By Sensei Neil Prime
In some styles of Martial arts, kata is the first and foremost of importance. As a matter of fact,some styles only practice kata without any sparring as they feel that if you seriously work yoursequences in the true meaning of kata, then you should obviously be proficient when the timecomes to defend yourself. Other styles feel this is completely ridiculous and practice no katawhat-so-ever.
There are as many different reasons for doing or not doing kata as there are styles of martial arts.Although there is certain bunkai (applications) to guide us through the kata, these forms can be(and should be) a personal expression of what that individual believes the real reasons behind each movement of the kata hold.
In Wado Kai Karate there are very few katas as compared with some other styles (especiallykung fu or tai chi). The reason for this small number of katas is the founder of our style, Mr.Hirihoni Otsuka, felt that if you were going to perform kata, you should do it to perfection. Hefelt that learning too many kata would limit your ability to perform these kata the way theyshould be.
All your techniques in kata should be executed with the same explosiveness and determinationas you would show if you were actually sparring. This not only makes it more challenging uponyourself physically, but mentally you are training your thought process to react in harmony withyour physical movement thus simulating a sparring situation thus creating your habits, bothgood and bad.
Tradition kata should be differentiated from some of the newer forms of "so called kata". I saythis not to be closed minded, but if you have seen some of the newer or homemade forms thatare being performed at open tournaments you will understand why I feel that a gymnasticsroutine, although may be physically trying, really has nothing to do with real sparring.
Even when you look at traditional kata you should analyze what you are doing. Let's face it,some of the technical applications are obsolete as far as todays' fighting methods have changedand improved. This is also true in the way we spar. You will spar in a point tournamentdifferently than you will if you were defending yourself on the street.
This does not necessarily mean that what you are doing is wrong. Katas are a compilation of thebasic techniques of the style and by repeating them over and over again you are forcing yourbody to remember the desired sequences and body movement that you want to further developinto actual sparring techniques.
All in all, kata is a very important part of the traditional karate systems. If nothing else, it showsthat there is a thought process involved in what we do and there is some kind of regimental orderin which we operate because karate builds character, and that is why we do what we do.
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