This is how I explain kata to every parent who walks in the door, wanting their kid to take karate.
“Kata is a choreographed series of movements done in a sequence to mimic a battle. It emphasizes control, balance, and focus as well as really pushing coordination and memory.”
In the karate school, we work on memorization, and attention to detail. Are the kids doing the right movements? Are they kicking with proper technique? Is everything happening the way I want it to, and do I feel that the kids are progressing. Ultimately, I’m not trying to teach olympic level athletes. I’m trying to teach a bunch of 9-year-olds how to believe in themselves and have the faith in their abilities to accomplish any task. Which, for the day, is getting through the first half of Chung-Mu without making any serious mistakes. But in the future will be applying to that job, nailing that interview, or maybe even winning that olympic gold.
It’s a process, we build, we reinforce, we laugh a lot and I get to show a bunch of kids how to unlock their inner power ranger.
What I do for competition is the same in theory, but much more exacting in practice. I have found, in the last 17 years of competing, what works best for me. I do super intense burst of work for a short period, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. And I repeat these bursts several times a week for months.
Generally, the set up works like this.
I walk through each of the katas I’ll be competing with once, more of a warm up than anything. After this I start upping the intensity. My goal is three times though each form, with at least two of those times full out. I tend to obsess over things, so there have been times I’ve left the gym absolutely furious, dripping sweat, hands shaking, and feeling like a gigantic pile of crap who knows absolutely nothing about the martial arts.
But, if my partner, who is also my coach, happens to be there. I there is a whole new level of critique, and I generally work harder when there’s someone watching.
In the past, I’ve worked with a variety of people, and they’ve all used a variety of techniques.
This was one of the weirdest.
But for the most part it pretty close to what people generally imagine from the movies. It’s me. in a empty room with a bunch of mirrors on the walls just going through patterns and making myself really tired in the process. If my coach is there, he sits on the floor and watches, making comments and suggestions as I go through. There is usually a fair amount of swearing and a lot of laughing to go with everything else.
As you can imagine, getting into that whole getup pictured above took some time and I was cracking up most of the time. Until that coach actually made me start doing stuff. Then it just really sucked. I had never learned to truly hate resistance bands until that moment.
There are thousands of different katas throughout all the major martial art styles. Then, there are variations, changes dependent on style, instructor, and personal preference. I, personally have something around 70 katas in my head, though only a handful of them are “competition ready” at any given time. There are some people who ever only learn 8. And then there are instructors who know 150. It’s a matter of choice and interest.
This leads to a lot of arguments about which katas are better than others, which style reigns supreme? I personally believe it’s much more about the practitioner, than the style.
But, that’s just me.