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  • Is kata useful or useless?
    Some martial arts value and use kata (forms) extensively (i.e. Karate & Taekwondo). Other martial arts find very little value in kata (i.e. Boxing and BJJ).

    Do you think that kata has any value?

    Some martial artists think kata is useful because it teaches things such as memorization, balance, basic techniques, visualization, etc Moreover, they think it is especially useful for younger color belts and/or when used as bunkai (practicing kata attacks and defenses with a partner).

    Others are in the middle. They think sparring with a partner is much more useful. However, they see solo kata as useful if you have to train alone (i.e. outside the dojo). Similar to using a kicking dummy, solo kata is seen as a way of practicing techniques without a live partner.

    In contrast, there are many martial artists who feel that kata is a waste of time. They believe it is impractical because it does not teach students how to deal with a live and unpredictable opponent.

    On Black Belt Wiki, we have a poll that asks about the utility of kata -

    Most "voters" answered that they loved kata (almost 50% of the poll voters). Only 6% said that they hated kata and/or that kata was not practical.

    What do you think about kata? Useful? Useless? Or somewhere in between?

    For more information about kata, please visit the main Kata & Forms section -

    Black Belt Wiki
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      • 3
      (deleted) started off in shotokan. then kyokushinkai. i used to enjoy kata as a workout. but dropped it in favour of muat thai which has no kata. i turned pro as a boxer and thai boxer and did no kata for many years. i "rediscovered" kata after retiring from pro fighting and saw the value of having a foundation for your fighting system. some solid paterns to practice specific technique as well as the all round health benefits of doing kata. it is also good to look into the practical application(s) of the movements and techniques. i thought it was fun when i took up martial arts. forgot about it. then discovered the great value of practicing kata. it is incredibly important and stands you in good stead your whole life. obviously though it has to be taught properly...and ideally not changed by commanding ranks every couple of years. it also gives the practisioner a syllabus to work to when not at the dojo...or on holiday etc.
        • 2
        PAUL (paldo) REYNOLDS Konbawa ! Miyamoto Musashi .Congrats on reaching what kata can be to a person. I also am a Shotokan and am very familiar with Kyokushin in living in Japan. I highly admire Kyokushin combative style for I like "banging" or kumite, Now in my later years, I prefer to be a kata and kumite judge, but I still enjoy being an active sensei developing karate-ka. etc ! Hope to see more blogs from you. Sayonara.
      • 3
      Kenneth Winthrop Another way to look at kata is to consider the following supposed you were in the far East in the 1800's and you came upon a martial art master who was willing to teach you techniques from his style. You spent some time with him and learned many techniques. How would you remember what he has taught you you ask. He says to you within the katas I have taught you there are all the techniques you have learned from me. I leave you with this wisdom. I also leave you with one other bit of information every move you have learned has within it both defensive and offensive techniques. All you have learned is contained within them. So keeping this in mind take a kata that you have learned and see how many self defense applications you can find. You will be amazed,
      • 2
      James Anderson Hi everybody,
      The great question of katas. There are techniques within katas that are very useful. If we look at basic blocks such as a high defend open hand. We know that it is useful. Basic front kicks, side kicks and round house are useful as well. These type of moves are incorporated into our katas, or at least some them. Right? After all being a black is only stating that you have or should have mastered the basics techniques in your art. If we are honest with ourselves full contact fighting shows us a good idea of what works and what does not in our art and our technique as well as our true skill level. I also was not talking about full contact on a professional level either. Amateur and novice full contact under controlled environments works too.
      • 2
      Al W I help out with training children in my local dojo, and the way I teach new starts kata is using bunkai. Kata can be boring, but add some imaginary ninjas to it and the kids start wanting to learn (then you have that one kid who wants to fight frogs).

      In my opinion as we inevitably get older, the constant repetitive motions of kata can become a way of warding off senile dementia/alzheimers.

      Plus if you go perform every kata you know (for me it's a miniscule 12) sequentially, given it 'speed and power', my instructor likes to make us do this, it can help with weight loss (or gain if you decide to stuff your face after a hard lesson)
      • 2
      Xatoichi Useful, yep. Sorry I had more to write and it was gold too but I forgot to sign in and lost it when I finally did. Awesome. It could have been a magazine article too. I should have copied it. See if I had a kata for that I would not have left out a vital step. Lesson learned.
      • 2
      Will - Black Belt Wiki [175467,Kenneth Winthrop]

      Excellent point! We tend to forget that most people could not read or write when katas were "invented". Katas were like martial arts books... a tool to teach and record techniques.

      Black Belt Wiki
      • 2
      Llewena Carrero Last night I did some bunkai training based on Seiunchin kata. My partner was a couple of kyu's below me and hadn't learnt this kata yet.

      We used the moves as they were in the kata, no modifications, to imitate a particular attack/defence. It was interesting to note my partner struggled with fending off her attacker (me) vs me defending off an attacker as I knew the kata.

      So this reinforced for me how important it is to learn kata.
        • 1
        PAUL (paldo) REYNOLDS Hi Liewena C: proficiency is always our test to keep up on what we have learned. That was a good self lesson, and a greater learning experience for your student. ..good teaching method !
      • 2
      Superamazingbadgerman [175467,Kenneth Winthrop]
      Dang, that's an impressive list! If I had even a small portion of that, I'd probably be able to avoid a pretty good amount of the criticism and hate I face all the time concerning my own martial arts skills and findings.

      And you're absolutely right about the kata. I don't know of a martial art that doesn't employ them in some form or another. If it doesn't use something to thoroughly nail the rules of how to move and what structures to make into your muscle memory, chances are it's just streetfighting taken from nowhere and though it'll never be watered down into a less effective form, it still falls short of any recognized martial art in its true form.
      • 2
      Kenneth Winthrop To answer your question I started in Judo in 1958 while in the USAF. When I got out in 1960 there was very little martial training in the US. In 1963 I found a Dojo in the Bronx NYC. I was very lucky to find a instructor who was Shinan Antonio Pereria. He was the founder of the Mi-Yama Ryu Jujutsu system. I trained under him and received my Shodan in 1965. Around 1967 I trained with one of Peter Urban early Blackbelts, Frank Ruiz I worked out with him and several of his students for about a year. In 1969 I studied TKD Chun Do Kwan with Hyun OK Shin I received my 1st Dan in 1976 from him, stayed with him for about 2 years. Then due to my work I started teaching defensive tactics to law enforcement. When I retired I moved to Las Vegas. My son was a corrections officer there. I began teaching law enforcement and military personnel. For a period of time I was teaching at John Nativad's Dojang. In 1996 Dr. He Young Kimm attended one of my classes after I told him I was interest in joining this organizatio n. Without me being aware he was determining my rank by observing my students. He awarded me a 4th Dan in Hapkido.I also was graded by H.U.Lee the GM of the ATA at that time. I had to send him a video of all the hyungs that I new, after he reviewed those forms he ranked me 5th Dan. That is a summary of my martial arts history.
      • 2
      Kenneth Winthrop I was like most karateka when I was younger all I wanted to do was spar. I used to think kata was a complete waste of time. I beloved that it was just striking and kicking into thin air. I believed that you had to have some one attacking you so you used the techniques you were taught. After many years of that train of thought I started to research what many of the great masters said on the concept of kata.I read To-te Jitsu by Funakoshi and realized that he was one of many who was against free fighting and he stated that kata is most important in developing your skills. I saw Interviews with Morio Higanna of Okinowian Go Ju ryu who stressed kata more than freefighting. As time went on I watched how my students progressed and the ones who practiced kata developed very strong fighting skills. I am old school and belive that kata training is more important then winning free fighting mayches.
      • 2
      Kenneth Winthrop Kata is the essence of Karate or Taekwondo. Kata aids you in developing your mental and physical attributes. When you reach the time in your practice when you cannot or should not spar. You have the ability to still practice. By doing this you will still be able to develop your mind and body as a total self-defense weapon.I have been involved in the martial arts for 54 years and I practice kata daily.
      • 2
      Andy Hi Philip and welcome to the community, excellent points on the personal development aspect of kata (I have heard tales maybe apocryphal maybe not) of some masters who devote their lives to perfecting just one kata! Also I agree with you about poor instruction being partly to blame for students not getting it though some students just won't get it anyway. In older times in Japan potential students had to often prove their dedication by spending months doing menial tasks at a dojo before they were taught a single basic technique. This was a deliberate ploy by the master to separate the wheat from the chaff and to put off those with no dedication. Nowadays with many. Martial arts schools run as a commercial venture this is not the case we have touched on this subject on other threads about some teachers throwing coloured belts at students who shouldn't have passed the grading just to keep school fees coming in. The result is poor transmission of the martial arts where you end up with instructors such as the one giving a demonstration in the video I posted. Fortunately there are still some excellent instructors out there who genuinely care about their students and the martial arts.
      • 2
      Philip Marc Black Belt Wiki, I personally can't think of a negative of Kata, but I am not sure it is taught correctly often and the importance gets missed. My first Style was full contact karate. No kata, just kick boxing. I thought kata was pointless because I wanted to defend myself against the bullies in my school and town. But it was only later as I grew older, which my art did teach me in fact, that I realised there was more to karate than sport and self defence. But even now as I pre-grade for my Brown Belt in Shotokan today, I will watch people waltz through their Katas because they just have not got it yet, because the penny has not dropped for them. And if that is true for some who do study traditional forms, then a practitioner of a modern style which avoids forms or kata completely is not going to get it either!
      • 2
      Andy I would say it depends a lot on the specific martial art you are learning. Kata is a part of how Classical Japanese martial arts are taught, Bowing when entering the dojo isn't strictly necessary in order to learn how to actually fight but it is still part of the etiquette of traditional Japanese martial arts and therefore is part of the structure. Personally I think that kata are an ingenious way of learning techniques. The very essence of a fighting method has been over centuries (in some cases) distilled into a set pattern of techniques that if learned correctly will become ingrained in both mind and muscle memory. I think the key to understanding kata lies in actually focussing and correct visualisation. If you are just going through the motions because your Sensei has told you to while thinking to yourself 'I can't wait to get through this and spar' then you are missing the point and also missing an essential element of the art you are supposed to be learning.
      • 1
      Trevor Hill I once interviewe a champion Freestyle Karateka. He said that rather than do traditonal kata he would shadow box, we he felt was a form of freesyle kata.
      • 1
      David Bernard Kata is the essence of Karate. Kumite was only introduced when the Art migrated from Okinawa to the Japanese Universities and Red Light Areas. All of the meaningful Self Defense is found in the Bunkai of the Kata. Too many Sport Karate competitors perform the Katas for display but really don't know why they did thet last move. Kumite is superfluous as any good Boxer can do as well.
      • 1
      Trevor Hill As an older participant returning after a few years' lay off, I find kata great for retraining my body, doing moves slower and feeling where to adjust my weight etc.
      • 1
      Frank I am a 55 year old ex boxer and have also trained with world class fighters. Shadow boxing is exactly like a kata. It keeps you sharp and alert at all times. Please !!! Do not underestimate the use of a kata or any imaginary fighting practices , they all work. I'm still an active boxer and shadow boxing is the most important tool for me today.
      Frank Deneault
      • 1
      (deleted) B S Handa, Black Belt 6th Dan (WTF);
      It is the best exercise for Left and Right Brain.....Body coordination and to improve your self-confidence. I tried with doctors, lawyers, businessmen, students even with house wive's. Their logic increases with the help of Forms and Katas. Even I tried with some other sportsman to increase their body and mind coordination. Superb results..... Even it reduces the stress level.
        • 1
        Will - Black Belt Wiki Hi [234347,B S Handa]

        Welcome to the wiki community. Good point about kata helping with other sports

        FYI - You might want to remove your email address from this post as you could get tons of internet spam (as spammers are always looking for email addresses posted on the internet).

      • 1
      Shawn When asking if kata is useful, you must ask useful for what.
      Kata it is useful for exercise, developing balance, and practicing certain techniques. This is my experience from doing Taekwondo forms for three plus years.
      Kata is useless for fighting. In Taekwondo sparring I never used anything from forms. My kicks, defenses, counters, and footwork came from constant drilling done in fighting stance, not a kata stance.
      As a kickboxer as well I think something like shadow boxing is much better, because you can practice all the things I did in forms, but in a realistic fighting stance. Though today many people take martial arts for various reasons, and have no intention on ever fighting in competition.
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