"Its an antiquated teaching practice!"
"Time would be better spent learning techniques!"
I've hear all of these things about kata and, they usually come from people that don't do kata as part of the martial art.
For those who don't know, kata is the Japanese word for "shape" or "form." In martial arts, it is prearranged set of movements designed to teach techniques, principles, and acclimatize your body to the movements necessary for your martial art. When the general public thinks of someone practicing karate, they probably think of someone performing a solo kata. My particular style of aikido, Chendokan Aikido, doesn't have a lot of that type of kata, and in fact, I don't know how you could teach aikido with kata like that. Half of the idea of aikido is to feel the motion from your partner and react to that. We do have weapon kata for jo (short staff), tanto (knife), and ken (sword). What aikido does have, and many martial arts if you look, is two person kata. We practice specific movements, from specific attacks in a formalized pattern. Sounds like a kata to me, and I think that many martial arts have this type of kata. In fact, in our system, this type of two man kata, is much more prevalent than the solo kata, but they are kata none the less.
Kata can have many benefits...if it is done mindfully. If you are going through the motions, then yes it is pointless, and you might as well be dancing. In fact, anything you do without intent behind it, really is pointless. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you perform your kata.
|Motobu Chooki performing kata|
PracticeOn the jujutsu side of our art, we do have kata, so I asked my instructor what he thought the point of kata was. He answered, "It's was a way to practice martial arts by yourself." I've always liked that answer. Kata should allows you to run through the ideas, movements, and theorem of your art. It can be a way to practice your art when you're away from the dojo. When you're on vacation, or snowshoeing in the mountains (see www.ikigaiway.com), or whatever, you can do your martial arts.
Fluidity of MovementOne of the major benefits that I've found in kata is control of my own body. I picked up a saying from my friend Chris who picked it up in the US Air Force. He says "Slow is smooth. Smooth is Fast." I tend to agree with that statement. By working on fluidity, you relax antagonistic muscles, and over time, learn to be faster.
Power GenerationNotice I don't call it Strength Generation. Strength and Power can be different things. I've found that in aikido, many of the most powerful throws I've ever been able to do, require the least amount of strength. Kata allows for experimentation of how to generate power. Two man kata is much more useful for this, but solo kata can accomplish this as well.
As part of the idea of power generation is the idea of breath control. Many kata have certain ways to breath during specific motions. Aikido teaches to breath out on throws, and breath in while receiving the attack. This creates a whole body motion of the throw. Karate, or other hard style systems have similar breathing rules. The whole breathing regulation thing is also a side handed trick to learn a way to keep calm in a stressful situation.
Doctrine, Strategy, and Technique
|Iain Abernathy in a two man kata|