A kata/form tip for beginning students

Discussion in 'Beginners Corner' started by Bill Mattocks, Dec 19, 2018.

  1. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    This applies only if you are a student of a martial art form that practices kata, forms, or something resembling that.

    The tip is, don't stop practicing an old kata just because you've moved on to learning a new one. In many schools, and definitely where I train, knowing all the katas that have been taught is required.

    More than once, I've asked a student what kata they are working on, they tell me X and I tell them to do Y kata, one they had done one or two belt promotions previously. The dropped jaws and blank stares are priceless.

    The kata are taught for a reason, and it's not like algebra which you will never use again in your life once you've passed the course (well, I didn't anyway). The kata contain within them techniques which are obvious and explained (usually) and many more which you will have to become much more proficient as a martial artist to understand or 'see', and eventually, techniques will appear which no one taught you, you simply began to see them as being there. The techniques were always there; you are what changed.

    But you will miss all that if you learn kata A, then move on to kata B and never come back to practice A again.
     
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  2. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

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    I use algebra all the time and I've never taken a dedicated course :D
     
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  3. Plin

    Plin Yellow Belt

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    This lesson was driven home for me during our testing the other night. Monday was for novice testing, so yellow stripe, yellow belt, and green stripe. But we also had a young man who is a red belt working on black belt preliminaries, so he was required to go through the testing with everyone in the lower levels to demonstrate proficiency at all the fundamentals, including patterns.

    My understanding is that he was to participate in each subsequent night of testing as well, up to and through his current level. It was impressive to watch him do them all flawlessly.
     
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  4. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

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    Ours is a small school, so everyone (except juniors, the younger kids) tests at the same time for colour belts.

    Everyone starts together, then each grade finishes their section of testing while higher belts remain.

    My next test will be for 1st kup, so I'll have to do every grade test back to back...
     
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  5. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Here's another tip, although not every dojo does it. Ours has one wall with a very large mirror. We typically face it when doing kata. Practice your kata/forms facing other directions. This is harder than you might think; we use internal reference points to be certain of our directions. I have been asked, at times, to do my kata facing another direction. I've been asked to do it with a blindfold on. Results were less than acceptable, but I learned to add that to the list of things I practice regularly.

    If you really want to get crazy, practice doing the inverse of the kata - stepping and punching and blocking with the hand opposite the one you normally use for each movement. Practice reverse breathing - breathe out where you would normally breathe in, and vice-versa. Practice the kata backwards, from the bow out to the bow in. You might be overwhelmed so take your time, but even experienced students find it difficult - more importantly, they sometimes find applications that they didn't realize were there.
     
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  6. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Try them out of sequence some time. Just have someone call our a random form or kata and do that rather than 'working the ladder' of kata from beginning to ending.
     
  7. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

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    That's a normal thing tbh - instructor calls a number, or an amount of moves, or a name, or a piece of the trivia associated with a pattern.
     
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  8. punisher73

    punisher73 Senior Master

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    Very good tip. I think this comes from being "belt focused" or "promotion focused" instead of process/journey focus.

    In ALL arts, especially karate, the kata were selected and retained for a specific purpose to give specific tools and lessons to the student.

    One of the things my instructor is fond of pointing out is that you may have knowledge of a form/kata, but do you really KNOW that form/kata. He will give the example of having your car breakdown and you knowing immediately what friend you would call to help you out with that. In a given scenario or situation, you KNOW what kata will come forward that is designed to handle that type of situation. Practicing it forward, backward, opposite side, even down to show me the 10-15th movements. It's not about performance, it is intricately understanding all of the facets to the form/katas personality. Each kata SHOULD have a different bit of a feel to it that reveals itself to you the more you study it. For example, Chinto is very different than Seiuchin and is very different than Wansu. How do you move, flow and use your body? While there are certain mechanics and ways of performing the techniques, there is still the "art" that must be explored and revealed and not merely memorized.
     
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  9. Yokozuna514

    Yokozuna514 Blue Belt

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    Osu, great tips. Kyokushin is not known for being kata-centric and we are not BUT I enjoy doing katas so I teach a special class once a week doing those exact things. We practice katas in their standard format, gyaku (opposite direction), tate (straight pattern), ura (movements in reverse) and tate ura (movements in reverse and in a straight pattern). Once you can do all the katas in each of these formats, you can begin to understand what katas can teach you. Note, we only do these variations with the Taikyoko and Pinan katas.
     
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  10. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master of Arts

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    I regularly have the more advanced folks perform a kata or two with their eyes closed. It can be an eye opener for sure! :D
     
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  11. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    Our students know that when they test, they will be asked to perform at least one of their lower forms, and quite possibly more. Even all of them.

    This doesn't happen with us, because everybody routinely practices lower forms. Typically, when we're doing forms in class, we work our way through the forms in order. If we've moved beyond your highest form, you stay on whatever your highest form is. Or, if I know you're having issues with a particular form, I'll tell you to work on that one.

    I use algebra every single day...

    Agree completely.
    Another tip. I tell students who're working on a new form that sometimes the best way to improve your form is to stop practicing it.
    What I mean is this: Most forms include some new material as well as some that the student already knows. If you're struggling with the form, it's most likely the new material that is the stumbling block. So stop practicing the form. Just practice the specific series of movements that's giving you fits. Then go back and do the form.
     
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  12. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Maybe that's the secret
     
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  13. Buka

    Buka MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I see what you did there. :)
     
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  14. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    Buka in another kata thread.......we gonna make you a kata guy before it’s all over. ;)
     
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  15. wab25

    wab25 Brown Belt

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    All great stuff here. My add would be that learning a kata / form is more than memorizing the order of the moves to do. Once you can do the kata / form without thinking about what comes next... you are now ready to begin studying the kata / form. If you are thinking about what comes next, you cannot be focused on what you are doing now. Once you start focusing on what you are doing now... there is a lot to learn and improve in kata / form.

    I see way too many people memorize the order of the moves and then want to move on to memorize another set of moves... You don't get much that way, then one day you wonder: what did I just learn? Not much.
     
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  16. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I like the different spins on kata. It changes things up. Sure, it’s more performance based than application based, but so what IMO. It’s ok to have fun with it.

    Things we somewhat regularly do...
    Eyes closed. I’ve heard students testing for dan ranks need to bring a blindfold with them, for this purpose and other standardized stuff.

    Facing different directions. Doing a kata facing a different direction than the norm definitely messes with you at first. It shouldn’t, but it does.

    Coming from Kyokushin, we do “Ura kata.” @Yokazuna514 mentioned ura kata, but it sounds different than what I’ve always known ura kata to be in Kyokushin and offshoots - a 360 degree spin before every step forward. Sounds simple enough until you actually do it.

    “San waza” - each each technique is done 3 times, alternating hands; you only take the one step. So taikyoku 1 - step left into zenkutsu dachi/forward leaning stance, low block 3 times alternating left-right-left. Step forward zenkutsu dachi, 3 middle punches alternating r-l-r...

    “Miji hajime” - Start to the right. Instead of starting by turning to the left as most kata do, you start stepping to the right. Basically a mirror image of the kata. All techniques and the forward foot are reversed, which gets interesting.
     
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  17. dvcochran

    dvcochran Master of Arts

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    Hey!, I use algebra all the time! haha Very good advise. I always do this if I work with someone I am not familiar with or someone I know is struggling with forms. My GM often says you learn everything in the first three Kicho forms. The older I get the more I understand his statement.
     
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  18. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

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    Well said Bill :). I seriously learn something new every time I do Taikyoku Ichi... and always find something I can work on better.
    Ahhh yes the good ol ura katas haha. Yep we did those for all katas, I actually got quite good at the 360° spin. Was awkward at first but it really taught good control, balance, and ability to transition into that next stance no matter where you were (after a spin). Tell ya what, it made a big difference which dojo floor you did them on... ripped up me toes on some!

    Am also glad it was taught to us as purely a training method, and NOT to have any bunkai (can you imagine that!)
     
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  19. Yokozuna514

    Yokozuna514 Blue Belt

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    Osu, very interesting that both you and JR137 refer to ura as doing a '360 degree spin'. I know it looks like that but it is very difficult to actually spin (move in circular motion) repeatedly and maintain a good stance. We actually teach ura differently. We break it down into a transition stance so the movement is more linear. There are no longer centrifugal forces that pull your balance off and I think you can move more rapidly and consistently this way.
     
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  20. oftheherd1

    oftheherd1 Senior Master

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    As always Bill, a great and well articulated post.

    I wish when I was studying TKD we had done that and I had stayed with it long enough to have benefited from doing that.
     
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