Do Kata/Forms Define the Style?

Will you call that a drill, or a form?
My definition:

A drill is the repetition of a single move or combination against a single attack situation, such as a kick, punch or grab.

A form/kata is a series of drills/combinations against multiple (unrelated) single attacks. They are linked together for ease of practice or transmission, usually in a manner that also teaches stance/turn transitions and emphasizes tactical themes such as evasion, redirection, leg checks or pulling on the opponent.

Since the above definition is based on the number of situations, it removes the question you had re: the abstract number of moves. Less abstract is that having a form dealing with just three or four situations is not long enough to provide a variety of techniques, nor emphasize transitions or tactical theme. If we look at five such situations at four moves each, then 20 seems a good minimum number for a form being worth doing.

Since your video appears to be against a single attack situation (and is only ??? eight moves) I would clearly call it a drill.
 
In traditional karate, forms were designed by masters who took two-man drills of 2-5 moves and combined them into a form. These drills represented the "style" of fighting of themselves and/or their teacher (for whom the forms were sometimes named after): Kusanku form was based on the fighting style of Kusanku. The same for Chinto and Tokumine (bo). In this respect, the drills defined the form which defined the style.

(There is another class of [more recent] forms which were planned and structured specifically as a teaching curriculum and so show somewhat less relationship to a historical master's style.)

As karate evolved into the modern model of more structured mass teaching the drills became simplified and more concerned with the individual moves taken out of context from the forms. As sport sparring became popular the drills emphasized sparring techniques and had less relationship to the forms. These factors resulted in the separation of drills and forms into two distinct areas of practice. Now, the drills no longer reflected the original style contained in the forms. That left only the forms to define the style.

This is as clear as I can express the answer to your question regarding karate. CMA with its different history may have a different answer.


In karate, little or nothing. The form is a template and cannot contain all possible techniques and variations that one can choose to drill on. What's more important, IMO, are form techniques not found in drills. One of the shortcomings in a lot of schools is that due to the separation of drills and forms as discussed above, a lot of techniques found in forms are not drilled, no longer being seen as relevant since the application and value of these moves are not well understood by many instructors, having been lost over time.
All true, one hundred percent. In traditional Karate.

With respect, not so much in non traditional
Karate.
 
All true, one hundred percent. In traditional Karate.

With respect, not so much in non traditional
Karate.
That's why I led in with, "In traditional karate...." I don't think kata plays much role in most non-traditional (sport oriented) karate. Thanks for the "respect." I paid it up front by saying, "traditional" karate. Could have said, "real.":p
 
To be completely honest, it makes me ponder the collective sociopathic nature of a species that finds entertainment in watching people beat each other up. There is something unhealthy and warped in humans.
Unfortunately it's in our biological make up. It's not just humans, primates in general have a very comative nature. We have very deep biological systems that define "us and them" which is in part why we enjoy sports. We pick a side which embodies the us and the other team is the "they". We love to win and they 'other" lose. It's an evolved system that stems from our Kin Selection mating strategy. Watching sport fighting is way more healthy than traversing the jungle floor in a troop hoping to come across some hapless victim to tear to pieces.
 
Every era had its share of competent and skilled people as well as those who were incompetent and unskilled. This is life.
I feel an issue these days, and I can only speak for CMA, is that in many cases, what has come down to us is mythical and mostly forms.... some of, but not a whole lot of, the basic training (stance training, strength, sparing, the hard stuff, etc.). So many see what is going on today and judge the history based on that. Yet they have no idea what the reality was as it applies to training historically. But sadly, today this can easily be translated into forms define style, because that is what many are all about these days

Note: In the case of sparing, not to far back in Chinese history (People still alive today that did this), meant going out and getting into fights. Not a whole lot of organization, governing bodies, or rules there.
 
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We love to win and they 'other" lose.
We love to see our training to have good result. If you can dodge/block your opponent's punch, even if you are not winning at that moment, you will feel good about yourself.

For example, in wrestling, if you can't take me down, I already win by my definition.
 
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My definition:

A drill is the repetition of a single move or combination against a single attack situation, such as a kick, punch or grab.

A form/kata is a series of drills/combinations against multiple (unrelated) single attacks. They are linked together for ease of practice or transmission, usually in a manner that also teaches stance/turn transitions and emphasizes tactical themes such as evasion, redirection, leg checks or pulling on the opponent.
Instead of traditional form training, I like this kind of training better.

- It concentrates logic sequence (instead of non-relative moves).
- It also balances both left and right.

 
I think yes for the most part. Just think of every move as a "tool". You are practicing and learning how to use those tools. Even sparring is far from anything "real" in the sense of combat. Each style might have a slightly different way to hold and move any particular tool.
 
Many schools teach kata and represent them as being the foundation of their style. Yet, when you watch (or do) the workouts or sparring, it looks nothing like the forms! Why?

The simple answer is the three K's (kihon/basics, kumite/fighting, kata/forms) used to be ONE thing but became three separate things over time. In the beginning there was fighting: Defenses and counters against strikes and grabs. These combinations were linked together into forms for ease of practice and transmission of the techniques. Nobody knows what the workouts were like prior to 1920, but probably consisted mostly of two-man drills of these combinations (along with variants). The self-defense aspect, fighting, practice and kata looked the same (because they were) and all used the same techniques as taught in that style. Kata=fighting=drills.

When karate was introduced into the schools, things had to get simplified as classes were huge. The self-defense aspects were minimized; instead, simple execution of the individual moves was emphasized in repetitive drilling, taken out of context from the kata! Furthermore, the kata themselves were approached from a more exercise viewpoint as well. The latter 1930's up to the present saw increasing development of karate as a sport. This entailed a change in short range into longer range techniques and removal of many dangerous techniques. Fighting became sparring. Even kata had become performance sport, the execution overshadowing their self-defense applications - but they still retained the essence of their original purpose as defining the style.

By 1950 the division of the three K's were complete. Basic practice and sparring no longer looked like kata. In fact, a case can be made that sport sparring competition became its own style with little or no relationship to kata. TKD people, however, may say their drills and sparring do look a lot like their forms and I would agree. I think what happened was that instead of the style being a reflection their forms, their forms are a reflection their style. In other words, karate drills and sparring evolved AWAY from forms whereas TKD forms evolved TOWARDS their drills and sparring, or at least along with them. I have no idea if my TKD brothers would agree or disagree with my analysis. It's open to discussion.

As far as karate is concerned, kata (and their bunkai - true application) truly reflects and personifies the style. The fact that many see kata as just a leftover from times past is not kata's fault. It's just we've lost sight of our roots and have come to be conditioned to see today's karate as commonly practiced as "actual" karate and kata as the family's strange aunt. It's like a kid wandering off in the store and saying, "My parents lost me." But there is no reason that kata cannot be the major focus in karate being a self-defense art. The stomps, twists, gouges, elbows and knees are just as effective now as 200 yrs. ago. Indeed, there are several sensei today that stress the original style of karate combat and not the competitive incarnation. One can follow any path they want. I'm just showing how the other paths came about.


Buddhism, particularly Zen, has two distinct identities. The psycho-physical aspect (meditation implementing optimal posture and correct breathing - tanden soku, mindful working - samu etc) and the woo, woo (rituals, chanting sutras reading out liturgies, prostrating before various images etc). The former is actual Zen, the latter are supernatural practises often adopted from indigenous religions of the host country. Thus Chinese Zen (Chan) has a different flavour to Korean Zen, which different to Japanese Zen. The woo woo gives them their unique flavour.

Martial arts mirror this almost exactly: Free sparring techniques is the practical essence of the art, kata/forms are the ritualistic, indigenously-tinged aspect. Some will argue these aspects support one another, others will throw out the woo woo and adopt only what is effective (for effective fighting).

(Incidentally, have you noticed that when you look at different martial arts sparring, they look almost identical. There was a youtube clip demonstrating this, but I cant find it anymore!)
 
This is a tough one. I'd like to say that my sparring is as you say - looks nothing like my kata. But it is (it is my conceit to believe) that the foundation of my sparring is indeed based on my kata and kihon. How I move, how I generate power, my stances, and so on are taken directly from my kata; but not in clearly obvious ways.

Kihon and kata practice have taught me how to keep my balance while moving, breathe, and settle before striking. I bring these with me, as they've become part of me now. I even settle my weight and get my stance right when turning a door knob and pulling a heavy door open. It's weird, but I've caught myself doing it. I even do it while gardening, using tools to dig in the soil in more efficient ways that are kinder to my joints and body.

In other words, I think (or I hope in any case) that my karate informs everything I do. Sparring is just part of that. Yes, it looks the same as everyone else sparring, but in subtle internal ways, I think it maybe different.
 
Free sparring techniques is the practical essence of the art, kata/forms are the ritualistic, indigenously-tinged aspect.
I must disagree with both parts of the above. The first part is mostly true ONLY in the competitive free sparring aspect of the art. And this aspect was nonexistent prior to the 1930's. IMO, sport karate is the ritualistic aspect, not directly related to the core of TMA, but rather a superimposed structure to facilitate the repurposing of karate and giving it a new identity.

As kata represents the original intent of the art it must be considered the practical essence. Some kata moves can be used in sport competition - I've successfully done it a few times, and many sport sparring techniques can be used in self-defense. There is overlap.
In other words, I think (or I hope in any case) that my karate informs everything I do. Sparring is just part of that. Yes, it looks the same as everyone else sparring
I know I've mentioned this before, but sport sparring is its own style. Whether one studies shotokan, goju or shorinryu styles, all switch to sparring style in competition because the format and rules require it to be successful.

Karate v karate is much different than karate v non-karate common street fight. It was the latter that karate was designed to do, and which kata are based on. "Kata does not look like fighting?" It doesn't look like sport fighting, true. But it looks like self-defense fighting! (If you understand kata and practice the bunkai.)
 
I must disagree with both parts of the above. The first part is mostly true ONLY in the competitive free sparring aspect of the art. And this aspect was nonexistent prior to the 1930's. IMO, sport karate is the ritualistic aspect, not directly related to the core of TMA, but rather a superimposed structure to facilitate the repurposing of karate and giving it a new identity.

As kata represents the original intent of the art it must be considered the practical essence. Some kata moves can be used in sport competition - I've successfully done it a few times, and many sport sparring techniques can be used in self-defense. There is overlap.

I know I've mentioned this before, but sport sparring is its own style. Whether one studies shotokan, goju or shorinryu styles, all switch to sparring style in competition because the format and rules require it to be successful.

Karate v karate is much different than karate v non-karate common street fight. It was the latter that karate was designed to do, and which kata are based on. "Kata does not look like fighting?" It doesn't look like sport fighting, true. But it looks like self-defense fighting! (If you understand kata and practice the bunkai.)
I'm just trying to be polite. It's the never-ending complaint about karate kata from non-karateka that kata is baloney and therefore karate is baloney and blah blah blah. I get tired of it. It's like non-Marines telling me everything wrong with the Marine Corps. If you haven't earned the EGA, you don't get a vote. Sorry that non-kata practitioners don't care for kata, but who cares? Ooh, they think it's useless. Goodie for them. It gets boring. "Kata Bad because (insert BS here)." Yeah, OK. Thanks for your input.
 
I'm currently teaching my sparring partner the Jow Ga beginner form and application at the same time. There isn't much difference between the technique in the form and technique in the application and the technique when fighting. One technique requires sinking power. To ensure he is doing the technique correctly I had him strike a pad. His vertical back fist felt light so I knew right away he was doing the technique incorrectly. Because of that the technique will fail him and this is where people would normally blame the form.

I think the confusion is a direct result from when people don't try to apply what they train in kata. If they never go beyond kata then they will most likely not understand kata.

Kata was designed by people who knew how to use the technique that they put in kata.

Kata is born from fighting.
Fighting is not born from kata.
 
Kata is born from fighting.
Fighting is not born from kata.
You learn grammar from a form (subject verb object). You then create your own sentences (I love you. You hate me, ...).

If your form is "I love you". When are you going to create your own sentence "You hate me"?

When you

- were young, you learned forms.
- get old, you create forms.

You can't be in "learning" mode forever. A PhD has to publish a dissertation in order to get his degree.

If the form is created from your fighting experience, you will never have this issue.

For example, I like to throw a jab. When my opponent tries to block my jab, I will change my jab into a hook. If the form that I create had this jab-hook combo, my form training is the same as my combat training.

Is there a MA form on earth that contain a "left jab, left hook" combo? If that form doesn't exist, who is going to stop you from creating one form that contains that combo.

 
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Yes kata and forms will define the style because each Martial arts has each unique style and form like in shotokan or any Japanese Martial arts there kata is very traditional and Kenpo Karate has their own style too they have like short one long one short 2 long 2 short 3 long 3 then long 4567 and the kung style has their own form too and kata and tai chi has their slow kata too so yes it will define the style
 
Yes kata and forms will define the style because each Martial arts has each unique style and form...
This raises another interested question. We all have 2 arms and 2 legs. Why does each MA have unique style and form?

Will a

- Karate style,
- TKD style,
- Taiji style,
- WC style,
- ...

punch like this? If the answer is no, then why?

May be the answer is "Karate doesn't use this stance". Again, the question is why?

 
"Karate doesn't use this stance". Again, the question is why?

The main thing I notice in the video is that his front leg is rather straight, keeping his hips sitting far back. Also his hips don't appear to be locked as in karate. To my eye, this is not conducive to power generation which relies on the hips (tanden/tan'tien) being employed in the punch. His overall posture is not as compact as in most karate styles.
 
This raises another interested question. We all have 2 arms and 2 legs. Why does each MA have unique style and form?

Will a

- Karate style,
- TKD style,
- Taiji style,
- WC style,
- ...

punch like this? If the answer is no, then why?

May be the answer is "Karate doesn't use this stance". Again, the question is why?

There are many approaches to confronting an attack or to initiate one. Where my approaches is to deceive my attacker and to set up strikes by using strikes that intentionally miss. Some one may be more direct and straight forward with the goal to land a pinch ever time the attack. Stances set up the next technique so a striker has no need to take a stance that sets up a throw. Boxers will not use such a stnce. But in MMA they also box but they don't use the same boxing stance nor do they use the same boxing movement.

So instead of asking why a system doesn't use a stance, it may be more productive to ask "what doesn't the stance allow the fighter to set up next?"
 

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