"Kata" - an amateur's perspective

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by AZeitung, Oct 1, 2004.

  1. notquitedead

    notquitedead used to be Pankration90

    What does being "overloaded" have to do with the fact that no one is pushing, pulling, or hitting you? Going through a series of moves has none of the outside factors of a fight.

    You're missing the point... I wasn't talking about a specific kata and I only used those techniques as an example. The point is that if one single thing differs, then any series of movements from a kata isn't going to plan. In a fight anything can happen so why train like the opponent will react a certain way? Everyone reacts differently.

    Btw, I'm not just talking about karate here. I'm talking about martial arts in general, but I use 'kata' because it seems to be the most common term.

    Kata by yourself is different from "kata based sparring". I don't think drilling movements from katas is a justification of kata itself. You can drill or spar with specific techniques without practicing them in order by yourself.

    I've never said they make you worse, only that there are other ways to make you better. Congrats by the way. :)

    I didn't say if you had one you would lose. It can actually help you with certain things (withstanding pain etc.). I just think that, as well as overcoming fear and lack of aggression, is one of the main 'mental' challenges someone faces in a fight.
  2. shotokanwarrior

    shotokanwarrior I am the One

    I see.


    thanks Gyaku :)
  3. Gyaku

    Gyaku Valued Member

    You're making no sense at all here. Could you clarify it a bit for me. Are you saying that visualisation for cambative arts is ineffective? Or am I misunderstanding you?

    I see. Ok, why does a boxer practice certain combinations over and over again? Answer - Because certain combinations of movements have a very high success rate. Kata is the same. Kata is made up of composite moves, each one carries a high success rate. Yes, sometimes like a boxers combo they don't succeed, but then you do something else. You just use a different composite. There are no rules stopping you doing this.

    Essentially each kata deals with different themes of fighting. A good example is Naihanchi. It deals mainly with lapel grabs. It provides you with a range of options to deal with the attack. Other kata deal with rear attacks etc. We don't use kata Jackie Chan style. This is a myth.

    That is where your problem lies. Martial arts use kata quite differently. Kata in Wing Chun have a different use compared to Karate. I think this actually explains some of your attempts to critique the use of kata in karate.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2005
  4. notquitedead

    notquitedead used to be Pankration90

    Visualization can be used for things like getting yourself psyched up before a competition (a lot of people imagine themselves winning the fight before it happens etc.). I really don't think visualization can be used to actually improve how well you fight, though. You can't improve reflex without someone attacking you. You can't improve accuracy of your strikes without something to strike at. You can't learn to defend against attacks unless you are being attacked. You can't learn to take a hit and keep fighting without being hit. You can't learn to deal with someone more aggressive than you or stronger than you without having that person right in front of you.

    Kata is just practicing techniques in the air. No one is hitting you, grabbing you, pushing you, yelling at you, defending against your strikes, moving around, etc. When you do techniques in kata, you aren't blocking anything, you aren't hitting anything, and you're techniques aren't done when you see opening because no one is there to have openinings.

    Combinations are only a few techniques long. Kata are far longer.

    I also don't think a lot of "applications" of kata are that effective, or at least as effective as other techniques that could be done. Why simply put your leg behind a person and push to trip them would you could do a judo reaping throw?

    How many times have you used all of those movements in a real fight, let alone in a certain order?

    Boxers train to improvise and use new things constantly, you don't. I'm not saying it's impossible for poeple who do kata to do that, but why train for one thing and then do another?

    Regardless of what style the kata/form is from, it is still a series of movements done in the air without a partner.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2005
  5. notquitedead

    notquitedead used to be Pankration90

    I just read an article by Iain Abernethy called "Kata: Why Bother?" (link).

    At the beginning of the article, he says:
    The rest of the article is an attempt to justify the practice of kata.

    His first attempt is that it is a syllabus. It's not the only way to keep a syllabus, though. You could write it down everything, record all the techniques, etc. In my old kung fu school we had it up on the wall so we could see what we needed to work on. :rolleyes:

    Next he goes on to say that although drilling and sparring are better, kata has value. He says,
    I don't agree with that. Hitting a heavy bag serves a purpose, you can tell if you are hitting right and with power. Kata has no purpose of its own. Instead of practicing kata, you could hit the heavy bag, shadowbox, etc. and the recieve the same benefits, as well as others.

    Is there some secret reason why doing your techniques in a certain order every single time is more beneficial than just working on what you need (or want) to?

    In short, he brings nothing new to the table. He tries to justify kata but he still doesn't offer a good reason for doing kata instead of spending more time on other, more beneficial training methods.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2005
  6. Jang Bong

    Jang Bong Speak softly....big stick

    You don't care who you disagree with do you? :D

    I've got to admit that although I've seen this name mentioned a few times I haven't investigated - and I don't know the man. However a quick trip to the home page of the quoted site gave me:

    I take no-one at face value, but he sounds impressive. If you feel you have the knowledge and experience to disagree with him, then good on you. ;)

    As for the syllabus idea - my challenge to write out a 'kata' effectively enough for someone else to learn it has not been attempted since I suggested it a few hundred posts ago :D
  7. shotokanwarrior

    shotokanwarrior I am the One

    THIS should set off some nice controversy.

    I passed my 4th Kyu on Monday and during the training session beforehand I received some insights about kata.

    It was explained that punches were done to the body in kata despite the fact that punching to the head is more effective, because it uses more muscles.

    So what are they about? If they're about working your muscles, why not do something less roundabout and grossly unclear? I would say that strength training is far more effective than punching the air.

    Enlighten me, guys.
  8. notquitedead

    notquitedead used to be Pankration90

    Jang Bong,
    He says himself you don't need to do kata to learn to fight effectively. That by itself means that other training methods do everything that kata does and more.

    When I said that the syllabus could be written down, I wasn't talking about how the techniques are done. You can't learn from a piece of paper. I meant the names of the techniques. Your techniques have names, don't they? The instructor(s) then teach the techniques...

    Also, why are the hands chambered at the hips in so many kata?

    In kung fu, we learned that it was because you were grabbing the opponents hand and pulling it to your hip while punching with the other hand. If that's so, then why have both hands at your hip? Why practice punching from there, rather than actually practicing the wrist grab?
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2005
  9. Jang Bong

    Jang Bong Speak softly....big stick

    Sorry, but by the rules of logic as I learned them in early computer class - statement (1) and statement (2) are not logically linked. The key is in your phrase 'everything that kata does' when you dismiss what anyone else says about the benefits.

    You can be an entertainer without learning to read music, but the reading of the music opens up far more possibilities than you imagine on your own. Cross reference with another recent thread on 'Musical Instruments', we got a kata reference into there :)

    In a Jang Bong (sorry Bo) sparring drill, our instructor took the stick out of the assistant instructors hands, and left him in the exact position you describe - one hand forward to strike and the other chambered at his hip/waist. He said that many forms that we see empty hand would have been weapons forms first (then weapons were banned, and the soldiers carried on practicing their techniques, etc, etc, etc).

    Reading deeper, you probably meant both hands to hip (but that doesn't detract from the above sentence ;)). We've certainly used that after a 2-hand grab to disrupt an opponents balance, but more likely for a locking technique than a strike.
  10. Ikken Hisatsu

    Ikken Hisatsu New Member

    so? you arent using a weapon in the kata so why not change it?
  11. Timmy Boy

    Timmy Boy Man on a Mission

    Again, why sit here and quote experts? I could just sit here and say "Royce Gracie doesn't believe in katas and he has all these credentials", but I don't do it because we are all entitled to our opinions.

    One of the things that struck me about the last page of debating was the complete difference of opinion as to what movements in the kata are supposed to be. Shotokanwarrior was told that you punch from the hip and to the stomach because it uses more muscles, Gyaku said previously that it's because of something else and Jang Bong said it was possibly to do with holding a bo staff but isn't quite sure. Katas are not something with which we should have to take a random stab in the dark as to what they're designed for. How can you learn how to fight if you don't know what your techniques are designed to do?
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2005
  12. Jang Bong

    Jang Bong Speak softly....big stick

    I've seen the disparaging answer 'Tradition' used a number of times as if this is in itself a bad thing. If methods of preserving and teaching arts have been used successfully for many years/decades/centuries then the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes into play.

    I don't think anyone against kata has tried to say that kata makes you a bad fighter (you simply attribute kata fans good fighting skills to other training methods :D), so apart from the alleged waste of training time (that we users do not agree with) there is no problem with the moves as they stand.

    I'm sure that over the years people have changed 'traditional' arts and re-badged them as their own. This means that they are not the original art, simply an art based upon {insert TMA here}

    Hi Timmy Boy - nice to see you back :) That was a response to Pankration90 quoting an expert kata fan and trying to use him to prove kata as ineffective. I was just pointing out the relative experience between P90 and the person he was saying 'is wrong' :D

    I don't understand that comment from SWarriors teacher AT ALL!
    With respect to Gyaku (who gives the voice of experience), I think the rest of us fit into the title of this thread "an amateur's perspective" - some of us are still learning, investigating, and discovering (while others have already made up their minds ;)).

    I know from my discussions elsewhere there are dozens of extremely experienced kata using fighters and teachers who are not engaging in this thread, but are probably having a good chuckle at our byplay :D
  13. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    I think the problem with this line of reasoning is that one assertion can be confirmed where the other cannot. ANYONE can tune into boxing any night of the week and see those certain combinations put to use. Whereas we don't really see that same thing with kata combinations.

    Granted, you might see modified, simplified, or less exaggerated versions of kata combinations used in sparring (though even that doesn't leap to mind). But you don't see the actual combinations as performed. To my mind, kata doesn't represent high percentage combinations in the way that boxing combos do.

    That's not an argument against kata overall. I just don't find that particular argument very compelling.

  14. Timmy Boy

    Timmy Boy Man on a Mission

    Hehe, cheers... I thought I'd wait until the debate had moved on a little.

    I imagine that's because Gyaku keeps saying that Iain Abernathy provides a good argument and Pankration90 wanted to show how his argument still has flaws.

    I'll ask the question again - why do you have to investigate what the moves in the kata are for? It sounds a lot like taking random stabs in the dark to me and this is just for what the basic punches are really for. If someone teaches me a punch, or a takedown, or a kick, or a knee, or whatever, I know exactly what it's for and I can progress in my training based on that. If I don't even know what my basic techniques are designed to actually do, how can I learn anything useful for fighting with?

    I have to say that my opinion of katas has shifted a little since I started debating in this thread. I can recognise them as being basically fulfilling the same purpose as shadow boxing (which, although live and free-flowing, doesn't provide that much resistance) providing that there is an obvious correlation between kata and kumite. If there isn't, something is seriously wrong.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2005
  15. jonmonk

    jonmonk New Member

    I practice kata because I want to.

    I practice other training methods too, lot's of two person drills and sparring. Here's the thing though, kata may not turn me into a 'street fighter' and I don't care.

    What I do get from kata though, is a stronger and fitter body, a stronger mind (corny but true, it's boring but you mustn't give up), the ability to experience some living history for myself (kata represents in many cases, hundreds of years of evolution of thought by some very esteemed teachers, IMO you can't just write all that off as being useless) the capability to practice on my own, anytime, anywhere and without mats, gloves and all the other paraphanelia that goes with contact training methods. I get to develop my breathing, zanshin, metsuke etc and for me it can be a spiritual excercise (don't laugh :) ).

    By the way, I believe Iain Abernathy will be at SENI this year so you can ask him his views in person. I'm certainly planning on getting to his seminar. Also, you might be interested in looking at a book by Bill Burgar called "Five Years One Kata". He discusses this stuff at length and in my opinion makes some pretty valid points - have I mentioned this already?
  16. Timmy Boy

    Timmy Boy Man on a Mission

    That's great. Really. But we're talking about effectiveness.
  17. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    I actually think this is one of the strongest arguments yet. I can definitely see your point about developing a certain physicality. People could make the argument that you'd be better served by lifting weights and running on a treadmill. Personally, I won't. I think kata is perfectly valid as a way of developing a physicality that's suited to your style.

    I can also get behind the moving meditation thing. I've noticed that anytime you do something physical so often that you can let your mind wander, you get some wonderful thinking done. For me, I've had some of my most er... profound moments while doing very repetitive kicking drills on a pad. I think there's something to that.

    I can completely get behind the cultural experience angle as well. That one kinda speaks for itself.

    The one thing I do wonder about is using the world "evolution." Evolution is a process of adaptation in response to challenges from the environment. (Would any of the science types in the gallery disagree with that? I'm not much of a science type personally.)

    I'm not really convinced that kata has been challenged by the environment for a long time. I think that's part of the concern people have with that sort of training and "documentation." If we don't revisit it and challenge it periodically, it doesn't "evolve." It stays precisely the same. That's a luxury afforded by our unwillingness to ask questions.

    Does that make sense?

  18. jonmonk

    jonmonk New Member

    Ok Timmy, so do you disagree that the other things I mentioned are important in developing an effective fighter? I personally think they are. My point is that by looking at kata in terms of individual movements, techniques and combinations, the effectiveness of the kata as a training technique could well be considered lost.

    I just think that if you take a broader view and look at kata as one of a range of holistic training methods that help to produce a 'complete' martial artist, including technique, stamina, mental and physical toughness but also balanced with spirituality, respect and kindness then it can be very effective.
  19. jonmonk

    jonmonk New Member

    Thanks, you're right and I actually do have a degree in Biology too! Perhaps mutation would be a better word :)
  20. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    You know, perhaps it would at that. :)

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