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TMA UnderGround >> The Great Kata Debate


8/9/04 7:54 AM
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yusul
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Edited: 10-Aug-04 09:27 AM
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'I'm with g4l on this one. Most kata are of recent construction (last century or so) and exist pretty much as a QWERTY prinicple.' viewtype, you are incorrect. please look into hsing i, tai chi and some of the other chinese boxing forms. 'Are the other methods better? They are for everything except perhaps mediation.' well, at least in the internal arts, where movements aren't practice stiffly, the forms help develop traits like increasing circulation (helping health) weight shifting, smooth transition from move to move, mental calm, body mechanic awareness. however, forms were only part of the equation in chinese arts. in modern times, if only forms are practiced, the only benefits are health, thus why most tai chi isn't combat effective. however, viewtype, i'll give you this, when executing most karate and tkd forms, the practitioners are stiff and sound constipated. many practitioners will deny the stiffness probably because they don't have a good base for comparision. as a former tkd practitioner, the forms within karate and tkd imo are useless from a practical standpoint.
8/9/04 9:58 AM
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Willybone
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Edited: 09-Aug-04
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'Unless you believe in all the mumbo jumbo, spiritual, eastern philosophy bullshit in some(most) of the TMA's, what is the point?'
How about, "having fun"? Honestly, if I wasn't having a good time, I wouldn't be there.
8/9/04 10:59 AM
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glock4life
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Edited: 09-Aug-04
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Seriously, you enjoy kata?
8/9/04 12:39 PM
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masterofdisaster
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Edited: 09-Aug-04
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Hi Guys, NowhereMan22000 asked, (i) Do kata contain valuable information? Its not valuable if you can't find it or use it. Or if it relates to a environoment that no longer exists 'weaponless, untrained attackers, unfit/weak attackers, etc.' (no one will pull my top knot :-) in hangetsu, seisan etc. :-)) (ii) Does practicing kata directly improve your combative/self-defense skills? No. Just my 2 cents. MoD
8/9/04 2:59 PM
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Willybone
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Edited: 09-Aug-04
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Seriously, you enjoy kata?
For the most part, yes I do.
The only time I'm not enjoying myself with kata is when I've got too damn many of them to remember. I still remember and occassionally practice some of my HKD kata just for fun.

Overall, I think many people focus too much on the "mumbo jumbo" of martial arts, both fans and detractors alike. I don't buy into it from the fans. It doesn't negate the art for me, either.
8/9/04 4:26 PM
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m.g
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Edited: 10-Aug-04 05:53 PM
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I agree that Katas (as well as most things) lose their value and usefulness when the individual doesn't know the purpose or function of them. As I stated before each kata has a specific function and purpose. The creators of the kata had something particular and specific in mind when they created the kata and the kata was meant to develop that specific thing. Over time various katas lost their value to those outside of the creator because they simply didn't know EXACTLY what it was for and what the movements mean. Form ALWAYS follows function not the other way around. So when a person inherits a kata or form and not knowing its function then tries to create a function for it will ultimately fail because they will come up with functions that don't fit. Now with that said, there is a difference between kata which have already been create and the principle of kata. Kata as a prinicple is something most martial artist do without really knowing about it. Anytime one does a preconceived sequence of techniques or movements they are doing a kata. The three point mount attack in Bjj is a kata. So in that sense Katas are helpful, BUT only when the kata is designed and meant for a particular or specific technique, movement or principle. Not all katas are meant for the same thing therefore not all katas are useful.
8/10/04 12:51 AM
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ed2002
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Edited: 10-Aug-04
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Knuckle draggers put katas down as a form of dance. As if learning to dance is a bad thing. Similarly eastern philosophy is considered primitive mumbo jumbo. For the average person, studying an Asian martial art is probably the closest they will ever come to studying any form of dance or philosophy. They could gain a lot by being a little more appreciative of both subjects.
8/10/04 9:39 AM
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yusul
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m.g. very insightful post. i agree completely.
8/10/04 6:16 PM
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beernight
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Edited: 10-Aug-04
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karate without kata is like a PB and J sandwich with no bread. Kata has helped me quite a bit with my application of technique as well as a self thinker (what is this move for and where else could it be applied).
8/10/04 9:00 PM
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ed2002
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Edited: 10-Aug-04
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Do you have to be told? It is a form of dance. It is a form of philosophy.
8/11/04 9:17 PM
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glock4life
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Edited: 11-Aug-04 09:09 PM
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Sorry, I am a knuckle-dragger, and damned proud of it too!
8/11/04 9:53 PM
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ed2002
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Edited: 11-Aug-04
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Seems like you just have an objection to this idea. "For the average person, studying an Asian martial art is probably the closest they will ever come to studying any form of dance or philosophy." I didn't think it was that contentious a statement.
8/12/04 9:53 PM
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nottheface
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Even when shadowboxing I find that I am in a way doing kata. Especially when I was just starting, I'd start with a routine of footwork, then followed by basic punches, then I'd start going through the combinations 1 by 1. If I didn't take this approach I'd always find that certain things that I was less fond of wouldn't get the amount of practice time they deserved. Kata make sure that you go over all techniques you've learned. They're like reviewing notes. Also, in the begining, they teach you how to move, how to do footwork, and in some cases, timing. There are also strength and conditioning benefits. These are all critical things for a fighter to learn. Since an instructor can't be sitting with you the whole time, a form provides a basic outline for a training routine.
8/22/04 8:03 PM
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RapidAssault
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Edited: 22-Aug-04
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Here is some more food for thoughts. As I reflect back on my days in the CMA, I notice that the only times I've really felt like "learning" anything from doing forms is when either 1) the teacher taught me something new, or 2) when I haven't been practicing for a while and just getting back to doing the forms. What I mean is that I actually had to think about each step, mentally engaging it until the form becomes hardwired in the system. However, past that point, the "learning" stops -- regardless of how many times I practice the form. Now, I still remember how to do the forms from my years in CMA, but if I were to demonstrate them to someone, I wouldn't be as proficient in them as I would have been many years ago. I would have to "rewire" my system to move that way again -- but, only until the point where I have mastered the pattern. Past that point, there is no further benefit of practicing forms. This happened to me 2 years ago, when I was required to demonstrate CMA for the junior high Chinese classes that I taught during my practicum. From my experiences, I could say that there is a kind of paradox when practicing forms (or katas, or whatever you want to call it). That is, if you want to benefit more from forms, you must spend less time doing forms (the other option is to continually add to the forms). The stimulus is what you need in order to improve. There is a point where forms fails to provide further stimulus, compared to other activities such as sparring, or pad work (or even bag work for that matter). Now, there is the idea that the forms contains the so-called "hidden movements/techniques/etc." From my experiences in Hung Gar, I've had moments to think on these things as well. For example, I've heard stories about the "shadowless kick" that's been used by the legendary Wong Fei Hung. I've tried to imagine places in the forms where such techniques could occur. One place I found that to be possible (though not explicit in the forms) is during the stance changes. It could be said that I discovered a "hidden technique"; true as that may be, it wasn't done as a result of practicing the forms. Rather, it occured as a result of sitting down and thinking about it. It was never really tested out, and it is doubtful that one would know for sure simply by practicing forms. The end result is that more untested theories/hypothesis was created (by thinking -- perhaps over-thinking -- upon a pattern of movements that doesn't provide much stimulus for continual improvements). Any thoughts on that? Has that happened to any of you who've practiced forms/katas as well?
9/18/04 7:43 PM
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juszczec
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Edited: 18-Sep-04
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NowhereMan22000 "(i) Do kata contain valuable information?" I think so. "(ii) Does practicing kata directly improve your combative/self-defense skills?" If you approach them like you would a textbook. If you wanted to learn about a subject from a book. You'd pick one, figure out what you need to know and practice it till it was 2nd nature. Kata-same thing. The problem is, the kata creators didn't write down the "correct" answers leaving everyone to their own devices. Some people are good at working backwards. Some aren't. Then there's the problem of getting people to repeat the principles found in kata enough times with enough resisting opponents to figure out if their initial "guess" was reasonable. Then there's the problem of throwing away your creation if it doesn't work. Nobody likes doing this. I think the whole karate approach to using kata is flawed. There are too many forms and no one is really concerned with anything other than making them look good. Are there quicker ways to learn? Yes. Now we have ways of recording/transmitting information that were unavailable to kata authors. Instead of spending time figuring out what kata movement X is for, you can look it up and get lots of opinions. Then pick and chose. If you don't like the opinions, come up with an answer of your own. Then practice it with partners who resist more and more. Mark
9/20/04 12:54 AM
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RapidAssault
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Edited: 20-Sep-04
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"Practicing your kicks, knees, elbows and punches in the air against an invisible opponent is the best way of perfecting your basic techniques." Perhaps so when you are learning the technique for the first couple of times trying to get it right, or when you have to re-learn to correct your errors. However, you simply wouldn't rely on striking the air as your training "staple" when you got the form down. I mean, how much more "beautiful" do you want your punch to look? As you improve with any technique, you would probably rely less on drilling that technique against an invisible opponent and rely more on drilling it against a resisting opponent. I'm curious as to what would you define as "basic techniques." If I wanted to improve on jabbing (very "basic" to boxers and perhaps lots of fighters), I could practice jabbing the air until I get my form down. Beyond that, would jabbing the air several more times "perfect" it to the point of being on par with the pros? I mean, I could practice like this for a year or more, and it won't make my jab as good as the pros. Wouldn't it be better to use a resisting opponent, or even a partner doing pad work with you in order to improve on that jab? There's nothing really complex about the jab, yet training it live improves this "basic technique" better than training it against an invisible opponent.
9/20/04 11:06 AM
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juszczec
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Edited: 20-Sep-04
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Hi folks As far as repeating techniques over and over again in the air goes - moderation in all things. Its useful. Its a must as you learn a new technique. Your reliance on it as a training method should diminish in favor of hitting stuff. After you get a technique down, hitting the air is worth doing once in a while to make sure everything is going where you want. That said, at least in karate today, its overused. Mark
9/21/04 8:36 PM
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Punisher73
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Edited: 21-Sep-04
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* (For those not in the know, QWERTY refers to the standardized keyboard, which was purposefully designed to slow down the typist so the type-writer letters wouldn't get jammed together.) ------- Where did you hear this? I have always heard/read that the top line of the keyboard was designed because it spells out "typewriter" so that the early salesman could do that fast as a selling point.
10/1/04 7:00 AM
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juszczec
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Edited: 01-Oct-04 09:24 AM
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Cossack2 "When I recall all the hours I spent doing kata I have great regret. This is just another thing traditional MA does to fill time. I practiced Shotokan for several years. Usually the instructor used the classes kata time to either talk to any new prospective students that walked in or to catch up on his computer billing work." Kata needs to be presented as any other kind of drill. Also, the teaching method of "learn it and do it over and over and over with no regard to why" quickly outlives its usefulness. "Ask yourself if ANY top MMA fighter does kata." Maybe, maybe not. If you expand kata to include things like shadow boxing and "going thru the motions without a partner" I'd say some of them probably do. However, f any MMA standouts use this drill, I suspect they treat it as any other drill. "It comes down to the BEST way to use your training time." This I agree with. Kata, though useful, is misused and NOT the best way to go. "It has been proven though experience that one should engage in strength training, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and actual time fighting an uncooperative opponent on the mat." Agreed. However, you could argue that 15-20 kata done back to back is an aerobic/anaerobic exercise. I think the main purpose of kata is to give ideas about moving the body - its up to the individual to discern them, practice them both alone and with an unwilling partner. Also, the exaggerated techniques used in kata provide a way to practice the movements used in fighting in a low pressure environment. Why is this important? Good body dynamics makes for a stronger technique. All that being said, kata is no more useful/useless than hitting a heavy bag, shadow boxing or sparring. Each method has benefits and if you overdo one at the expense of another you'll be screwed. You need to use all of them. Mark
10/3/04 9:44 AM
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juszczec
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Edited: 03-Oct-04 12:18 PM
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Cossack2 "You are assuming that kata has worth on its face. It does not. Kata is more akin to dance where steps are memorized, coordinated and prearranged." www.kataapps.com Do a google search on kata applications. Look for any pre 1920s ones - in the 20s folks started using kata as they do now. IMO this was a mistake. I agree kata now is a glorified acrobatic method. There's a whole cult of kata worship out there that is just silly. Although the way most TMA use kata today is almost worthless, answer a question. Why were so many developed back in the day when TMA was about hurting people? "As you know, a REAL fight is anything but typical." Sure. But fighting methods teach efficient ways to use your body to get more effective techniques. There are specific ways to do that. Kata gives you a low pressure environment in which to practice making your body do that. Its another drill. Its somewhere between the difficulty of repeating the same technique over and over and using it against a resisting partner. "As I said above, kata is a standard and set pattern." It wasn't always this way. One of the bigger mistakes made, at least in post 1920s karate, was to make students do cookie cutter versions of kata and remove personal adjustments. "Shadow boxing is spontaneous. There is no comparison." Depends on how you look at it. Shadow boxing is spontaneous. However, do boxer's ever do the same combinations over and over again when shadow boxing to work on some aspect of putting those techniques together? If so, there is the similarity with kata. The difference is boxer's throw those away and karate folks set them in stone. "Traditional MA is fascinated by proper form. Instead of learning karate they should learn how to fight." TMA has forgotten why its fascinated by proper form. You have to admit learning to fight is multifaceted and along with strength training, endurance training, sparring with varying degrees of intensity there has to be a component where you drill techniques without the fear of getting smacked in the head when you screw up. It lets you focus on getting the body dynamics right. After you get the body dynamics right by yourself, its time to add the pressure of someone smacking you in the head when you screw up. "You know full well that none of the top fighters waste their time on kata." LOL I doubt you can speak for all professional fighters. If you can, take the act on the road - with mind reading powers like that you'll make a fortune. IMO kata was developed as a way to record responses to an average untrained slob's attacks. Professional fighters face other professional fighters NOT untrained slobs. This demands a different form of preparation and training. In this instance, yes kata is useless. However, if you think most professional fighters learn a new skill and immediately begin applying it to resisting opponents without any kind of solo practice, I'd say you are probably wrong. It simply flies in the face of how people learn new physical skills. "again, there are better ways to train. Swing some kettlebells, or sandbags. Sprint some hills to get anaerobic fitness." I lift, I used to run and sprint (now I swim). I found the feeling of tired I got when sparring was different than that when lifting or running. When I got tired running, it was still a matter of put one foot in front of the other and repeat. When I got tired while my sparring partner was trying to punch me in the head, making my body respond and keep good body dynamics was much more involved than put one foot in front of the other and repeat. Mark
10/3/04 8:09 PM
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juszczec
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Cossack2 "However, it is foolish to think that you can learn how to prepare yourself for a real fight that is dynamic, violent, and spontaneous by doing silly route movements." Agreed. Whoever says JUST doing kata will prepare you to fight is as wrong as someone who says JUST reading a book will prepare you to fight. They are both methods of recording information. That's all. [Kata] "used to be how jujitsu was taught till Kano came along and incorporated randori." Ok. So it must have worked, right? If it didn't, all the jujutsu folks of the time (samurai and soldiers IIRC) who used this method would have been killed. Right? "Look through the postings in MMA.tv and others. Who uses this antiquated method?" I'm working overtime right now. I'll try and count up the for/against responses on this thread. Although, some responses - like the folks who view it as shadowboxing - will be hard to classify. "This forum has access to some of the top fighters. Go ask them how much time they devote to traditional kata. It may seem simplistic, but if they don’t so it why should you or I.?" Again we're going to run into a difference in the definition. I say shadowboxing counts, others don't. Also, how many top fighters actually participate in the threads? "The bottom line is that I think people do kata because it makes them feel “martial arty.” This may seem like a silly term," No, it doesn't. I've seen plenty of wannabe samurai and even 1 kid who came to the dojo (to watch his brother train) dressed in his Ninja Turtles costume. He was 4, so I didn't laugh at him. "Performing kata connects you to martial artist of old." I sure don't feel this way when I do kata. But, I'm sure there are plenty of weirdos who do. "You look good when you do it." Must not have ever seen me ;-) "It is a way to show off" So why do I do it when I'm alone, warming up before hitting the heavy bag in my basement? "I would never neglect lifting or hill sprints," After 10 years, I got burned out on running be it distance or sprints. After I stopped running and started swimming I found running must have been tightening the scar tissue in my back. 2 years of swimming and it doesn't hurt to take a deep breath first thing in the morning anymore. Swimming 3k/week gives me more endurance than running 5 miles/week. Only downside is I lost an element of conditioning for my legs. Sonnon's 4 Corner Balance Drill and reps of kata(!) helped bring it back. "Frankly, I am amazed by the stubbornness ot those who want to keep doing it." Well, the thread did ask the question "is it useful." I think it is and gave my reasons. Besides, this place would be boring if everyone agreed with each other ;-) Mark
10/3/04 11:07 PM
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RapidAssault
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Edited: 03-Oct-04
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"[Kata] "used to be how jujitsu was taught till Kano came along and incorporated randori." Ok. So it must have worked, right? If it didn't, all the jujutsu folks of the time (samurai and soldiers IIRC) who used this method would have been killed. Right?" Mind you, that by the time Kano established his school and challenged the other "well-established" jujutsu schools, the samurai class had already been abolished. The jujutsu schools at this time were pretty much touting their art as "deadly/lethal/taught to the 'elite class'/not for 'sport'" [much like how some schools are today]. Well, at least according to Renzo Gracie's book "Mastering Jiu-jitsu." Also keep in mind that the samurai would most likely die by a blow from a sword/arrow/or some other weapon than by an empty-hand technique.
10/4/04 9:52 AM
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juszczec
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Edited: 04-Oct-04
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Cossack2 "Kata is not much better than reading a book." I disagree. Fighting is about moving, reading is about sitting. Also, before you can spontaneously use any technique against an attacker while you are moving you have to be able to perform it. For some people, this requires lots and lots of repetition both solo and with a cooperative partner. Then you figure out how to do it on the fly with someone trying to hit you. I'm one of those lots and lots of repetition people. I cannot be shown something and then immediately start using it. I have to spend some amount of time practicing it to get the movements correct before I can use it spontaneously. Some lucky folks aren't like me. "It is sparing that gives you the hands on experience of struggling to apply your techniques against an uncooperative opponent." No argument there. "Think about that. If EVERYONE was heavily into kata then EVERYONE they competed against was also only doing kata." Interesting. You're saying since everyone used a bad training method, their skills were univerally crappy and they didn't pose much threat to each other. Hmmmmm, gotta think about that. You are also saying the guys who cut each other to pieces using swords did not adapt the sword training methods for non weapons training. "This thread is not exactly an accurate cross-section since it is in a traditional MA section." Whoops. Forgot where I was. "Go read some MA magazines. Does Mark Coleman or any of the Gracies even mention the work kata?" Seeing as you and I define kata differently (I say shawdowboxing counts and you disagree. I say solo repetition of a technique(s) counts, and I think you disagree) I don't know what good it would do. I still maintain as these guys were developing their skills they had to repeat the basic techniques with no partner in order to get the movement down and then move into doing the movements with progressively stronger and stronger resisting opponents. Repeat the same technique over without a partner and you've got a little bitty kata. Repeat the same series of techniques over without a partner and you've got a longer kata. "Shadowboxing does not count." See what I mean? "Kata is prearranged formal set patterns that are set in stone." This is the crux of the problem. You've accepted the definition given by the karate industry as a correct. I think its wrong and that the karate industry is full of shit. "Shadowboxing is dynamic, informal, and spontaneous." And I say kata should be too. They should be a means to an end. They should be no different than doing your favorite combination on the heavy bag. They sure as hell shouldn't be given the kind of importance they are with all the style founder worship, emphasis on standard performance etc. "It may be a psychological need to get you in the MA mode." No, its the physical need to warm up. Also, I find its a good way to work on the form of a technique in order to repeat the correct body dynamics. I've also found the exaggerated stances work the legs a bit. "Training time is precious and limited. This part of your training is wasted IMO." 10 minutes to review correct movement and prevent injuries? I could buy this if you said days and days of worrying if my fist is the proper distance from my knee, but its not the case. "Scott has written an excellent article on how one should not use formal and memorized patterns. His kinetic chains are meant to be spontaneous. You must have seen this at RMAX.tv." I'll look for it. I've been trying to work out a clubbell routine for myself based on his book. "Traditional MA is more about perfecting the technique of the particular art being studied." The TMA industry has the wrong focus. Not only in their use of kata but in alot of other things as well. Y'all want my list? Mark
10/5/04 2:24 AM
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KDTA
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Edited: 05-Oct-04
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"By analysing them [kata], I’ve found three kata categories, which I define as follows: Rinto-kata (combat kata), tanren-kata (strength-building kata) and oyen-kata (presentation kata). These categories have enabled me to focus on the three constituent elements of the kata: rinto (combat), tanren (strength) and hyoen (presentation). All katas existing in karate are made up of these three elements, in different proportions. There is no rinto-kata, tanren-kata or hyoen-kata per se, but all katas are composed of these three elements. The categories are theoretical. We can consider them as parameters for assessing the features of a kata. Examining the evolution of katas with this idea in mind, I have found that in the course of being transmitted from one generation to the next, the proportions of these parameters have been changed for different reasons, resulting in the transformation of the katas. " On what is kata, he states: "First, kata does not always mean sequence. In the broad sense of the term, kata means an idealised bodily technique. It might be a stance or way of being, an immobile posture, a single technical gesture, or a whole sum or sequence. Therefore, a kata is not strength-building, a codified sequence as in karate. Secondly, in oriental martial arts, and the Japanese variety in particular, all efficient techniques, when explored deeply, take the form of a kata. It is a cultural characteristic. When you execute a technique, for example gyaku-zuki, you try to do it as well as possible. In this case, you have an image of the ideal gyaku-zuki and you try to attain it. This ideal presentation of a technique is a kata. By trying to attain the greatest efficiency, a technical form approaches a kata. This is a general feature of Japanese culture. All craft and art techniques that pursue a specific objective lead to forms of katas. You can find it in painting, music, pottery and calligraphy. It is in this sense that katas exist in the martial arts and the practice of a kata becomes an obligatory passage. Here’s an example: S. Sawayama (1907-1977), the founder of Nihon-Kempo, was a karate practitioner of the Shyto-ryû school. Not satisfied with the traditional method of karate in which one practiced the katas and trained in conventional combat, S. Sawayama developed exercise models organised around free combat. With his rational approach, he devised an art of combat that eliminated all the katas of karate, because he considered that they were nearly worthless. He called it Nihon-Kempo at the beginning of 1930. In the years since, accumulating experiences, the Nihon-Kempo method continued to develop with precise exercise methods derived from the katas. These katas were specific and different from the katas of karate. That is how a technical model was thoroughly explored. Technical organisation was achieved under the form of the kata. By practicing katas, we avoid taking the long way round. The katas of Nihon-Kempo are recent. No deformations have occurred yet. But karate is older. Its katas have been so deformed that a rational person like S. Sawayama rejected them." Source:http://www.tokitsu.com/en/discovery/articles/articles-en-sp/kata-specifications-in-karate-i-second-part-the-three-categories-of-kata/
10/5/04 1:55 PM
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yusul
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Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 6105
'On what is kata, he states: "First, kata does not always mean sequence. In the broad sense of the term, kata means an idealised bodily technique. It might be a stance or way of being, an immobile posture, a single technical gesture, or a whole sum or sequence. Therefore, a kata is not strength-building, a codified sequence as in karate.' problem #1, we have to accept his theory that kata also means efficient technique, as well as a sequence of movements. the funny thing is, common usage doesn't bare him. from kendo to judo to karate, 'kata' is used to denote a series of prearranged movements, not a 'single technical gesture'. so his argument has feet of clay: 'Secondly, in oriental martial arts, and the Japanese variety in particular, all efficient techniques, when explored deeply, take the form of a kata. It is a cultural characteristic. When you execute a technique, for example gyaku-zuki, you try to do it as well as possible.' so? if we don't accept the definition of kata meaning any possible technique, the point above is problematic. imo, he's using his pretty theory to avoid the reality of circumstance by using good soundbites.

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