Katas / Forms

Wey

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What is your opinion on katas/forms? I enjoy their artistic / physical requirements, but I think the simpler katas need to be done away with. The simple turn, block, punch, step forward punch katas don't seem to really teach anything, except for basic moves that can be more efficiently practiced other ways.

Your opinion?
 

Bill Mattocks

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What is your opinion on katas/forms? I enjoy their artistic / physical requirements, but I think the simpler katas need to be done away with. The simple turn, block, punch, step forward punch katas don't seem to really teach anything, except for basic moves that can be more efficiently practiced other ways.

Your opinion?

If you can't get dozens of bunkai out of the simplest kata, you're not being taught properly.

That's my take, anyway. I'm a newby, but I can tell you that I've had my jaw dropped with astonishment at the applications and techniques 'hidden' in the kata, even the most simple.

I am in by no means an expert, so please don't take what I say as gospel. But I want all the kata I can get, followed by all the bunkai I can absorb for those kata.

One of my sensei's pointed out to me a great kata technician, a black belt, who does pretty kata, smooth, graceful, and the moves are textbook perfect - but he doesn't know what they 'mean' or how to use them in self-defense moves. He showed me another black belt, his kata is ugly, but he can use a simple middle-body block about seven ways in self-defense techniques, each awesome in their power, lightning fast, and easy to apply once you know how. He calls it 'living in the kata' versus 'surface kata'. He doesn't care how pretty your kata is, he wants to know what you can do with it.

When we do self-defense techniques in my dojo, my sensei will show us a move and then say "what kata is this from?" and once he says that you can see, oh, that's from chinto, or that's from wansu, or that's a seiuchin move.

Live in the kata. It's the good stuff. Think about your bunkai as you do kata, or you're just dancing.
 
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Wey

Wey

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If you can't get dozens of bunkai out of the simplest kata, you're not being taught properly.

That's my take, anyway. I'm a newby, but I can tell you that I've had my jaw dropped with astonishment at the applications and techniques 'hidden' in the kata, even the most simple.

I am in by no means an expert, so please don't take what I say as gospel. But I want all the kata I can get, followed by all the bunkai I can absorb for those kata.

One of my sensei's pointed out to me a great kata technician, a black belt, who does pretty kata, smooth, graceful, and the moves are textbook perfect - but he doesn't know what they 'mean' or how to use them in self-defense moves. He showed me another black belt, his kata is ugly, but he can use a simple middle-body block about seven ways in self-defense techniques, each awesome in their power, lightning fast, and easy to apply once you know how. He calls it 'living in the kata' versus 'surface kata'. He doesn't care how pretty your kata is, he wants to know what you can do with it.

When we do self-defense techniques in my dojo, my sensei will show us a move and then say "what kata is this from?" and once he says that you can see, oh, that's from chinto, or that's from wansu, or that's a seiuchin move.

Live in the kata. It's the good stuff. Think about your bunkai as you do kata, or you're just dancing.

Oh I completely agree with you. The katas in my system are quite complex, starting with the first that we learn. I may be just speaking due to ignorance here, but the Katas with the MOST simplest moves seem to be so one-dimensional. But I suppose you've proven that uncorrect, eh?
 

dancingalone

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What is your opinion on katas/forms? I enjoy their artistic / physical requirements, but I think the simpler katas need to be done away with. The simple turn, block, punch, step forward punch katas don't seem to really teach anything, except for basic moves that can be more efficiently practiced other ways.

Your opinion?

I think you should ask your instructor to show you some applications from the simple h pattern forms. Or get a new teacher if he can't or won't.
 
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Wey

Wey

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I'm not referring to the Katas I've been taught, THOSE are all highly detailed and in-dept. I'm wondering about everyone else's katas.
 

Ken Morgan

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In iaido 90% of what we learn is through kata. About ten years in you start to understand that the katas are only a small part of it all. Kata prepare you for all possibilities.
 

Bill Mattocks

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Oh I completely agree with you. The katas in my system are quite complex, starting with the first that we learn. I may be just speaking due to ignorance here, but the Katas with the MOST simplest moves seem to be so one-dimensional. But I suppose you've proven that uncorrect, eh?

Well, can you give me an example of a simple kata that fits your description?

I do isshin-ryu, and the simplest kata I can think of in that system is sanchin, which is the shortest in terms of moves, and considered to be the hardest to master. We learn it first at my dojo. It has bunkai, even though there are only a few moves. It also teaches some basics, such as planting yourself into the ground (I think some call it 'rooting'), good breathing techniques, and so on.

The only other kata I know of in my system that is simple is taikeioku (sp?), which is not part of isshin-ryu at all, but many practice it as if it were. We do it sometimes. It's just a 'kata' made out of the first 15 upper-body exercises. You know, low block, middle block, high block, punch, uppercut, backfist. Etc. But even the basic exercises have bunkai. At least to me.
 
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Wey

Wey

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Well, can you give me an example of a simple kata that fits your description?

I do isshin-ryu, and the simplest kata I can think of in that system is sanchin, which is the shortest in terms of moves, and considered to be the hardest to master. We learn it first at my dojo. It has bunkai, even though there are only a few moves. It also teaches some basics, such as planting yourself into the ground (I think some call it 'rooting'), good breathing techniques, and so on.

The only other kata I know of in my system that is simple is taikeioku (sp?), which is not part of isshin-ryu at all, but many practice it as if it were. We do it sometimes. It's just a 'kata' made out of the first 15 upper-body exercises. You know, low block, middle block, high block, punch, uppercut, backfist. Etc. But even the basic exercises have bunkai. At least to me.

A simple kata, which this thread is referring to, would be:

Drop your right leg back in a front stance, punch two times, move your back leg to become your front leg, punch two more times, switch to a horse stance and do an upward block then punch, etc.
 

jks9199

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Oh I completely agree with you. The katas in my system are quite complex, starting with the first that we learn. I may be just speaking due to ignorance here, but the Katas with the MOST simplest moves seem to be so one-dimensional. But I suppose you've proven that uncorrect, eh?
Perhaps there is a bit more to those basic kata than you realize. And perhaps a thorough understanding and exploration of them and of the principles contained might change your opinion.
 

Andrew Green

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The simple turn, block, punch, step forward punch katas don't seem to really teach anything, except for basic moves that can be more efficiently practiced other ways.

Your opinion?

Those kata where designed as a way to simplify things for school children, they have a fairly short history.

They do simplify things and start people off with "training wheels", but they are not part of "classical" karate.

If you can't get dozens of bunkai out of the simplest kata, you're not being taught properly.

That's my take, anyway. I'm a newby, but I can tell you that I've had my jaw dropped with astonishment at the applications and techniques 'hidden' in the kata, even the most simple.

Yes, I was there too, I agree, you can pull all sorts of bunkai out of even the simplest forms. But at some point it becomes seeing things in ink blots.

What forms teach you has more to do with structure and mechanics then the techniques, which they do a fairly poor job of teaching.

Most bunkai is not obvious, you have to be taught the technique before you can find it in a form, and even then you are likely altering the movement, or the timing, even if it is slightly in order to make it work.


This:

Live in the kata. It's the good stuff. Think about your bunkai as you do kata, or you're just dancing.

with this:

I do isshin-ryu, and the simplest kata I can think of in that system is sanchin, which is the shortest in terms of moves, and considered to be the hardest to master.

Don't mesh, bunkai (as the term is generally meant) is clearly not the key lesson in this form. Yet it is considered the most important and the hardest too master by a lot of top level guys going back a long time.

So perhaps the lesson there is that what kata are actually supposed to teach you is not 12 ways to use a x-block, but something more structural in the way your body moves.

It is a valuable exercise, to recognize that there are certain core movements in fighting that are key to many different techniques. This goes for all styles, even ones without kata. (If you can't bridge, hip bump or shrimp you can't grapple. Those 3 basic motions will cover all sorts of techniques) but I don't think kata teach those, they just get you used to moving in a structurally strong way, and teach you to have precise control over where you are and what you are doing.

You can take that little one hand closed one hand open salute at the beginning and end of all your kata and turn it into half a dozen wrist and small joint locks, but sometimes a salute is just a salute.
 

Bill Mattocks

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A simple kata, which this thread is referring to, would be:

Drop your right leg back in a front stance, punch two times, move your back leg to become your front leg, punch two more times, switch to a horse stance and do an upward block then punch, etc.

Well, that sounds like an exercise to me, but not a kata. Katas have names as far as I know.

However, if we call it Simple Kata A for the sake of discussion, then I'd say yes, it is very useful.

Starting from the block - I don't know what an 'upward block' is, but if it's something like a Jodan Uke (http://www.hollowaysisshinryu.com/StudyGuide.html), then there are several ways I've been taught in just my short time as a karateka to apply the block, when to use it, and why.

For example - the block can be a hard 'bang' block, which will cause the opponent to respond with a punch from the other side. Or a soft block, which will delay the opponent's recognition that he's been blocked for a fraction of a second. Roll the forearm as you set the block and open his ribs up for a nice reverse punch to the short ribs, or open the hand and grasp his arm and pull down to your obi, stepping back and pulling him forward into your next punch, perhaps an uppercut to the face or a... well, you see what I mean. And that's just a couple applications of one block.

I don't mean to be argumentative, but I'm not seeing why any kata or even set of exercises would be useless and 'done away with'. They're all part of a whole, and incredibly useful.

Nobody does kata in a real fight. But kata is where you learn the practical application of the moves taught in kata, and kata repetition builds body and muscle memory and speed/power should increase, as well as reaction times decrease.

Anyway, that's how I see it - and being a newbie, please feel free to ignore this, I'm no expert.
 

MJS

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What is your opinion on katas/forms? I enjoy their artistic / physical requirements, but I think the simpler katas need to be done away with. The simple turn, block, punch, step forward punch katas don't seem to really teach anything, except for basic moves that can be more efficiently practiced other ways.

Your opinion?

Well, think about it....you need to crawl before you walk, walk before you run. While I understand that there are other ways, sometimes the simple kata may be the best way to address the basic(s) that need to be addressed. For example, in the Parker system of Kenpo, there is a kata, Short Form 1. Very simple kata, which consists of defensive blocking, while moving away from the attack. However, the things that it teaches are:

Various stances
Basic blocks
Timing of hands and feet
How to block while moving back
Angle changes
Staying low while in a stance
Using peripheral vision
Double factor blocking

I could list more, but I think you get the general idea. :) Of course, as its been said, there are a huge number of applications contained in the kata. However, you need someone to be able to show and teach those applications. Simply going thru the movements, with no purpose behind them, is not helping one to really learn whats contained in the kata.

Now, I also think that the student should spar, and do other things, aside from kata, but the kata do teach the basic foundation that all students need. If your basics suck, everything else will suck too.
 

Bill Mattocks

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So perhaps the lesson there is that what kata are actually supposed to teach you is not 12 ways to use a x-block, but something more structural in the way your body moves.

I understand, thanks. I guess what I mean is this - when we're doing kata, our sensei will ask us - what is this move for? how does it work? why? And we are shown, ah, wansu has the 'dumping move' but this is how it would actually be applied (for example). And yes, perhaps several applications of a given block might move the body position slightly from the actual kata, but it's still the same basic move, we are shown and understand that.

And we work, work, work, on body mechanics. Good footwork (still my bugaboo, being naturally splay-footed), staying centered over our obis, center of gravity, punches come off the obi and not muscled from the shoulder, breathing, and repetition.

So yea, the kata doesn't teach bunkai, but that's what sensei shows us when we try to noodle out why we're doing what we're doing.

I hope I'm saying that right.
 

Andrew Green

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wansu has the 'dumping move' but this is how it would actually be applied (for example). And yes, perhaps several applications of a given block might move the body position slightly from the actual kata, but it's still the same basic move, we are shown and understand that.

Is it though? THe "standard" application I always saw for that was basically a kata guruma. The basic hand motion and initial step in might support that, but the footwork after is all wrong, when loading a persons weight you would move toward them, not lift them do a half spin away and then dump:

[yt]yD09HBiPgEU[/yt]

The second most common was basically this sort of technique:

[yt]TwkYHAdEc2k[/yt]

Again, the basic motion fits, but that silly step around doesn't fit with what is generally going to happen with your feet to do the technique properly. Yet that step around seems very promonent in the form, so why on earth would you go that way if it is meant to teach the techniques generally associated with it?
 

just2kicku

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I think katas are a good way to learn basics. There's a difference in stnding there in a horse doing your blocks and punches, and doing your basic blocks and punches in katas.

That simple kata you refer to, helps with balance and shifting of your weight before you can move again. If your kata has you step into a horse and throw two punches, you need to shift from center to one side before you can take a step. That's the kind of thing those katas are good for. Basics, basics and more basics.
 

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Simple katas are a great (IMO the best) way to learn basic stances and some techniques. The H forms, for example, are quite simple in structure, but difficult to perform "perfectly." Not only are they an excellent foundation for the more complex katas, but they are also a great warmup for students who have moved on to higher level forms. As someone else said, you have to walk before you can run. Learning stances just as techniques (moving into them from a ready stance) is not, IMO, the best way to do it--you need the kata to learn how to properly move into and out of the stances in various ways.
 

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Even a simple down block and stepping lunch punch form has good applications if your teacher will teach it. Consider a front kick delivered to your groin or torso. With your down block movement, you actually execute a dodging movement while trapping the leg against your side. Step in forcefully and dump your attacker to the ground, using your other hand to either punch, strike, or push him down in the same motion.

Simple h-pattern? I suppose that depends on your viewpoint.
 

just2kicku

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Well, think about it....you need to crawl before you walk, walk before you run. While I understand that there are other ways, sometimes the simple kata may be the best way to address the basic(s) that need to be addressed. For example, in the Parker system of Kenpo, there is a kata, Short Form 1. Very simple kata, which consists of defensive blocking, while moving away from the attack. However, the things that it teaches are:

Various stances
Basic blocks
Timing of hands and feet
How to block while moving back
Angle changes
Staying low while in a stance
Using peripheral vision
Double factor blocking

I could list more, but I think you get the general idea. :) Of course, as its been said, there are a huge number of applications contained in the kata. However, you need someone to be able to show and teach those applications. Simply going thru the movements, with no purpose behind them, is not helping one to really learn whats contained in the kata.

Now, I also think that the student should spar, and do other things, aside from kata, but the kata do teach the basic foundation that all students need. If your basics suck, everything else will suck too.

Good post Mike, especially the last sentence!!
 
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sempai little1

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I really don't think there is a such thing as a simple kata.
Have you watched a new student learn a "simple kata"? I am sure that they wont agree that it is simple.

Sure katas teach basics, balance, core power and other techniques you may not even realize you are applying at the time. But you have to remember that a kata is a series of movements put together to simulate a battle. The transitions stances, or silly foot movements as they were called may not work in real life, but find another stance or silly foot movement that will take you from point A to point B that still fits in with the kata. There needs to be valitity to the movement, you can't just randomly toss stances into a kata just for the heck of it, but done in real life like it is done in kata just wont work. Adjust your footing slightly, insted of a full out zenkusu dachi narrow your stance and you will see that the application works. (for example). Think 3 parts application 1 part flair for a lack of a better way of putting it.

Your friend,
Sempai Little1 :wavey:
 

Tez3

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I'm not referring to the Katas I've been taught, THOSE are all highly detailed and in-dept. I'm wondering about everyone else's katas.

Mmm that sounds a bit judgemental I'm afraid.
Simple is often the hardest thing to do well and you need to do basic techniques well before you can even think of doing anything more complicated.
I dpon't actually think there are any complicated katas, I think they are all simple but their beauty is that it's difficult to do simple.
I don't believe katas however are made to simulate battle though they are more of an aide memoire of the techniques available to you. They aren't supposed to follow on one after the other in a real fight.
I attended one of Iain Abernethy's Bunkai seminars and can't wait to do more, I also have his DVDS and books which I'd recommend to anyone. He's probably the best exponent of Bunkai and applied karate around. he also explains the use of what semapi little calls 'silly stances and moves" puts it all into context and you are surprised how nicely you can take down or disable an opponent with them.

http://www.iainabernethy.com/articles/BasicBunkaiPart1.asp
 

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