The point of kata

Bear in mind that this is just my own opinion / experience / understanding, which are rather limited.

I am currently preparing for my first jujutsu exam. The most important point of that exam is without a doubt the kata that we have to perform: kasumi dori. Without going into details, the kata begins with uke and tori in seiza. Uke then grabs the lapel of tori and threatens with his fist. At that point tori performs the kata to deal with the threat.

I have performed that kata a good number of times already since last year. Last week, I was practicing it with the sempai, and our sensei was watching us to see how we did. After the initial attempt, he told us to perform it in slow motion, and pay attention to every little detail. Speed was irrelevant.

And so we did perform the kata several times in slooooooow moooooootioooooon. Come out of seiza, make contact, feel the feedback at every single step... and while we were doing that, it suddenly hit me that kata is misunderstood by many people. The point of kata is not to deal the threat with a fist or a strike. That is just the surface. And indeed, the whole stylized exercise is major overkill for dealing with a lapel grab.

The real point of kata is not performing it. The point is learning it, and understanding every single detail. Take Kasumi dori for example. The lapel grab is just filler to have something to build an exercise around. It is made up of dozens of things that each have their relevance. Coming out of seiza, controlling the movements of my opponent in a kneeling position by using my knees, controlling the hand that grab me, tai sabaki, a shuto, a couple of locks, ...

In learning to perform the kata perfectly, I have to put a lot of effort in learning to perform all those things correctly, to the point where I do all those things correctly without having to think about them because I've ingrained them, and they come automatically in response to the situation.

I think that is the lesson I should learn from the kata. I can deal with a lapel grab in a dozen of different ways that are all different from the kata. That is irrelevant. Instead, the kata is the vehicle which is meant to teach me how to correctly and automatically do all the things contained in it if I happen to be in a situation that would warrant using them And this goes way beyond the specifics of the kata itself.


Ooh, there is so much that can be discussed here.... A good lesson to take from the training, Bruno. From my perspective, I look at the kata not only in terms of just the kata itself, but also where it comes in the Ryu it comes from. Here we are dealing with the first kata from Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu, and it also gives many lessons pertinent to that Ryu itself, such as not hesitating to act (a corner-stone of Takagi Ryu, to my mind), as well as many other lessons. All the best with your test!

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