What Is a Kata

tshadowchaser

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In your art what makes up a Kata? why where the different forms created in your art?
Why are they important to your art?
We have had some long threads about kata so I think we should say what they are to us that do them and why (if we know) where they developed ( time period included if it gives more reson to the answer)
If you do not do them please let those that do answer without disrupting the thread
 
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tshadowchaser

tshadowchaser

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I'll even start this one.
In the system I instruct kata/forms are a combination of selfdefence moves combined with attacks and evasions.
Some I do not know the origin of other I know where made to honor the favorite fighting moves of some who came before me. Some have been passed down through many generations of some of the systems that passed instructor have studied until the system I know today came into being.
They emphise stance, proer technique in punching and kicking. They have throws, locks, chokes, take downs and many things that are not allowed in compition. The forms I instruct where not made for compition but to instruct a deadly art in a peaceful manner.
Sorry folks my spell check seems not to be working on this site today
 
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clfsean

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For us they're encyclopedias or textbooks on a particular topic. Once the knowledge is obtained, skills & rudiments developed, then it's up to us to explore it & use what's needed, when.

Like any academic book. It carries knowledge, but application is up to the user.
 

K-man

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Kata is what it means to different people and it differs from one martial art to another. For example, some styles have two man drills that are termed 'kata' that are cut and dried in terms of the information they are transmitting. Other styles have one man forms where the applications are not directly handed down.

Kata, or rather the understanding and appreciation of kata, changes for the individual as the understanding of the style deepens. In my situation I started out with no knowledge of kata. I learned kata, was corrected and corrected and corrected until I could perform a kata to the standard required by my instructor. Then I learned the next and the next. At this stage I thought I must be getting good because I 'knew' a lot of kata and could perform them well. If asked I would say that kata was a collection of techniques that represent my style of martial art. As I learned more I could see that beyond the collection of techniques there was a collection of combinations of techniques.

Then I learned that the techniques I had learned in kata may not be what they first appear so when you look at the kata there is a different meaning, and so, your understanding develops.

Then you are exposed to the thoughts of others who have studied the kata and a new mindset is developed to the stage that the kata becomes the martial art.

A Kata is more than a book. It is more like an encyclopaedia. In the past I knew more than 20 kata. Now I know that I don't even know one thoroughly. There is a lifetime of research in just one kata and in many ways kata is the reason for me continuing to train as I get older.
 

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In your art what makes up a Kata?

In MSKKSD, we use one main kata. This kata is comprised of 25 segments. Each segment is a series of movements that highlight a particular concept that can be used as a stand alone drill or used in a fluid drill that uses multiple concepts.

I'll expound on one of the segments, as an example I'll use #2:

Mu Shin Shodan - movement number two:

With left foot, step forward-left 45 degrees right foot drag follows to stable ready position left downward, inside palm heel block right knife hand/forearm strike front kick. From striking distance;

Attacker is throwing a common linear punch at you. For the purpose of this example, we will assume the attacker is right-handed (which the majority of people are). I'm stepping off-center at a 45 degree angle to my left, which would be to the attacker's right. This brings me to the attacker's right side to avoid the punch. I use my left hand as an inside palm heel to deflect/block the punch. If I'm able, I will attempt to grab the attacker's right arm with my left hand if possible. At this point my 'belly- button' is facing the attacker's right side. Using my hips to generate power, is swivel my 'belly-button' to my left at 90 degree while striking the attacker with a knife hand or outside forearm. The target is the side of the neck/base of jaw area.

Follow ups can include grabbing around the back of the head after the initial strike, pulling down and delivering a knee spike. Or, a downward side kick to the back of the attacker's legs.

From grapple;

Lifting attacker's right arm up and over your head while ducking under and moving to their side/rear. Arm is then moved down and grasped to clear room for brachial plexus strike as per above.

Now from this one segment of the kata I can teach a plethora of things depending upon the experience of the student. This means as the student gains experience the segment can be enhanced with additional concepts. And more importantly, I can tailor it to the strengths of each individual student.

For example, it teaches basic angular movement i.e. best way to not get hit is not to be there. It teaches a high %, gross motor skill deflection/block. One that can be a simple 'get-out-of-the-way block or one that can be used to make contact with the limb, move it with continual contact and set it up for a grasp so that other techniques can be applied (think of it as a sticky-hands concept). Be using a downward motion so that my arm/hand deflects his strike in a downward motion I have the opportunity to continue contact with his arm and sweeping it in a semi-circle to allow me to hook up under the upper arm into a shoulder lock. This allows for further options. Whether it succeeds or not, the follow-up strike is a high % strike i.e. knifehand or outside forearm into the side of the neck/jaw/ear area (commonly referred to as the brachial plexus). It can be a stand alone strike that is quite effective, or if necessary, used to set up a wide range of movements. From pushing the head down and delivering a kneed spike to the head/upper body to a neck crank to a throw. Again, the segment can grow as the student develops experience. After options have been examined, the student can then work on developing one or more that suite his/her individual strengths while also taking into consideration potential weaknesses. For example, someone has had a shoulder injury that limits their range of motion. Obviously some movements aren't going to be feasible so time isn't wasted on something that they can't do.

As noted, this segment is usable from typical fighting distances or from a grappling position. It can also be used, with some adaptations, on the ground as the body only moves certain ways regardless of whether we're standing or prone.

why where the different forms created in your art?
Why are they important to your art?

Since MSKKSD was developed solely for self defense they are important for use as a building block on concepts, strategies and techniques to accomplish this goal. The kata is usable as a whole, broken up into individual drills or in a fluid defense situation.

After learning the 25 individual segments of the one kata, the student will have a good working knowledge of defense from various distances, angles and positions. They can then master the handful of each that they would likely employ under stress against a violent attacker. An example of this would be kicking. The kata does incorporate various kicks. I know how to kick but I'm very unlikely to ever kick anyone. I've been in one uniform or another since 1985 and have literally been in over a thousand uses-of-force, with and without weapons. I've NEVER kicked anyone. Kicking isn't my thing. I've knee spiked the crap out of people though (quite literally). I'm an elbow and knife hand kind of guy. However, other students do and would kick in a fight. So the one kata touches on all aspects and then the student concentrates on what they would actually do. Not to the exclusion of everything else, but in a majority. So I do kick in the kata, but more for exercise and flexibility rather than as something I'm likely to do. I may but haven't had the need so far.
 
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tshadowchaser

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I find it interesting to see some of the different reasons for kata.
I always enjoy learning why some people do things and what their interpatation is
 

donald1

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i like kata cause you can learn kata, take parts from kata and do something different, if it works you just learned something new from that part
 
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tshadowchaser

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Some forms/kata look flowery and some look hard and static. Sometimes the same form can be practiced both ways.
Long ago some systems had to hide their practice so forms looked like dances or where done in private so the techniques could survive.
some forms are more modern, created in the last 80 years and had a different reason for the moves in them.
It is always good to know why a form within a system was created, by whom( when possible), and when.
 

Marnetmar

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I've been taught to look at forms/katas/etc as more of an encyclopedia of movements and the various ways to string them together rather than a shadow fight with an imaginary character.
 

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I have trained 'kata's in all of my 4 martial arts, and in general I would say they all differ.

My first experience with 'kata' was in Southern (fujian) Shaolin supposedly (I was only 9 and didn't know to even ask about what exactly I was being taught), where the term used is 憟(tao) 頝(lu): 憟=set 頝=road/path. It was already evident to my young mind that a 憟頝 was a collection of moves, encyclopedia as earlier mentioned. I had assumed that each move would be applied in combat as is, but I was never taught to fight or to use any of those moves, and my fellow senior students all seemed perfectly happy to train exclusively in executing their specific 憟頝, with some lion dancing practice on the side.

After about 1 year of practice I was involved in a minor spat with a schoolmate that resulted in my being hit on my back, word got around of the incident and my shifu at that time mused that I should have used a certain move to defend myself. In my mind I was thinking to myself: 'but sir, you never did teach me how to use any of the moves!' ...outwardly I kept quiet. I continued to train for another year before dropping off lessons entirely...

My second martial art was tae kwon do, set up as an extra-curricular activity in school. I learned the all requisite poomsae's (meaning form or pattern) up to junior black belt level at the age of 14. In TKD the moves in the poomsae's were explained and their intended application seemed at least to be much more evident than my previous 憟頝. However, it was in TKD that the first questions in my mind arose, because, as many TKD practitioners have come to realize, you do not use those moves in sparring; I did try though, but inevitably the moves did not work as I thought they would, and I would revert to the usual sparring vocabulary.

As my involvement in TKD waned, I found myself picking Judo as my next extra-curricular activity in Secondary School (High School). The only Kata's I remember were individual throws with a partner, very different from the 憟頝 or poomsae's I had known. It was in Judo that he kata became real to me, as randori was in every lesson, and we competed at the national school level. In sharp contrast to the other 2 MA's, the Judo Kata was the direct application, no more no less. In Japanese, Kata literally just means form, it records and encapsulates the individual techniques in a way that cannot be replicated in written word or pictures, however, this is not the same set pattern routines that one normally associates with the word kata.

I took a good 20 year year hiatus from the martial arts after judo, frankly I wasn't much good in any of them and the motivation to continue wasn't there.

In my mid 30's several health issues started to surface, and I picked up Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) to supplement a gradual shift in my sedentary lifestyle. This time round I took care to research what I was getting into, and chose to go to the best teacher I could find locally, no less than the son of one of the 4 great grandmasters from Chen Village itself.

My teacher's understanding of the 憟頝 was the most logical and satisfying to me so far:

The 憟頝 is definitely a living record of the corpus of techniques, and as in Judo, it is a living record that cannot be replicated simply in words and pictures, however, my teacher explained that you would never apply these techniques in the exact way it is done in the form. Rather, the moves are a mnemonic whereby different sets of applications could be derived when specifically trained in combat.

The reason to practise the 憟頝 in Tai Chi is to attain foundation, to be able to understand the concept of relaxation (橘and sinking the weight 嚗瘝嚗in the context of the movements. I found that to be very true, as it translated into the ability to apply these principles in push hands, it also conditions the leg muscles to the required level to be able to power the techniques; the 憟頝 is a training tool to attain and improve these fundamental qualities over time.

At least in the case of Tai Chi, the form is essential in getting the actual feel for the core concepts in different types of movements. The senior students in my push hands class practise their forms to consolidate and reinforce the training experience in push hands, this has enabled them to regularly beat relative newbies like me despite most of them being considerably lighter.

Now, the question is, can the attainment of these skills be accomplished through other means? Possibly, but I find that the 憟頝 is an appropriate tool for the job that combines understanding the core concepts, conditioning and introducing the movements.... frankly, with the modern version of Tai Chi Chuan, it just wouldn't be, if not for the beautiful, flowing forms.
 

zzj

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In your art what makes up a Kata? why where the different forms created in your art?
Why are they important to your art?
We have had some long threads about kata so I think we should say what they are to us that do them and why (if we know) where they developed ( time period included if it gives more reson to the answer)
If you do not do them please let those that do answer without disrupting the thread

To answer the question directly, there are 4 main 'kata's or 憟頝 in my current MA (Chen style tai chi chuan).

嗡頝 Old Frame 1st routine嚗 Consists of 72 or 74 moves (depending on how you count) - to train the core body concepts of relaxation and sinking while conditioning the body, especially the legs. Focus is on slow 'soft' movements with bursts of speed and hard power. This is the one core, basic form for all levels.

嗡頝 Old Frame 2nd routine: Also known as Cannon Fist (格). About 43 moves (again, depending on how you count) - to train for more offensive techniques and delivering power, without sacrificing flow and relaxation. Focus is more on the 'harder' fast movements with some slow ones.

唳嗡頝 New Frame 1st Routine: 83 moves? A new (circa 1950's) interpretation of the previous Old Frame 1st Routine. It externalizes the internal circular movements and is executed with more instances of speed and power. This form is said to further develop and integrate the silk reeling energy as it pertains to techniques, with a greater emphasis on Qin Na (Joint locking) techniques.

唳嗡頝 New Frame 2nd Routine: 71 moves? Again, a new interpretation of the previous Old Frame 2nd Routine. It similarly integrates the silk reeling movements into the offensive techniques and is frankly a sight to behold. Would love to learn this one day... I'm a newbie hehe.


There are other weapon forms for more advanced students, but the emphasis generally is on the unarmed routines.
 

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My introduction to kata was in Tang Soo Do (so properly I guess I should refer to it as Hyung) when I started in the 1970's. The explanation was the fairly traditional history of having a practice method that could be utilized solo and in secret. The explanations of techniques were rather simple compared to the more elaborate exercises in bunkai that I see today. What I personally took from the study of Kata was an appreciation and love of movement. The increasingly controlled management of stance, balance, center of gravity and progression from one technique to the next. At the time, direct application to real world fighting seemed somewhat removed. Over the years, and after a substantial hiatus from training, I have found that even though I now train primarily in Modern Arnis, my practice of form strongly influences how I apply stance, movement, center of gravity and striking to various elements of my new art. Elements of form are interspersed in almost all of the hand to hand and counter fighting techniques I have learned. And I still practice forms for the sheer joy of it. So, for me, kata served as a primary resource in the study of the mechanics of movement and something that embodied it's own intrinsic art form.
 
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tshadowchaser

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I must also admit to really having no idea of why I was learning forms/hyungs back in my early training. As has been said I was told they where to learn stances and hand movement which was strange because in that MDK/TKD system we had to do ten kicks for every hand technique and only punches where considered a hand technique.
My old MDK instructor never had an explanation as to where the forms came from or and history on them. To be truthful he had at that time little knowledge of what he was teaching.
But we learned the forms and as time passed and I changed systems and matured in the arts I learned more about them and began to appreciate what they really contained
 

K-man

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Can I say that there is a world of difference between competition kata and the original form of kata which can be performed in many different ways. Competition kata is stressing stances, crisp striking, posture etc which actually have nothing to do with kata. If you take a look at this video starting at 5:40,


most would agree that for a 10th dan it is a pretty terrible rendition of kata suparenpei. Stances are all over the place and it doesn't have the focus you would expect from someone of that level.

Before I started to understand kata I was firmly of the opinion that it wasn't very good, however, with hindsight, I would now disagree with that assessment because kata is not about being snappy and beautiful. It is about fighting and what Yamaguchi is demonstrating here is kata performed the way he would fight, relaxed and flowing but with the underlying power when required.
 

ShotoNoob

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I must also admit to really having no idea of why I was learning forms/hyungs back in my early training.... My old MDK instructor never had an explanation as to where the forms came from or and history on them. To be truthful he had at that time little knowledge of what he was teaching.....
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I think this experience is common to the teaching among traditional karate styles.... Probably accounts for the failure & dissatisfaction of so many traditional practitioners....
 

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The art I practice does not make use of pre-arranged forms, but I am a big fan of Chinese Xingyi Quan, Northern and Southern Mantis and Baji Quan, which do.

Forms/Poomses/Katas are more like cheat-sheets or textbooks, if you will. They demonstrate key principles and basic techniques, preferably in perfect form to set a solid foundation for the learning of the target martial art. "Pre-arranged Fight Choreography" is, in my opinion, indicative of a lack of understanding. Hence, perfect demonstration of forms/katas may not necessarily reflect good combat skills, but they are a crucial first step to getting there.

As I've mentioned previously, they only outline key techniques and concepts, and do not necessarily teach you how to apply them. That is to be taught on a situational basis through systematic combat training (the famous 1-step, 2-step, 3-step and 4-step drills) in preparation for live sparring. The applications are endless.
 

K-man

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As I've mentioned previously, they only outline key techniques and concepts, and do not necessarily teach you how to apply them. That is to be taught on a situational basis through systematic combat training (the famous 1-step, 2-step, 3-step and 4-step drills) in preparation for live sparring. The applications are endless.
Interesting that you seem to be in favour of these drills. I actually threw them all out of my training when I switched styles. I can understand their benefit if you are point sparring but for me, that's where it all ends. In our training I reckon a lot of the drills were straight out unrealistic in a combat sense. Could I ask, what benefit do you get performing them?
 
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