What are the key elements in form/kata performance?

isshinryuronin

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I got this idea from watching a video posted on another thread showing kids doing forms at a TKD dojang called "Sky." The video's reviews were not complementary. Kids and adults likely have different shortcomings, as well as common ones. Curious to see what others think are the key common weaknesses in kata performance.
 

skribs

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The easy ones:
  • Memorization.
  • Going too fast so you look sloppy.
  • Not understanding the proper details. For example, a front stance with your rear foot pointed to the side instead of the front, which turns your body to the side; not understanding that the front stance is an aggressive stance.
  • Poor fundamentals: proper fist, keeping your off-hand chambered, fully chambering your techniques.
  • Poor snap power, weak kiyhap.
  • Sloppy techniques, such as "overswing" at the end of a punch.
  • In the early belts, really young kids and non-active adults tend to have a hard time with which is left and right, and how to turn the correct direction.
However, there are a few others that I see come up a lot:
  • Timing
  • The "get stance and bounce" where students will get a deep stance and then bounce up to an easier stance, or they will get a long stance and slide their back foot into a shorter stance.
  • The "slouch and chamber" where students drop their hands while doing footwork, and then chamber right before doing the technique.
 

MadMartigan

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any reference I make to kata concerns martial practice.
Same here. I'm either 'practicing' or 'performing' a form.
Kids and adults likely have different shortcomings, as well as common ones. Curious to see what others think are the key common weaknesses in kata performance.
As Skribs said, with the kids it's usually rushing to the end of the pattern instead of fine tuning each movement.
Some adults haven't learned anything new in so long, that the memorization takes a long time. Others memorize the movements so quick, that they get bored. Then it's working to help them understand that memorization and correct stance/hand placement are really only step 1.

Common missing pieces that I see are:
- Poor breath control
- Inconsistent posture (bobbing up and down instead of keeping a level plain and stepping through each movement smoothly)
- Just copying what the move looks like, but not performing it with intention and realism.
- Poor counter rotation and horizontal power generation.
 
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isshinryuronin

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Just copying what the move looks like, but not performing it with intention and realism.
This is my #1 criticism of kids (of course, they're just kids - that's why I'm not a fan of most kid black belts) and many adults. Just going thru the motions without realistic intent takes the "martial" out of martial arts.

It is largely this element IMO that sets the stage for all the others: speed, power, crispness of movement, correct execution and even bunkai application. It also helps in eliminating many of the negatives Skribs and you listed.

Perhaps, even more importantly, practicing with realistic intent mentally prepares one for actual combat and allows one to realize the full potential of doing kata.
 
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Kung Fu Wang

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This is my #1 criticism of kids (of course, they're just kids - that's why I'm not a fan of most kid black belts) and many adults. Just going thru the motions without realistic intent takes the "martial" out of martial arts.

It is largely this element IMO that sets the stage for all the others: speed, power, crispness of movement, correct execution and bunkai application. It also helps in eliminating many of the negatives Skribs listed.

Perhaps, even more importantly, practicing with realistic intent mentally prepares one for actual combat.
There are 3 stages of learning a form.

1. Copy.
2. Polish.
3. Add personal flavor into it.

Many people can reach to stage 2. Not too many people can reach to stage 3.
 
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Tez3

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There are 3 stages of learning a form.

1. Copy.
2. Polish.
3. Add personal flavor into it.

Many people can reach to stage 2. Not too many people can reach to stage 3.
Personal flavour would be frowned upon and discouraged by many though.
 
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isshinryuronin

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Personal flavour would be frowned upon and discouraged by many though.
That is what makes it an "art." Bruce Lee put it well when he defined that word as technical expertise combined with one's own inner spirit. The problem comes when people try to add the latter before they have mastered the technical elements. As in painting, one must first master color, light, perspective, and brush strokes before they can add their soul and be considered true artists.
 

Tez3

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That is what makes it an "art." Bruce Lee put it well when he defined that word as technical expertise combined with one's own inner spirit. The problem comes when people try to add the latter before they have mastered the technical elements. As in painting, one must first master color, light, perspective, and brush strokes before they can add their soul and be considered true artists.
Thinking about that though I don't consider myself a martial 'artist', I don't train to be artistic I train to be effective. I don't particularly want to see artistic kata but ones with good technique and practicality purposefully carried out. I don't see soul in kata I see good Bunkai.
 

Flying Crane

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3. Add personal flavor into it.

Many people can reach to stage 2. Not too many people can reach to stage 3.
I do not believe this is a stage, nor that it is important, nor that it is automatically to be frowned upon.

Forms are simply a training tool. You can practice them forever, as you learned them, and get benefits from that practice. Eventually you might have insights that enable you to tweak or improve them for your practice, and may benefit your students. That can be appropriate. But is not a higher level. It is only “different”.
 

Flying Crane

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That is what makes it an "art." Bruce Lee put it well when he defined that word as technical expertise combined with one's own inner spirit. The problem comes when people try to add the latter before they have mastered the technical elements. As in painting, one must first master color, light, perspective, and brush strokes before they can add their soul and be considered true artists.
Personally I don’t like to think of the martial arts as art in the sense of the fine arts or the performing arts. I prefer the definition of “art” that means a skill in an activity, acquired through practice and hard work. That is essentially what the term “kung fu” means.

So if putting one’s artistic touch on it simply means having the ability to apply the skills effectively and spontaneously, and creatively where necessary, then I can agree with that. But if it is meant more on the lines of being artistic for the sake of some kind of intellectual or visual aesthetics, not connected to actual function, then I can’t get on board with that.
 
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isshinryuronin

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As I do not do kata for showmanship, any reference I make to kata concerns martial practice.
Just a reminder of my basic view.
So if putting one’s artistic touch on it simply means having the ability to apply the skills effectively and spontaneously, and creatively
Technical expertise is a prerequisite before effective spontaneous creativity can kick in and approach art.
being artistic for the sake of some kind of intellectual or visual aesthetics
Art for art's sake is not really art. A pretty picture or nice musical piece that does not evoke some emotion or sense of elegance (shibumi) is not really art for me. It doesn't accomplish anything. Those that can make that happen are true artists.

Kata, or MA in general, is similar in that it should accomplish its purpose (effective bunkai) first and foremost, but to do it with effortless ease and self-expression, with one's own personal style and heart in it, making the kata their own.

Good karate and art are not mutually exclusive terms.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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If the difference between these 2 clips is not the "art", what is the difference?

Chang_body_squeeze.gif
body_squeeze.gif
 

Graywalker

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I look to see if the student, while practicing Kata, pay attention to relaxing, breathing, grounding, body alignment and coordinated body motion.

These five concepts, need to be seen and understood, before we even move on to another Kata.
 

Bill Mattocks

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What I commonly see?

Weak punches and blocks.
Holding the breath all the way through the kata.
Robot moves. Lack of natural movement.
Sloppy moves caused by excess speed.
Moves run together to try to keep up with the group in group kata training.

All of these can be fixed in time. Every student is different. Some children simply don't have the fine motor skills to do what is required at first, so we work with what they can do. Many adults have very stilted moves, very stiff and mechanical, and seem to want to develop power by using arm punches rather than the hips. They're often stiff as a board and it can take a really long time for them to relax into the kata and just let it flow.

Adults also tend not to want to bend their knees. Our style is a rather high natural stance compared to most; we don't do super deep stances, yet we still bend the knees and that seems to be difficult for some.
 

JowGaWolf

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If it was my choice, students would fight first then learn Forms. A lot of people who do forms don't have a good reference for knowing what an attack looks like or what defending feels like. This creates a disconnect of purpose when doing forms. It's hard for people to understand techniques if they never had to attack someone or defend against someone. Younger kid copy but really don't understand. This is why their forms and application are so different.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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If it was my choice, students would fight first then learn Forms.
In a fight, you will throw "jab, jab, cross". Interested enough that I just can't find this "jab, jab, cross" combo exist in any forms that I know. Why?

Most of the form has 1 step 1 punch. Very few forms have 1 step 2 punches, or 1 step 3 punches. If you only train form, you will never have the chance to train 1 step with multiple punches.
 

Bill Mattocks

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If it was my choice, students would fight first then learn Forms. A lot of people who do forms don't have a good reference for knowing what an attack looks like or what defending feels like. This creates a disconnect of purpose when doing forms. It's hard for people to understand techniques if they never had to attack someone or defend against someone. Younger kid copy but really don't understand. This is why their forms and application are so different.
I'd have to disagree with that, respectfully. Untrained kids lack focus and control and can easily hurt each other. I realize that when they begin kata training, they don't really understand why they are doing what they are doing, but that's on the instructor to provide that information and explain how it works.
 
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