what do you believe Kata's are for?, its purpose?

still learning

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Hello, Can you share some of your thoughts are this? Is it possible to master the first move? ..with all the right muscle movements,breathing,tension,power,and relax at the right time?

What do you find Kata has done for you? .. by the way I like the Heian Kata's myself. Aloha
 

Xequat

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Yeah, I think it's possible to master any move with enough practice, but I don't know that it can be perfected, hence the need for constant practice. I think kata are for learning and getting comfortable with different ways of moving. I think that any move in a kata (or really any move that a person can make at all) can be used in some way in a fight. But a kata strings together a bunch of moves that the creator liked, so it's there for you to learn and take whichever moves you like the best and use them in a fight.
 

Andrew Green

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Well, here is something I wrote a couple years ago on what I thought the purpose of kata "Should" be.... just don't ask how well I think Classical kata actually do this :D


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Kata are the defining feature of Okinawan karate. Without kata it is no longer karate that you are doing. So the question arises what are kata and what do they accomplish? Kata are probably the most misunderstood training tool used by modern karate-ka. In this article I hope to express my views on what the function of kata is in training and provided support for my views.

First I would like to describe something which I feel is in a sense a kata, although we might not think of it as so. It is not a karate kata, or a martial arts kata but it serves much the same purpose. That kata is as follows:

"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

If you didn't recognize it, it is a sentence often used when learning to type, it could also be used in Calligraphy. It is used because it contains all the letters of the alphabet. By practicing this sentence you practice all the positions required to type.

After enough practice hitting the right keys becomes natural and instinctual. One might say that this sentence contains all the required elements of typing condensed into one sentence that is easy to remember and can be practiced quickly.

Kata act in much the same way, they train our bodies to move in certain ways, keeping good "structure", maintaining balance, proper breathing, etc. All the key elements required for the martial arts. There is certainly more required then just posturing and movements though, and this is also true in typing.

We must also learn spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. The typing "kata" only provides us with the proper positions and movements required to be able to efficiently do this. You can hardly write a novel if you have to spend 3 - 5 seconds pausing to look for each letter on the keyboard.

What the typing "kata" does is allow us to effectively and efficiently make use of our theoretical skill by giving our body the ability to move in the proper manner without thought to what it is doing. We are teaching ourselves to instinctively move in a certain way to accomplish a specific task.

This applies to our karate kata as well. We are teaching ourselves to instinctively move in an efficient way, to maintain a strong structure, to breath in a specific manner, programming our automatic responses to best suit our needs in combat.

We also need strategy, knowledge of techniques, physical conditioning, a clear mental state, etc. Just as in typing you need Grammar and writing ability (strategy), spelling and punctuation (techniques) and focus. The kata can only teach us to move correctly, but not when and where to use those movements, that requires other training.

Now some people choose to use kata purely as a performance act. Trying to look good, kick high and yell lots. This is clearly not the point kata where intended for but it is done and is another possible use for the kata. I might work Calligraphy with that sentence, dress it up, make it fancy, put it on display, etc. That doesn't mean that is the intended purpose of the form, just something that can be done with them. However this is different then using the sentence to learn typing, with the goal of writing. Same as it is different from training kata to look good and training them for martial arts.

Now others have come to the realization that kata contain techniques that can be used in combat. They have analysed the movement sequences and derived applications responding to certain types of events. Often they focus on what have been named the "Habitual Acts of Violence", common attacks that occur in real situations involving physical force.

I cannot dispute that kata contain techniques which do work and can be applied against the HAOV. But I would argue that that is quite trivial and not at all the purpose of doing kata.

One might compare it to recognizing that there are words in the typing kata. Previously you had just been typing the pattern, but not know how to read, how to form sentences or what exactly you where doing. You might think of typing it in a different language, and later realising that there where words contained in that. You then search out how these words might be used in common situations. What I'll call the "Habitual Acts of Conversation", common verbal situations which occur and the appropriate responses.

Now this should come off as rather silly, the individual words are clearly not the purpose in the sentence. The purpose is learning the skill of typing. Learning to hit the right keys at the right time in the right order without having to think about it and being able to focus on what you write, not how you write it.

Karate kata are the same, yes there are words there and yes it is important to be able to recognise what those words are. But it shouldn't be the focus to figure out what the words are and how they are used. If you understand the concepts and tactics of the martial arts you should simply see the techniques used in the kata as clearly as you see the words in the sentence.

That's not to say there is no value to trying to work out kata, this is certainly a good starting point if you don't understand the language. You can start be trying to understand the words you have been using, but the focus should be on learning the language, not just a few words that have been chosen to represent the movements applicable to the martial arts.

So if you have been using various English sentences to learn how to type, and you decide you'd like to start learning English, one starting point would be to start learning how the words you've already been using can be used. But if that is the whole focus, and rather then learning the language you just focus on trying to uncover all the possible uses of the word "fox" you will never really understand English.

It is also often claimed that kata are a mnemonic device used to remember specific techniques. Again I argue that this is silly. It is the same as claiming that the sentence is to remember the words contained within it. If you understand the martial arts / language this has no value.

So what kata are is a series of movements (letters) organized into techniques (words) and further organized into a pattern (sentence) which can be remembered and practiced to develop the movements / postures relevant to the martial arts.
 
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Mr Andrew Green, Thank-you, I like your explanation. I just read a book by MR. Richard Kim, "The Weaponless Warriors. May I add a little more to you Kata stuffs. This was his thoughts on the Kata, Kata is the heart of karate,meant to train the mind and is not intended for conceptual and intellectual self-defence but to bring it in contact with the real self is its true purpose. kata in the traditional sense is a religious ritual. The ablility of attaining a spiritual goal through the practice of kata, so that the player plays against himself and succeeds in conquering himself. To make kata a part of you. Further explantions is those who performs the kata everday and makes it a part of him develops the skills of automatic memory.(this is my conclusion). Great book? His thoughts. Trying to understand the benefits of katas,my thoughts is the masters found by doing it over and over again, It builds the karate body,spirit and mind. Now to practice it???? ..ten times a day,five days a week, makes 100 times..UM? Aloha
 
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Just a little more information. In the book many of the old Masters believe One kata has to be practice for many years before moving on the the next one. About 2-3 years each, practice it over and over everyday,none stop. Maybe that is why today we do not see the benfits of the Kata's.? To build memory is to do it often, many times a day,for years. We often hear..make the Kata a part of you..become the Kata. Is this the way? Aloha
 

Andrew Green

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It is a completely different culture, and that one kata for years thing is not restricted to martial arts. But it is also not our culture, and trying to deny that is silly, and would shut down any school that tried.

Read much of basic Eastern philosophy and you will come across people doing some tedious task for years and years and then suddenly becoming experts. "The Karate Kid" demonstrated that as well, but condensed it down to a couple of months.
 

RRouuselot

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Andrew Green said:
It is a completely different culture, and that one kata for years thing is not restricted to martial arts. But it is also not our culture, and trying to deny that is silly, and would shut down any school that tried.

Read much of basic Eastern philosophy and you will come across people doing some tedious task for years and years and then suddenly becoming experts. "The Karate Kid" demonstrated that as well, but condensed it down to a couple of months.

First off..the karate kid movie was cute but was basically entertainment and nothing more. I wouldnt try to glean any in depth martial experience from it.
Second, yes it is a completely different culture than ours but that is beside the point. Asians, whites, blacks are made up of the exact same thing. Their bodies/brains function identically. Most westerners do not understand the whole learn this kata for several years thing. When they hear it most people conjure up images of Kwai Chang Caine as Grasshopper. Total bull!
The whole doing kata for many years thing comes down to this. You can learn the movements for dancing any kata in about a day. The techniques that are in the kata take longer to learn. There are many techniques in the kata, more than most people realize and it takes time for you to learn them and your body to be able to execute them without thinking about them. Neural-muscular memory ring a bell to anyone??? I am not talking about just doing the actual kata in the form..you have to pick the kata apart and practice each technique with a partner.
Those teachers that say kata has no meaning didnt do their homework, those students that say kata has no meaning have ill informed teachers.
 

Andrew Green

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And a word Processor and a First Person Shooter are made up of the exact same hardware as well, but function completely differently.

Culture is a huge part of who we are and how we think.

As for the Karate Kid, yes it was a silly movie, but one based on the idea of tedious work to attain mastery, something very "Japanese" in its reasoning.

Of course it took many years and turned it into 2 months, but that is beside the point, it is a simple reference that everyone here is probably familiar with used to make a point. Don't take the reference so seriously ;)
 
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Erik

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Andrew wrote a great post - very informative.

However, I feel that kata should only be about 10% of your training or less. It should help you get an idea of combinations and some mechanics but the only way one learns to apply a move to an active, resisting opponent is to practice the move against an active, resisting opponent.

Kata is like doing drill with your rifle. You get used to feeling it, but you need to spend a lot of time shooting it, finding cover and concealment, and getting shot at (preferably with just paintballs). It will be more comfortable in your hands because of all the drilling, but drilling is just about 10% of what you're doing (if you want to be able to do it for real).

Fighting air will not make you a better fighter. Been there, done that, did not help me at all whatsoever in street fights (I paid my way through school as a bouncer).

If anything, overemphasis on kata brought about bad habits, not the least of which included the fact that hitting a 180+ lb. body results in Newton's 3rd law about equal and opposite reactions. I managed to kick myself and the opponent down as my balance was centered, as if I was doing kata. I only made this mistake once.

If you want to do it for meditation or for fitness, that's great. Personally, I prefer yoga, running, and swimming.

I've heard many times that all the kata and air-fighting is mostly for kids. After WWII when the Allied GIs were occupying Japan, they were taught kids' karate, kempo, ninjitsu, jujitsu, etc., and brought over their training to the USA.

But what they brought was not very serious (though they took it seriously) because the occupied Japanese were not inclined toward teaching their conquerers their prized cultural secrets - especially ones that confer power right when they are feeling powerless because they've been conquored.
 

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almost didn't want to answer, see the same thing again and again. Like Robert said, your feelings about kata tend to reflect your teachers understanding.
Been there, done that, did not help me at all whatsoever in street fights
tells me you didn't "do it" enough, or didn't understand what you were doing.

Kata, once properly understood, trained, and visualized is all you need to train - it is how your technique can improve even without an instructor... cause they provide this great training tool/reference book in one.
 

Ceicei

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This goes along the lines of what SenseiBear was saying.

What a Kata does is teach about proper stances, range of motion, targeting, balance, and basic principles (such as opposing forces, contouring, etc.) among other possible lessons. For these reasons, a kata is not a useless exercise. Practicing with a resisting partner also teaches lessons. There is room for both types of training methods. They have their merits and advantages.

- Ceicei
 
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Erik

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SenseiBear said:
Kata, once properly understood, trained, and visualized is all you need to train - it is how your technique can improve even without an instructor... cause they provide this great training tool/reference book in one.
Tells me you haven't fought.
 

RRouuselot

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Erik said:
Tells me you haven't fought.

How would you know what he has or hasn't done?


Ok, one more time for those folks that werent paying attention on all the kata are worthless threads.

Kata done ALONE can be good exercise, teach you some basic movements and reinforce some eye hand coordination. Will practicing kata alone make you a better fighter?..that was not the intent of practicing kata alone so its a ridiculous question.

When techniques that are in the kata are taken out and practiced with a partner (i.e. randori style as found in judo and jujutsu) then they become viable and useful for real situations and real fights. For this part of practicing kata you NEED a partner.

To make stupid blanket statements like kata are worthless or kata wont help you in a real fight come from having a un-educated teacher that didnt understand how to use kata as a training toolsimilarly I could make an equally stupid statement by saying shadow boxing is a waste of time since you dont actually fight anyone.

Anybody still not getting the picture?
 

SenseiBear

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That is part of properly training kata -

So, what about using different techniques in a variety of situations against resisting partners doesn't help you fight?
 

RRouuselot

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SenseiBear said:
That is part of properly training kata -

So, what about using different techniques in a variety of situations against resisting partners doesn't help you fight?

Beats me.....

Ya know I have seen the way judoka, and jujutsuka train and I have yet to see any real difference in the way they train and the way I train.

I am not talking about specific techniques mind you, I am talking about the application of learned techniques.

I would also like to add that if I have to look at yet another Kata: good or bad? debate I think I am going to puke.
People that say kata has no use were not trained properly on how to use kata.its that simple. Kata has a use, shadow boxing has a use, bag work, makiwara, sparring, drills..everything has a use
After reading the posts of the kata has no use faction of the last few years on the internet I have come to the conclusion that some of them just say it because A) they were not trained properly on how to use kata and really think so or B) they just want to sound tough
 
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sifu Adams

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The way I have explained katas by comparing it to other sports. In BBall you learn to dribble between your legs, pass correctly, and shoot the ball with your had behind the ball ect. You learn all your shots and playes with out your opponet. infront of you. But come game time you have the ball going down the court that last thing on your mind is how to shoot, pass, or dribble the ball, that is all automatic. what are you looking for your looking for the breakdown of the defence. do you wont to shoot, pass run a play, were is the mismatch, ect. This is what the kata teaches you. The kata teaches you how to defend, block strike, punch, kick in the correct way and without thinking. that way come sparring or "game time" you are not thinking of how your opponit with come at you. the blocks are already their, you are looking on how to break him down and where his week spot. hope that helps.
 

Andrew Green

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The problem with that sort of comparisson is that in basketball when learning to dribble, you need a ball. You don't just mimic the motions in the air. What you are saying may make a case for some sort of 2 person form though...

But it is learning to control the ball that you are doing, and you can't do this without a ball. How can you learn to control an opponent without an opponent?
 

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That's why they're called open-hand or empty-hand forms. Saying that is like saying you can't learn to shoot unless you have someone there to block you like in a real game or you can't learn to dribble unless there's someone there to try to steal the ball. But, like BlackCatBonz said, you also have weapon forms which you do practice with the actual weapons in your hand. It would be kind of stupid to practice a sword kata without a sword, but in most fights, you won't have a weapon, so you should learn how to fight with empty hands...which you can do by practicing open-hand forms.
 

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From Shihan-Te: The Bunkai of Karate Kata by Darrell Craig and Paul Anderson

Martial arts kata are a set of prearranged movements in which the person doing the kata is engaged in battle with an imaginary opponent. Kata contains all of the movements found in karate and after practicing any, some, or all of these movements hundreds of thousands of times, these movements become embedded in the subconscious of the practicioner. At this level, the movements of kata are as natural and instantly available to the practitioner as any of his other reflexes.

Consider that everything in life is kata. If you do the same thing over and over, that's kata. When you get up in the morning and brush your teeth in a certain way, if you are sitting a table and you put the sliverware exactly like you want each and every time, this is kata. Every driver in an Indianapolis 500 race shifts gears thousands of times before the race to know how he should shift, how the car reacts, how it moves; this is kata. Kata is about research and performing to the maximum of one's ability. To do this you have to do movements over and over again. Ballet, tap dance, and race driving are kata. Most people do not see it as kata, but this is what it really is.

Kata is about doing something over and over until it's perfect. This pursuit is, of course, infinite because there is not one thing in life that is perfect. But, those who seek perfection have to make repetition in what they are seeking. This is kata.
 
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