Tuesday 1 January 2013

Tips for Kata Training (Part One)

Of course after 31 years of Karate-Do, practice anyone  could write a diverse range of tips on how to train kata, however, today I decided to focus on “kata training in relation to grade” (with an accompanying `Japanese style’ rationale, which directly relates to Karate as 'Budo' or 'Bujutsu'). Rather than write on and on, I have attempted to do this systematically, via five tips. If you follow this approach your karate will improve immensely. In saying that, this post is not infallible as it doesn’t take into account people who have held, for example, a "quality" shodan rank for many years; nevertheless, because there are numerous issues like this, logic shows that it is impossible to address such a vast array of possibilities in a short article. Therefore, this post aims to address kata training in relation to one's level, in the most common scenario of `standard progression' through kyu and dan. 

(1)     Don’t rush ahead to learn lots of kata. From the beginning of your training simply stick to Heian kata practice, and preferably put your energy into the kata for your next kyu exam. The Shotokan syllabus is in place for a reason! If you are a brown belt simply focus on the six kihon-gata and just one of the sentei-gata. Really aim to master these! Also seriously practice one of the Junro kata (naturally, Junro Shodan is recommended).

(2)     After acquiring the rank of Shodan (first degree black belt) continue to intensely practice the six fundamental kata; however,  now also work hard to master all four sentei-gata (Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Empi and Jion). Furthermore, select one of the five Junro kata (Shodan – Godan) and aim to perfect it. You may choose to just focus on the Junro kata you worked on previously or you might decide to “specialise” in another.
(3)     The sixteen jiyu-gata are also available for practice after attaining one’s Shodan, however I recommend focusing on the aforementioned ten mandatory kata, and the Junro you like the most. If you decide to practice a jiyu-gata focus on one (and only do this once you are very confident with the “Big Four”). In this case, choose a jiyu-gata that really suits you in kumite. If you have great keriwaza you might choose Gankaku or Kanku Sho, or if you are well built and strong, perhaps Jiin, Jitte or Sochin. Nevertheless, it is well worth mentioning that it is highly respectable for a person taking the Nidan test to select a sentei-gata, and ironically, the best karateka tend to. Again, quality is what counts.

(4)     There is nothing worse than seeing kyu graded karate students doing Unsu, Sochin, Gojushiho Sho or some other advanced kata. Yes, perhaps they can athletically emulate the movements, but the technical maturity needed to execute these kata is impossible for karateka without extensive training (usually holding Nidan at “the very earliest”). Using the example of competition in the traditional sense a great Bassai Dai will always beat a “so-so” Chinte. Likewise, a great Bassai Dai will pass the Nidan examination but the mediocre Chinte may not. In the case of kyu examination anything above the syllabus prerequisites will be failed. For example and likewise, if a person taking a traditional Shodan test, performs Nijushiho, they will fail the kata section of their exam. Overall, I think you get the idea…

(5)     Until passing Shodan the point with kata mastery is demonstrating strong and precise kihon. After Shodan this continues but the karateka must also know and be able to demonstrate the oyo-jutsu (practical applications) of their tokui-gata (favourite/specialised kata). This requires: (1) continuous training the kata as solo forms; (2) practice of the techniques/themes/principles in yakusoku-kumite; (3) self-defence practice—with partner compliancy—utilising oyo-kumite; and finally (4) oyo-kumite with partner non-compliancy (literally as a form of “street style” jiyu-kumite). None of this can be achieved with optimum form (for optimum effect in self-defence) without a very strong technical foundation in the shitei-gata (mandatory/compulsory kata). I.e. - knowing all of the `bunkai' is not going to help without having the physical prowess to apply it! And this is all too common in the West with numerous people producing DVDs and books on `kata applications', yet being unable to execute razor sharp fundamentals and kata... Really speaking, this is a lame form of jujutsu or judo in order to overshadow poor karate skills.

In conclusion, I sincerely hope this article was helpful for you whether you are a beginner in Shotokan, hold a kyu or dan rank, and/or instruct. It is critical for karateka to not rush ahead in kata (and make their karate superficial), but rather study kata deeply in accordance with their respective level.
Lastly, I'd personally like to wish you a very happy & healthy 2013. OSU!

- André Bertel
© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2013).

1 comment:

Andre Bertel said...

Because of heaps of spam I have limited comments to members of my blog. It is free to become a member through blogger. You just have to register.

This will hopefully stop all the rubbish flooding into my inbox.

Due to the popularity of this site I guess that has to be expected. Regardless, I apologize if this puts anyone out.

Happy 2013 to everyone! Osu,Andre