Taika Seiyu Oyata felt that understanding how to use the kata was of paramount importance to a practitioner and this was instilled upon him by both of his primary instructors, Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri. These instructors taught Taika the importance of Principle Based Training. They taught him principles, concepts and or ideas that he could carry with him throughout the rest of his life, long after both of them had passed away.
One of the concepts that he was taught was that of Bunkai: the process of interpreting kata by analyzing select movements from one or multiple kata. One of the early methods this was done with Taika was a series of scrolls that were passed on to him by Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri. These scrolls had numerous body positions and the way he was taught to analyze them was to select one or two body positions and then try and figure out how they could be combined into a technique. As an example, one of the scrolls had 50 body positions as shown above. As you can imagine, the scroll method was not the easiest to come up with possible combinations somewhat randomly so at some point after immigrating to the United States, Taika decided to use a newer piece of modern technology he had seen just after WWII, the Polaroid.
OyataTe International Instructors research scroll figures.
Taika acquired a large amount of Polaroid film and had someone take photographs of him in each of the unique kata positions. By unique, I mean that if the same kata position was done in a kata with both the right and left side, it was photographed just once. If the same kata motion was in more than one kata, it was only photographed once. Initially he would place all of them in a box, shake it up, and then pull out two photographs. The process of doing this would then require him to try and figure out a technique using those two photographs. The rules were simple initially, the two photographs could be in either order and one or both could be mirrored. Part of the process was also figuring out the angle he was facing, the angle the opponent was facing, and certainly the type of attack that was occurring (grab, punch, kick, et cetera). This method proved much better than trying to use just the scrolls and was also safer to the historical integrity of these old documents.
As Taika progressed, the task was quite difficult but he found that the more he did it, the quicker he became. It elevated him past Style-Bias. He would say that if you only know the techniques you were initially shown by your instructor(s), then you are trapped within that art. No instructor can show any student every possible situation, every attack, every technique. With Taika's method, you train your eye to see things quicker, which decreases your own reaction time as well as decreases your chance of pausing during an encounter. He was a firm believer in your pauses leading to your loss. Their pauses lead to your win.
He additionally formulated various other ways to use the photographs, increased the number of cards, allowing changes in the order, leg positions and various other rules in the process.
With modern technology his students within OyataTe International decided to take it a step further. They photographed one student and uploaded the photos to a web site that makes custom decks of cards. By doing this, the Kansas City area Shihan Dai that eventually became OyataTe International could carry around a small deck of playing cards and practice both by themselves and at training sessions.
Understand Kata - Don't Xerox It
After Taika's death, this process began touring around to various dojo and seminar circuits under the label of Oyata Shuffle. As OyataTe International Instructors continue to train and teach using this method, students reaction times decrease and their analysis time keeps getting quicker. The process is ever growing and never seems to end. As a student gets comfortable with the process it is continually expanded upon.
Students at seminar in Fort Mill, NC posing in the three card positions that they drew from the deck before demonstrating the technique(s) they came up with as a group.
This has become so popular at seminars that a larger 5x7, Tarrot Card pack has been produced to make it easier to see at a seminar. Students at a seminar are asked to partner with students from different styles as this vastly helps decrease Style-Bias. They get to see things from different perspectives.
After a few rounds at a seminar or conference, the students are themselves shuffled into another group so that they can experience as many varied perceptions as possible.
A family of four at seminar in Fort Mill, NC studying the cards they drew from the deck before coming up with techniques.
You can very much purchase our decks of cards, however they are limited to our versions of Naihanchi, Tomari Seisan, Passai, Kusanku, Pinan and Ni Sei Shi. Additional cards with the Shi ho kata and the original scrolls are currently reserved for founding members of OyataTe International.
I would highly recommend, as every style has different kata, that you photograph and upload your own kata pictures and as well, make them available to others. In this way we can all escape our Style-Bias.
Students at seminar in Cashiers, NC posing in the three card positions that they drew from the deck before demonstrating the technique(s) they came up with as a group using the three cards Lee Richards is holding up.