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#234277 - 02/26/06 04:45 PM Many Kata or Few Kata...?
MikoReklaw Offline

Registered: 12/24/05
Posts: 145
Loc: Memphis, TN USA
My friend and I have been having the long debate about the styles we do. I have done Goju Ryu and Shito Ryu. Knowing what I do of these arts, I total about 30 kata that is "know" [not that I could ever truly know them]. I hold a Nidan in Okiawan Karate.

He studies Pangai Noon Uechi Ryu, thus having like 5-6 kata throughout the entire system. He only knows 2, and he is of an upper kyu grade.

His arguement is that you only need a few moves known very very well , and you are as readily prepared as anyone can be for combat.

I agree that one needs a good, stable core, but I also see parts of my combat in unique sparring situations come from the more eclectic kata I know. Some of the more out-there bunkai are seen at times. I feel that knowing as many kata [with bunkai, of course] as you can within reason, so that you learn as many combative shapes as one can is a better idea.

What are your views on it?

Many Kata, or Few Kata?
Solve et Coagula ~ The Alchemical Process RIP Vangelus

#234278 - 02/27/06 12:27 AM Re: Many Kata or Few Kata...? [Re: MikoReklaw]
BrianS Offline
Higher rank than you
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 5959
Loc: Northwest Arkansas
I personally prefer fewer kata,but it depends on your reason for learning the kata and the training you put into each.
The2nd ammendment, it makes all the others possible. <///<

#234279 - 02/27/06 05:43 AM Re: Many Kata or Few Kata...? [Re: MikoReklaw]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
I think fewer kata is a better method personally, but of course it does depend on your motivations for training.

I feel a deeper, more drilled understanding will serve me better if I need to use my karate as self defense again. I also prefer ths method of learning/teaching as I think it has more value, there is so much in each kata to keep us busy!
Jim Neeter

#234280 - 02/27/06 09:28 AM Re: Many Kata or Few Kata...? [Re: MikoReklaw]
underdog Offline

Registered: 09/18/04
Posts: 1270
Loc: Mansfield, MA U.S.A.
The style I practice is a merged style. So, we have Shotokan, Kenpo (Nick Cerio) and a few other kata. At Nidan, I have about 30. I think that is too much. On the other hand, I think 5 is too few. I agree that it depends on why you are studying kata. That will change according to your age, purpose, and skill.

For young students, more kata is better! They typically hate doing basics drills and so kata, which they will practice, helps get the basics in there. It also helps build proprioception in a variety of situations and can be useful.

For older students interested in bunkai, and energy work, they need fewer kata but timing is important. They need a kata when they actually need it, regardless of the timing in the curriculum. Right now, for example, I want to learn Sanchin. It is not one of my school kata but I am very interested in the things that I believe Sanchin will teach me so the pregnant teaching opportunity is now. And this comes on the heels of saying I know too many. I am ready and motivated to learn Sanchin. Bunches of other kata that I'm not sure why they were given to me, other than that they "came next" were given to me when I had no real "need" to know them.
The older I get, the better I was!

#234281 - 02/27/06 09:37 AM Re: Many Kata or Few Kata...? [Re: underdog]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
Different people have different capacity for volume of kata and the study of them.

Personally I think for me around a dozen kata should be more than enough for the next good few years, Im working around 10 right now so im nearly done.........

However what is most important is my actual study focus at any given time and that is nearly always on a maximum of 2 kata - which right now is Naihanchi (still!!!!) and Seisan. I seriously see that i could work those 2 kata for the next three years and still have much to do with them after that...............
Jim Neeter

#234282 - 02/27/06 10:45 AM Re: Many Kata or Few Kata...? [Re: shoshinkan]
WuXing Offline

Registered: 10/24/05
Posts: 481
Loc: Idaho, USA
A few kata learned completely is better than many kata learned incompletely. Learning a kata consists of more than just knowing the sequence of moves, and a few applications. Really learning a kata is exploring every aspect of it, understanding the principles which allow you to transcend the form and make it your own. If kata are not being taught in this way (delving deep into its principles and all aspects of application), it would be better to know as many as you can, I think. This way you can be exposed to many ideas, and with practice decide which suits you best. Perhaps you will seek out instruction that delves deep into a particular kata or style so you can really learn it.

Fewer learned completely is better than many learned partially. But many learned partially is better than few learned partially.

#234283 - 02/27/06 10:55 AM Re: Many Kata or Few Kata...? [Re: MikoReklaw]
Ronin1966 Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/26/02
Posts: 3119
Loc: East Coast, United States
Hello MikeRekLaw:

Dig one hole DEEPLT rather than many shallow...

There is nothing wrong with exposure to different ideas, different presentations. But to really understand anything well/deeply ridicilous amounts of time are needed to get at the subtleties, the nuances, the whispers...

What does a single kata say or whisper about a ballistic attack? What does it say/whisper about being grabbed? Grappled? Many have layers I don't find NOT because they are not there but because I haven't spent enough time to see that strata... more often than not. Do something enough times and you trip accross strange problems... and then work to find those answers...

One for me please...

#234284 - 02/27/06 11:28 AM Re: Many Kata or Few Kata...? [Re: Ronin1966]
Chatan1979 Offline

Registered: 03/21/05
Posts: 338
Loc: Mahomet , Illinois
The kenpo system I study incorporates the shotokan kata. I went through a period of time where I was learning as many of them as I could but I felt empty inside. i felt that I could comfortably do all the kata from beginning to end but they had no substance. I was only "performing " a kata. About a year ago I decided to only do one kata. I have been studying KankuDai since then and my knowledge of that kata has expanded tremendously. I feel connected to this kata. I feel i am making the kata a part of me and I am seeing more and more applications every time I go through it. Yes I agree that every kata may or maynot have something the other does not, but I think to truly understand the essence you really need to focus on a few.
There is always someone who knows more, and noone who knows it all....

#234285 - 02/27/06 02:07 PM Re: Many Kata or Few Kata...? [Re: Chatan1979]
Victor Smith Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3220
Loc: Derry, NH
I come strongly down on the side you can't learn enough about anything. My experience suggests there are a number of different learning situations that are being sidetracked in this discussion.

I think it's unfair to just frame this as either tons of kata or just a few. We all actually use many types of different learning abilities, and of course any system can be comprised any way somebody wishes, such as Shito Ryu's 50+ kata or Uechi's original 3.

But I've traned with people who've mastered dozens and with those who've studied between 200-300 chinese forms that make karate look like kindergarden.

Among the different learning abilities we possess are:

1. Learning how to learn (short term memory vs long term memory) and then retain that knowledge (which superceeds the other forms of learning)
2. Learning how to move (movement education)
3. Learning how energy is generated (dynamics of movement education for increasing efficency)
4. Learning how technique appication works

There's nothing that suggests restricting these basic types of learning is better or worse for us in the long run, or that by just pursuing one you can't also pursue others at the same time.

The question is how are you evaluating what period learning must cover. Must the results be in the immediate future (say 3 years), must the results be in the intermediate future (say 10 years), must the results be long term study (say 20+ years).

The focus of these discussions seems to indicate short term, focus on one or two kata in intense detail is the answer.

While everyone has vastly different abilites, I don't accept that paradigm. I tend to focus on all three ranges at the same time.

Take prepartion from beginner to sho-dan (adult 4 or so years of trainig. In my program you will have studied at least 14 kata, but from a movement flow perspective I'm only looking at intense ability on the first 5, the rest being the movement groundwork for much longer study. There will constant exposure to what kata application potential represents, but those same applications will not be studied because the students overall abilities are being developed prior to those studies, instead specific techniques, wazza, two person sets in a variety of arts are working on those abilites developing.

After Sho-dan for the next 15-20 years you begin te study of 11 different kobudo kata studies, and have the opportunity to touch various kata from a pool of another 20 kata. But you also begin a much deeper inquiry into kata application that becomes endless, by starting with 6 months on just the opening section of Seisan Kata.

BTWw study doesn't mean you are spending time working out how a movement is applied, rather a complete course of instruction on everything you've been taught. The issue in such long times isn't that it can't be shown to anyone, but until they really have the aibility and faith in that ability to do it, it makes little sense to spend time on it, when there are other things too keep working on.

I understand a desire to get fully involved in a kata, but without a wider range of study it's really shortening undestanding how the other studies relate back to the one too.

There is no complete answer. All of the answers inter-relate. The goal is to push yourself to further paths.

So eventually you both press the bubble as to what you've been exposed to, and at the same time become an expert in a focused set of training.

What if the optimal response is a movement section from Seisan followed by a movement potential from the empty hand use of say Bando's short stick form? If you only study the one, the other may not be available.

Thre are many directions that are opposed to each other yet still create great learning.


Edited by Victor Smith (02/27/06 02:10 PM)
victor smith bushi no te isshinryu offering free instruction for 30 years

#234286 - 02/28/06 06:03 AM Re: Many Kata or Few Kata...? [Re: Victor Smith]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
As always Victor you make alot of sense and I appriciate your expierience and methods,

I am happy to admit that my 'mind set' is a short term one, ie what am I doing right my training, im sure as time goes by my attitude will broaden and mellow, and this will be led by my expierience as a practioner and teacher.

But, many dojos teach the kata outline and never delve deeper, therefore leaving students with a whole bunch of kata with little understanding/drilling of the actual applications of said kata - for me this is very wrong, within the framework of my understanding of kata study, and of course what I want to get out of it.

You are right, putting a number on it is to rigid, we are all different and require different things.

Of course what demolishes my belief that a few kata is best is your expierience of some Chinese martial artists! argh need to think about that one!

However I do tend to focus on the Okinawan expierience/history/teachers that are avalaible to me, and that suggests that fewer kata studied for a longer period is more correct, I study Okinawan karate and therefore go with that for now!
Jim Neeter

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