gpseymour

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I just wanted to share my experience working with kata. Some styles have kata, some don't. Some that have kata only have short forms ("one-step kata", some call them). I've trained with and without kata. I don't see them as necessary (in fact, I seriously considered removing them when creating the Shojin-ryu curriculum), but I have found some uses for them. For those who want to shortcut the reading, skip to the bolded section.

Most of my experience with kata has been with short forms. While there were some long forms in the Shotokan I studied decades ago, I wasn't in long enough to really get into them much, and neither instructor put heavy emphasis on them, at least not early in their curriculum. The curriculum I trained in for Nihon Goshin Aikido used short forms ("Classical Techniques", which I now refer to as "Classical forms"), and I find them useful for focusing on specific concepts, taking the "live" part out of the technique (most are static starts) to force the student to focus on specific principles.

When I was developing the curriculum for Shojin-ryu, I made a list of goals I wanted to meet with the curriculum. Some were based on common problems I saw among students, some were to better fit the way I teach, and some were to fit needs I had along the way. One part that came to my mind was that I'd had to miss a lot of classes due to business travel. I'd done what I could when traveling, but there's not much in NGA that is well suited to solo practice. I did a lot of footwork and strikes practice, but most of that is incorporated into the movement and flow of the techniques, and I wanted a way to practice those. So, I had decided to add long forms to NGA in the new curriculum, which I refer to as kata. It took me years to get some kata I felt did what I really wanted. I'd develop one and put it aside for a couple of months, come back and not like it. I eventually got the concepts together the right way and started creating a cohesive set of kata, and am now using them with students.

Here are my results:

The first group of kata are based on the Classical forms. They allow the student to perform the movements of all 10 Classical forms for a "set" (the original NGAA curriculum organization), without stopping, to create a flow and cohesion among them. This also gives a chance to work on weight transfers and transitions not found within the short forms.

Students rather reliably make the same conceptual mistakes in their kata that they make in both the Classical form and in application. Thus, if they aren't taking their partner's structure at the shoulder in application, they leave that part out of the kata, as well. This is handy, because in the kata I know it's not caused by something their partner is doing (too much stiffness, being too compliant, etc.). It's entirely their own work.

The kata require more core muscle usage than the Classical forms. Because there's no partner to drop weight into (as there would be in application and Classical form), the student has to hold their own weight where they normally wouldn't.

Students are practicing more outside class (the original purpose of the kata). I can tell, because they come back better at the kata than they were. I'll be interested in seeing how this translates to new students (those who've gotten them thus far have been with me at least several months). The improvements seem to translate to their applications, as well.

Students are using the kata to warm up before class. This is replacing other stuff they were doing (including one doing his Shotokan kata), or in some cases replacing just standing around waiting for class. Again, more practice is happening.


I'll be starting one student on another type of kata soon (techniques in actual application and adding strikes). I expect some similar improvements off those. I had originally envisioned 10 kata (Classical and application for each of 5 sets), but I don't think I'll end up going that far. I may well stop at 7 (5 Classical, 2 application), since there's a chance I'll add weapons kata later. The kata don't get high emphasis. I do test them, but just to make sure they can do them and are demonstrating movements consistent with the principles of the techniques. If I ever get someone to black belt, I'll get pretty picky about their kata at that point (the only next step is instructor certification).
 

Ironbear24

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The kata I have been doing helps me a lot with leg strength and foot/shin strength because the stances are so deep. I have found that I move a little quicker and kick harder now, my punches are even better because I have stronger legs to put behind them.

Kata is very important for martial arts and to be honest I think it is sad that many abandon it. I used to think the opposite but since I been doing it for three days a week for about 1 hour. I am starting to notice the benefits, will it make you a better fighter? Alone it won't but combine it with other training methods it will.
 

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Kata is karate. Karate is kata. It's all in there. But we've had these discussions before.

Kata instructs as Gerry said, on breathing, balance, speed and pacing. Stance and transitions, coordination, weight transfer and power generation. But it goes beyond that. Kata invites application, application invites introspection, introspection invites deeper understanding.

Working with a partner or alone, kata is the part of karate one can absorb themselves into, a moving meditation which includes the spaces between the beats, where the magic is. That's karate you can eat with a knife and fork, deep-seated and hard won, which becomes a permanent part of your core being.

The empty-handed kata we do starts with Sanchin. I could spend the rest of my life on Sanchin alone, but then we do Seisan, Seuinchin, Naihanchi, Wansu, Chinto, Kusanku, and finally Sunsu. Eight kata are quite enough. Each one tells a different story. Each one instructs differently. Each one will take me the rest of my life to really open up and absorb even a bit of the information that's packed into them.

It's not all about fighting. It's about living.
 
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gpseymour

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Kata is karate. Karate is kata. It's all in there. But we've had these discussions before.

Kata instructs as Gerry said, on breathing, balance, speed and pacing. Stance and transitions, coordination, weight transfer and power generation. But it goes beyond that. Kata invites application, application invites introspection, introspection invites deeper understanding.

Working with a partner or alone, kata is the part of karate one can absorb themselves into, a moving meditation which includes the spaces between the beats, where the magic is. That's karate you can eat with a knife and fork, deep-seated and hard won, which becomes a permanent part of your core being.

The empty-handed kata we do starts with Sanchin. I could spend the rest of my life on Sanchin alone, but then we do Seisan, Seuinchin, Naihanchi, Wansu, Chinto, Kusanku, and finally Sunsu. Eight kata are quite enough. Each one tells a different story. Each one instructs differently. Each one will take me the rest of my life to really open up and absorb even a bit of the information that's packed into them.

It's not all about fighting. It's about living.
When I hear folks talk about kata in Karate, I really wish I had time to start a new art. I think I'd like Karate-do.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Most of the time, I don't like to do the whole form. I just like to take the short sequence out of my form and repeat it over and over (repeat 20 - 50 times).

For example:

1. Right jab (4-6 stance),
2. Left cross (bow-arrow stance),
3. Left front kick, right horizontal punch (golden rooster stance),
4. Right front kick, left horizontal punch (golden rooster stance),
5. Go back to 1.

The left front kick, right horizontal punch (or right front kick, left horizontal punch) is commonly used in the long fist system training.

my_kick_punch.jpg
 

Ironbear24

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Most of the time, I don't like to do the whole form. I just like to take the short sequence out of my form and repeat it over and over (repeat 20 - 50 times).

For example:

1. Right jab (4-6 stance),
2. Left cross (bow-arrow stance),
3. Left front kick, right horizontal punch (golden rooster stance),
4. Right front kick, left horizontal punch (golden rooster stance),
5. Go back to 1.

The left front kick, right horizontal punch (or right front kick, left horizontal punch) is commonly used in the long fist system training.

my_kick_punch.jpg

I don't understand the fork in the picture. Do the punch and the kick both strike their targets?
 

Kung Fu Wang

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I don't understand the fork in the picture. Do the punch and the kick both strike their targets?
If you lean your body forward enough, your kick and punch can hit your target at the same time. This long fist system training can help you to achieve that.

 
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gpseymour

gpseymour

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If you lean your body forward enough, your kick and punch can hit your target at the same time. This long fist system training can help you to achieve that.

Does that deliver more total power than just a full kick? Or is the point that they'd have to block both, so one should connect? The concept seems so foreign to my training.
 

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Kata is karate. Karate is kata. It's all in there. But we've had these discussions before.

Kata instructs as Gerry said, on breathing, balance, speed and pacing. Stance and transitions, coordination, weight transfer and power generation. But it goes beyond that. Kata invites application, application invites introspection, introspection invites deeper understanding.

Working with a partner or alone, kata is the part of karate one can absorb themselves into, a moving meditation which includes the spaces between the beats, where the magic is. That's karate you can eat with a knife and fork, deep-seated and hard won, which becomes a permanent part of your core being.

The empty-handed kata we do starts with Sanchin. I could spend the rest of my life on Sanchin alone, but then we do Seisan, Seuinchin, Naihanchi, Wansu, Chinto, Kusanku, and finally Sunsu. Eight kata are quite enough. Each one tells a different story. Each one instructs differently. Each one will take me the rest of my life to really open up and absorb even a bit of the information that's packed into them.

It's not all about fighting. It's about living.
Although I don't practice karate (I do shaolin and wing chun), I love the last quote "it's not all about fighting, it's about living." I agree so much with that. I guess Kung fu and karates "forms" are different, but the end purpose is the same: to give you a better understanding of the art, and to improve your combat skills.
 

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I'd also like to add it's important not just practice the entire form, but to break it down to the technique level, and practice the individual techniques and combinations by themselves.
 

DanT

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Most of the time, I don't like to do the whole form. I just like to take the short sequence out of my form and repeat it over and over (repeat 20 - 50 times).

For example:

1. Right jab (4-6 stance),
2. Left cross (bow-arrow stance),
3. Left front kick, right horizontal punch (golden rooster stance),
4. Right front kick, left horizontal punch (golden rooster stance),
5. Go back to 1.

The left front kick, right horizontal punch (or right front kick, left horizontal punch) is commonly used in the long fist system training.

my_kick_punch.jpg
Yeah I agree 100%, breaking down the form is absolutely essential.
 
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gpseymour

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I'd also like to add it's important not just practice the entire form, but to break it down to the technique level, and practice the individual techniques and combinations by themselves.
This is an interesting point about the forms I developed. They are based upon individual techniques and combinations/applications. Folks were practicing those, already, and I wanted the long forms to supplement them. I'm still working through the approach to determine how many forms we'll end up with. At one point I had 10 empty hand forms (I haven't even approached weapons yet), but I'm looking at reducing that probably to 7.
 

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This is an interesting point about the forms I developed. They are based upon individual techniques and combinations/applications. Folks were practicing those, already, and I wanted the long forms to supplement them. I'm still working through the approach to determine how many forms we'll end up with. At one point I had 10 empty hand forms (I haven't even approached weapons yet), but I'm looking at reducing that probably to 7.

What is it that your teaching again? NGA is aikido right? Does aikido have kata? I honestly have little to no experience with aikido.
 
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gpseymour

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What is it that your teaching again? NGA is aikido right? Does aikido have kata? I honestly have little to no experience with aikido.
Okay, time for the vocabulary disambiguation again. "Aikido" has two uses. One use is the name of Ueshiba's art. The other is a classification/group of arts as designated by the Dai Nippon Buttoku-kai (a body that oversees Budo in Japan). Both usages appear to originate about the same time. In 1942 or 1943 (working from memory) the DNBK created the designation, and that appears to be about the same time Ueshiba began calling his art "Aikido" (prior he had mostly referred to it as Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu).

So, NGA is related to Ueshiba's Aikido, but as a cousin, both being primarily derived from Daito-ryu.

Okay, that being cleared up, NGA has had formal short forms (NGAA calls them Classical Techniques, I call them Classical forms) at least since Richard Bowe brought it to the US. It's probable they always existed, since similar teaching approaches can be seen in Daito-ryu, though Bowe may have retooled them - I've heard conflicting reports. These are essentially one-step kata (a single technique in the form).

I added long forms in the curriculum I teach, linking together the Classical forms to allow students to practice them for flow, allow better solo practice, and to give me a chance to assess a student's understanding of (versus proficiency in) some of the mechanics.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Does that deliver more total power than just a full kick? Or is the point that they'd have to block both, so one should connect? The concept seems so foreign to my training.
It's not for power generation. It's kick low and punch high at the same time. I have never used this move in sparring. It does require some "flexibility" training.
 
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gpseymour

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It's not for power generation. It's kick low and punch high at the same time. I have never used this move in sparring. It does require some "flexibility" training.
It seems the sort of thing that would be ineffective against someone who trained in it - they'd be too likely to recognize it. More likely to work on me than your regular training partners.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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I'm looking at reducing that probably to 7.
May be you can reduce down to 3 forms:

- 1 beginner level form,
- 1 intermediate level form,
- 1 advance level form.

You want your students to grow "tall". You don't want them to grow "fat". Going through elementary school 6 times won't earn them a PhD degree.
 

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When I hear folks talk about kata in Karate, I really wish I had time to start a new art. I think I'd like Karate-do.
Well, you can always give it a start. You run the risk of falling in love with a new method and may need to make some difficult choices about how you spend your time and energies.
 
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gpseymour

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May be you can reduce down to 3 forms:

- 1 beginner level form,
- 1 intermediate level form,
- 1 advance level form.

You want your students to grow "tall". You don't want them to grow "fat". Going through elementary school 6 times won't earn them a PhD degree.
There's a natural division I'm working with. NGA is divided into 5 "Classical Sets". Those become the first 5 kata. If I combined them, I'd just be putting together the 2nd/3rd and 4th/5th sets. The kata are constructed so as to be able to link them together, so arguably there's one long 50-technique kata that I'm teaching in 5 parts. The other 2 kata are Application kata (1st and 2nd Set) - one has strikes after each application, the other has strikes used inside each application. The original plan was to have an Application kata for each set, but that feels a bit forced. There were others I was working on, which may never see the light of day.

So, if I consider the 5 Classical kata as a single unit, there are 3 kata. If I link the two Application kata, there are only 2. I'm hoping to add a single weapons kata later, but I have a lot of work to do on that. I'm researching existing jo/bo kata to see if any look like a good fit for what I want them to learn. If I find one, I then have to find someone who knows that kata.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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It seems the sort of thing that would be ineffective against someone who trained in it - they'd be too likely to recognize it. More likely to work on me than your regular training partners.
In CMA, to use

- 1 leg to reverse side kick on your opponent's leading leg,
- 1 hand grab on his leading arm,
- 1 hand punch on his face,

is a very common technique. This kind of coordination will be needed greatly in the wrestling art.

WC_grab_kick.jpg
 
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