How Many Kata are necessary?

Grenadier

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Could you explain what this means? thanks.

Certainly.

Each of the four major Karate systems (Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Shito Ryu, Goju Ryu) decided on two kata within their systems, to be used in the Shitei / Mandatory divisions. The kata are as follows:

Shotokan: Kanku Dai, Jion
Wado Ryu: Chinto, Seishan
Shito Ryu: Seienchin, Bassai Dai
Goju Ryu: Seipai, Saifa

In the elite divisions for kata competition, depending on the number of competitors, you generally must do Shitei kata for your first two rounds (unless the divisions are small enough, in which case only one round of Shitei kata). You don't have to do only your system's kata; for example, many Wado Ryu practitioners use Chinto for one round, and then Kanku Dai or Jion as their second round Shitei kata, since Seishan doesn't really show very well.

The kata must be done as described in the mandatory fashion. Thus, no dojo-specific variations are allowed, and failure to follow this can result in disqualification.

This way, everyone's more or less on the same footing during those first two rounds. The judges can focus on the quality of techniques, as opposed to fluff and buff or degree of difficulty, since all 8 Shitei kata are more or less about the same difficulty.

After the Shitei rounds are complete, then you can choose any of the kata on the Tokui (Open) list.
 

Flying Crane

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Certainly.

Each of the four major Karate systems (Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Shito Ryu, Goju Ryu) decided on two kata within their systems, to be used in the Shitei / Mandatory divisions. The kata are as follows:

Shotokan: Kanku Dai, Jion
Wado Ryu: Chinto, Seishan
Shito Ryu: Seienchin, Bassai Dai
Goju Ryu: Seipai, Saifa

In the elite divisions for kata competition, depending on the number of competitors, you generally must do Shitei kata for your first two rounds (unless the divisions are small enough, in which case only one round of Shitei kata). You don't have to do only your system's kata; for example, many Wado Ryu practitioners use Chinto for one round, and then Kanku Dai or Jion as their second round Shitei kata, since Seishan doesn't really show very well.

The kata must be done as described in the mandatory fashion. Thus, no dojo-specific variations are allowed, and failure to follow this can result in disqualification.

This way, everyone's more or less on the same footing during those first two rounds. The judges can focus on the quality of techniques, as opposed to fluff and buff or degree of difficulty, since all 8 Shitei kata are more or less about the same difficulty.

After the Shitei rounds are complete, then you can choose any of the kata on the Tokui (Open) list.

ah, so this is a competition issue. Would you say these kata, or any kata, are really the signature kata of the system, with regard to how the system approaches combat and self defense?

As competition kata, are these two chosen because they DO illustrate Shotokan's fundamental approach, or is it based on something else?

I'm making the distinction in my head because I do not compete and I simply see kata as a training tool for developing self defense and combat skills. I don't think of kata in terms of competition.

thanks
 

rainesr

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Like any art the quality of instruction trumps all. I don't think the number of forms (within reason) matters.

I knew about 25+ forms in Tang Soo Do after about 8 years and really had not learned anything about them but the movements. They of course taught me some body mechanics but I really didn't understand how to use those body mechanics with the movements on an actual person. I took TSD for nearly 10 years, 90% of my knowlege came from my last two years when I found someone to teach me applications. I could have spent two years on one or two forms+apps and been better off then learning 25 or more without applications.

In Silat, what I take now, it is not uncommon to have just one to three forms in a system. The number of applications from just one form is suprising and can be very complete. Apps are taught very early on. I think one has to "feel" an application work on other humans not just the air. Forms alone do not provide that.

I think, forms and applications are one and shouldn't be separated. Schools that rain like this are likely to have fewer forms, schools that train without applications willl likely have many forms.


~Rob
 

Kung Fu Wang

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I don't think the number of forms (within reason) matters.

Agree!

It's not how many forms that you have learned that's important, but whether you can have a clear beginner, intermediate, and advance level training path that's important. No matter how many beginner level forms that you may have learned, it can only help you to grow "fat". It won't help you to grow "tall". We all want to grow tall and not to grow fat. Going through your elementary school 6 times won't earn yourself a PhD degree.

Every new form that your teacher wants to teach you, you should ask him:

- What's the purpose for me to learn this form?
- If I don't lean this form, what will I miss?
- Will this form help me to grow "tall"? in which way?
- ...

After all, the purpose of form is for "teaching" and "learning" only. It's not for "training".
 
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Flying Crane

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Agree!

It's not how many forms that you have learned that's important, but whether you can have a clear beginner, intermediate, and advance level training path that's important. No matter how many beginner level forms that you may have learned, it can only help you to grow "fat". It won't help you to grow "tall". We all want to grow tall and not to grow fat. Going through your elementary school 6 times won't earn yourself a PhD degree.

I understand what you are saying, but I'm not sure I agree with how you are stating it here, with regards to the beginner, intermediate, advanced stuff. I have "beginner" forms that are quite long and complex, what might be deemed "advanced" in another system. I also have beginner forms that appear to be very fundamental, just repetious basic punches with stepping, tho there is more going on than that. If you develop the vision to see what is possible with the material, then a good beginner form could be all you need. Most of us need more than that before we develop that vision. But it's possible. So I dont' really see it that way, even tho my system does have forms that are considered beg, inter and advanced. But Sifu has said that there is usually very little that is actually new in the later forms, it's just the same basics put together in different ways, to help you see what is possible and to gain the vision of what you can do with the material.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Some form are designed in such a way that it's easier to be learned by beginners. If we train those forms when we are 80 years old, we just refuse to gradulate from our elementary school.
 

Flying Crane

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Some form are designed in such a way that it's easier to be learned by beginners. If we train those forms when we are 80 years old, we just refuse to gradulate from our elementary school.

I won't speak for your experience, but that would not be my experience.
 

punisher73

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Do you mean Shito-ryu? Wado has some roughly 15 by my count if you don't count their paired exercises: Kihon kata, Pinan 1-5, Naihanchi (only 1?), Jitte, Jion, Kusanku, Seisan, Chinto, Wansu, Rohai, Niseishi.

Yep, mistype. I should have said Shito-Ryu.
 

punisher73

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Some form are designed in such a way that it's easier to be learned by beginners. If we train those forms when we are 80 years old, we just refuse to gradulate from our elementary school.

Flying Crane replied: I won't speak for your experience, but that would not be my experience.

I don't think that is true of most chinese and okinawan systems. But, I think it is true of some japanese karate systems. For example, the Taikyoku kata in Shotokan

Was created by Funakoshi for beginners to start learning kata before moving on to the Heian series.

Do you really need both of these katas? Is there information in one, that is not covered in the other? To me, this is where there gets to be "too many" kata. The styles that have created simplified versions of their other kata that just repeat the information contained in the original kata.
 
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TimoS

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If you look at a style like Wado-Ryu it has 50 kata. I have read that part of that was to preserve those katas present in okinawan karate. If you are trying to preserve something historically like that, then I think that's great.

You sure that it's Wado? Because the kata preservation sounds more like Kenwa Mabuni and he founded Shito ryu

edit: oh, that was answered already. Anyway, on topic then: personally I feel that in our system we have too many kata. We are, however, told to select and focus on maybe three that seem to fit us and practice those
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Do you really need both of these katas? Is there information in one, that is not covered in the other? To me, this is where there gets to be "too many" kata. The styles that have created simplified versions of their other kata that just repeat the information contained in the original kata.
This is the main point of this discussion. You can use the same set of information to construct as many forms as you want. You are still working on the same set of information. Someone combined all his 50 forms into 1 form. I asked him the purpose behind it. He said that if he could just train this single form, he didn't need to train all his 50 forms. I then asked him if he just created the 51th form that his students willl have to learn beyond his 50 forms. There was no respond from him for my question. Again, going through elementary school class material 6 times won't earn youself a PhD degree.

IMO, the best form design should be:

1. beginner form - offense (ex, side kick)
2. intermediate form - defense and counter (ex, downward block, head punch)
3. advance form - counter to counters, combos (ex, side kick, spin hook kick, spin back fist)
 
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Seizan

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Hello Folks.

Well, I've been good for a while, but I'm back...

This is from a UechiRyu Zankyokai perspective only, so it may not apply to any other system or style. Some may find it mildly interesting, or useful or not...

In the basic UechiRyu system we are taught there are three original forms that came from China. Kanbun Uechi Senseis son (Kanei Sensei) began forming the basis for more kata around 1931, as stated in the old 1977 UechiRyu Kyohon (I can supply the text location if someone wants to check it himself). Depending on who tells the tale, there are various reasons for the creation of five additional (contemporary) forms that were officially added to UechiRyu by the early 1960s. Regardless of the reasons cited, we now have a set of eight official forms in UechiRyu KarateDo.

Some groups within the UechiRyu-related systems add more kata now and then, for their own reasons. One added a kata for entertainment and competition purposes (as stated in a news interview by the seniors of that association), citing a rather dynamic kata from another system that served as their model. Others recycle techniques from the other 8 UechiRyu kata, re-sequencing previously-taught techniques. Still others feel there is a real lack of material to teach certain concepts, and so create a form specifically calculated to develop those concepts.

Depending on how they are taught and what lessons the teacher chooses to put into them, each kata has a different purpose and reason for its specific placement within the system. For some, these are just fillers between the real stuff (the three original kata from China). For others, they are stepping stones to higher physical and technical proficiency. For the Zankyokai, each kata teaches a specific element that must then be incorporated into the previously-learned forms before growth in the system can be achieved.

For example, Sanchin (1st form) teaches basic gross movements that will later be transformed into strikes and blocks, and applied in bunkai and kumite. Kanshiwa (2nd form) teaches control of physical strength if one has it, or to develop physical strength if one lacks it. This is then added to the Sanchin performance and is practiced until satisfactory results are achieved (strength is developed and controlled with precision).

3rd form is Kanshuu, which for us teaches timing and the relationship between upper and lower body movements, between blocks and strikes, steps and strikes/blocks, alacrity, and taking advantage of openings in the attackers movements. This precision striking with timing relationships is then incorporated into the practice of Sanchin and Kanshiwa we now have a new feel for those previously-taught forms.

At this stage we implement a simple bunkai for Kanshiwa, to teach timing with a partner (not real defense, but to safely initiate practice of timing-relationship between attack and defense).

Our 3rd kata is Seichin, and primarily teaches us softness (soft snappy moves with powerful grip on blocking hands, and hard impact on final strikes). After achieving a degree of understanding in this element, it is integrated into the moves of the previous forms we now have an all-new comprehension of the previous forms.

And so forth. Each progressive kata teaches a different and more advanced element, instilling deeper meaning and value in the training, not just increasingly complex techniques. Each next kata builds on the previous forms, like building a pyramid, while augmenting and enhancing them. So we have a basic set of eight training elements, and eight kata to form a framework in which to teach them. If we had more such elements to teach, we might have more kata.

Toyama Sensei created more forms but we do not call them kata. We simply designate them as drill forms. Two of these forms preserve our prearranged kumite sets as single-person training forms both sides of the kumite are represented but as a single-person exercise, teaching a practical application to the concepts learned in the traditional 8 kata. He also created a form using the familiar hojo undo set, much more interesting and dynamic to perform than simple repetition of the same 13 block-punch-kick drills each day. He created a form from fighting moves and concepts taught to him by Kanbun Sensei and augmented by his personal experiences in real fighting. But he was insistent that we do not call them true kata, only drill forms.

So, how many forms are necessary? From a Zankyokai standpoint, a system or style needs as many kata as there are basic elements to train. Each kata is oriented toward instilling its specific element which is then added to the understanding and performance of all the previous forms. If we had 50 basic training concepts or elements, we might need 50 kata. In our case, 8 is plenty.

Perhaps practitioners of systems with 30 or so kata might seek out their founders, their founders detailed histories, or those who are closest to the origins of their systems, and rediscover what training elements or lessons are embedded in each kata. Keys might be found in the names of the kata, or in their specific placement in the traditional system.

Anyway, thats the ZKK take on number of kata. The number isnt as important as the meaning of the kata and their position or placement in the training syllabus.

No Masters were injured or killed during the typing of this entry, but it was tested on cute little furry animals by being read aloud to them.


Regards,

Seizan
 

Kong Soo Do

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How many kata is a continual discussion topic.

IMVHO, The real issue is how does a system of training use what they have. Ive trained with great martial artists who use few kata, and Ive trained with great martial artist who have many times many kata studies in their system. I really isnt the number of kata that makes them great, just different training options.

I guess Ive studied 300 or so kata, kune, kwan or forms. In the years I visited friends schools they all taught forms so I studied and learnt what was presented. As I developed my own system of instruction for Isshinryu I incorporated few of those forms (in part) 1) to better prepare the youth student for Isshinryu instruction and 2) to honor those friends who shared with me, 3) and as movement studies for their motion potential.

Another set of forms are for various black belt studies but nothing like the number I studied..

Until after black belt the formal study of applications doesnt begin. The student has more important things to work on.such as techniques and kata. Next makawara if possible and kote-kitae in the mix. Without those the advanced study of applications are most difficult . The makawara is most important and maybe chinkuchi training too. Serious training can still be done without them but less effective imvho.

Even at that we focus on the kata of Isshinryu for application study and use the rest to attack against. Knowledge of those forms provides some knowledge as to what others may do.

IMO few kata study doesnt make you a great martial artist, nor do many kata studies. Its how you use what you study.

Perhaps the measuring stick depends upon your reasons for training in the martial arts. If you wish to emerse yourself in the art, enjoy all of its nuanses, delve deep into the totality yada yada, then lots of kata could/would be enjoyable.

If your reasoning is from a self-defense perspective then you only need one, as long as you know it very well.

In Mu Shin Kwan Kong Soo Do, we have only one form. This allows us to concentrate on every usable aspect of what it has to offer. No cookie-cutter kata where you learn a form and get a belt. There is a saying in firearm's circles; beware the man with only one gun because he probably knows how to use it well.
 

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I think it is impossible for one person to retain so many kata in their style. I say that learn a few kata so that one can understand the templates that responds to the Habitual Acts of Physical Violence. I think that it makes things easier to put more focus on the practical applications of kata instead of mostly focusing on kata to pass gradings and win trophies at tournaments. It will benefit many students very well in their training. The old saying goes, "Three years, one kata." It's not about quantity, it's about the quality of how effective your fighting style is and also the character that you have.
 

Curlykarateka

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I know nothing really. But I always thought the point of a Kata was that almost all you need to know could be extracted from just a few.
 

TimoS

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But I always thought the point of a Kata was that almost all you need to know could be extracted from just a few.

About right, yes. Unfortunately many systems nowadays carry dozens of kata. If I remember correctly, when Uechi started teaching his karate, he only had three kata and then the later generations added some more to the system
 

K-man

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I know nothing really. But I always thought the point of a Kata was that almost all you need to know could be extracted from just a few.
Each kata is actually a complete fighting system. That is why there were so few taught to early students of the masters. It took many years just to properly understand one kata. :asian:
 

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