Sensei Ireland Says
I have heard it said that kata is a waste of time, and it has no benefit to learning karate or defending yourself. If your thoughts on kata are such, then you are correct, since you will never benefit from what kata has to offer. It is not my purpose to lead anyone to believe that I have the martial arts knowledge to fully understand the reason for the development of kata. But I believe that the masters of all traditional styles of martial arts developed and incorporated kata in their training for a reason. All I can do is put forth my ideas and allow you to apply or reject what is relevant to you.
Kata by definition is a formal exercise with prearranged movements. As we begin training, the kata are seemingly simple and beginning students will walk through them with little effort. The kata will not appear to have any life or purpose and the practitioner will see little or no benefit to it. Kata allows us to teach students how to put several different movements and techniques together. As the student develops their karate techniques, i.e. strikes, blocks and taisabaki, it is up to the instructor to ensure they apply these new skills to their kata. Now we see the kata begin to take on a life as the student develops, and their skill increases.
It is the instructor’s duty to start teaching the student how to use the movements in kata to develop power for the techniques by having their strikes and blocks land just before their body movement stops, plus using the twists and turns in kata to generate power for throws and escapes, as well as strikes and blocks.
Kata also teaches the student to focus. The student must learn to concentrate on the movements required to perform the kata, as well as the proper focus of their techniques, all the while achieving a balance between focus and zanshin, which means ‘total awareness’. Kata once learned is not restrictive, as the student can then start examining where he could go and what different techniques can be done from any point within the kata.
I feel that kata gives the practitioner an opportunity to practice techniques that cannot be done to another student without causing grave injury. But, the student must learn to imagine their opponent, and visualize what is happening at that moment to cause the response applied in the kata, as well as the results of the action. Not only is kata about striking and blocking; it is, in my mind, more about moving efficiently. We all have seen any number of martial arts movies with an array of fight scenes. The martial artists in these movies have taken kata to the apex of their ability. They are performing a prearranged set of movements to produce the visual reality of a fight. When a karateka can make the viewer visualize his opponent then he has given his kata life and mastered it.
I use kata in the classroom as a tool to help me determine what techniques and skills the student needs to learn or perfect, as well as a way to teach how to move their body to learn taisabaki. As I try to understand the techniques in a kata I also strive to perfect the movement of my body to produce as much power possible for the technique with the least amount of energy spent. It will be a life long pursuit, but for the true martial artist, Karate is about the journey - there is not an end to what can be discovered. Don’t discard kata as one of the tools available to you for your quest for knowledge and understanding.
Bill Ireland Sensei
The Tradition Athens Alabama
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