Why Kata?

Discussion in 'Karate' started by yuen, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    you're welcome :)

    give the entire bunkai thread a browse later, it has lots of interesting stuff!
  2. Llamageddon

    Llamageddon MAP's weird cousin Supporter

    Really? I really like Tekki Nidan.

    So far the two I've had most trouble with have been Kanku Dai (if I leave it for a while and come back to it) and Jitte
  3. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    Funnily enough, they're two of my favourites.

    I tend to go for jitte or bassai sho when we get the "do your favourite kata" option.
  4. Llamageddon

    Llamageddon MAP's weird cousin Supporter

    I've only just learnt Jitte. Maybe that's why I have trouble with it. And as for Bassai Sho being one of your favourite kata?!
  5. ojisan

    ojisan Valued Member

    KATA, utility thereof

    A couple of points of clarification.

    Master Betty said “Yeah I think the general opinion is that kata can have benefits, but none that even come close to equaling those provided by other more active forms of training like sparring, bagwork, padwork, live drills etc.

    So in short, if your goal is to be as nasty a fighter as you can be, then any time you spend doing kata is time wasted.”


    “but performing a kata 10,000 times will not prepare you for the first time you and the other drunk square off and he launches that right haymaker.”

    Betty is correct in that kata will not help much in squaring off with a drunk in the sense that kata does not address “dueling” or contest matches. The Okinawan kata practiced in the late 1800s addressed defesive scenarios where you opponent was never more than an arms reach away.

    Choki Motobu said “The techniques of kata were never developed to be used against a professional fighter, in an arena or on the battlefield. They were, however, most effective against someone who had no idea of the strategy being used to counter their aggressive behavior."

    You need to remember that those who trained in “tode” (Original Okinawan karate) in the 1700 and 1800’s considered it a lifelong persuit. Kata’s primary utility was to teach proper body mechanics and to generate great power. The kamae (postures) and transitional movements represented a kind of shorthand for remembering and exploring defensive principles. There was no hurry to become proficient and the ultimate goal was not typically to “be as nasty a fighter as you can be”.

    Contests (kakedemachu “crossing hands) were held as either entertainment or competition, but were not considered part of karate training. The point being, is that the original karate techniques were specifically designed to address sudden assaults or escalating confrontations by/with untrained attackers.

    Kuma stated “there are the "three K's of karate" (kihon, kata, kumite) but in Okinawan karate there were actually four areas of study for karate: junbi undo (preparatory exercises for flexibility, balance, etc.), hojo undo (supplementary exercises which included resistance training and endurance training), kata bunkai (disassembly of the kata techniques), and kata oyo (application of the kata techniques).”

    With respect, that is descriptive of Okinawan karate from the 1920s onward, rather than the earlier forms practice. "three K's of karate" (kihon, kata, kumite)” are modern replacements for the original kata-centric practices. Old style training was “Kitsui, Kiken and Kitani” (hard, dangerous, and vulgar) . Kihon was not a separate practice. Fundamentals were trained, but within the context of the kata from which they were drawn. Kumite was considered an extention of kata practice and consisted of pre-arranged defensive exercises wherein a designated attacker might attempt a strike, a grab, or a push, and the defender would perform a technique, drawn from the kata, as the appropriate response. Kumite was used to teach distance, timing, footwork, evasion, and angles of attack.

    The terms Bunkai and Oyo are Japanese and were not in common usage in Okinawa before the 1960s. The old karate was informal and did not have specific terminology for much of anything. If the possible application of a move was explained, it was as “ti chi ki” (what the hand is doing) or “like this”.

    The utility of the moves were sometimes outlined through oral teaching, but much of the application potential of the movements were left to the student to explore and discover. Chotoku Kyan, for example, never directly taught applications of the kata. It was expected that students would find a partner to work out possible uses for the kata movements. All of this goes back to the understanding that the original karate was taught within the timeline of many years of training.


    If your goal is to become proficient at fighting in situations where you have the opportunity to “square off” and where you confront your opponent at distances greater than arms reach, then kata will probably not provide you with the optimal training paradigm. It wasn’t designed for contests or duels.

    I believe the saying “karate ne sente nashi” (there is no first hand [attack] in karate) was meant to be taken literally. There is no first attack because the premise is that you have been attacked without provocation and without warning. If you see an attack coming you can strike pre-emptively. Kata addresses situations where you have been caught unaware.

    Just my take on kata. FWIW
  6. Blade96

    Blade96 shotokan karateka

    thanks :)

    and i like big kiba dachi. :)
  7. monkeywrench

    monkeywrench Valued Member

    I read this one a few years ago.
    [ame="http://www.amazon.com/Shotokans-Secret-Karates-Fighting-Origins/dp/0897501446"]Amazon.com: Shotokan's Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate's Fighting Origins (9780897501446): Bruce D. Clayton PhD: Books[/ame]

    It provides some interesting insights into how kata was developed in Okinawa. As to how true it all is...well. That's up for debate I suppose!

    Some of them were developed for fighting dudes coming at you with bayonets if I'm remembering right.

    My style is pretty heavy on kata so I'm always down for yet another kata discussion.

    I dunno if anyone mentioned this here yet, but I've found that kata is like a "pocket workout" you can take with you just about anywhere. Got a few minutes to kill somewhere? Find a space and bust out a kata! Instant workout.
  8. bassai

    bassai onwards and upwards ! Moderator Supporter

    Although an interesting read , and i must admit the bodygaurd theory intrigues me , that book has been pretty much universally trashed by most of the Karate historians i've spoken to.

    I can agree with this :)
  9. kravi2

    kravi2 Valued Member

    I read a book called 4 shades of black (I think that was the title) which had a different concept of kata - whether true or not, I find it interesting.

    The idea is that the kata is a map, telling you what to work on next as you study. In the examples the author gives (he is goju ryu) he talks about the first kata being "smash and grab", and that it teaches the new students the easiest approaches. Just learn to be aggressive and punch. Then as you slowly progress through training, they go from harder to softer as your skills and knowledge go up. So they are a training roadmap.

    Something else he said, which makes sense, is that the kata isn't for training the execution of a technique or to recommend which "combinations" you should use in a real fight. Any punch in a kata, he said, can be substituted by a different punch, or even a kick.

    Granted, it also helps work coordination a bit, but that is an accidental bonus, I should think.

  10. Llamageddon

    Llamageddon MAP's weird cousin Supporter

    As JWT once said to me - it's a good coffee table book. It's a nice one to flick through and it does have good info in, but it doesn't necessarily reinvent the wheel. It just reminds the traditional karate-ka that bunkai and Kata can't be divorced; bunkai is kata. As is Kihon and Kumite. Hence why Kata, when trained properly, should be placed at the heart of traditional karate training.
  11. kravi2

    kravi2 Valued Member

    Hadn't heard that expression, but it is apt. Great coffee table book. It is general, and has nice photos ;) I wasn't trying to bring up anything earth-shattering here, but just the idea of kata as a roadmap of what to study seems to make good sense to me, after all, they didn't have youtube back then, and since Okinawan karate training was originally kept secret, I don't think they could publish the curriculum either.

  12. Kuma

    Kuma Lurking about

    I do agree with this, but it's very similar to what I actually said. Being a former student of Okinawan karate I did not learn kihon/kata/kumite but instead learned it was those four areas (junbi undo, hojo undo, kata, and application). I used bunkai and oyo simply because they're universally understood as to what they mean.
  13. monkeywrench

    monkeywrench Valued Member

    What are some of the specific criticisms if you remember them? I'm always on the lookout for the real deal.

    I watched some videos of my wife doing Jutte this week...damn. I will never be that good!
  14. Kuma

    Kuma Lurking about

    Just from the top of my head as I page through it once again, and though not applicable to every single situation he demonstrated, it's pretty close:

    1) Relying on your opponent attacking you with karate techniques rather than an untrained or otherwise different style of attacking.
    2) Multiple attacker scenarios where the attackers use specific prearranged techniques to fit within their view of the kata.
    3) Advanced techniques requiring a high level of motor skill which will be sorely lacking whenever it's actually time to fight.
    4) Does not cover why you would actually be in such a position when first grabbed (e.g. pg 183, Figure 9-7).
    5) Going with #4, little to no use or explanation of what the hikite should be.
    6) Control tactics against multiple opponents that leave you with little else to do once you have them, making you vulnerable to anyone else who might try to attack you.

    And so on, and so on. It is an interesting book and does present some good ideas, but as far as application I feel there are many better resources out there.
  15. bassai

    bassai onwards and upwards ! Moderator Supporter

    Kuma pretty much nailed it , i also remember being told that the influence of the weapons ban was over estimated.
  16. ojisan

    ojisan Valued Member

    Kuma said "I do agree with this, but it's very similar to what I actually said. Being a former student of Okinawan karate I did not learn kihon/kata/kumite but instead learned it was those four areas (junbi undo, hojo undo, kata, and application). I used bunkai and oyo simply because they're universally understood as to what they mean."

    Kuma, I apologise if I sounded critical. I was trying to clarify traditional practices for some of the readers who might not be familiar with the history.

    Was your study in Goju? I believe formalized practice such as junbi undo and hojo undo were more typical of Nahate than Shurite.
  17. Rider

    Rider Everybody loves cakes! :D

    After getting my history wrong in thinking karate practice was banned rather than a weapons ban (my bad)

    i would like to know more about the weapons ban

    i know this is a little off topic but while its came up...does anyone know of a site or a book with reliable information on the history of karate?

    im interested and i dont wish to get mis-lead again on my history with false information and end up thinking i know the history when im completly wrong (lol)...sorry if someone on the forum has already posted something simlar if there is a thread on this could someone give me a link?

    Thanks :)
  18. melbgoju

    melbgoju Valued Member

    You could try Patrick McCarthy's translation of the Bubishi. It also contains a section on the early history of karate.

    And the bubishi translation itself is very valuable reading too.
  19. Rider

    Rider Everybody loves cakes! :D

    Thank you :D
  20. Kuma

    Kuma Lurking about

    Yes, I was a part of the Meibukan Goju Ryu under Sensei Ikemiyagi Masaaki. I loved Goju Ryu during my time training in it, and model a lot of my individual Kyokushin workouts from my Goju Ryu days.

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