In these days of mixed martial arts karate katas can seem to be an unrealistic ritual with little or no relevance to a street brawl. Are these fixed patterns of martial movements of any use in a real fight? How do they contribute to karate skills? Are karate katas really worth learning?
As solo practice for the long term student kata is hard to beat. Balance posture coordination and agility can be vastly improved by regular kata training. We all need a discipline in our day and to be able to just spend time on your own, running through your Katas and doing your own thing is character building.
Kata can be practiced as a method of stretching and balancing. When done with speed and full force it is excellent exercise. With regular practice posture will improve and techniques start to become second nature. When then with a training partner you won’t have to worry about your movements
Being correct as you have been polishing them at home.
Excellent exercise routines.
On one very practical level katas are exercise routines. To know even a few set sequences of punches spins jumps kicks and turns that are second nature to you is a skill worth having. To have some katas to polish perfect or just to see if you can remember them makes it easier and more likely that you will exercise between karate classes.
Boxers know the benefits of shadow boxing and see it as a valuable tool in preparing to face a fit mean and determined opponent in the ring. The experienced boxer also knows the value of running and skipping for stamina and bag work to really pack a punch. In a similar way kata while being a valuable karate tool, will not on it’s own prepare you for a fight.
How many kata do you need?
While many major styles of karate have fifteen or more kata, there is an old saying , one kata every three years. To know too many katas is to risk never knowing any to a great depth.
There’s a lot in a little and a little in a lot. Wise saying.
The other side of the coin is that to know a larger variety of katas means that you will be able to put your body through a greater range of movements in a smooth powerful and controlled manner. As with most things in life it’s about getting the right balance for you. The right balance for you will depend on being realistic about the time and energy that you are going to give long term to your martial arts training.
Self expression and martial vigour.
Many of the earlier Chinese katas or forms,which most karate claims to spring from, were inspired by watching wild animals. Often an animal such as a stallion facing a challenge from one of their own kind will snort stamp gallop rear up and slash out with flying hooves. It is obviously saying do you really want to come and get this boy! Often the challenger will turn tail and run and neither one gets hurt.
Kata when really mastered will express power and vigour leaving any onlooker in no doubt as to the fighting ability of the preformer. Just as a poem spoken out loud can be entertaining and even captivating, a kata can be poetry in motion.
To see any art such as gymnastics or ice skating preformed at world class level is an inspiring sight. If it happens to be an art form that you are well versed in the effect is tenfold and the pleasure far greater.
A big trap is to see a kata that you are not familiar with preformed by a world champion and want to learn that particular kata. The world champion trains so hard that they could make your least liked kata look awesome. The best lesson to take is to copy their determination to excel rather than to learn the particular kata that they happen to have picked for that day.
Kata can become a part of you.
If you train really hard for a good number of years karate katas can become something that you will never forget. If at any age you can at the drop of a hat get up and go through a routine of martial arts movements with a flurry of punches and a couple of loud shouts then there’s more to you than meets the eye. Kata well learnt never leaves you as it becomes part of you. Maybe you have become too old for sparring but your never too old to be a character!