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THE KATA
Contributed by York Karate Do

"The katas are the essence of karate; without them karate would be the mere learning of various fighting and self-defense techniques, expressing nothing and allowing for no aesthetic development. Katas are the distilled, concentrated wisdom, understanding and experience of hundreds of great karate masters, translated into a language of rhythmical movement, breathing, and peak awareness. When one begins to understand them, one glimpses a new world of untold internal riches."

The Karate Dojo
Sensei Peter Urban

Sometimes defined as a set pattern of techniques both offensive and defensive which simulates a confrontation with multiple attackers, the kata is in fact much more than that. It pits the karate-ka against what Sensei Alvarez (Sensei's Sensei) calls "your toughest opponent...Yourself". The kata teaches you many things, most of its lessons have to do with yourself. As Sensei Don Warrener says in Traditional Goju Ryu Karate "When doing a kata your opponent is you. You make or break the form. You are in control." The kata challenges you to reach for perfection, to surpass what you think of as your limits, to exercise your mind and body at full capacity.

The best way to learn about kata is to practice - over and over and over...but here are a few things to keep in mind."You cannot be successful unless you know what you are doing and why." Bunkai, which means, "searching for meaning" or 'search for truth' is an important part of kata practice. It is important to explore the practical applications of each and every move in your katas. Keep in mind as well that there is more than one possible application for each move. Sensei Merriman, head of the American World team, renowned kata practitioner and coach says that although we should be careful to preserve the integrity of the katas we learn, we should be creative in our interpretation of them. We should look beyond the obvious interpretation and search for the hidden techniques buried in the katas.

Kata and Pressure Points
by George Dillman from Advanced Pressure Point Fighting

Kata can be compared to a song. The meaning of the song is stated in the lyrics and expressed in the melody. The meaning of kata is, in its application for real fighting, the expression of that application in physical movements of the form.

For most ancient masters of karate, kata was the very essence of combat because they knew not only the outward form but also the application. The kata was alive for the masters because they saw in their minds the exact application of the movements as they performed them. Put together, mental image and physical performance insured that the masters were truly able to fight.

This is why the martial artist of old always insisted that kata alone was sufficient, and that free-sparring was unnecessary. Kata alone was sufficient because these martial artists knew what they were doing.

Principles of Kata Interpretation

No Block Rule: simply put the movement of kata are not defensive. There are no downward blocks, blocking is a completely natural action. The movements called blocks in kata don't work as blocks - until they are interpreted as offensive actions.
Pressure Point Rule: Every kata is a pressure point technique. The questions every student should ask is: "What pressure points and I using with this movement?"
Two Hand Rule: Simply put, there is no wasted part of a kata. Every part of the action is there for a reason. Both hands in the kata action move because both hands are combative in the function.
Multiple Interpretation Rule: There are several interpretations of a kata move, at least three.
Direction of Movement: The direction of the movement in the kata indicates the angle the defender assumes in relation to the attacker to issuer successful application of the technique.
Visualization Rule: when performing kata , always visualize the opponent.

The Meaning of Bunkai
by Sensei Merriman


 

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