In light of the Olympics: Kata hoarding and the negative effects.

Paul Calugaru

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One can't hoard kata and have functional prowess in Karate . I've never seen it done. IMO : It's pointless outside the realm of gymnastics and exercise. This has been said time and time again, Not by me but by others much more talented than I.

Given the Olympics, given sport karate with it's focus on Kata competition, I'd thought I'd express this again. What do you get when you hoard kata, when you spend more time acquiring kata than internalizing Karate? A very low level surface understanding... which results in a negative. One becomes a ballerina with a kegogi. I have seen Ballerina Dan with decades under them who functionally can not apply a block in training when the condition mimic reality. If you've studied Karate for a decade or two, you have seen this time and time again. Paper Tigers... Don't be a Paper Tiger or a Ballerina Dan. These practitioners ignore their low level of skill, turn from that huge deficiency, and chase Kata. They are not Karate-ka. To paraphrase Funakoshi O-Sensei "These people run around the giant tree of Karate, clueless of the branches above.

35 yrs practicing I've come full circle. IMHO: The truth about Kata... the real secret about Kata is..... Drum roll....... THER ARE NO ADVANCE KATA. A kata (or several katas) are the life teaching's of one Karate master... every kata is ADVANCED. You could spend a life time mastering Heian Shodan/Pinan Nidan.... the dearth of practical functional prowess to be mastered from that kata alone is overwhelming. If... in conditions of reality.. one can do the techniques taught in that Kata alone... That person has exceeded the skill level of 50% of the Dan I have trained with. Someone thinking they have functional prowess (regardless of Dan rank) who thinks because they have memorized the steps in all the kata in their particular style is a fool.

"figuratively...... those people get's taught the error of their ways by Karate-ka who spends a life time mastering Heian Shodan

You can't Internalize functionally... that an Age uki isn't just a block, or that an Oi Zuki isn't just a forward stepping punch by hoarding kata.
 

dancingalone

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I have done a quick search on "kata hoarding" and cannot find anything. What does this term refer to?
Collecting kata. Basically having more in your practice than you can develop meaningfully.

Subjective though. Not everyone practices for the same reason and if someone wants to learn 100 different kata, let them be happy in my opinion.
 

ThatOneSyrian

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Collecting kata. Basically having more in your practice than you can develop meaningfully.

Subjective though. Not everyone practices for the same reason and if someone wants to learn 100 different kata, let them be happy in my opinion.
Shotokan has about 26 kata and, to my knowledge, Shito-Ryu has somewhere around 50. In my experience though, we are generally taught to practice many kata on the surface level, eventually find a few kata that suit us (I personally have a strong liking for Enpi and Chinte), and then devote a greater amount of attention to those specific kata and their practical applications. However, despite focusing primarily on these two kata for the past year or so, I still know almost all the other kata by heart, even if on a superficial level. There is no harm in simply knowing a larger amount of kata, so long as you specialize in a select few that fit your style/physique,
 

isshinryuronin

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Shotokan has about 26 kata and, to my knowledge, Shito-Ryu has somewhere around 50
These numbers amazed me. I searched and did indeed find these numbers for the two styles on Google and was rather shocked. Funakoshi originally had just 15 kata in his original syllabus, but
mentioned many other kata found in Okinawa in his early books. Over the years many of these seem to have found their way into the Shotokan system. For what reason, I have no idea. Perhaps others here, more informed on the style, can enlighten me.

Mabuni Kenwa, founder of Shitoryu, was maybe the first kata collector. He studied with Itosu, Arigake and Higashionna, so was exposed to several branches of Okinawan karate. Still, I doubt he learned, or practiced 50. Again, I hope there is some kata historian out there that can shed light on this.

The masters of the 1800's, and even the early 1900's, may have been exposed to 20 kata, actually knew 10-12, but commonly taught only a handful, maybe 3-6. These numbers are in line with everything I've read (from many reliable and varied sources) about karate history.

The idea that one should be exposed to so many kata, then choose the ones that suit their taste, like a buffet, seems like a math student telling a teacher, "I don't like quadratic equations or tangents so I'll just study non-linear geometry, that's more to my taste."

The purpose of kata was to catalog and pass on the core techniques the system was built around. I don't think you need 26 or 50 kata to do that. (Iaido styles often have numerous kata, but many of them are quite short - only 2-10 cuts.)

My style has 8 empty hand kata and 6 kobudo kata. I also know the 5 Pinans (which I consider easier that my style's core kata and no longer practice them much.) That's 19. I would say that it took 16 years to be proficient in performing them, and another 4 to (almost) understand and execute the bunkai. I would call myself an expert now, but I'm still working towards mastering them after about 30 yrs actively training in that one style.

The danger is spending too much time on kata at the expense of training with another body in front of you trying to land effective strikes upon your person.

 

Bill Mattocks

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One can't hoard kata and have functional prowess in Karate . I've never seen it done. IMO : It's pointless outside the realm of gymnastics and exercise. This has been said time and time again, Not by me but by others much more talented than I.
As others have, I presume by hoarding, you mean collecting. I know of people who like to learn different katas from different styles of karate. I've never been so inclined, but I have learned a couple along the way.

As to whether it is pointless or not, I think that depends on the reasons a person has for doing it. If I learn a kata being taught by an instructor at a seminar, it's just something of interest to me. I don't imagine it makes me a better martial artist or gives me any special abilities I didn't have before (although it might). On the other hand, sometimes I might miss a finer point of a technique until I see it done in a kata I don't usually perform. Fresh eyes and all that.

Who can say anything anyone else does is pointless? I happen to collect old film cameras. They're not much use to me, I cannot go out and take photos with all of them. They don't make me a better photographer. They cost money (not much) and take up space. One might say they are pointless. However, they bring me enjoyment. I like to see how they are made and think about the history behind them. I find them endlessly fascinating. This is probably pointless to 99 people out of 100. But so what? It's my life, and this is for my enjoyment, not theirs.

Given the Olympics, given sport karate with it's focus on Kata competition, I'd thought I'd express this again. What do you get when you hoard kata, when you spend more time acquiring kata than internalizing Karate? A very low level surface understanding... which results in a negative. One becomes a ballerina with a kegogi. I have seen Ballerina Dan with decades under them who functionally can not apply a block in training when the condition mimic reality. If you've studied Karate for a decade or two, you have seen this time and time again. Paper Tigers... Don't be a Paper Tiger or a Ballerina Dan. These practitioners ignore their low level of skill, turn from that huge deficiency, and chase Kata. They are not Karate-ka. To paraphrase Funakoshi O-Sensei "These people run around the giant tree of Karate, clueless of the branches above.
Again, it depends upon your focus and purpose in learning kata and karate. I certainly agree that it is hard to do deep dives on a given kata when one is busy memorizing patterns for many katas. I've always believed that I personally do not want to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. However, that's for me. What works for me might not be what works for others.

I have probably gone what many consider too much the other way. I study the kata of the system I train in, of course. I practice performing them to increase my understanding and ability to grasp the underlying fundamentals of those kata, which are like peeling back the layers of an onion. I'll never live long enough to get to the bottom, but that's OK. However, I've taken my study of karate into what I consider to be deeper layers, some might call them mystical or philosophical, searching for a deeper understanding of myself and my relationship with the world. A fool's errand, perhaps. Bizarre and pointless, according to some. Not karate, say many. However...why would I care about that? Moreover, how could I tell others that they are studying karate incorrectly, just because they do not see what I think I see?

35 yrs practicing I've come full circle. IMHO: The truth about Kata... the real secret about Kata is..... Drum roll....... THER ARE NO ADVANCE KATA. A kata (or several katas) are the life teaching's of one Karate master... every kata is ADVANCED. You could spend a life time mastering Heian Shodan/Pinan Nidan.... the dearth of practical functional prowess to be mastered from that kata alone is overwhelming. If... in conditions of reality.. one can do the techniques taught in that Kata alone... That person has exceeded the skill level of 50% of the Dan I have trained with. Someone thinking they have functional prowess (regardless of Dan rank) who thinks because they have memorized the steps in all the kata in their particular style is a fool.

"figuratively...... those people get's taught the error of their ways by Karate-ka who spends a life time mastering Heian Shodan

You can't Internalize functionally... that an Age uki isn't just a block, or that an Oi Zuki isn't just a forward stepping punch by hoarding kata.
Yes, I agree with you. I feel the same way. However, I can't agree that it's necessarily wrong for others to see things differently. Consider that karate is not one thing, which has to be grasped in a certain way to be useful. Karate is many things, and many people see the utility of it in different ways. We may not want what they want, or find enjoyment or fulfillment in what they do, but that's for them and our path is for us. There are many paths. Who is to say what path is wrong?
 

isshinryuronin

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every kata is ADVANCED.
Sounds great. One can say a reverse punch is an advanced move as well. It is certainly rich with MA principles such as power generation (from multiple sources), importance of posture, proper coordination and form in technique execution, etc., and can take years to get it just right. But can't you say that about almost any activity? A little too much to declare every kata "advanced," a little too indulgent, IMO.

I truly understand where you're coming from and your appreciation of the depth in kata, so I'm not challenging your feeling on this, just your angle of perspective. It partly comes down to one's definition of "advanced," and advanced compared to what?

An earthworm is advanced compared to flat worm, but not compared to a human, or even a fish. If you take kata and just use the word "advanced" in relation to other kata in concrete terms, instead of referring to a more abstract concept, there are kata more advanced than others.

So, in this less philosophical view of advanced kata, what makes one more advanced than another? Complexity is one. The number and frequency of stance changes and pivots, the actual techniques themselves and the multiple directions they're aimed at. Is the bunkai something you would teach to a new student, or reserve it for a more advanced one, already having learned additional skills and understanding the more suble concepts of its application and to be able to apply them effectively.

Then there is the physicality of performing the kata. Length is a consideration. I wouldn't start a white belt off with a 60 move kata. Longer kata are generally (but not always) more challenging and the number of techniques in a given series which can affect breath control. Are they done snappy or with dynamic tension? Are there numerous jumping and kneeling moves?

Personally, I don't do a kata with the idea that it is advanced. I try to view them all as simple, doing each one naturally. Of course, it has taken many years to get to this point. Taking the complex (advanced) and making it simple is to approach the concept of mushin. In a way, at a certain stage, basic and advanced are the same thing, or at least two sides of the same coin. Sort of like quantum mechanics where two things /concepts can coexist.

These are just some random thoughts on the subject, maybe not that all important. For, in the end, semantics in MA is not important. Somethings start off seeming basic but end up seeming advanced indeed, or is it the other way around? One can say all kata are advanced, and also, all kata are basic. You can put them in some order of difficulty, or not. Either way, you just do them.
 

Bill Mattocks

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I like to let the kata talk to me. I question each move when I am thinking deeply about kata. For every move, I ask what is its purpose? How can it be used? Where are the focal points, how does the timing work for each potential application? What is its nature? How is power applied, and is speed a key factor? Things like that. I seldom think of new applications that others have not thought of long before me, but I do find it satisfying to feel the applications encoded within a part of a kata and test them mentally as well as physically. It's a good mental workout.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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THER ARE NO ADVANCE KATA. ... every kata is ADVANCED.
If you learn the same level forms, you can only grow fat, you won't grow tall. Going through the elementary school 4 times won't be able to earn you a PhD degree.

To have the ability to distinguish the beginner, intermediate, advance level forms is important.

Some forms are designed for beginners. If you still train those forms when you are 70, you may just like to stay in elementary school and refuse to graduate.

A: Dear master, in the form that I have learned, why moves 1 - 4 only have the hand movement but without the leg movement. Also why moves 5 - 6 only have the leg movement but without hand movement?
B: The initial 6 moves were designed to train beginners.
 
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Graywalker

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One can't hoard kata and have functional prowess in Karate . I've never seen it done. IMO : It's pointless outside the realm of gymnastics and exercise. This has been said time and time again, Not by me but by others much more talented than I.

Given the Olympics, given sport karate with it's focus on Kata competition, I'd thought I'd express this again. What do you get when you hoard kata, when you spend more time acquiring kata than internalizing Karate? A very low level surface understanding... which results in a negative. One becomes a ballerina with a kegogi. I have seen Ballerina Dan with decades under them who functionally can not apply a block in training when the condition mimic reality. If you've studied Karate for a decade or two, you have seen this time and time again. Paper Tigers... Don't be a Paper Tiger or a Ballerina Dan. These practitioners ignore their low level of skill, turn from that huge deficiency, and chase Kata. They are not Karate-ka. To paraphrase Funakoshi O-Sensei "These people run around the giant tree of Karate, clueless of the branches above.

35 yrs practicing I've come full circle. IMHO: The truth about Kata... the real secret about Kata is..... Drum roll....... THER ARE NO ADVANCE KATA. A kata (or several katas) are the life teaching's of one Karate master... every kata is ADVANCED. You could spend a life time mastering Heian Shodan/Pinan Nidan.... the dearth of practical functional prowess to be mastered from that kata alone is overwhelming. If... in conditions of reality.. one can do the techniques taught in that Kata alone... That person has exceeded the skill level of 50% of the Dan I have trained with. Someone thinking they have functional prowess (regardless of Dan rank) who thinks because they have memorized the steps in all the kata in their particular style is a fool.

"figuratively...... those people get's taught the error of their ways by Karate-ka who spends a life time mastering Heian Shodan

You can't Internalize functionally... that an Age uki isn't just a block, or that an Oi Zuki isn't just a forward stepping punch by hoarding kata.
I would somewhat agree, it is obvious that some advanced Kata are simply movements from several Katas and done so and created for competition.
 

Flying Crane

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If you learn the same level forms, you can only grow fat, you won't grow tall. Going through the elementary school 4 times won't be able to earn you a PhD degree.

To have the ability to distinguish the beginner, intermediate, advance level forms is important.

Some forms are designed for beginners. If you still train those forms when you are 70, you may just like to stay in elementary school and refuse to graduate.

A: Dear master, in the form that I have learned, why moves 1 - 4 only have the hand movement but without the leg movement. Also why moves 5 - 6 only have the leg movement but without hand movement?
B: The initial 6 moves were designed to train beginners.
Gonna disagree there. What we think of as beginner forms often place heavy emphasis on building and strengthening the foundation. This is always worth working on, one never outgrows this.

Of course it should not be the only thing one works on. But it should always be part of it. This is an example of where I feel forms are good for training. It gives you a tool to work with, over and over, to strengthen those skills.

The more I train, the more I appreciate what is in our foundation (beginner level) forms. In a lot of ways I like them more than the more complex advanced forms.
 

_Simon_

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Stumbled upon a post someone made, thought it might be of interest to some, thought it was quite good (it's below).

I'm not against studying from many katas, but also feel there is so much depth in each one. I personally love learning new kata, not to "collect" them superficially, but I find each one helps integrate something within me, and I find links between them which reinforce certain principles. I love how meditative and insightful that can really be; not even on a bunkai or practical application level though, but in instilling a type of body intelligence, way of moving and connecting with the moment in a more integrated, unified way. If that makes sense!

-------

"I like to think of kata as like a children’s join the dot picture…. At first, the dots are important until the lines you draw between them come to reveal the image. Then, the dots become irrelevant.

Each kata may arrange their dots (techniques) to show a different image (application), but the method used to reveal those images (the core blueprint) is essentially the same. If you are unable to see past the staccato choreography of kata (the dots), then knowing/practicing even one hundred kata applications would be of little value. Conversely, pulling your attention away from those dots and focussing instead on the way you move between them would make a deep study of one or two kata more than sufficient."
 

Drobison491

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Shotokan has about 26 kata and, to my knowledge, Shito-Ryu has somewhere around 50.

Those numbers blow my mind....

Keep in mind I've only been training for a year...Uechi-Ryu has 8 (originally 3) I know 4 (Meaning I can perform the techniques with some level of skill) but I wouldn't say I've internalized them yet. Truly knowing 26 let alone 50 seems insane to me
 

MadMartigan

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Truly knowing 26 let alone 50 seems insane to me
Couldn't agree more.
The Chang Hon (ITF) style of TKD has 24 (1 for each color belt rank, then 3 for each of the 1st few BB ranks finishing off with only 1 new form at 6th Dan.

That said, from what I've seen thats just the beginning in many orgs. Then you have some kind of 4 direction blocking pattern and another 'sparring' pattern at each level as well (not everywhere, but some places I've seen).
The memorization gets a bit silly at a certain point.
 

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