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The Principles of Karate #18

(Adapted from Master Gichin Funakoshi’s Book, The Guiding Principles of Karate)

18.) Perform Kata Exactly; Actual Combat Is Another Matter

Kata have been at the center of Karate-do training from ancient times. Over the years, numerous techniques and methods of every kind have been woven into kata.

The word “kata” interpreted means “form.” Karate kata demonstrate specific moves that can be useful in self-defense. Movements can range from blocking, striking, kicking, locks, holds and even throws or takedowns.

As experts and masters from ages past have carefully preserved the various kata, it is important for the student to practice and perform their kata in the same way as they are taught without making changes.

In the words of Karate master Yasutsune Itosu, “Keep kata as they are without embellishing them.”

Individual or solo practice of kata has a lot of value by itself. However, to realize

the full benefit of kata training, kata movements should be made adaptable to a variety of self-defense scenarios.

It is best to also practice kata movements and techniques with a partner…or even multiple partners. The real world application of kata movements is referred to as “bunkai!”

There are many ideas on how to best practice bunkai from kata and we will discuss some of those in a future article. But realize that kata contain extremely effective waza (techniques).

With the help of a capable instructor, karate students should learn the meaning of kata movement and how they can be applied to a variety of possible attacks.

Kata has two sides…the performance and the application. Both are important if the karate student is to experience the full benefit of kata training.

As Master Funakoshi explained, “In actual combat, it will not do to be hampered or shackled by the rituals of kata. Instead, the practitioner should transcend kata, moving freely according to the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.”

The key here is to learn your kata…not just the performance but the application as well!

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