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What is kata?

Discussion in 'The Martial Arts Forum' started by Hesparus, Aug 17, 2005.

  1. Hesparus

    Hesparus

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    Sep 20, 2004
    New Mexico
    I have always been really into kata. Most of the people who I have talked to seem to have a different opinion on what kata is and what it's about, and frequently look down their noses at it.
    So what is your take on kata? What do you think it is and is about? I'm not trying to sound like I'm quizzing you. I don't have a right answer in mind - just my answer, which I'll share in a little while.
    So how about it?

    - Chris
     
  2. grenadier

    grenadier

    1,003
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    May 4, 2000
    Alabama
    My opinion:

    The kata helps build a foundation on which your kumite is based. At the same time, the kumite helps one understand the kata better. Thus, the two are intertwined, in a sense of ying and yang.

    Can someone be good at kumite without even learning a single kata? I won't argue with the success stories about various individuals who are good in such a manner. In my experiences, though, it's not surprising that those who place in the tops of their kata divisions, also tend to place at the top of their kumite divisions as well.

    Someone who does well in kata is going to have a good understanding of the techniques, and will be able to apply them effectively in kumite.
     


  3. brock sampson

    brock sampson

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    Aug 15, 2005
    SE Georgia
    I view it as an in depth learning tool. The depth is up to you and how much time you are willing to spend with a particular form.
    A dojo-mate and I have had some discussion on this very topic lately, the whys, whats and hows of transitioning kata to other methods of training and kumite. As well as the importance of Embu sen vs. Bunkai.
     
  4. Roundeyesamurai

    Roundeyesamurai Sensei Member

    543
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    Jul 15, 2004
    Upstate New York
    When discussing the value of kata, let us bear in mind the meaning of the word. "Kata" refers to a shape, or a form, or a mold- in other words, something from which another thing is styled.

    So, whether the term is used in the sense of a pattern of techniques (karate/kobudo/et al), or used in the sense of depictions of individual techniques (as in judo/jujutsu/aikido/et al), the purpose of kata is the same- it is a pattern from which to model one's own technique.

    When I use the term "pattern", I am using it like a pattern for cutting pieces of material to make a garment. One can always take the pieces of material they've cut from a pattern, and alter them to suit their own preferences.
     
  5. blasto

    blasto 7 of 9 (lives)

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    Mar 8, 2000
    Atlanta GA
    In the Bujinkan, kata are made up of waza (techniques).

    That being said, I feel there are many things kata can teach. Flow, strategy, precision, & etc.

    As with everything, strive for balance in all aspects of your training.
     
  6. Skpotamus

    Skpotamus

    238
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    Oct 14, 2003
    Terre Haute, IN
    Let me offer a slightly differing opinion....

    I came up in a TKD school where we did a lot of Bunkai work. We would try to break down our forms and bring out the self defense techniques inside. Most of the moves from our traditional forms were pretty shaky at best. yes some are viable techniques that coudl work, most are fanciful ones that work well on cooperative opponents.

    Forms are a good tool where partner practice is limited, IE, you don't have a lot of people to workout with. You just have to sift through all the BS to find the gems.

    But..... when partners are available to practice with, the forms tend to take away from practical training sessions.

    The top fighters in non point fighting competitions do NOT use forms as they are done in most martial arts systems. Most self defense training experts look down their noses at them too. I think they do have soem value, but only when other options are not available.

    Good training....
     
  7. seed

    seed

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    Aug 3, 2004
    This is interesting to me as I have just started to learn Kempo. I am a little annoyed at the attention given to kata, when I want practicality to the utmost. I understand that I don't understand much, but doing all the series of memorized moves in sequence seems more traditional than practical. I really like it when we go to practical application drills and can't wait to spar. I want to learn proper technique for sure, but don't see why so much time has to be spent on "clock dances" and such. I do them to the best of my ability...but I am gonna go crazy if they remain heavy in the curriculum.
     
  8. bluemeanie

    bluemeanie Lospeedhidrag

    I like doing them, but I'm glad that the total number of them that I have to learn has been reduced from 12 to 4 at my school. Bunkai are limited to those that are more effective, and we spend more time working wrestling takedowns and defenses.
     
  9. brock sampson

    brock sampson

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    Aug 15, 2005
    SE Georgia
    My thinking is that kata are valuable when done solo, but are immensely MORE so when trained with a partner or two. I just want to point out that a form which has a "count" of say 30 moves does not have to be limited to 30 techniques. I think of them more as a guide than a stencil, for application purposes.

    Seed, remember that those practical application drills have to come from somewhere! There is so much depth within the forms of most styles. Don't lose all the other lessons because you see it as a single set of techniques for a single specific purpose.
     
  10. T. Harless

    T. Harless

    930
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    Jan 14, 2003
    WV
    Kata is exactly like dry firing a Glock. It's simulated training. It's mussle memory. It's technique. If it's looked at a just memorized stuff, the point has been missed.
     
  11. habu3

    habu3

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    Aug 17, 2005
    Northern VA
    I agree. Kata is like doing a dry fire. I've been training for a long time and find traditional kata personally useful as a way to focus and to work out the kinks. We also teach bunkai but lean toward the more practical application of the techniques. For self defense we have developed a series of 2 person kata that is a give and take on multiple types of attacks and defenses (punches, kicks, hand grab, front and back choke, knife, gun, ground techniques, etc.)

    But it does all come down to what is useful in a real self defense situation. My thoughts are that you use whatever works but it won't work if you have never practiced it. Kata is the chance to practice.
     
  12. Skpotamus

    Skpotamus

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    Oct 14, 2003
    Terre Haute, IN
    Kata will make you better at doing kata, and a "more well rounded martial artist", but it will not help your fighting skills in any significant way. You would be better served by doing some real "dry fire" exercises for H2H such as shadow boxing, bag work, or partner drilling (if partner available).
     
  13. T. Harless

    T. Harless

    930
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    Jan 14, 2003
    WV
    I disagree totally. Just like dry firing isn't live firing, kata isn't fighting/sparing, but also just like dry firing, in my mind there's no question, 10,000 times doing something in practice will make the real deal better, faster, more accurate.
     
  14. D.S.Brown

    D.S.Brown Millennium Member

    790
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    Dec 24, 1999
    North Texas
    I have limited martial arts experience. I have practiced under some great sensei's in Shotokan Karate, Aikido, and Eishin Ryu Iaido. I have also dabbled in boxing. All of these have Kata and Waza. Yes even Western boxing with it's foot work and punching combinations equal Kata. Simply put I think Kata represent the basics and are good at building muscle memory and a sound foundation. Anyone who read Funikoshi's "Karate, My Way of Life," will understand that his warriorship was built upon the foundations of martial skill which were developed by mastering the basics found in kata's. This was done over a lifetime thus I find it amusing that many students want to know the "down and dirty" now.

    Something that must be understood is that these systems that we train in are and were deadly. There was a real fear that others might learn your techniques and use them against you. Thus kata have a tactical application altogether different from the bunkai that should be emphasized. In modern parlance we might say that they seperate the posers and players from the truly dedicated. Those that want to learn only the most "deadly" techniques RIGHT NOW will not have the patience to last and they will leave. Seriously as a modern or even feudal sensei would you want such a student that lacked such conviction. Even dedicated practice may not afford you the secrets of the art(s) that you practice. In may systems there were systems within systems, slight but tactically advantageous differences in techniques and practiced kata. This level was developed for the truly gifted, devoted, and loyal students of a given sensei.

    So why is Kata important, because it connects us to ancient traditions. When done correctly with discipline it is the direct connection to an art that must have proved itself useful and worthy to have lasted hundreds and in some cases thousands of years on different battlefields to the present. Said another way, kata is what seperates the sham teach-me-the-secret-death-touch-in-six-months-or-I-am-outta-here martial arts from the real deal, the undisciplined thugs from the warriors.

    I shall be on My Way. If your looking for something that approaches mastery, you will find it by seeing where I am standing and finding the spot directly opposite of me on the other side of the universe. There it is.

    Best,
    Dave
     
  15. Skpotamus

    Skpotamus

    238
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    Oct 14, 2003
    Terre Haute, IN
    Kata do connect you to the traditions of your art, traditions are useful for advancement in that art, but do not help you when a 240lb man decides to rape your wife or child and you're the only thing standing between him and the ones you love. If you want to advance in your art, study kata and enjoy it (I do enjoy doing my forms adn teaching them, but I don't delude myself into thinking that practicing them is going to help me in a fight), if you want to develop fighting skills, practice on bags and most importantly, partners, and go live as much as possible so you can react to a live person.

    Dry firing a glock and practicing kata are not the same, but are somewhat similar in principle. Dry firing helps your trigger technique form, it's a tool, however, this helps your shot grouping, but does little to nothing for your tactical training, your movement, your ability to hit while moving, your reloading, your abilty to judge a shoot/no shoot situation, your ability to draw while fighting off a knife or club, or your multiple target acquisition skills. These are a different skill sets that do relate to your dry firing, and are certainly helped by dry firing, but dry firing alone will not build these skills.

    Kata are somewhat similar, through kata students are taught the basics of their art, and are connected to the traditions of that art. Kata practice can help you develop your form and technique, however, these are the "ideal" technqiues that you do not see in a live encounter. They teach you nothng about distance, timing, defense, movement, setups, or follow throughs on live targets. While you might look pretty doing your katas and impress some people with them, they alone will not help you develop skills that you will need if you are in a fight.

    I again point to the top fighters in the world today, they don't practice katas before a big fight, they work on live drills with patners, and on pads. They shadow spar and work on movement, reacting to your opponent, timing and distance that only work with a live partner can give you.

    I also point to the schools that are known for their self defense skills. They all seem to universally reject kata and pre programmed technqieus for individual attacks, and teach their students a basic skill set, and then have the students work with live partners to develop the attributes that are necessary to develop your fighting abilities.

    Kata can be a useful tool for the beginning student to develop basic techniques and to progress in their belt ranking systems, but there are far better ones out there to develop fighting attributes.
     
  16. brock sampson

    brock sampson

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    Aug 15, 2005
    SE Georgia
    I agree that you will not learn all there is to know by practicing kata alone. Nothing prepares you for real combat like realistic combat training. However, I still feel there is a lot to be learned in kata that will prove useful and to totally overlook this possibility is to miss these lessons.
    "They teach you nothng about distance, timing, defense, movement, setups, or follow throughs on live targets." - I happen to think all these things may be learned with proper practice and instruction.
    "..they alone will not help you develop skills that you will need if you are in a fight."- Very true.
    I'm not trying to change anyone's mind or devalue any method of training. I'm just want to point out that these elements are there, just not as obvious at first. It is much easier to quickly see the benefits of contact sparring than those of repetitive bunkai forms.
     
  17. Sanchin

    Sanchin

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    Aug 15, 2005
    Arkansas,U.S.
    Kata is only as valuable as you make it. If you believe you will be better served doing bagwork and sparring by all means do it. If you believe you can drill the kata into real applications on a resisting opponent which WILL help you in a fight then do that. It's only as good as you make it and as good as the one teaching it.
    Alot of people have jumped on the mma bandwagon and dismissed kata as useless or not important,shame,they'll be missing out.
     
  18. Skpotamus

    Skpotamus

    238
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    Oct 14, 2003
    Terre Haute, IN
    I do have an honest question for those of you who feel that kata are valuable training for fighting skills development. How does kata improve dynamic skills such as timing, distance, defense, setups and other variables that are by nature dependant on others for your reactions and movements? Visualization is important in solo trianing, but you cannot develop certain attributes without partners.

    I've studied traditional martial arts for the last 13 years (same school I did all of my fighting out of), during that time it was understood that kata were useful to teach students basic techniques and the foundations of the movements in the style, advancement through belt ranks as well as connecting to the traditions of our styles' past (Chung Do Kwan, TKD), but only through the use of partner drills did the techniques and movements found in kata gain meaning. Katas were taught to us as a beginners model, then the partner drills were designed to be the evolutionary step between the teaching phase and the skill building phases of your training. Then onto live drillign with a resisting partner, our time to "stop looking perfect and get realistic about our training", as our grandmaster once said at our school, (not verbatim what he said, but his english wasn't teh best at the tiem)
     
  19. brock sampson

    brock sampson

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    Aug 15, 2005
    SE Georgia
    I've always been amazed at how much all things are the same when refined enough. I think that applies to the progress of this discussion.
    I do not know much about your specific styles' kata, or the way your school uses them to train, but I'm sure it is similar. This may be the difference in our points. We train kata in several ways, only one of them is solo. Working through these movements with partners really opens your eyes to techniques and applications that are not always obvious by yourself. Finding them is a challenge sometimes.
    Timing techniques are learned in the rythyms of combinations in the kata, much like combinations in line drills.
    Distance and setups are immediately apparent when you add an opponent or two to the mix. As you said, the key is visualization, and proper instruction of course.
    The katas can look totally different when using the techniques against actual partners, it's the theory and lessons learned that are meant to carry through. There is no point to using a set sequence of moves in a combat situation. I think this is the point you have been making. This may be why your school, and many others, choose to emphasize forms less than some. If you are training for tournament situations this only makes sense.
    Once they stop looking like precise and counted movements, are they still kata or have we moved on to a different drill? It sounds like our schools train in similar manners, we just define kata a little differently, or maybe it's just me!
    Forms will not teach you everything, but there is more to them than the initial appearance.