Uselessness of kata in the real world!

scottie

Green Belt
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Messages
124
Reaction score
3
Location
Georgia
I am a member of a mostly Isshinryu Facebook Chat group. A guy that I respect as a Martial Artist asked a question. "what role if any does Kata play in your Martial Arts Training." Of coarse that started a huge debate about the Uselessness of kata in the real world. Every thing you don't walk with your hands down to you don't walk with your hands in a boxing position. To it hurts my MMA and point fighting. "No Kata no Karate" (which I like) to on and on. I know this is a dead horse, but most of you here know more about Karate than I may ever know. So I don't care about all kata are useless I want to hear all the Why's and How it helps. scottie
 

Victor Smith

Blue Belt
Joined
Dec 22, 2006
Messages
254
Reaction score
23
Location
New Hampshire, USA
IMO individuals who find kata useless have been incorrectly trained. The brief time I trained with Sherman Harrill from 94 to his death, maybe 60 hours at clinics, he shared 800 applications for Isshinryu's 8 kata. All used to drop someone in every sort of circumstance. Likewise the 'bunkai' I received from Tristan Sutrisno and his father's shotokan studied in Japan in the 1930's has innumerable 'bunkai' all designed to do the same. Ditto for my studies in Chinese arts and tai chi chaun.

IMO the central focus of kata is development of technique force and speed, Application studies work on how every of those movements can break an attacker (figuratively).

If there's no kata there's no karate (as karate is Okinawan). Not to dis other answers they're just not karate no matter what name they use.
 

Nomad

Master Black Belt
Joined
May 23, 2006
Messages
1,206
Reaction score
54
Location
San Diego, CA
Have a look at Iain Abernethy's stuff; he posts tons of videos on Youtube and his website on the practical applications of karate kata, and I'm a pretty big fan of his.

There are plenty of reasons why kata have become somewhat disconnected from real combat, from philosophical & political decisions made by Funakoshi and others following WWII to common training methods to distorted views of how fighting works (often based on the training methods above), to a very rapid spread of information of dubious depth, but it's all there in the kata... you may just have to change your perceptions on what and how the kata are teaching you.
 

seasoned

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2007
Messages
11,175
Reaction score
1,151
Location
Lives in Texas
Useless to those that don't understand the applications within the kata. I don't blame the younger generations understanding of the kata, because for the most part, they only know what they were taught. Learn one kata application, and it can translate into a pattern for many many techniques. Therein lies the usefulness.
 

Sukerkin

Have the courage to speak softly
MT Mentor
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 15, 2006
Messages
15,318
Reaction score
481
Location
Staffordshire, England
Exactly so, gentlemen. The analogy I have always used for kata is that they are a toolbox of techniques for you to use when a need for them arises. The more skilled you are, the more uses you can put a given 'tool' to.

It ever befuddles me that people still are being trained in such a way as they do not understand that kata are, at their deepest foundation, a training tool for techniques and circumstances.
 

Bill Mattocks

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Feb 8, 2009
Messages
14,964
Reaction score
3,267
Location
Michigan
I will say this; I have never, ever, heard my sensei asked a question about kata which started "when would I use this move in real life" which for which he did not have an answer, and a practical demonstration, which made perfect sense when seen. From the dumping movement in Wansu to the evasions in Naihanchi and the X-block and crane stances in Chinto; every one of them has a (in fact, many) practical applications which absolutely can be used 'for real'. That doesn't mean I am able to pick the techniques out and use them at will; but that's why I am a student. I see them used by my sensei, the way he demonstrates it is not forced or contrived or faked; it all makes sense and works.

Look at it another way - what self-defense move could you imagine doing that is NOT in the various kata? I can't think of one. If someone shows me a punch, kick, block, evasion, trap, armbar, whatever, I can generally point to the kata or katas in which it can be found. Man, it's like having a dictionary right there with you!

When Okinawan master developed or modified kata for their systems, they did it on the basis of intense study in what we would nowadays call 'body mechanics' and practical experience, combined with their own intelligence. When they demonstrated their kata for others, nobody stood back and said "Wow, that's pretty, it's nice to look at, it must be a good kata." No, they picked it apart. Why do you do this, what's that for? The soke in question had to explain and be able to demonstrate that they had intent behind every move in their kata, and had to demonstrate that it worked. Kata wasn't a dance, it was an instruction book.

Live and let live. If people don't want to do kata, don't see the point of it, fine and dandy. I love kata (Kusanku continues to murder me, but oh well) and I do see the point.
 

jks9199

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2006
Messages
22,670
Reaction score
2,922
Location
Northern VA
There are different types of kata.

There are kata that are nothing more than sequences of motions for exercise or convenience of teaching or practicing them. There are kata that are demonstrations, kind of like military marching. And there are kata that are repositories of the lessons of a system of fighting.

The first type of kata are along the lines of drills, exercises and shadow boxing, as well as things like yoga. They are often built of practical combative tools, but you wouldn't likely think of using them exactly or even closely to the exercise. For example, we've got a 9 set punching drill which could be called a kata. You wouldn't expect to sit down in front of somebody, take up a H-stance, and proceed to throw the punches in sequence without any stepping, right? Nor would you necessarily look for a yoga sequence to directly have combat application -- but the strength and flexibility gained would.

I picked military marching on purpose as an example outside the martial arts for the second type of kata. There was a time when close order drill was an important element of combat; practicing close order drill today recalls that era. In the same way, there are kata that recall historic events and are built from techniques and the accounts of what happened. There are other kata (XMA kata are an infamous example...) that are nothing but showpieces. The idea is you're showing what you can do, your athleticism and skill. They're built from real (or sort of real in the case of some of the XMA stuff) fighting principles and techniques, but they don't have immediate functional application outside that role.

I think the final type is what the OP is really asking about. In some cases, they're functional self defense or combat moves directly from the kata, right as is. In other cases, the kata contains one or more underlying principles of movement or combat. Some of these kata contain every move of the fighting system; others are only an overview, kind of an encyclopedia or Cliff's Notes of the style.
 

seasoned

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2007
Messages
11,175
Reaction score
1,151
Location
Lives in Texas
The older the system, the less wasted movement there will be within the kata. Okinawan GoJu kata for example, have no high kicks and are not done, as Bill stated, to look pretty. When you start putting in useless blocks and guard position's, it makes the whole kata useless. We practice our kata and drills for muscle memory. Everyone should know that in the heat of battle your training takes over, with NO time to think. Consequently, what you do day in and day out, will come out when you most need it, good or bad..........
 

Omar B

Senior Master
Joined
Nov 6, 2007
Messages
3,687
Reaction score
87
Location
Queens, NY. Fort Lauderdale, FL
Kata useless in the real world? Sure, but nobody's gonna do kata in a real life self defense situation. What kata are, are sets, sequences, proper form and proper movment so that you can fight effectively in the real world.

The Pentatonic scale, aeolian mode, lydian mode, etc are not music and don't sound like music. But I practice my scales and modes, because it makes my actual guitar playing better. Same principle.
 

Black Belt Jedi

Blue Belt
Joined
Jul 2, 2011
Messages
244
Reaction score
7
Location
Toronto, Ont. Canada
IMO individuals who find kata useless have been incorrectly trained. The brief time I trained with Sherman Harrill from 94 to his death, maybe 60 hours at clinics, he shared 800 applications for Isshinryu's 8 kata. All used to drop someone in every sort of circumstance. Likewise the 'bunkai' I received from Tristan Sutrisno and his father's shotokan studied in Japan in the 1930's has innumerable 'bunkai' all designed to do the same. Ditto for my studies in Chinese arts and tai chi chaun.

IMO the central focus of kata is development of technique force and speed, Application studies work on how every of those movements can break an attacker (figuratively).

If there's no kata there's no karate (as karate is Okinawan). Not to dis other answers they're just not karate no matter what name they use.

I agree to what you say. I remember back in the black belt magazine forum, one poster posted a rant on saying that kata is useless (not sure if he's being serious or trolling). In my perspective, I say that he's not at fault in disliking kata, it's the fault on the Sensei for not teaching him right.

Kata is the soul of Karate. It is important to understand the bunkai, to understand what these templates do against acts of physical violence. Since the last decade the Martial Arts world is changing little by little when many scholars and teachers are upgrading their learning and going back to the classical roots of Karate. Many of us study the works of many scholar warriors such as Iain Abernethy, Patrick McCarthy, Lawrence Kane, Kris Wilder and Marc Macyoung. They are filled with information on Kata Bunkai.
 

MJS

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
Messages
30,187
Reaction score
429
Location
Cromwell,CT
I am a member of a mostly Isshinryu Facebook Chat group. A guy that I respect as a Martial Artist asked a question. "what role if any does Kata play in your Martial Arts Training." Of coarse that started a huge debate about the Uselessness of kata in the real world. Every thing you don't walk with your hands down to you don't walk with your hands in a boxing position. To it hurts my MMA and point fighting. "No Kata no Karate" (which I like) to on and on. I know this is a dead horse, but most of you here know more about Karate than I may ever know. So I don't care about all kata are useless I want to hear all the Why's and How it helps. scottie

There are katas in the arts that I train in. I like some of them, others I'm not so fond of. LOL. In any case, I do them, I train them, I teach them. The kata debate is never ending. IMO, I view it as, to each his own. If you like them, great. If you hate them, great. Now, I'm not as into them as some are, meaning, no, I dont eat, sleep and breath kata. LOL. I do feel that they're one piece of the puzzle, meaning that IMO, kata alone, isn't the answer. I feel that you still need to spar and train things with some sort of aliveness and resistance. Yes, this can be done with kata. But, in order for that to happen, the people teaching the kata, need to know what they're doing. I've asked people what certain moves are, and get no answer. How can you teach someone a kata, and not know at least 1 application for the moves?

During some classes that I've taught, I've picked a kata, and gave the class a few breakdowns. I then had them pair up in groups, working together, to try and figure out applications. Then at the end, all come together, and share what they found. They seemed to like it, and it made them think. I mean, whats the use if all they're doing is just running thru meaningless moves?

So yes, kata is important. No, you're probably not going to get into a fight and start breaking into a kata. But, there are moves, that can be very useful and effective, if the person knows what they're doing. :)
 

lhall13

White Belt
Joined
Jul 30, 2011
Messages
17
Reaction score
1
Kata's are not designed to be beautiful, their designed to teach you. And their usefullness? Simply put if you practice the movements within a kata over and over again you retain muscle memory. Therefore your body will just react to whatever it has coming its direction. If you -think- in a fight your gonna end up -hurt- in a fight. If anyone acctually thinks that your gonna fight in only the pattern of kata, I'll say a prayer for ya cause your really gonna need it. I might not be 5+ years into my martial arts and what not. But anyone will tell you- its your training that will save your rear end. So, keep practicing your kata's and it'll save ya when you least expect it.
 

Tez3

Sr. Grandmaster
Supporting Member
Joined
Oct 13, 2006
Messages
27,385
Reaction score
4,697
Location
England
Have a look at Iain Abernethy's stuff; he posts tons of videos on Youtube and his website on the practical applications of karate kata, and I'm a pretty big fan of his.

There are plenty of reasons why kata have become somewhat disconnected from real combat, from philosophical & political decisions made by Funakoshi and others following WWII to common training methods to distorted views of how fighting works (often based on the training methods above), to a very rapid spread of information of dubious depth, but it's all there in the kata... you may just have to change your perceptions on what and how the kata are teaching you.

You beat me to it! I've trained with Iain and I can tell you honestly that when he does Bunkai his opponent is well and truly beaten, it's very alive, very effective and shows that kata is by no means useless.

Btw Iain is coming across to the States to hold some seminars, if you can make them, it's worth the trouble.
 

Touch Of Death

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
May 6, 2003
Messages
11,610
Reaction score
845
Location
Spokane Valley WA
If a person can't demonstrate a simple set of moves with posture, balance, relaxation, and speed, they will probably believe Kata to be useless.
Sean
 

Cyriacus

Senior Master
Joined
Jun 25, 2011
Messages
3,827
Reaction score
47
Location
Australia
If a person can't demonstrate a simple set of moves with posture, balance, relaxation, and speed, they will probably believe Kata to be useless.
Sean
Yes.
Not just that, but you also have to see the Intent.
This is a bit of an odd way to put it, as its less obvious.
But the "First" Pattern in TKD, Chun Ji, opens with a Low Block > Lunge Punch.
It took me almost a Year to realise how these Patterns and Kata worked. It was saying, that to defend against a Front Kick, Blocking it down, then Lunging forward and Punching the Opponent in the Chest is one Option.
I then applied that Logic to some Kata, viewing it as several Components, rather than One Single Combination. But as Numerous Combinations, used to a similar end.

Kata are Functional, and so are any other Similar Idealogies. You just have to be Open Minded, and Understand that in a Real Engagement, you wont be nearly as Technical as you are when Demonstrating. Your Movements and Stances wont be as Formal. Its WHAT you DO thats supposed to be largely the same.

I remember a Friend of mine who did Shotokan once said, that Black Belt Sparring should look like Freeform Kata.
 
Top