Kyokushin-Kai Karate is a martial art that prides itself in leaving blood, sweat and tears on the dojo floor through intense drills known as Ki-hon, and sparring (Kumite) Ki-hon focuses on conditioning your strength and technique through intense training repetition of blocks, punches, kicks and other techniques. Kumite is the final culmination of your techniques, stance and movement against experienced opponents who will test your might. Both Ki-hon and Kumite offer the heart of karate that is necessary, it is missing the essential half that is not often portrayed. It is missing the soul of karate that is known as Kata.
Although there is MUCH to say about this fascinating subject of Kata, I hope to give a brief overview of why I believe kata is essential in Karate.
For those who are unfamiliar with Kata (or martial art forms in general) they are a set of choreographed movements in a specific order with a detailed technique per each move.
Kata is what I consider to be the soul of Karate. We learn forms that have been passed down from Japanese teachers to students. It is history of martial arts that we become a part of to keep its proud culture alive and strong. Once you learn these forms you are continuing the spirit of karate and will find yourself in a state where your body, mind and soul are working together in complete harmony.
Newcomers often find kata abstract and confusing to do in Karate. As a result, kata is at times perceived as unimportant and impractical in regards to self-defense. Which is the furthest from the truth! Katas were designed to have the most effective and efficient techniques to learn. But these techniques are cryptic and can only be realized through a very close examination of these movements.
I often explain those who are confused by Kata by comparing them to a classic works of literature. Even though we may understand what it says, there are rich complexities that are hidden beneath the surface. Though we may struggle and get frustrated in learning a new thing we don’t fully understand, it’s important that we empty our cup and learn with an open mind.
The look of eureka when I see people understanding the true meaning of Kata never gets old! As they realize that these strange movements are much more effective when demonstrated with a partner who knows the various applications from Kata.
For when they appreciate kata, it shows they have the full potential to be a whole-rounded practitioner, who like us, will continue carrying the torch of martial arts proudly.