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Kata, origins and definitions

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Kata, origins and definitions

Postby Francis Takahashi » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:45 am

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Solo training of kata is the primary form of practice in some martial arts, such as iaidō.

Kanji: 1. 型 2. 形

Hiragana: かた


Kata (型 or 形 literally: "form"?) is a Japanese word describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements practised either solo or in pairs. Kata are used in many traditional Japanese arts such as theater forms like kabuki and schools of tea ceremony (chadō), but are most commonly known for the presence in the martial arts. Kata are used by most traditional Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, such as aikidō, iaidō, jōdō, jūdō, jūjutsu, kenjutsu, kendō and karate. Other arts such as t'ai chi ch'uan and taekwondo feature the same kind of training, but use the respective Chinese and Korean words instead.

In Japanese martial arts practice, kata is often seen as an essential partner to randori training with one complementing the other. However, the actual type and frequency of kata versus randori training varies from art to art. In iaidō, solo kata using the Japanese sword (katana) comprises almost all of the training. Whereas in judo, kata training is de-emphasized and usually only prepared for dan grading.

In kenjutsu, paired kata at the beginners level can appear to be stilted. At higher levels serious injury is prevented only by a high sensitivity of both participants to important concepts being taught and trained for. These include timing and distance, with the kata practiced at high speed. This adjustability of kata training is found in other Japanese arts with roles of attacker and defender often interchanging within the sequence.

Many martial arts use kata for public demonstrations and in competitions, awarding points for such aspects of technique as style, balance, timing, and verisimilitude (appearance of being real).


The most popular image associated with kata is that of a karate practitioner performing a series of punches and kicks in the air. The kata are executed as a specified series of approximately 20 to 70 moves, generally with stepping and turning, while attempting to maintain perfect form. There are perhaps 100 kata across the various forms of karate, each with many minor variations. The number of moves in a kata may be referred to in the name of the kata, e.g., Gojūshiho, which means "54 steps." The number of moves may also have links with Buddhist spirituality. The number 108 is significant in Buddhism, and kata with 54, 36, or 27 moves (divisors of 108) are common. The practitioner is generally counselled to visualize the enemy attacks, and his responses, as actually occurring, and karateka are often told to "read" a kata, to explain the imagined events. The study of the meaning of the movements is referred to as the bunkai, meaning analysis, of the kata.

One explanation of the use of kata is as a reference guide for a set of moves. Not to be used following that "set" pattern but to keep the movements "filed". After learning these kata, this set of learned skills can then be used in a sparring scenario (particularly without points). The main objective here is to try out different combinations of techniques in a safe, practice environment to ultimately find out how to defeat your opponent.

Nathan Johnson claims that most antique karate kata were developed for use with weapons rather than as open hand techniques.[2]

Also, in kata, the blocking movements are often performed while moving forward, which wouldn't be practical during the 'Bunkai'. These blocking movements would be performed during a Tai sabaki (体捌き), stepping-back action, where the opponent's attack would be avoided and the block would be a mere cover. These kata were performed in this backward/incorrect way as it left the true intentions of the movements elusive to spying onlookers. The true kata can be performed by advanced students who have a good feel for taisabaki and the dynamics of evasion.

The katas in Wado-Ryu consist of: Kihon Gata, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Shodan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yodan, Pinan Godan, Kushanku, Naihanchi, Seishan, Chinto, Bassai, Jion, Jitte, Rohai, Niseishi and Wanshu.


Judo has several kata, mostly created in the late 19th century by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo. The judo kata involve two participants. Judo kata preserve a number of techniques that are not permitted in competition or in randori, including punches, kicks, and the use of the katana and other weapons. The study of kata is usually begun typically at around the green belt level.

The most commonly studied judo kata is Nage-no-kata, which consists of fifteen throwing techniques.

The Katame-no-kata is composed of pinning techniques, chokes, and joint locks.

Kime-no-kata is a long kata consisting of self-defense techniques against both unarmed attacks, and attacks with swords and knives.

Non-Japanese martial arts

In Burmese martial arts, there are many akas. Bando practitioners (Bandoist) need to understand various types of body structure first. There are nine "Bando basic forms" in the Bando system (Hanthawaddy bando system) and 9 animal forms.

In Korean martial arts such as taekwondo and tangsudo, the Korean word hyung is usually employed, though in some cases other words are used. The International Taekwon-Do Federation uses the Korean word tul, while the World Taekwondo Federation uses the word poomsae or simply the English translations "pattern" or "form." TKD patterns have multiple variations including Palgwe and the more popular Taeguk forms used by the WTF. Forms are included in certain taekwondo competitions and are a key element of gradings.

In Vietnamese martial arts, e.g., vovinam viet vo dao the Vietnamese word quyen is used.

In Chinese martial arts, forms are known as taolu. Modern forms are used in wushu competitions.

In Indonesian martial arts, mainly Silat and Pencak Silat, forms with the upper body are known as djurus, forms with the lower body are known as langkah, and forms with the whole body are known as dasar pasang.

Outside of martial arts

Kata also has application in many aspects of life. A kata can refer to any basic form, routine, or pattern of behavior that is practiced to various levels of mastery.[3] In Japanese language, kata is a frequently-used word meaning “way of doing things,” with emphasis on the form and order of the process. Other meanings are “training method” and “formal exercise.” The goal of a painter’s practicing, for example, is to merge his consciousness with his brush; the potter’s with his clay; the garden designer’s with the materials of the garden. Once such mastery is achieved, the theory goes, the doing of a thing perfectly is as easy as thinking it.[4]

One of the things that characterizes an organization’s culture is its kata - its patterns of thinking and practice - and understanding organization culture, and how to change it, is an important skill for leaders. Edgar Schein suggests an organization's culture helps it cope with its environment,[5] while one meaning of kata is a way to "keep two things in sync or harmony with one another." A task for leaders and managers striving to achieve desired outcomes is to create and maintain the organizational culture through role modeling, teaching, and coaching. This is in many ways analogous to how martial-arts kata are taught.

This article needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (May 2009)
^ "World junior and cadet champsionships 2005".
^ Johnson, Nathan (2006). The Great Karate Myth. The Wykeham Press. ISBN 0954960939.
^ Shook, John. Managing to Learn. Lean Enterprise Institute, 2008, p. 32
^ DeMenthe, Boye Lafayette. Kata, The Key to Understanding and Dealing with the Japanese! Tuttle Publishing, 2003, pp. 1-3
^ Schein, Edgar. Organizational Culture and Leadership: A Dynamic View. Jossey-Bass, 1985, p. 57
[edit]External links

Information on the Kata of Judo.
Judo Kata videos.
Karate, Okinawan Kobudo and Kendo Kata videos.
karate shotokan kata video.
Categories: Japanese martial arts terms | Aikido | Jujutsu | Karate | Judo | Kata | Management

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Francis Takahashi
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