What is Kata?
Every movement has a function and meaning, and every kata is designed to teach particular techniques, movements, stances, and fighting strategies. Every kata must be practiced as if engaged in a real fight; with spontaneity, total commitment in blocks and attacks, and the feeling that the next imaginary attack may come from any direction. In this way the kata becomes more than just a performance for others; the student learns to harness his or her fighting spirit.
The benefits of kata training are more subtle than simple exercises to improve fighting skills. Kata are a form of shadowboxing yet they force you to practice techniques other than your favorite two techniques and to consider different perspectives. Kata are great templates for self-training and are great exercise. Kata are also very beautiful, when performed with skill, and may make you to feel as though you are preserving a thing of elegance and danger, with ties to a spiritual past.
When you are alone, and you wish to practice karate, it is pretty simple to choose one of the kata you know and simply repeat it 20 or 30 times to get in a good workout. Kata contain between 20 and 65 techniques, so performing one 15 times or more usually requires quite a bit of time and energy. You can vary the workout in chunks depending upon the length of the kata you choose to practice, and you can personalize the intensity of your workout by performing the kata with varying styles of execution. Kata are pre-programmed exercises specifically geared for individual or group practice. Practicing kata in a group can be a very satisfying experience as well, as it gives everyone a predetermined set of movements to follow, and you can learn the movements from each other while turning in all directions.
The kata expose us to techniques and movements that may have never occurred to us, and the training of something new helps us overcome training plateaus. For example, where a boxer will simply invent his own shadow boxing, a kata follows someone else’s idea of shadow boxing. Kata forces us to do something that was not our own creation. If we perform only actions that are comfortable for us, we are not challenged as we are when learning something new. However, if we are forced to train through someone else’s footsteps, then we learn new skills that we probably never would have thought of or attempted.
The beauty of someone performing a kata well is difficult to describe. Is it an acquired taste, or is it something universal that anyone can appreciate? Those that aspire to be performance artists as well as able to defend themselves find all of these things in the kata.
For more information on each Kata please follow the links provided.