kata | kihon | kumite | the 20 kata in our goju karateClick on thumbnails at right for a larger view of each Kata
A Kata is a pattern of movements which contains a series of attacking and blocking techniques. Kata were created and evolved by previous masters after many years of research, training, and actual combat experience. Goju Kai Kata originated from Chinese Kung Fu forms which were taught in Okinawa in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Many of the Goju Ryu Kata names are Chinese numbers symbolizing certain Buddhist concepts. For example, the highest Kata in Goju Ryu, Suparinpei meaning the number 108 in Chinese, has a special significance in Buddhism.
Kata is a set of pre-determined movements which consists of defensive and offensive techniques performed in a particular sequence. Each movement and technique in a kata is made up of selected elements suitable to circumstances of real world fighting. There are 12 Official Kata in Traditional Goju Ryu.
Kata is performed alone against imaginary opponents. It serves the purpose of developing good posture, execution of techniques and mental concentration (focus). Each step of Kata needs to be analysed and understood before the Karate practitioner can apply it to real fighting. Kata embeds strategies of fighting designed to expose different parts of the opponent's body and follow-up with offensive techniques.
Kata is Symbol of Principle
The masters of old created Kata, as a result of experiences in actual fighting, they contracted certain principles in the form of Kata and we have to unlock the code that is within the Kata. Certain ideas cannot be understood by verbal explanation, as much as we will explain people are going to understand it with their own judgment different from one another.
We can use science to explain the dynamic of certain techniques and it is helpful but not enough, the human being is not a machine, and as much as we can imitate the technique, it will be only external. We need to get the feeling of it.
An obvious example is the principle of "feeling, reaction, action, technique one after another, but all together" which means that we don't look to analyze and then react with the proper technique but react by feeling directly through the nervous system in the spine and through accumulated training, this reaction becomes the proper body action and transmission into technique. So the Kata gives us both physical tools and tuning of the mind into a state of effortless alertness.
Kata is a Means of Freedom of Movement
As much as Kata seems restricted, the goal of Kata is freedom and we can achieve that because Kata is teaching us to conduct our energy in different directions most efficiently, and this efficiency will eventually be brought to any line of movement at any range (we start from big to small) depending on the necessity of the application.
Kata gives us the Ideal
With a strong stimulus like an opponent, we are too busy and excited to correct habits. Training only with partners allows our bad habits to be magnified. So Kata gives us a method to practice and perfect our techniques. Through repetition of kata our bodies learn to react without thought performing with less error.
Kata is Physical Development
In Kata we practice big movement synchronized with breath and the body always moves as a whole unit from the ground up.
This will keep the body’s elasticity and strength. The body now develops in harmonious ways, therefore Karate can be practiced until old age.
Balanced training of both sides will ensure balanced development which helps in preventing injury even though in application we naturally prefer one side over the other. In most sports, athletes practice mostly with one side (Tennis, Golf etc.).
Kata for Well Rounded Training of All
When we practice Jiyu Kumite, (Free Sparring) or competition fighting, most of us tend to have 2 or 3 techniques that are our favorite. Kata forces us to practice many techniques that fit many self defense circumstances.
Another aspect of this point is that a Karate person that is limited to a few favorite techniques is incomplete and cannot contribute to the development of Traditional Karate. He could not teach students according to their own natural tendencies because of his own limited understanding.
Kata as Training for Mental Control
Kata should not be considered as solely physical performance, it is the spirit of the performance that is the essence of the Kata. The right spirit must be presented in order to follow the principle of maximum efficiency. You must be in correct mental state for practice to be effective, attention cannot be paid only to the mechanics of the Kata but to harmonious cooperation of mind and body.
As we develop certain reflexes we also must develop certain mental qualities to accompany those reflexes as proper spirit to each technique, as Zanshin which is certain alertness or full mind by which we can control the opponent and respond to him.
Kata helps us to transcend beyond merely mechanical reaction to the many circumstances we could encounter into a level of "unconscious" reaction which we don't know what our action would be while doing it.
Through years of Kata practice, one can transcend techniques so that Karate becomes an "artless, art". This is the level of mastery.
“Kata is the heart of Karate”
Kihon means "basics" or "fundamentals". The term is used to refer to the basic techniques that are taught and practiced as the foundation of most Karate.
The practice and mastery of Kihon is also essential to all advanced training, and includes the practice of correct body form and breathing, while practicing basics such as stances, blocks, punches, kicks and progress to combinations, usually in that order.
In our Goju Curriculum emphasis is placed on Kihon. Without correct basics a student will not progress. Kihon is practiced every lesson as "floor exercises", where the same technique or combination is repeated many times as students move back and forth, up and down the dojo floor.
Traditional Japanese Karate training is notorious for extended periods of Kihon. This style of practice is believed to ingrain the techniques into the muscle memory of the karateka.
Kihon is not only practicing of techniques, it is also the karateka fostering the correct spirit and attitude at all times. Gogen Yamaguchi founder of Goju Kai Karate-Do wrote ………., “Master the basics” as one of his 5 precepts to Goju Kai Karate. I interpret that to mean that a true master of karate is one who has mastered the basics and not someone who possesses so called hidden secrets to Karate.
This Kihon concept cannot be lacking strong confidence and commitment. There is no secret technique or no shortcut to effectiveness only many years of training Kihon leading to eventual internalization, backed by unquestionable Fudoshin.
Fudoshin means a warrior state of mind obtained when the Mind, Body and Spirit become one. Achievement is only through the study of basic technique. When such a state is reached, all fighting abilities become possible and great things can be achieved. back to top
Kumite means sparring, and is one of the three main sections of karate training. Kumite is when a Karateka practices skills against an adversary (partner), using the techniques learned from Kihon and Kata. Kumite can be used to develop a particular technique or a skill for example effectively judging and adjusting your distance from your opponent and applying correct timing for effectiveness of your footwork, blocks, strikes and kicks
There are three main types of Kumite. Yukusoko Kumite, is a prearranged sequence between two students. One student will usually attack, and the other will defend. Sometimes there is an exchange of attacks and defenses. In our dojo there are sessions to prearrange the attack and the defense, and others where the attack is prearranged and the defense is improvised.
The second type of Kumite that we teach is Jiyu Kumite or continuous fighting, not choreographed, where a student must improvise and adapt to the opponent. Beginners will be instructed to develop control and accuracy first followed by speed and finally adding power. In doing this it may seem like a student is pulling punches, when actually they are developing technique first. The level of fighting, speed and strength of the attacks will vary according to the rank of the Karateka. The sensei will ensure that a suitable level of contact is used based on the skill and experience level of each partner. Jiyu Kumite is an essential part of karate training. Free sparing is often exciting because both opponents have to react and adapt to each other very quickly.
Karate training is designed to give its practitioners the ability to deliver devastating power through techniques like punches and kicks. Often the aim of training is that each single strike should be enough to subdue the opponent. However, this clearly would make it difficult to train due to the possibility of injury. For injury purposes, certain targets are discouraged, for example strikes to the joints and any face contact for low ranks. Many schools prohibit strikes to the groin area. Goju karate is renowned for allowing groin strikes. In our Schools these techniques are only permitted with control from Brown belt (3rd Kyu) and above.
The third type of Kumite is Ippon Kumite or tournament point fighting. Some karate schools are very dedicated to this type of kumite practice as the students learn to strike with speed and train to avoid getting scored upon, after one single and effective point is scored then the fight is paused to allow the judge time to award a point or half point to the karateka which delivered the effective blow.
There are criteria which govern whether a scoring point was effective or not and this type of kumite can be scored in a subjective way. A technique with “good form” is said to have characteristics conferring probable effectiveness within the framework of traditional karate concepts. Sporting attitude is a component of good form, as is Vigorous application which defines the power and speed of the technique and the palpable will for it to succeed. Correct distance and timing is always considered.
Unfortunately Awareness (Zanshin) is often missed when a score is assessed. It is the state of continued commitment in which the contestant maintains total concentration, observation and awareness of the opponent’s potentiality to counter attack. The other necessary component most overlooked is the attackers grounding while delivering the attacking blow, this is where a Karateka yields their power, and is often frustrating to see a point given where grounding and awareness is missing. Sport s Karate has its place in Karate however Goju Karate Australia training ensures a focus on Jiyu Kumite back to top