Friday, June 27, 2008

You Kata Love It...

It is hard to narrow it down to just one thing, but if I had to name my very favorite part of martial arts, I think it would be kata. I know it is a very controversial subject in the martial arts world. Almost every article on kata I've ever read starts out with something along the lines of "Some arts stress the importance of kata, while others think it is just a bunch of bunkai. (That was a pretty good one, wasn’t it?)

It could be said that I have not been involved in martial arts long enough to know which of those viewpoints is most accurate. And if you're the one that said it, I'd almost have to agree with you. You would be partially right. After all, I have only just learned my fourth kata. I have read/heard both sides of the debate. Opponents say kata is not applicable to real life. On the flip side, many say it is the most important aspect as its repetition drives home the muscle memory of the fundamentals; That it enables our bodies to carry out the basics of martial arts without our minds having to think through it first.

What I do know about kata is not based on research or fact, but on pure gut instinct and that is that I absolutely love it. I love the simplicity within the intricacy. I love the elegance, the rhythm, the flow, the power, and if done correctly, the emotion (which if done well, looks more like a lack thereof). I love the fact that I can practice kata almost anywhere, anytime. I can glide across the large dojo floor, or feel the plush, green carpet of a large patch of grass in the backyard under my feet. I can practice kata in my kitchen or the bathroom at work (when nobody else is in there that is!) In those smaller places, all I have to do is compensate with less encompassing steps or kicks, but the movements are all still there. I can even perfect my katas at work at my desk, behind the wheel of my car at a stoplight, or as I'm drifting off to sleep at night - in my mind, that is. When I can't get up and perform the actual physical movements of kata, I try to visualize myself doing just that. And since so much of martial arts is about the mind, this form of practice is almost as beneficial as the physical act itself - maybe even more so. Sometimes I work out the logistics of a technique or move with which I'm having trouble in this way. More than once, in doing so, I've had one of those "Aha!" moments and could barely wait until I could get to a place where I could try it out physically. And the icing on the cake is when, in trying out the solution I've come up with in my mind, I find that it works!

You Kata love that!


jeffrey.embry said...


Great article. I especially like the part about visualization. I do that all the time and find that it does indeed help when I have to perform the various kata of my art.

Keep up the blog...I have been enjoying it.

Martial Arts Mom said...

Ironically, the same thing happened to me last night in class. We were practicing doing a jumping front snap kick and I just couldn't "get it"...I kept trying and trying with no luck. After class, I turned to the visualization of it all and just kept trying to see myself doing it and eventually it worked. I figured it out. Sure, I need lots more physical practice, but I at least I have the basic down - all from visualizing it repeatedly first. Thanks so much for the kind words - I'm glad you enjoy reading my blog because I am having a BLAST writing it.


Michele said...

Nice post about kata.

Kata is my favorite part of karate training and teaching. We have 51 kata (21 open hand and 31 weapon) in the Okinawan style I train in. I enjoy the detail of kata and examining the bunkai. Visualization is an excellent training tool.

Enjoy your "Aha!" moments!

Martial Arts Mom said...

Michele, as you were probably typing your comment, I was replying to Jeffrey's saying I just had another "Aha" moment after class last night...see my comment above for what I mean by that. Thanks for reading the blog. I'm looking forward to getting into all kinds of interesting MA related subjects.

John Vesia said...

I've always been a bit divided on the importance of kata. Having an appreciation and understanding of its bunkai is vital, though.

Very good article and insights. Looking forward to more of the same.