technique of throwing the opponent. It is achieving and keeping an inner strength, the perfect union of body and vital energy, in harmony with the universe , which is at the heart of each action and allows you to truly use the opponent’s energy against him.
And it is this principle that makes Koshiki no kata a noble form, full of meaning and rich in history and tradition, a form in which the maximum expression of the technique merges inextricably with the highest expression of art, in which the rhythm, in performing fourteen Omote techniques, and then seven Ura techniques, becomes the purest manifestation of the alternation between the two energies.
In perfect harmony between spirit and body, is water which can concentrate in itself the evocative power of the kata: there are many techniques that refer to this multifaceted, impalpable yet powerful natural element, from Mizu guruma (Water wheel) to Mizu nagare (Current of water in a stream) to Yu dachi (The summer storm in the evening), until you reach Taki otoshi (The Waterfall) which ends the Omote.
As in Kito Ryu, the Kito School, water, in its fluidity and ability to adapt to whatever it meets along its course, reveals its extraordinary affinity with Koshiki no kata. But it is during the Ura that this affinity strengthens and releases all its evocative power: Mizu iri (Let the water flow), Ryu setsu (Under the weight of snow), Yuki ore (The snow that snaps the branch) and the final technique, Iwa nami (Waves against the rocks). This is the peak of imbalance, the action of water, light and elusive, but which can break stronger elements: water remains constant along its course and rarely changes its nature.
And so softness defeats hardness. The weak beats the strong. Harmony in the Universe returns.