A Kata Comeback
Here is a reprise of an article I wrote WAY back on 2007 discussing the often misunderstood value of practicing Kata. The argument was solid then, and the same holds true today.
Too many times I have read or heard “Kata is not useful” or “Kata is not necessary.” With the popularity of martial arts today, there are heated debates over the significance and relevance of traditional kata. It is important that kata remains an integral component of combat. Kata is more than exercise. Each individual movement or position is a “kata” within itself. If one watches a full contact fight (with both striking and grappling) one can find kata positions all throughout the fight.
When one first learns kata, understanding and accepting the technique is the first and most important step. This can be a very difficult and confusing time for the Karateka. Many people fail to see the significance of the technique within the kata they are learning and will often quit or refute the kata because they believe their own technique is superior. This can be a big hurdle to get over for some people. It is good to question, but it is not good to ignore the movement. Every movement has its purpose or purposes.
Unlike some other martial arts, Isshinryu kata are simple, but very effective, especially in medium and close range whether standing or on the ground. One may hear that kata is not practical because no one will attack in the exact order of the kata. True, kata is a prearranged form, but that is a deliberate effort to help the karateka remember the techniques of their art.
It is a “package” of movements that the karateka must “open.”
When one first learns bunkai (explanation of technique) of kata, it is usually very basic. But as one trains and studies kata, the bunkai will develop into a very practical form of self defense for the karateka. Bunkai may not only contain blocks, kicks, and punches, but also locks, chokes, and throws. Kata also teaches us footwork and the use of angles.
The more the karateka practices kata and studies the technique of kata the more likely he or
she will it to use it in real combat. Sometimes you have to take the kata out of the dojo. Try this exercise: have you and your partner wear your normal street clothes and pick out a technique from a kata. Then, have your partner attack you at slow speed and you defend the attack with the technique from the kata at slow speed as well. After eventually defending your partner’s attack at full speed, take note of how the technique from the kata slowly adapted to the factors of a “real-life” attack. [a couple of example pics are shown below]
Kata has always been a mysterious part of Karate. There are no secrets in kata, it is all presented before you. Once one begins to understand what the kata is teaching, one can fully enjoy and appreciate all kata in both daily practice and in real combat.
Thanks for Reading!
(Here is an example of how one form within Seisan Kata would translate into a real situation)