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#372520 - 12/04/07 07:10 AM Re: Why do YOU study kata? [Re: GriffyGriff]
jude33 Offline

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1539

Read "Barefoot Zen"

What is in the book Griffy?
I dont realy want to buy it yet.


Edited by jude33 (12/04/07 07:29 AM)

#372521 - 12/04/07 07:31 AM Re: Why do YOU study kata? [Re: Shonuff]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK

I was just curious as to what it is that keeps the various forum members practicing and studying kata, particularly those interested in Bunkai and Old School/Fighting Karate?

Why take time to practice and study kata when the skills revealed by them are more quickly attainable through cross training?
Is there something unique to Karate hidden within its kata (and do you know of any evidence of this)?

I'm not seeking any particular answer, just enjoying it is just as cool as hidden ancient knowledge.

For myself I have an interest in stylistic and systematic approaches to combat, which is what I see kata as being. I've gained alot of strategic combat knowledge from the study and a broader understanding of MA's, especially how to use techniques and movements I'm presented with.

How about you?

some excellent responses so far on this thread,

from my perspective -

I continue to study kata, as opposed to performing solo kata as a main study as it is how okinawan karate is given to me.

I use it as a memory aid, a teaching tool (for myself and students), all guided by my Seniors. It is also a link to a historic practice, which is important to me.

personally I think kata is one fo the things that defines karate practice, is it needed, the most efficient way of fighting - of course not,

but it is the delivery system of my art and therefore of massive importance to me.

But then again the value to me is in what you do with the kata lessons, enter 2 man work against common methods of assault and of course isolated technique/combination training taken directly from the kata.
Jim Neeter

#372522 - 12/04/07 08:37 AM Re: Why do YOU study kata? [Re: butterfly]
jude33 Offline

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1539

So I would say your description is basically correct, but the sequence of study is wrong.



Unless I have miss understood things.

I think I tend to agree with what you have written.
If I were to be taught something that I knew little about then your method would be ideal. In fact from my readings on here you would be an ideal teacher much sought after.


About the things that are hidden therefore unique to karate found in kata.

From the Kata studies I have thus far (which is a mere drop of water in the ocean) they do hold techniques that arent always easy to see or explain. They are most defintaly hidden.

Some techniques(from the limited ones I have studied) are brutal. Some also require good body conditioning other wise they wont work.

Along the lines of thai boxers with conditioned shins.

Here is fairly simple technique that I think could be used after or during a sequance I have aquired through kata study.

Face tori.

After or even before a set of other techniques

strike/Parry/(or even just grab by chance) tori's opposite arm so as to be able grip/grab tori's wrist with uke's palm facing down in the area of front/ above uke's hip.

Twist the wrist quickly(if needed) so that tori's finger are facing down or about facing down as they can be.
Bring up very quickly the opposite forearm in a form of age uke and smash the fingers upwards with the forearm.

Now I think that is unique hidden technique to karate found in kata?.Or I could be wrong and it appears in other arts?


Edited by jude33 (12/04/07 08:50 AM)

#372523 - 12/04/07 04:02 PM Re: Why do YOU study kata? [Re: jude33]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

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


Now I think that is unique hidden technique to karate found in kata?.Or I could be wrong and it appears in other arts?

And Jude, what if someone just showed you the technique to practice, sans the kata?

#372524 - 12/04/07 04:56 PM Re: Why do YOU study kata? [Re: butterfly]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
thanks for the correction, BB -
so you show it's 2-person use, then have them 2-person drill it, then isolation drill...the emphasis and majority of time spent on 2-person drills.

do you try something, find out it works well and feels comfortable, then teach that technique/principle/combo in class and have students work it with each other?

#372525 - 12/04/07 05:11 PM Re: Why do YOU study kata? [Re: butterfly]
jude33 Offline

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1539


Now I think that is unique hidden technique to karate found in kata?.Or I could be wrong and it appears in other arts?

And Jude, what if someone just showed you the technique to practice, sans the kata?

If it is hidden Butterfly and hidden for a good reason then
who will show it to me? Have you or anybody else ever come across it?
I am but a mere student with limited knowledge but has anybody seen that technique other than in kata?
It is indeed considered a very small part of a larger 2 man drill taken from kata. Interesting thing is that the mechanics are the same as in the kata. So solo practice is also there using the kata and the isolated basics taken from the kata using trad training aids as well as the two man drill subject to some one else being available.

Trad conditioning training aids.

I can see your valid points.
Your an excellent teacher.
But I would also ask if you could try to see mine.


Edited by jude33 (12/04/07 05:25 PM)

#372526 - 12/04/07 05:43 PM Re: Why do YOU study kata? [Re: Shonuff]
WuXing Offline

Registered: 10/24/05
Posts: 481
Loc: Idaho, USA
I practice the kata because they are part of the traditions that have been passed down to me. Someday, I will pass them down to others. It has nothing to do with efficacy, or efficient use of time. Everyone seems to feel pressured to prove that their practice is about preparing for combat in the fastest way possible, 100% of the time. It's alright to admit that your martial arts are as much "art" as they are "martial". It is as much spirit as it is body and mind. The kata are an expression of the spirit, the "soul", of some traditions.

#372527 - 12/04/07 08:00 PM Re: Why do YOU study kata? [Re: WuXing]
Shonuff Offline

Registered: 11/03/04
Posts: 604
Loc: London, UK
Thanks for the contributions, there are some very interesting views.

If I'm understanding you correctly were you describing smashing someone's fingers with your forearm??? I could not visualise the technique very well, but it certainly does sound fairly unique, although what I have pictured in my head would not work very well as the person getting their fingers smashed could hit with his non grabbed hand. I can't see it working.

But if you find unique techniques in your karate kata then that is certainly a great reason to continue studying them.

For myself I tend to see unique or uniquely approached strategies as opposed to techniques.

I dont agree with much of Barefoot Zen
It's Shotokan not Shoto-can't!!!

#372528 - 12/04/07 08:43 PM Re: Why do YOU study kata? [Re: Ed_Morris]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

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

do you try something, find out it works well and feels comfortable, then teach that technique/principle/combo in class and have students work it with each other?

Yes, things normally branch out from your experience or from your instructor’s experience that percolates downward into what you do. And there are principles involved in this stuff of course. However, the discerning factor here is that if you I just try to give only the principle without the partner drills as a preliminary practice, then you risk getting into a one size fits all “technique/combo” whatever mentality. The problem being that the principle would be sound, but to find an individual way of making it work for the practitioner might be slightly different due to size and body type constraints and this needs to be addressed. This can be done immediately through partner drills as an exploration of the technique at whatever level the practitioner is at the time, with different ways of attempting it and freedom to ask questions of the instructor and the partner….even if it is simply saying, “I don’t get it.”

#372529 - 12/04/07 09:44 PM Re: Why do YOU study kata? [Re: butterfly]
kakushiite Offline

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
...Caution, proceeding to step up on soap box....

Virtually all systems of movement practice repetitive patterns. Dance, yoga, all manner of sports, music, knitting, cooking, rowing, farming, carpentry, whatever.

There are efficient, effective ways to do movements, and experts in these various "systems of movement" typically engage in the repetitive practice of common movements, whether it be chopping logs or chopping sushi, swinging a hammer or swinging a sword, jumping rope or jumping double layouts, throwing balls or throwing punches, pitching a fork or pitching a baseball, serving at tennis, or serving tea (Chado), whatever. But the bottom line is that repetition in much of this is the key to success.

We should expect the same with fighting systems, especially if we are going to depend on our training to escape from an attack with as little injury as possible.

In fighting systems, the "combinations" we practice have a variety of origins. Some groundfighting movements are likely quite old, but there has been a lot of innovation recently. In the sport striking arts, it is highly likely that some basic combinations are very old. (Left, jab, right cross, for example.) This is a staple of PMA, Muay Thai and Western boxing, and was probably used in some form or another for thousands of years.

Whatever the combinations we chose, it makes sense to practice them repetitively. Even in the free form of shadow boxing, a fighter returns over and over to those combinations he was worked on. Left jab, right hook. Right cross, left hook, right hook, whatever.

It is my belief that the more progress a fighter makes in his training, all things being equal, the fewer things he is likely to practice. The fighter will have those combinations he knows are effective and he will focus on those. This is especially true if he knows that the practice of one combination leads to effectiveness in others. Why be horrible at 500 techniques, when you can get pretty good at 50. And why spread your training equally across 50, when what you really need to focus on is five to ten. The point is that if you really want to focus on 5 to 10, to get and stay absolutely your best, then it is hard to find the time for the other 40, to remain reasonably proficient. For the other 450, it is best not to spend too much energy on them.

Yabu Kentsu told his students "Karate begins and ends with Naihanchi." One way of interpreting this is that beginners were taught Naihanchi, and as these karate students matured, they would learn and master other kata. But as they grew older, they would return to Naihanchi, to their basics, to their roots.

But it doesn't really matter what your source of techniques are. They can from kata, or elsewhere. If they are effective, and you train effectively, and you practice the combinations repetitively, you will get better at them, and be better able to use them effectively. A key lesson is that if one has a goal of getting better at fighting, one should be wary of practicing too many combinations, all with little repetitiveness. So the question is should lots of kata be practiced separately and independently from the practice of the hundreds of fighting applications that they contain.

That, IMO is the challenge of much of "traditional" karate, as it is practiced today. The major karate systems, for certain historical reasons, have become too broad with too many kata. Instead of learning and focusing on a core set of kata-based movements, novices are taught kata after kata. Instead of enhancing and developing a core set of kata-based movements, intermediate students are taught kata after kata. And instead advanced students focusing on mastery of and building upon a core set of kata-based movements, they are taught kata after kata.

Kata has been handed down, generation to generation resulting in the "styles" we have today. We can all ask why, and many have. This thread is but one of many that seeks the answer as to why we practice kata. Over the years many students have become tremendously disillusioned. The want to learn self defense, and they are shown kata, with only a fleeting mapping between the movements and effective fighting. Some frustrated students flock to non-traditional systems, some, not seeing the sense of training, stop altogether. I am not surprised. How could students learn effective fighting movements, when each combination requires lots of repetition, in the air, with partners, and against the bag, pad or makiwara. It is no surprise to me that many students rarely get the kind of repetition needed for even a base set of kata-based combinations when they spend so much time practicing all these kata.

As I have written here before, I believe "traditional" karate today, have a number of fundamental flaws in the way students are trained for effective fighting. Regarding the mapping of kata to effective fighting, traditional karate today, IMO, just doesn't do an adequate job because it can't. IMO, there are too many kata taught, too quickly. It wasn't always this way.

Oyata teaches his students that in the old days it took 3 years to learn a kata, 10 years to master it. One of Seiko Higa's students has written that Higa taught the same "10 year" rule. Funakoshi described this when he wrote that it took 10 years to learn all three Naihanchi. Nagamine wrote of this when he said it took Kyan 10 years to master Kusanku. We know that Motobu's students mostly practiced fighting principles from one kata. And one of Higaonna's students tells us that in the early 1900s they generally practiced only two or three kata. So many students should be asking, why is it so common today for systems to teach 10 to 15 kata to students with only a few years training.

I am not arguing that the current system of karate never works. If you have students, like Victor does, that train for 10 or more years, especially for those who do so intensively, then students have more time for the repetition needed to dive deeper into kata and begin to master useful fighting combinations. My concern is there is a fundamental disservice done to perhaps 95% of those students that come into the traditional dojo, at least those with a goal to learn self-defense. They come for a much shorter period of time. And the current system of "traditional" karate is ill-suited to give them lifelong skills. Too much time is wasted on too many kata for which they will never learn the applications, as each combination, noted above, requires a lot of repetition to get good at.

I practice kata for many reasons. The primary reason is to get good at self-defense. I believe that kata are the repository of great fighting combinations, and that some, such as Naihanchi or Kusanku, have incredible depth in numbers of effective combinations. But I believe the Okinawans were correct when they taught that to get good at even one kata truly requires 10 years of practice. I find that mastery of good fighting requires lots of repetition, and the practice of a few kata is the only way I can truly improve my fighting skills. Certainly for my students, I find that less is more.

This study of few kata has an interesting off-thread corollary. When I want to tell my students what style they practice, I don't have a good answer. The few kata we train in are Shorin Ryu kata, but can I say we practice Shorin Ryu if I reject the current standard Shorin Ryu approach of many kata?

And how can I say what version of Shorin Ryu I practice. I have studied with students in the 5 major lineages that descend from Itosu, and my practice of kata reflects the great variations found across those systems, as well as those descending from Kyan and Soken. Moreover, I have developed full sword and spear/bo implementations for the kata I do practice, so that puts me way out of "traditional" Shorin Ryu.

I think this thread poses an excellent question, "why do you practice kata". But I have another related question that I think gets to the true problem with kata. For many students of the arts, I would like to ask "why do you practice so many kata."

Unfortunately, I believe the true answer in many, many cases is that they have no choice. They are part of some "traditional" style that has a non-negotiable set of kata that they must train in to pass rank tests. And when they progress long enough to teach, in order to remain part of a "style's" organization, they are obliged to pass on the same ill-conceived training rituals to their students.

I have one more related question. If student, training in a system of 15-20 kata, wanted to learn them at a deliberative pace (say 1 every 3 years), so that they could better learn the fighting applications, would their "styles" even permit it?

....Stepping off soapbox....


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