We use "kata" as a training tool. It is the
encyclopedia of martial arts. A kata is defined as a prearranged series
of blocks, kicks and punches against one or more opponents in a fighting
situation. The first kata's that a student learns is Heians. These kata
has a limited number of moves and is easy to learn. As a student advances
in rank they learn more complex katas such as Bassai Dai and Seienchin.
But no matter what form you as a student are working on there are certain
elements of a kata that one should always focus on.
Learn the Pattern
The first element a student needs to concentrate on when learning
a kata is it's pattern. By pattern I am referring to the movements in
the form and their sequence. It is very important that the student commits
to memory the steps of a kata exactly as he is taught. No deviation in
allowed. Blocks, punches and kicks must be done to the correct location.
The karateka should make sure he or she is moving to and from in the kata
at the correct angles. Moving at incorrect angles is a common mistake
when learning a form. A good way to determine if you are moving at the
correct angles would be to check where you finish the kata and compare
it close to where you started. You should not be more than one step off
in any direction from your starting position. In order for a student to
learn the pattern of a kata he must perform the kata repetitively. It
is important for a student to understand that repetition is the key to
becoming a successful martial artist.
In order to maintain the energy necessary to work a kata correctly
the karateka must learn to breath correctly. Correct breathing is a critical
element in energy management. Proper energy management will ensure the
martial artist is able to complete the kata with consistent power and
effective technique. Recently Psychologist have begun to teach breathing
techniques to their patients. They have learned that proper breathing
has a calming effect on both body and mind. We as martial artist should
trained to breath correctly in order to overcome obstacles such as fear,
anxiety, stress and physical exertions. However just as proper breathing
will assist an individual in a combative situation improper breathing
will have an equally negative effect. When your breathing is out of control
you change the oxygen and nitrogen levels in your bloodstream. This change
will have a adverse effect on your physical, emotional and mental state.
It is vital that the karateka is able to control their breathing in order
to properly manage their energy while working kata.
are two type of breathing use when performing a kata. The first is called
"ibuki" or quick energy breath. Ibuki breathing is done at the
execution of blocks, kicks, and punches. The second is "nogare",
or slow breathing. Nogare breathing is usually done when moving from one
position to the next or when there is a pause in the kata.
Through the practice of proper breathing the student is
able to keep mental composer throughout practice in the dojo and in his
everyday life. Correct breathing will enhance a students mental and physical
endurance as well as his concentration, focus and develop the warrior
spirit necessary to be a good martial artist.
A "kiai" or spirit meeting is an act where a shout
in conjunction with the expulsion of air can reinforce a strike or a block
by maximizing bodily strength. We define a kiai as a muscle tightening
yell that adds power to a technique, reduces shock to the body and causes
your opponent to hesitate. The breath is exhaled very quickly with a loud
yell originating deep in the abdominal area, tightening the muscles throughout
the body. Kiai's are use in several locations in a kata. A good guideline
on when and where to use a kiai in a kata is at the opening move and at
the finishing move of each opponent in the kata. Remember this is a guideline
and not a rule, in more advanced kata's there may be additional kiai's.
Combination and Timing
A combination refer to two or more techniques put together
in a certain sequence. The are usually several combinations in every kata.
Within this aspect is also the timing changes that occur within a kata.
One way to think of it would be to compare the techniques in a kata to
notes in a musical composition. The tempo in the music stays the same
but the number of notes in a measure may vary. The tempo of a kata never
changes, the tempo should always reflect the urgency of an actual fighting
situation but the number of techniques in a combination may vary. Proper
combinations and timing keep the kata from being a monotonous pattern
of movements and more accurately depict a real fighting situation. It
is important that the student understand when and where the timing of
a kata changes and why it changes. By practicing correct combinations
and timing not only will the performance of the kata improve but the student
will become a much more effective fighter.
A kata is a story about a fighting situation against one or
more opponents. In order to get the most out of a kata you need to understand
what is going on in the kata. The term "bunkai" implies form
and meaning. The form aspect applies to having correct body positioning
while executing the movements in the forms. Correct positioning not only
includes the technical accuracy of the techniques used in the kata but
placing your body at correct angles when moving through the kata. Getting
the kata's form correct is one of the hardest aspects of learning a kata.
It will require the karateka to not only be corrected by others but to
also critique himself when working the form.
The "meaning" aspect of bunkai applies to understanding
what is going on in the kata. How many attackers? How many attacks? How
are they attacking, what techniques are they attacking with and from where
are they attacking? What stance are the attackers in? What are the finishing
techniques? In order to really learn a form the student needs to not only
know what movement he is doing in a kata but the movement of his opponents
as well. When this is done the karateka can then visualize his attackers
and fully understand the techniques in the kata and why they work.
Tension is another aspect of energy management. Being tense
too much in a kata will rob you of power. There is a correct time to be
relaxed and there is a correct time to be tense in a kata. A good example
is when punching, the arm and fist are not tense until just before impact.
Being relax while working a form will not only increase your power but
allow you to move fluidly throughout the kata.