Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Choosing a Kata

If you're already a karate practitioner and would like to change your avenue of study than the kata you choose will be rather simple. It's whatever kata you like to practice the most. In my opinion, there are no bad kata. There are some pretty wonky versions of kata out there, but even the worst of these can be fixed by paying attention to body mechanics and the principles of efficient movement. This means proper power generation, skeletal alignment, weight shifts and understanding how and why the movements work. It's a tall order. You'll have to do this type of stuff anyway, but it's easier if there aren't superfluous movements added to the sequence.

If you're new to karate than I would suggest that you choose one of the foundational kata like Seisan or Naihanchi. If you choose Seisan, I'd go with one of the simpler incarnations of the kata. There are many, many different flavors of Seisan and each put emphasis on different parts. Shito-Ryu, Uechi Ryu and Goju Ryu have fairly simple versions. There are a couple of reasons why I would suggest choosing a simpler looking kata. The first is that if you are new it will be easier to learn the sequence of movements. The second reason is that flashier or more complicated kata do not mean that they are more advanced. Each kata is a collection of principles and fundamentals. If you understand the principles and fundamentals, it's possible to create an almost infinite number of technique variations, so don't sweat about how they look.

I would also advise that you ignore any labeling of techniques in a kata. In my opinion, they hinder more than they help. Blocks are not just blocks, punches are not just punches, kicks are not just kicks. They have many different layers and uses, and labeling artificially constricts our thinking. They are blinders that we do not need. This makes the movements a giant black hole of sorts, but you need to have faith that everything will come together. Karate is more abstract than concrete, which is scary at first, but it prevents you from getting stuck in one frame of mind and allows you to be adaptable later on.

It's important to remember that just because someone learns a kata from a living breathing person doesn't mean that said person knows what they're doing. I've seen very terrible kata and technique from people who have been practicing long enough to know better. Why do I bring this up? It's because you're not going to do any worse learning on your own than going to many commercialized dojo. Take comfort in the fact that you can't do any worse if you were paying for it, so relax, practice and study hard.

Patience, practice and play are the key.