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Karate kata comes from a time where few people knew how to read or write. Information was passed down from the previous generation in the form of song, dance, ritual, poetry and stories. The human mind works with imagery and feeling, not lists of facts and figures. Using enjoyable, playful learning tools like these are the most natural and efficient way to learn and remember things.

Karate techniques had to be kept away from prying eyes in case your fighting methods were discovered by your enemies. The forms (kata) encoded the information which enabled anyone to train, but only the chosen few had the password to decrypt the real information. Today we continue this time-honored tradition of kata for a variety of reasons that work together to complete us as martial artists and help us come "full circle" in our martial arts and our lives.

The purpose of kata practice is not to solely develop better kata ability, rather it is to equip a student with principles for self-defense. Therefore, the evidence for whether a student has successfully developed the principles promoted in any given kata don’t just depend on observing their performance. These principles (such as explosive speed, dynamic hip movements, posture, maintaining solid stances etc) should also show up in their combinations and to some degree, in their sparring.

While the transference of these kata principles might not be evident in a beginning student's training, one indication that a Purple belt is becoming ready for their Brown belt is to see these principles show up throughout their training.

A potential hurdle many students encounter is having learned the kata Seisan and simply developed a sound ability, rather than focusing on incorporating the principles into the rest of their karate, they instead seek mental stimulation by learning new (higher level) kata.

 

While their body may be going through the same training their mind should have plenty of mental stimulation as they seek to unlock the many intricacies and meanings within the kata, and then endeavor to turn this knowledge in ability. A student’s journey should also remain exciting because they have the principles to also implement into their combinations, self-defense training and kumite.

When the karate practitioner performs kata, he or she is not only doing what so many thousands of other martial artists are doing - they are in fact walking in the footsteps of all who have gone before, and all the past and present masters who have studied and handed down their knowledge and skill. It is accepted that although modern karate is not very old, its origins go back at least sixteen hundred years. The ancient arts were handed down from one generation to the next, undergoing development from each new generation of masters. The essence of the fighting arts were handed down through kata - the living textbook.

So why do kata? Because without kata, you are simply a fighter... no different than any boxer, wrestler or even common street fighter. Kata brings you closer to the heart and soul of martial arts and your journey to develop mind, body and spirit. From the time where your feet come together to bow, to the time they repeat the same action at the end of the kata, you should be wholly invested.

Your kata is now you, and your kata is for you. Everything else in the world simply goes away as you live in that moment. You "see" your opponents, you "feel" the emotional conflict, you "understand" the combat techniques and you "tell" the story. Now you begin training the discipline and passion that will pull the best out of your for not only your martial arts, but for the rest of your walk through life.

Why do kata? Because without kata there is no karate... because kata embodies the distilled knowledge, skills and philosophies of karate itself.

 

 

 

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