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The Shadow Principle

PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 5:54 pm
by HanshiClayton
This essay on "the Shadow Principle" became the cornerstone of Chapter 6 of Shotokan's Secret, Expanded Edition. It is one of the basic rules of kata interpretation.

I have discovered a principle of kata interpretation that we all need to assimilate and apply: The Shadow Principle.

The Shadow Principle says, “An application is a good fit to the gestures of the kata if the kata and the application have the same shadow.”

The kata is only the shadow of the application. It hints at the real thing the way a shadow hints at the object that casts it.

A case in point: Hold your hand in a shaft of sunlight and look at the shadow of your hand. Viewing just the shadow, a viewer would instantly know that it was a hand. However, the viewer cannot tell whether it is the shadow of a left hand or a right hand. That’s the key. A shadow contains a lot of information, but much is lost, too.

There are many places in our katas where the application is plain to see, except that one of the kata moves uses the wrong hand or turns in the wrong direction. The Shadow Principle gives us the freedom to substitute the other hand when we run into one of these “copying errors.” If the shadow looks the same, we're close enough.

You’ll find the Shadow Principle to be liberating.