What is a Kata?
The word Kata comes from Japanese and it means form in english, the Kata is meant to represent a fight that is taking place between you and your imaginary opponent, the moves are meant to exhibit what would happen if you were in a fight, the Kata is supposed to hone and tune your punches and kicks, the Kata is meant to be done at full pace with intent.
I first had the chance to see Kata being done when I was 15 years old in those days not many people had heard of either Karate or Kung Fu, the arts that I had heard of were boxing and wrestling, wrestling used to be on the telly on a Saturday afternoon and my dad and I used to watch it, I believed everything that I saw and in fact my dad still does, he thinks that the wrestlers (pro that is) are in real cofrontation and that when they fly through the air when “thrown” by their opponent that the thrower is throwing without assitance from his or her “opponent” When you are young which I was both when wrestling was on the telly and when I first witnessed Karate everything seems amazing and new, but as you mature you should be able to see the wood for the trees and see what is actually going on.
When first started to learn my first Kata which was called pinan nidan I put all my effort into it and I really enjoyed doing it, I thought to myself I really am a Karate martial artist I couldn’t wait to show off to my mates what I had been tought, I didn’t hurt them or anything like that, I just had to let them see what I was no capable of doing, (I think they were impressed), when I would go out with them I would do high kicks and say to them I bet you that I can kick that door frame or you stand on tha chair and I bet I can kick your hand, I loved it and I must say that without Karate I would not have known how to do those things.
I believe that Pinan Nidan is a Kata that is the first Kata for more than one martial arts assosiation, the Kata has got some kicks and some punches and some blocks, the video above shows a Wado Ryu karateka doing Pinan Nidan, the style that I did was Wado Ryu too, in the Kata the moves look very smooth and very crisp, and when done a pace it is very nice to watch, it is a good excercise tool and it helps you to focus your mind.
The Katas in Karate tend to get longer and more complex as you learn and as your experience grows, I used to love doing Kata because it made me feel tha I was “Doing” Karate. The other thing that I liked to do was spar with the others in the Dojo but my first experience of sparring was with one of the top black belts in the club, I remember we were taking quite easy but at the same time I wanted to put the moves that I had learned from my Pinan Nidan Kata into action and then from what seemed like nowher I was hit on the forehead and knocked to the ground, the light bulb went on in my head, I was doing what I thought was in the Kata and yet I was hit with this revers heal kick, mmm, that got me thinking, when will I be able to use my blocks and strikes that I have been learning in my Kata?
When I had fnished my sparring session I sat down and watched the black belts at work doing their Katas and then sparring, I was looking for how they used the moves from the Katas that they had learned, because they had learned more Katas than me they must know more ways to apply the Kata techniques, when the black belts did set attacks and set response they looked crisp and clean and effecient, but something kept bugging me, when are they going to put the arm locks on and use one punch strikes to get their opponents out of there?
It worked in set patterns but not in free sparring, I thought maybe they are just not experienced enough so I stated to watch other martial artists from different clubs and they too seemed to do one thing in the Kata and something way different in live sparring, what’s going on, my instructor told me that you have to first learn the basics before you can do advanced stuff, OK I sort of get that but what I didn’t get then I still don’t gey now is why would youd train one way then fight another?
Another answer I got from my instructor was that the moves in the Kata have been around for years and they they were proven in battle, how could my instructor know that when he wasn’t there? I think he was told that by his instructor and his instructor was told tha by his instructor and this I think is how the Katas have managed to survive for this long.
The video above shows some sparring and I can’t see any Pinan Nidan in it, it looks like a watered down version of kick boxing, so I can’t see why you would need to train in Kata that has no connection to the way that you spar, if you were taking your car driving test why would you not learn to drive in a car, you wouldn’t learn to ride a bike and then believe that because you are on the road riding a bike it is as good as driving a car, I have struggled with this in not just Karate but in other martial arts that I have trained in, Wing chun for example, you learn how to punch chain punces and then when you spar you do kick boxing yet again, this becomes evem more noticeable when you put two different styles together to spar.
Kung Fu vs Karate
In the video below are two martial artists one is a KunFu master and the other is a Karate master, this may sound daft when you are told to believe that there are moves in Karate that distinguish it from Fu, I have been studying and practicing martial arts for decades and I am looking at this with a very critical eye, and I cannot see the difference, if they were both wearing the same colour clothes I would have no idea, so does this mean that when these arts are done in a natural way that you in asense end up with one art? If this is the case why are there so many sections and sub sections when in the end ther is only so many moves that actually work, I don’t see Tiger claw, I don’t see Praying mantis, I don’t see Drunken man, do you?
Are we all just little wide eyed kids wishing that there was more to the martial arts than the reality that we can actually see? What is a Kata
What is a Kata
With all this in mind it is hard to find a reason to do a Kata that has no useable moves in it, maybe that old Kata need to be brougt up to date with meaningful useable moves similar to the Kata tha boxers use, they shadow box in random unhidered uncomplicated ways, they don’t put the restrictons on that the martial arts masters do, I know that learning the basics is very important but they need to relate to what you are doing not just be a routine that has no real value in the real world of combat, It reminds me of when I used to watch pro wrestling and believe that it was real, it was not, and I have grown up a bit. Some freids of mine used talk to me about a Karate master that was the master of about forty styles of martial arts, they would tell me tales of how fantastic he was and that he was the greatest matrtial artist to ever walk the earth, thaey said that he was a reincarnated Samurai warrior, they believed him until recently he publicly admitted to his high ranking black belts that he was a sham and that what he had taught them for years since the 1970’s was all crap and that he was now bored with it all, almost all the black belts now feel that they had wasted their time and a grreat deal of money following a svengali type bully who fooled them all, and made them believe thjat their loyalty to him was more important than their families or freinds, je told them that if they want true enlightenment and wish to gain true warrior spirit they must follow his teachings. Some of my freinds realized sooner than others, some luckily could not afford to be Samurai warriors and some just felt totally used and abused, I went to some of the classes but these were held by the black belts that he had in his franchise, and to meet with him was only possible once you had your black belt.