Uselessness of kata in the real world!

Oily Dragon

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So, with kata, it's like this odd mix of two incompatible things. On one hand, kata are a mysterious, esoteric exercise that some few will fully understand. On the other hand, they are a practical drill that, according to some, will teach you what you need to know for self defense.
The only mystery is flesh and blood. The only way to create practical is

 

seasoned

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Old kata/new kata. Old was born in a time and place of unrest and secrecy. At that time Kata was a means of chronicling ones martial arts techniques so as to preserve them. They were looked at as a means of "life preservation...Some martial arts styles today wish to honor that effort keeping it intact...No more no less.

New is born out of a spirit of self defense and competition, so change is excepted.....No more no less.

As it goes, "to each their own". :)
 

AIKIKENJITSU

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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
I have taught Kenpo for fifty years. We had two katas per belt for Tracy Kenpo and for American Kenpo (I studied both schools). I learned a lot of forms and when I started teaching, I eliminated all of them. I have not suffered one bit by doing so. Many times over the years I had to defend myself and I did so rather well, thank you.
Forms are not necessary. I think back hundreds of years ago in China, teachers formed katas as a way of remembering all the techs. Today we don't need that. In Kenpo,l each technique is like a mini form.
I never teach katas and never will and it does not hurt the quality and effectiveness of my art.
Sifu
Puyallulp, WA
 

Buka

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@Buka , you are the first person Ive ever encountered who admits it. :)
I should have posted my complete thought. Which was.....

I have me in mind....except when I'm not home, then I'm out of my mind. (Bazinga)

Back decades ago, we were at George Pesare's Karate Tournament, which was always a crazy, blood bath kind of thing.

During the Kata competition, a guy we had never seen before, Sheldon Wilkins, out of New York, was competing. He had on a heavyweight red gi, with the head of a bull on the back. We had never seen a red gi at that point in our careers, never mind one with a bull.

The Kata judges were led by George Pesare. I think Wilkins trained some sort of Goju. He did an unbelievable, fast, hard Kata.
At the end, George Pesare asks him to explain his Kata - which we had also never seen done before, and we had been competing for five years at this point. (George was doing it to bust his chops, maybe embarrass him)

Wilkins, bows to the judges, and then does the Kata in slow motion, with perfect form, even the high kicks. His explanation seemed to be out of a movie, articulate, perfectly clear and the entire gym had stopped what they were doing to watch and listen. It was like he was teaching the judges a Kata class. It was one of the coolest things I have seen to this day. Sure shut them up.

I went up to him later, introduced myself, and asked him "How the F did you do that?" We became fast friends.

A couple years later we fought in a tournament. I got lucky, nailed him with a jump 360 spinning hook kick. We go back to the line, the ref says go - and he hits me with the exact same kick, only way nicer. Again, I whispered in his ear "How the F did you do that?"

We both laughed so hard the refs yelled at us.

That man understood Kata. Fighting, too. Taught me a lot over the years.
 

Mider

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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
I think it just trains the body how to Move, muscle memory etc
 

angelariz

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I have taught Kenpo for fifty years. We had two katas per belt for Tracy Kenpo and for American Kenpo (I studied both schools). I learned a lot of forms and when I started teaching, I eliminated all of them. I have not suffered one bit by doing so. Many times over the years I had to defend myself and I did so rather well, thank you.
Forms are not necessary. I think back hundreds of years ago in China, teachers formed katas as a way of remembering all the techs. Today we don't need that. In Kenpo,l each technique is like a mini form.
I never teach katas and never will and it does not hurt the quality and effectiveness of my art.
Sifu
Puyallulp, WA
When I saw the long form i quit training kenpo..lol there was no way I was going to remember all of that!
 

Kung Fu Wang

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So I don't care about all kata are useless I want to hear all the Why's and How it helps.
You can record valuable information in your form so you can pass it down from generation to generation.

For example, you have 120 partner drills that you like to teach such as:

- jab, cross, ...
- front kick, side kick, ...
- wrist lock, elbow lock, ...
- hip throw, foot sweep, ...

When your students train those drills without partner, those partner drills become solo drills. Instead of to force your students to remember drill 1, drill, 2, ..., drill 120, you combine those drill into 3 forms (your toolbox) with 40 drills in each form such as:

- beginner level form,
- immediate level form,
- advance level form,

If you also add in

- set up,
- principle,
- strategy,
- defense,
- counter,
- ...

your form will evolve from toolbox into textbook.
 
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drop bear

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I think it just trains the body how to Move, muscle memory etc

Yeah this.

Which also means you don't really have to look for realistic technique. You can drop in to a deep stance over pronounce strikes because you are training your body to be more flexible stronger and coordinated.

Bunkai is where the madness occurs. That is where people do mental backflips trying to reason out why doing a squat is a fighting move rather than a squat.
 

dvcochran

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In simplest terms, Kata is the boxer's version of shadow boxing in the MA's world. With the inclusion of most all techniques. Yes, even some of the lesser used ones.

A person can go as hard as possible, over and over practicing Kata, getting in better shape and condition without injury while improving recognition/recall/reaction. When balanced with resistance and contact, this is the perfect paring. IMHO

It is also a great tool for people who do not want to compete but still train a MA.
 

Michael Hubbard

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I find kata as a way in martial arts of bringing organization to punches, kicks, strikes and blocks to different pressure points to a person's body during an attack. I believe doing katas in combination with sparring helps us learn how to correctly apply those techniques in a real setting. Being in good shape, having great flexibility and remaining calm in potentially violent situations is when using techniques in kata is at it's best. I remember being in a kumite competition in Las Vegas in 2012 and going against my opponent with half of my dojo watching me and someone got me on their Iphone and told me that half of the moves I was doing came from a kata. The other half came from basic fighting techniques that we learn.

Even Tyson at his best did a very elementary form of kata in boxing where his mentor Cus D Mato taught him different combinations (katas) that involved certain movements along with punch combinations that followed. He used those combinations during fights regularly. That is what led him to be so successful between 1985-1989. Once he fired Kevin Rooney and got away from those combinations (katas) then the rest is history.
 

Steve

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Even Tyson at his best did a very elementary form of kata in boxing where his mentor Cus D Mato taught him different combinations (katas) that involved certain movements along with punch combinations that followed. He used those combinations during fights regularly. That is what led him to be so successful between 1985-1989. Once he fired Kevin Rooney and got away from those combinations (katas) then the rest is history.
Are we calling all drills kata now?

My point isn't to nit pick. It's that whenever we have discussions about kata, we swing wildly from basically suggesting that anything resembling a form is kata to the other side where kata is essentially moving meditation from which the mysteries of the universe may be gleaned. Hard to keep up.
 

Steve

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I find kata as a way in martial arts of bringing organization to punches, kicks, strikes and blocks to different pressure points to a person's body during an attack. I believe doing katas in combination with sparring helps us learn how to correctly apply those techniques in a real setting. Being in good shape, having great flexibility and remaining calm in potentially violent situations is when using techniques in kata is at it's best. I remember being in a kumite competition in Las Vegas in 2012 and going against my opponent with half of my dojo watching me and someone got me on their Iphone and told me that half of the moves I was doing came from a kata. The other half came from basic fighting techniques that we learn.

Even Tyson at his best did a very elementary form of kata in boxing where his mentor Cus D Mato taught him different combinations (katas) that involved certain movements along with punch combinations that followed. He used those combinations during fights regularly. That is what led him to be so successful between 1985-1989. Once he fired Kevin Rooney and got away from those combinations (katas) then the rest is history.

Are we calling all drills kata now?

My point isn't to nit pick. It's that whenever we have discussions about kata, we swing wildly from basically suggesting that anything resembling a form is kata to the other side where kata is essentially moving meditation from which the mysteries of the universe may be gleaned. Hard to keep up.
Reading this again, I think I was too direct. My point isn't to challenge what you said. It's just I'm wondering (and suspecting) that Mike Tyson didn't get to the deep stuff that folks talk about when they discuss kata. I don't know how much embedded bunkai there is in the drills he did, but I'm guessing not much. I would guess (and have read) that boxing really offered Tyson a spiritual haven from what was otherwise a very hard life. But I would guess that the drills were just part of his training, and that the spiritual and emotional growth that boxing might have offered him came from the effort and attention (and diversion from crime) of the activity as a whole, and not strictly from drills.

I hope that makes more sense. :)
 

Michael Hubbard

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I totally understand your point and agree with you about 60%. A boxing drill cannot be looked at as a kata however when you closely look at the video on the way Tyson trained in his earlier days, he moved his head a certain way, he positioned himself a certain way around his opponent, threw certain types of punches at his opponents body and head in a certain combination and was taught to do these series of movements by Cus D Mato, then Kevin Rooney. He did these movements (katas) over and over and over and over. Sometimes in the background, you can hear D Mato say it looks good but it isn't perfect. I know kata very very very well and know what a series of movements, fast and slow at times along with attacks and blocks in combination with stances and when to apply power in certain movements.

I am not saying Tyson's movements are a full kata such as any of the Heian Katas in shotokan or anything of that nature but it's the closest form of a kata in boxing that I have seen. I am not swinging wildly as you say but making a connection with how a simple type of kata was effective in boxing where once a opponent made an attack then the attack was defended a certain way and was effective about 95% of the time. I trying to be more open minded when looking at the effectiveness of kata in the real world. It doesn't always have to be karate, kenpo, judo or tae kwon do where kata has been popularized these days.
 

Michael Hubbard

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Steve I like your points and they make a lot of sense. I respect and agree with what you are saying. The structure that Cus provided Tyson allowed him to channel his criminal behavior into something more constructive which was boxing and it did that for him. Once that structure was removed, then Tyson quickly got away from his safe haven and his life quickly fell apart. Even at 54 years old Tyson remembered what Cus taught him 35 years ago and came back to it. He returned back to his roots to provide him with balance and inner peace that his life was missing

Getting back to kata through, even today I still see Tyson doing his organized movements, small katas or drills with his new trainer because it provides him with some sort of organization of punches and movements. He does this over and over and over until it's perfect, the way one does katas. While he is practicing these movements I would imagine that they bring him inner peace and release from the outside world. We as martial artists practice katas over and over and over sometimes fast and slow until those movements and combinations are perfect. Then if we ever use them in a real world situation we do these katas unconsciously because of the constant practice over time.
 

seasoned

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Steve I like your points and they make a lot of sense. I respect and agree with what you are saying. The structure that Cus provided Tyson allowed him to channel his criminal behavior into something more constructive which was boxing and it did that for him. Once that structure was removed, then Tyson quickly got away from his safe haven and his life quickly fell apart. Even at 54 years old Tyson remembered what Cus taught him 35 years ago and came back to it. He returned back to his roots to provide him with balance and inner peace that his life was missing

Getting back to kata through, even today I still see Tyson doing his organized movements, small katas or drills with his new trainer because it provides him with some sort of organization of punches and movements. He does this over and over and over until it's perfect, the way one does katas. While he is practicing these movements I would imagine that they bring him inner peace and release from the outside world. We as martial artists practice katas over and over and over sometimes fast and slow until those movements and combinations are perfect. Then if we ever use them in a real world situation we do these katas unconsciously because of the constant practice over time.
Just to take it a bit past what boxing "kata" covers and suggest that karate kata technique's move past the striking component and through repartition ready's the karate student for basic positioning for locks and takedowns. Kata covers the basic components but 2 person drills put it altogether...My 2 cents, I think this is basically what you're saying...
 

Michael Hubbard

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Yes it is. I enjoyed the healthy debate though. To me kata has two parts. The first part is to prepare one for combat situations should they ever arise in the street or in kumite. The second part is to be artistic. There is nothing like seeing a well practiced kata in a competition with hard and soft movements, blocks and punches using hips, nice stances all put together with perfect timing. The second part of kata has nothing to do with boxing at all. It's the first part where we are having healthy debate and discussion.
 

isshinryuronin

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I have taught Kenpo for fifty years. We had two katas per belt for Tracy Kenpo and for American Kenpo (I studied both schools). I learned a lot of forms and when I started teaching, I eliminated all of them. I have not suffered one bit by doing so. Many times over the years I had to defend myself and I did so rather well, thank you.
Forms are not necessary. I think back hundreds of years ago in China, teachers formed katas as a way of remembering all the techs. Today we don't need that. In Kenpo,l each technique is like a mini form.
I never teach katas and never will and it does not hurt the quality and effectiveness of my art.
Sifu
Puyallulp, WA
Ed Parker's Kenpo is unique, I think for several reasons.

The forms were designed in post-secret modern times, so the bunkai is plain to see. They more accurately represent the way the style is practiced in every day actual workouts than the older Chinese or Okinawan forms do, at least as those styles are commonly taught today.

Over the past century, kata and basic technique diverged into two different things, with the true meaning of the kata being lost to a considerable degree. The class drills looked less and less like the forms. Originally, those forms were the basis for the style and there was no disconnect between them. Going back to the roots of these styles, there was less disconnect then. Having returned to the roots of Okinawan karate, I see much similarity to kenpo.

So, I view kenpo as less unique in its techniques than I used to. It remains unique in the way Ed Parker constructed and organized it.

The forms, especially the 3, is composed of technique series that are learned for each belt that are, as you said, like mini forms, and even more so when you add all the extensions. So the 3 form is just a device to help remember some of them (There are so many!) 1 and 2 cover the basic blocks, kicks, strikes, etc. Form 4 starts flowing, putting it all together for fighting.

But aside from incorporating the individual technique series, kata still helps with stance transitions, and keeping the body balanced and controlled in the midst of many techniques in a long form, so I think it's still good practice, though I see your point.
 

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