When someone mentions they train Karate the first image many people associate with it is the kumite (also known as the sparring) component. Throwing jabs, kicks and takedowns seem to be how people identity Karate, other than ‘wax on, wax off’. However, up until the 1930s, Kata was the only method of training Karate. So, what makes Kata so special to learn? Well, back in those days, Kata was a method they used to learn technique correctly and remember the moves, through choreographed sequences.
In Kumite, you select the techniques that you feel are the most appropriate in the given situation. However, in Kata, you perform a pre-orchestrated fighting sequence that in fact, encompasses ‘secret techniques’ that you may not be taught specifically. For example, in Kata, you may perform a technique that moves in a forward direction, when in actual fact, you have learnt the technique moving in a backwards direction for combat. This means, that your body has now developed muscular memory to be able to move forward AND backward with this technique, as opposed to only being able to perform it in one direction. We love a some secret learning!
Kata is also a great way to memorise your technique when you don’t have a partner available to train with. You can still work on accuracy, intricacy and performance without having to rely on a second person.
A really beautiful sentiment attached to Kata is it’s meditative and reflective ability. Practicing Kata is not only about learning fight technique but allows the body and mind to work collaboratively. Focus is paramount went practicing Kata. After all, Kata encapsulates the very ethos of Karate, which isn’t to fight another person, but to fight your own weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
Kata may not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, just like Kumite may not suit everyone in terms of competition. But, in training, both are components of traditional Karate and help enhance your wholistic performance.