“Regardless of how many kata a person may know, if his training in them is
insufficient, they will be useless.”
Mabuni Kenwa – 1889-1952 A principle founder of modern karate and
originator of the Shito School of Karatedo.
Kata means form. For many years, all major and fundamental points, blocks, strikes, kicks, punches and basic techniques have been formed. Katas have series of points and techniques selected concisely and each has a specific and deep inner meaning.
Kata is the base and point of karate. There are primary principles and fundamentals of Karate in Katas that briefly are the position of body, stances, foot works, tai sabaki, changing directions, timing, breathing, kiai, as well as a correct mental behavior.
Long ago, kata was practiced secretly and was not common. At that time kata was the only form of karate learning and this can reveal the importance of kata.
Kata alone is a combat against some imaginary opponents on whom karate techniques are done. Therefore, the morals of the individuals during kata are of great importance. Practicing kata continuously, you will realize the real meaning of karate techniques. This knowledge allows you to show correct reaction automatically and in any situation against any attack. Moreover, kata consists of a kumite strategy. Practicing a kata, one should constantly focus on his opponent(s) and do the movements with the highest strength and care, as his life (being alive) depends on doing the techniques in the best possible way. This sort of practicing unifies body and mind. In other words, we can call it feeling, touching and living of kata. However, it has to be noted that some techniques are dangerous but practicing them in kata gives you a control of power and therefore, you gain enough power to control these techniques before using them in kumite. Katas practiced concisely and correctly, teach the trainer the real purpose of master in creating and doing them. That’s why kata is counted as one of the most important points in karate.
Some katas are performed under the same name but differently. This is due to the fact that some masters have made some changes in kata on the basis of their own specific philosophy. As said before, in the past, the main axis of karate practice was kata as it was done to use techniques in attack and defense. Beauty in performing kata was not considered. The point was kata target.
There are some katas in which the strikes of fingers are used such as: chintei, unsu, and… They give effective strikes to the sensitive spots of the opponent’s body. The masters who had trained their fingers sufficiently invented these techniques. In any case, as these strikes were and are forbidden in combats and competitions, they are only used as one movement in one kata. Here, a very big difference is made between kata and kumite. As one of the karate masters said: “only those who have good observation, try to perform kata techniques in kumite and only these people take katas seriously.”
Generally, Japanese masters go after concentration, rhythm change, continuous movements etc, while in western countries, power, speed and beauty are taken into consideration. Even in some cases, the mental points of kata ate forgotten. The Easterns believe that martial arts should be practiced up to an old age and if possible to death. However, a 70-year-old man cannot practice as well as a 30 year old. On the other hand, the heart beat of those who practice kata in western styles increase. Medically and physically speaking, this sort of increase in heartbeat may be fatal and this is certainly not the aim of kata practice. Besides, technically speaking, there has to be a strong and stable position in which paying attention to Hara is necessary.
The katas, about sixty of which have come down to the present day, can be roughly divided into two groups. The first group are the katas that are seemingly simple but also exhibit grandeur, composure, and dignity. Through practice of this type of kata, the karateka can build up his physique, tempering his bones and forming strong muscles. The other group is appropriate for the acquisition of fast reflexes and quick movements.
Execution of each kata, thst is, the leg movements, is alone a predetermined performance line (Embusen). Though one practices without a visible opponent, he should have in mined “disposing of enemies” coming from four directions or eight directions- and the possibility of a changing performance line.
Since the katas contain all of the elements essential for exercising the whole body, they are ideal for that purpose. Practicing alone or in a group, anyone can follow this way, in accordance with his own level of ability and regardless of age.
It is through these formal exercises that the karateka can learn the art of self-defense, enabling him to face a dangerous situation naturally and efficiently. But the degree of skillfulness is the determining factor.
As said before, in Shitoryu style, there are a variety of katas, some are thought by Anko Itosu (Shuri-te) such as Hian, Basai, Kosokun, Chinto, etc, whose feature is quick movements, some by Kanryo Higaonna (Naha-te), such as Sanchin, Seisan, Seipai, Seienchin, Suparinpei, etc, whose emphasis is on forming muscles and strength. In these katas besides slow movements, there are quick movements too. There are also other katas devised by Kenwa Mabuni such as Shinpa, Juruko, etc, other by Aragaki (Tomari-te), such as Sochin, Unsu, Niseishi, etc….
Important points in performing kata.
There are some points and factors in performing kata, which are of great importance. Some of them are easy and clear. On the contrary some others are complicated. Years should be spent in order to get accustomed with them. The points are as follows:
- Kata has to be performed according to the fixed order. The number of the movements cannot be altered. Personal interpretation cannot be imposed either. The form and the order of movements cannot be changed. No mistake is accepted.
- The movement and change of direction have to be made exactly on the Embusen line of kata. In some styles (i.e. Shotokan), kata is finished on the very spot it has been started. However in shitoryu, some katas are not finished on the start spot, although the distance between start and finish spot might be slight (i.e. a step towards right or left or back).
- The meaning of each movement has to be understood and the movement itself has to be made correctly. The real application of each part of kata has to be practiced with the opponent seriously (bunkai).
- The speed of each kata has to be regarded. Some are quick and some are slow (even some movements in one kata are slow) and require concentration.
- The movements have to be made rhythmically. They are all in connection with one another. Usually, the end of one movement is the beginning of the next movement.
- While kata is performed rhythmically, some major points have to be regarded. These points that give kata dignity are as follows:
- Correct use of power, which means correct use of power in certain moments of each movement.
- Smoothness in movement related to speed (slow, quick).
- Flexibility of body related to contraction and expansion of muscles in accordance with the movement.
Different forms of kata practices
- Slow, without concentration (relax) performed as warm up.
- Quick, without concentration (relax) in order to keep the moments of kata in mind.
- Quick, powerful with Kime. The movements are performed one by one. This form is suitable in-group class.
- With the real speed and rhythm of kata and kime. This is the real kata the same as real combat.
- Slow, with contraction of muscles, performed as an exercise to strengthen the muscles.
- Slow, relax along with deep breathing, feeling Hara in each movement like Tai Chi Chuan.
- Symmetry movements, if kata is started from the left, try starting from the right.
- Converse performance (i.e. perform from the end to the beginning). This is done in advance level of kata practice.
- Selecting some parts of a kata and repeating them constantly.
- Close-eyed performing.
A number of things can be said about kata. Below you will find some points that help to better learning and performing of kata:
- Do not try to do all the movements quickly. It has to be noted that each movement requires its own speed and position.
- Lower the hips and have pressure on Hara, you can shorten the distance between your anus and navel.
- Close your mouth and prevent contracting the muscles of your face.
- Keep your body upright all the time.
- Move your whole body as a unit and not partly.
- Be fully aware of the connection between kata and practice and kumite.
- Practice over and over.
In this section, we are going to read about thirteen very fundamental points in kata that must be considered while practicing kata.
Yooi no kishin- Readiness, concentration, will, and determination against opponent before starting kata.
In’yo – Active and passive (i.e. knowing whether you are attacking or defending).
Chikara no kyojaku – Correct method in using power, the amount of power used for each kata movement and position.
Waza no kankyu – Speed used in each kata movement and position.
Tai no shinshoku – the amount of contraction and expansion for each movement.
Kokyu – Breathing, right exhalation and inhalation in each kata movement.
Chakugan – Look spot, considering the aim and destination of technique.
Kiai – Shout, in one or more certain points, shout shows the soul of fight of kata. Additionally, the whole conducted power is released.
Hyoshi – Rythm. Proper accentuation and flow of the movement of kata and each combination of kata.
Kime – Focal point or Focus refers to the concentration of all the energy of the body in the instant a particular technique( blocks, kicks, punches and…)makes contact with its target.
Antei – Balance. Stability, adjusting, figure and using the proper and correct stance in each movement.
Keitai no hoji – Using each technique in its proper place.
Zanshin – Being fully aware, being in guard position at the end of kata. Looking towards the side kata is finished.
Today we can see that many karatekas do not practice kata seriously and do not realize the usage of kata. In fact, it is true that kata will be useable only for those who have studied it deeply and have perfect recognition.
List of Shitoryu Katas
Click on details of some of the katas listed below;
- Juni No Kata details
- Heian Nidan details
- Heian Shodan details
- Heian Sandan details
- Heian Yondan details
- Heian Godan details
- Bassai Dai details
- Naifanchin Shodan details
- Seienchin details