The Japanese word ‘kata’ can be translated as ‘form’. For the uninitiated, a kata looks like a choreographed dance sequence, with rigid patterns being performed in a set order. However, done properly, the katas are so much more than this.
All Japanese martial arts contain kata, but karate is unique in that we can practice kata individually. In Shotokai karate, we use the 26 Shotokan katas, some of which are hundreds of years old and have been handed down through the generations from instructor to student, plus 3 ‘Taikyoku’, or ‘First Cause’ katas, developed by the founder of modern karate, Gichin Funakoshi.
At the start of each kata we bow as a mark of respect for its tradition and history.
Kata should be performed with the imagination that many opponents are all around and attacking. Without this imagination, the performance of kata is reduced to an aerobic exercise, which although beneficial on one level, completely misses the many other benefits practising kata can bring. They provide many combinations of techniques that can be utilised in different situations.
The learning of kata presents many challenges, that of technical application, timing and distance, along with balance, co-ordination and mental discipline. We need to repeat the katas again and again and strive to constantly improve technique. However, kata are never boring, each time a kata is practised it should be with the thought it is completely new, bringing it to fresh life. A single kata can take a lifetime to explore and we may never truly discover all its secrets.
LIST OF KATA
Taikyoku Shodan (First Cause)
Heian Shodan (Peaceful Mind)
Tekki Shodan (Horse Riding)
Bassai-Dai (To Penetrate a Fortress)
Kwanku-Dai (To Look at the Sky)
Empi (Flying Swallow)
Hangetsu (Half Moon)
Jutte (Ten Hands)
Gankaku (Crane on a Rock)