What is Kata?
Kata is a series of pre-determined fighting moves designed by the original founders of karate to pass a dialogue on defense strategies from teacher to student.
Kata is made up of both basic and complex karate moves that are sequenced in a specific order to defend against one or many imagined attackers. A practitioner practices these set moves first for memory, then for proficiency.
Once a kata has been learned, it must be practiced repeatedly until it can be applied in an emergency. For knowledge of just the sequence of a form in karate is useless. – Ginchin Funakoshi
What are the benefits of Kata?
There is no age limitation on learning kata, you can start at any time, even if you have not practised karate before, it is never too late.
Unlike some activities such as football, running and other heavy impact type games, you can continue to practise kata your entire life, it will not wear your the joints, it will strengthen their formations.
When taught correctly and with meaning kata has been proven to be a an effective means to learn the art of self-defense.
Kata practise facilitates proficiency of technique, builds muscle memory, flexibility, strength, mindfulness, stamina and breath control.
When learning a kata from a traditional karate style students have the opportunity to learn from the great masters who developed kata as a vehicle to pass on their own self-defence techniques in these neatly packaged gifts we call kata.
Is it difficult to learn Kata?
No, but it does take time. Kata is practiced over and over again. Until the movements are known intrinsically and become second nature to the practitioner, then they are practiced some more. Lots more.
Kata movements are finely tuned again and again with mindful repetition, where the practitioner pays attention to every required act of it’s ultimate simplicity.
“In the past, it was expected that about three years were required to learn a single kata, and usually even an expert of considerable skill would only know three, or at most five, Kata.” – Ginchin Funakosh
“Karate-do is a lifetime study.” – Kenwa Mabuni
Kata should form the largest part of your karate training.
This is a contentious issue amongst many new karate practitioners that believe kumite to be the crux of training. Kumite is a game of tag with a live opponent, designed to put you under stress, it is about how many times you can get hit, fall down and get back up again. If that is how you choose to test your mettle then please go ahead. I believe that kumite should be reserved as either an event at a sports karate tournament or practised because it is a requisite to achieve your next rank, it should not be the main focus of your training. A more experienced karate practitioner will tell you that kata should be ninety percent of your training so that the movements developed through kata will become so intrinsic within your physical makeup that kata itself will form the foundations of your kumite bouts.
Kata is the Art of Karate, it is where the stories are told and true battles are won. The repetitive nature of kata practise, quietens your mind and teaches your body how to respond to stress, attachment and fear. True kata practise requires commitment, focus and mindfulness. You need to listen to your body and recognise when your muscles are shifting incorrectly and adjust them accordingly.
When practising kata you need to develop timing, fluidity, tension and softness. It is not enough to tell this karate story in a bland monotone series of techniques, you need to learn how to bring the story alive.
“Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.” – Roger Gracie