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#257725 - 05/27/06 06:56 PM Karate, Kata and real Self-Defense.
PaulHart Offline
banned member

Registered: 05/23/06
Posts: 192
Loc: The Real
I have read a few posts about how Kata is not teaching you self defense, but is just teaching principles. I have even read that some find Kata not a good practice, and others think it is worthless. So I figured to get a thread going about Kata, from my point of view. I know, don't tell me, there are plenty of threads about the worthlessness of Kata out there already. Oh well, this will not be the same.

First, Kata is not worthless. If you were taught that, or not taught enough to understand what you are doing, I am truly sorry. I can tell you that every single move that I do in Kata works every time. No modification of technique, just do the move. Sometimes if you go to do a move that sets the oppenet up from a punch, and the opponent is kicking, it may not work. But isn't this why we train? I admit that I have seen some Kata that is very questionable. I will also admit that I believe that Itosu, and a few others changed a lot of the Kata to make it less dangerous and more fitting for a School program. If you practice these perhaps a little bit of knowledge would help you to extract the worthless from the worth while. I only speak of Okinawan Karate Kata now, as I have little experience in Chinese or Kenpo forms. I can promise you that I have been in enough situations through work and life that I have used just about every move taught to me at one point in time or another. They have all worked. So once again, why is Kata a bad thing to learn?
Paul Hart

#257726 - 05/27/06 07:26 PM Re: Karate, Kata and real Self-Defense. [Re: PaulHart]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA

Kata is one of those things, that despite what folks say, there is a subjective element to it. I will preface this and say first and foremost that I am not a kata guy. That said, however, I have tried to look at kata from as disinterested a position as I can and have asked others to show me bunkai through relevant kata. This again begs the question of practicing the bunkai, and not the kata, since application will be dependent on utility in a wide variety of situations and not in a static teaching vehicle.

The problem may be that I have not seen the "correct" kata or that I think that there are other training paradigms that are more efficient in relaying self-defense ideas than kata. Kata seems overly formalized and does not allow the expectation of change where other training methods do.

In this regard, I am not against kata, and for some this may prove to be a valuable training guide. However, I think it is in the efficiency of what is taught and relayed, not in rigid "same" practices that technique is secured. A punch is a punch is a punch, however you only know it works when you practice it against someone. So time in kata, in my opinion, would be better spent with punching drills and then light-to-heavier sparring to secure those techniques in a not-static environment.

This is one of those things on which we will have to agree to disagree.


#257727 - 05/27/06 07:44 PM Re: Karate, Kata and real Self-Defense. [Re: butterfly]
speedschool93 Offline

Registered: 09/24/05
Posts: 2
We only use free style kata as part of our practice and belt testing. I believe it is much more useful than a set form of moves that must be memorized. We are taught to visualize a certain number of attackers and then fight them. So the free style kata helps both with technique and visualization. Comments?

#257728 - 05/27/06 07:46 PM Re: Karate, Kata and real Self-Defense. [Re: butterfly]
PaulHart Offline
banned member

Registered: 05/23/06
Posts: 192
Loc: The Real
I am 100 % sure that my Kata has made me a much better combatant. I am also sure that the stuff people take for sparring today teaches poor technique, and bad basics. The Kata does not teach how to punch, but teaches instead what works to follow that punch and how the techniques can go together without giving the opponent an opening to work with. Most do not even teach Sabaki, there is so much lost in modern Karate.
Paul Hart

#257729 - 05/27/06 08:13 PM Re: Karate, Kata and real Self-Defense. [Re: PaulHart]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
My understanding that by practising performance of kata alone then it is of little use in self defence.

But karate is much more than that isnt it, applciation drills and conditioning come to mind,

amongst other things - use these training methods with the tool of kata practise and we have a different animal.

outside of the historical transmition of karate, the body/mind/spirit excersise value in kata performance and the introduction of techniques leading to understanding of core principles I view it at about 5% significance in karate practise, everything else is drills, fixed then non fixed using the common methods of assault as defence scenarios, ho many karateka train accordingly??????

kata makes what we do karate, and that is important to me. I no longer use the term performance, I prefer the term 'study' and ultimatly thats about application practise, this is sure to change as I get older and deeper into the art.
Jim Neeter

#257730 - 05/27/06 11:18 PM Re: Karate, Kata and real Self-Defense. [Re: PaulHart]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA


I am 100 % sure that my Kata has made me a much better combatant.

Paul, this is where I think the problem may lie. I have met numerous karate-ka who have exchanged their kata driven programs for those that take a step toward a more "modern" approach sans kata, which they seemed to have granted more merit than the kata-centric style they formerly enjoyed.

So the problem for me is in two parts: 1) That the kata these people, whom I have met, have chosen to "disengage" from may not be the kata or the type of kata that you talk about; and 2) That I have never seen a reversal of roles where a MMA type, or kickboxer, would change into a kata-centric training program to promote better fighting ability.

Here again there may be some point of contention as what some would say is an SD technique or that a sport oriented athelete is not doing self-defense, but I side with the application concept: That a punch, kick, throw, or choke is intrinsically what it is regardless of the sporting context in which it might be utilized. These things don't change from SD to Sport and back again, only intent changes...not application. If this is the case, then training more closely to apply these techniques in this type of resistive venue would seem to warrant more consideration, even at slower and lighter pacing, than rigid kata work.

So, from where I stand, the problem is that you have indicated that kata has helped you, but that this is a subjective relationship between your practice and yourself. As I understand it, you have not trained exclusively in a non-kata program and then later accepted kata as a benediction to your abilities.

I think a better consideration for an experiment would be to have two similar individuals train in two different methodologies and then set one against the other to determine the effectiveness and the efficiency of one training paradigm over the other.

Unfortunantely, we will still only be playing mind games since this type of experiment seems not to be in the offing.

In any case, I do think there are other more modern groups of karate that yet practice tai-sabaki as foundational skill of their respective styles.

As an aside, I am somewhat between a more traditional (Japanese) style and the more modern kick boxing type of karate. I respect both, and whatever floats your boat is cool with me, but you have my opinion, if nothing else.

Warmest regards,

#257731 - 05/27/06 11:26 PM Re: Karate, Kata and real Self-Defense. [Re: PaulHart]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
If an adult wants to learn how to fight/defend themselves fairly well within say, 5 years of part-time training - they won't get there thru kata training at the majority of kata-centric dojo's.

That statement says nothing of kata speaks more to the worthiness of schools claiming to teach self-defense using kata. therefore, the argument of kata effectiveness is mute. If the majority of schools don't understand kata well enough to utilize kata as a training tool for fighting principles and self-defense, then clearly kata training as a vehicle to teach civilian self-defense to the masses has failed the test of time. or has it? If you look at as it not being DESIGNED to be transmitted easily to everyone, then it has in fact, stood the test of time. Depends how you look at it. On the other hand, what good is a self-defense tool that is only transmitted well to a mere 1% of kata practitioners?

The simple fact is, the only way kata can be trained and transmitted for the purpose of self defense is up close and personal with an instructor constantly watching on....and I would argue, either a span of full time practice - or a much longer period of part-time practice.

Kata movements are mainstream. kata substance is private.

Why is it the best teachers do so for free but yet have few students?

the answer is because 1. they aren't looking for students. and 2. the majority of people don't actually want to invest what is necessary to learn an Art in-depth...the public are dabblers and are satisfied with the superficial. 'who wants to learn how to breath correctly, thats boring.' no. first, thats part of the Art and second it happens to be well founded if not central to fighting principle.

but when too many customers...I mean students, moan about it - it's eliminated from the curriculum of what is taught for the sake of retainment and 'student' satisfaction. then the next generation of teachers don't even know there used to be breathing it gets lost.

so butterfly, I agree with you. who needs kata if they just train it as a bunch of separate responses. Your Ashihara style trains the actual techniques used, not some reversed engineered made-to-fit interpretation. even if kata 'bunkai' trainers get it working, it's no better than the method of non-kata training! I completely understand your 'it comes down to preference''s an excellent and solid point.

I can't claim proof. but I can honestly leave it as: The reason I still practice kata is to continue learning a very elusive Art. If kata does nothing else than open the imagination to possibilities, wasn't it a worthwhile journey?

for reference:

Miyagi Chojun's best kata advice: 'keep doing it, you'll figure it out.' -you have no idea how diabolical that advice is. It leads the student to believe there is a 'goal', a one-size-fits-all answer, when in reality during the time you are thinking and working it out, and learning how to teach yourself your 'customized' form. invisible in plain sight. kata does change when someone who truely knows it well enough to use it, teaches it.

but there is something else... I can't give it away, since it's not mine to give. even if I could, I can't think of a worse medium than the internet to transmit it.

#257732 - 05/27/06 11:29 PM Re: Karate, Kata and real Self-Defense. [Re: butterfly]
PaulHart Offline
banned member

Registered: 05/23/06
Posts: 192
Loc: The Real
Funny that you would mention a non-kata style. I trained in Jujutsu for as long as I trained in Karate. I went with Karate because I feel that it offers more bang for the buck and is the shortest distance to get to self preservation. There was a guy who did MMA in Chicago who was a friend of mine, he was a student of Ruaz. I visited him in the hospital after a fight outside a nightclub where the guy went to the ground and stabbed him in the waist and groin area. After a few months of healing, he asked me to teach him stand up combat. I also learned from him some of the ground fighting, which is good stuff. But I will keep my Karate. I am certainly not against cross training. I also see your point about Kata, just that if taught correctly, it can help with skill a great deal, IMHO.

Thank Ed, thats what I have been trying to say for years but could never find the words. Well put, and answers a few questions I had as well.
Paul Hart

#257733 - 05/27/06 11:33 PM Re: Karate, Kata and real Self-Defense. [Re: Ed_Morris]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA

Well, bud! You got a bunkai date in two months! I am interested in learning.

And everyone, please don't take my opinion as one who is not interested in seeing or acknowledging the other side, just one who has not seen the benefit as clearly as some who state it.

#257734 - 05/27/06 11:38 PM Re: Karate, Kata and real Self-Defense. [Re: butterfly]
Victor Smith Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3220
Loc: Derry, NH
I enjoy how often we keep going around the same issues.

In most part it's due to faulty language. Things like Modern Versions of Karate have moved away from Kata.

In its origins if you don't have kata, you don't have karate. I firmly belive that. Okinawn arts without kata didn't suck up and borrow the name Karate, they developed their own traditions... of course it's even interesting (according to Bishop) that some of the modern versions of those other arts have developed kata too.

In my experience, practicing kata over 3+ decades, what kata does and is is a very wide thing. Lots of places its just moves strung together. But there are places where it forms the basis for technique application as the soul source, and there are places where kata represent thousands of techniques, and applications, and tremendous work on the underlying principles to truly advance in ones art.

I have never seen anyone who has trained in a rich use of a kata tradition find that training worthless and then throw it aside to develop something else.

I have seen beginners, who have their own vision of what they want, leave to find it elsewhere, which is hardly the same as throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

This is where it is almost impossible to be on the same page in these discussions, because we're almost always talking about different things.

I've been forunate to meet a few people from this list, ones that are from different traditions than my own, and I think in person I have made some small inroads to showing some of the value my study of kata has brought.

Nor just because I use kata as a major tool, does it preclude me using other tools.

But the truth is we all touch a fraction of 1% our the art's potentials, there is no doubt our fraction of 1% is different from each others.

Frankly, I'm not very good, nor do I know much, but from what I've seen, and from who've I've trained with, I have yet to see a system of training, based on karate principles, without kata that I would give reason to study.
victor smith bushi no te isshinryu offering free instruction for 30 years

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