I'm facing a dilemma, so I'm going to think out loud about it in this blog.
The situation is simple: Despite 3 years of doing Chinte as my primary kata, I am still struggling with it. I can't seem to get a "feel" for it, and it's very inconsistent. It has been suggested that I switch test katas to one that is stronger and more consistent.
That part is easy. I can't dispute that Chinte still isn't what it should be. I will take some of the blame for this, since I haven't put in as much "out of dojo" time as usual on this kata. However, I have put in enough that these problems should be ironed out by now. I do not know why I cannot make this kata be consistent and why I can't perform it well and with more feeling, but I can't seem to get mind and body wrapped around it. I do it well about one time in ten, no matter what I try. It's frustrating, to say the least.
The hard part is, switching katas. It has been suggested that I go back to Empi, because it's much stronger and much more consistent. While I won't dispute that my Empi is better, I'm not certain I feel that is the answer to the current problem. Just for starters, I'm not sure it's in my best interest on any level to switch to a lower level kata; it seems a bit like I'm "giving up", and also it means I don't grow and challenge myself. I don't really fancy going into a Sandan retest using an intermediate level kata after struggling with a higher class kata; I'm not convinced that will look very good. If they saw me do Chinte last time, and then see me go back to my Nidan kata, I have a strong suspicion I will not pass -- and as much fun as that was last time, I really don't want another retest!
Ideally, I find a way to conquer whatever block I have with Chinte, get through my retest successfully, and then embrace some new kata. However, that could take years! It's a deceptively difficult kata and apparently I've got a big block preventing me from taking it any farther than I already have. The people who have been working with me have done everything in their power to help me past it, and they're out of ideas for now. Unless I find a lot more time for training, and get some additional input from someone who hasn't already given me their all, I don't see it happening.
Second option, I could go back to Empi, my Nidan kata. My Empi today is better than it used to be, I'm almost certain. It shows the effects of 3 more years of training, even though that time was not spent on that kata. It would certainly show karate growth on a certain level. It's a solid kata, too. I can't help remembering, though, that when I moved on to Chinte, several people told me that they'd never thought Empi was a particularly good kata for me. And you just never see people of higher ranks doing it as their primary kata. In fact, I know of one woman who was told to change katas after making Nidan because Empi was too low level for her now.
Third option, go back to Bassai Dai, my Shodan kata. Although technically it too is an intermediate kata, it is done through much higher ranks than Empi. I was delighted to turn my back on Bassai Dai after making Shodan, but have been told it's a strong kata for me. And, it would help me work on the very things that are weak in my Chinte, and perhaps help me get past that block.
Fourth option, something new altogether. If so, what kata do I select? Because of the looming retest, it would have to be one that I already have a solid grasp on and can perform relatively well, which just needs "polishing", and higher level if possible. Jion is one possibility, it's performed at very high ranks, and although it was once a very weak kata for me, it's come a very long way and I think I do a pretty respectable rendition of it (but at this point I can't trust my judgement on that).
I don't know what to do and I'm a bit frustrated. We have a tournament this weekend, for which I will gladly do Empi should I make it to final rounds. However, down the line is that Sandan retest. Whatever kata I plan to do for that is what I need to be busting ass on right now. I've been devoting that energy (obviously fruitlessly) to Chinte. If I need to change that, I need to know immediately, if not sooner. And I can't figure out which direction is the best one to go.