Kata - as a vital training tool

In my opinion kata is a very effective training tool on a multitude of levels. If nothing else, it is an excellent solo training exercise for building anaerobic and aerobic fitness. Try doing 40 seiyunchin kata in a row. Boxers do exercises like skipping and shadow boxing because they are good for fitness and coordination etc.. But skipping etc. have nothing on kata. This is because the low stances and dynamic tension in kata come nearest (in solo practice) to mimicking the tension and stress your body is under in combat. Notice I said "nearest" - nothing will replicate the stress of real fighting. Come on folks, do the challenge. Can you manage 40 full power seiyunchin kata in a row? And that is just for starters. The most I have ever done of a kata (our Fukyugata ichi) is over 300 in a row. In any event, kata does not replace kicking bags, sparring, etc. It complements it.

From a technical perspective, kata is also an important tool for grooving combinations and tenshin/taisabaki (body evasion) — particularly when you combine this with embu (2 person forms such as the ones we have included in our syllabus).

Talking about “grooving” reminds me of the old karate maxim "mizu no kokoro" which means "mind like water". This concept is found in one of our dojo kun: "a tranquil and alert mind produces reflex thought and action".

When you look at a top tennis player executing a complex series of returns you realise that he/she is not consciously "thinking" of what to do – the reaction is too fast for conscious thought. Yet at the same time the movements are effective as well as creative.

This is because the creative/lateral thinking part of the brain (generalised by many as the right hemisphere) does not correspond with the part of the brain responsible for cognitive reasoning. Yet it is precisely this part of the brain we must use in responding to a threat. You simply don't have time to think "he's about to punch me in the face, so I'll do a sideways tai sabaki with a age uke, followed by a chudan gyaku zuki/mae geri combo". Instead you respond reflexively. If you train long and hard enough, your body will groove responses which your body will utilise in its reflex response. This is partly why we use embu/2 person forms. Grooving endless repetitions of realistic taisabaki with a counter sets you up for appropriate reflex response.

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic