Don’t just do the kata moves, have purpose

It has taken me a long time to realize something has been missing from my katas. It’s not that I haven’t learned the correct moves or that I am doing the moves wrong, instead, I have been doing the movements in the kata without purpose.

Does that kata look different?

Have you ever watched two people doing the same kata and even thoguh the moves are the same, the kata looks different? You may have seen one person doing the moves and the other person living in the fight. The person with purpose, isn’t thinking about the next move, instead they are immersed in the current move and they do not move on to the next move until their imaginary opponent is no longer a threat.

I have always believed that you could teach a gymnast or another elite level athlete all the moves from a kata and they could make it look good but it would be missing something. It’s like calling a pot of hot water soup but if it doesn’t have flavor, is it really soup?

I do not want to try to explain the bunkai or application of each move from every kata because it is well beyond the scope of this article but I would like to try and share the concept. Each move in a kata has a purpose. This purpose can be a block, a strike, a throw or just getting out of the way depending upon the technique but each move has a meaning.

Lets look at some examples

When doing Heian Shodan, it’s easy to just do the moves but if you don’t understand what you are doing in each move, it is hard to have purpose. The first move is a downward block to the left where someone is kicking at your lower body. If you just do the move, without using your muscles correctly, your block will not be very effective and it will show. You often see this with new white belts who are just learning the kata. They think very hard before each move, try to put their body in the proper position and place their hands and feet in what they think is the correct place. As soon as they have done that, they are already thinking about the next move, hoping that they remember it.

Now, if you do the same move but picture in your mind someone trying to kick you, you will mentally react to the attack. You will move faster, commit to your block, make sure that blocking hand placement is correct and actually look as if you are in the fight and you won’t worry about the next move until you are sure you are safe to move on.

Even though I have been a volunteer Karate instructor for many years now, only about a year ago did I start explaining what type of attack the students that I work with are defending when I help them with their katas. This has greatly improved their katas and has helped them be more engaged in the class because they now ask questions about the moves they are doing.

This has been a huge learning experience for both them and me. I now have many different students, even beginners, who have an understanding of moves instead of just doing the moves. This not only helps with the higher ranked students, this also helps with beginners who can associate the application of the technique with the movements. You can see the students eyes light up when you explain what the move is doing and it immediately shows when they do the kata. This also allows them to think on their own and many students often tell me what they think the attack is that they are defending.

If you share these katas with others, tell them what the moves are doing

I really feel that somewhere along the line, many of us lose sight of what the katas are meant to do and as instructors we bark out numbers and moves without telling our students what they are actually doing. With that said, do your kata as if you are in the fight and see how it feels.

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

4 Responses to Don’t just do the kata moves, have purpose

  1. Kata is just a way to practice fighting. If one can not apply Kata to a real fight one does not know the Kata. I love Tekki Shodan,
    there are variations and alterations ; but essentially teaches close quarters fighting, back fist to an attacker in the front with full force and extension and elbow/ punch an attacker to the side, also takedown (grab and sweep) and leg up and down avoids leg kicks or takedown from attacker. oss …

  2. you can the video on u-tube, Lyoto “fighting” Kata (and winning) in MMA.
    3 strait punches (just like in Jion/ Temple Belt/ Defending the Temple) 0ss…

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