Kata (“a set form / format / mold / model”) are organized series of blocks, counterattacks, and body movements for solitary practice and developing proper biomechanics. Kata practice is the primary means of learning and practicing karate. If individual techniques are like individual musical notes, then kata are like scales — you must practice them over and over refine your skill, before you can play your victory song.
Kata are compilations of several different self-defense techniques against an imagined attacker matching your proportions, which are strung together into a superficially dance-like routine. For your convenience, we have broken the kata down into numbered chunks, or “movements.” However, kata should be practiced as one continuous and unbroken motion. With practice the boundaries between movements will smooth out, and one technique will seamlessly flow into another.
Since Grandmaster Durant attracted many strong-willed and fiercely independent students, Goshin-Jutsu Karatedō has no standard curriculum, and many variations of these kata exist. These forms were either devised by Durant, or were his interpretation of kata from other arts. We teach the following karate kata:
- Hajimete Undō no Karatedō
- Futatsu Mae Undō no Karatedō
- Mittsu Mae Undō no Karatedō
- Yottsu Mae Undō no Karatedō
- Ugoku ni Roku Hō
- Chugoku ni Chikara Himitsu
- Ichi no Hebi
- Katachi no Chugoku-te Dō
- Kishu Tatsu Geki
- Dwai Gun Do
- Harimau Juru
- Naihanchi Shōdan
- Aruku Koto Ryu
We also teach the following kobudō kata:
- Hajime Bō
- Heian Yodan Bō
- Nihon no Bōkata
- Seisan Sai
- Nunchaku Kata
- Hamahiga no Tonfa
- Katachi no Hajimete no Kama
- Tsuken Shitahaku no Sai
In the past, illiteracy was a cultural norm. Through endless repetition, the farmers and fishermen who developed karate ingrained their techniques into their muscle memory, since they had no other means to store and recall information. Even if they had instructional manuals or websites, what good are those in a fight? During an attack, there is no time to review. You either know karate, or you don’t. The techniques must become a part of you, just as the dancer becomes the dance.
Many modern karateka have modified their kata, swapping their practical applications for acrobatic and gymnastic elements to dazzle tournament judges. These flashy forms can win chintzy trophies of plastic and brass, and fleeting senses of victory. However, these are a poor trade for self-defense skills, and the benefits which come with them — like the freedom from intimidation, and the feeling of personal security, which can be extended to others. Function overrides appearance.
Several prominent martial artists have eschewed the need for kata practice. Bruce Lee championed this cause, stating that: “Classical forms dull your creativity, condition and freeze your sense of freedom. You no longer ‘be,’ but merely ‘do’, without sensitivity.” This is only true for karateka who have slipped into comfort zones, and lost sight of the applications of these movements (bunkai). Without bunkai, kata is just aerobics. Unlike other arts, Goshin-Jutsu makes no one, correct, or authoritative way to interpret our kata; multiple self-defense applications exist for each movement. We will show you one application; it is up to you to discover the others. By analyzing a few, standardized techniques in great detail, you will learn how to breakdown and analyze motion itself, enabling you to find martial applications in everything. (Case and point: to pass help pass the time waiting to ride a new roller coaster, we devised a martial art based off of ride operator hand-signals the ride operators used to communicate with each other.) Bruce Lee became a fantastic and free fighter — but only after gaining the benefits of performing the standardized forms of Wing Chun Kung-fu for several years. Bruce Lee excelled not because he rejected forms, but because he rejected the dogmatic interpretation of forms. A man is only as weak as his imagination allows him to be.
When performing a kata, your mind should be focused on perfecting you biomechanics. Practice makes permanent — performing sloppy kata only trains you to become a sloppy fighter. The quality of practice sessions is always more important than their quantity — 10 x 1 = 10, and 10,000 x 0 = 0 As you grow more comfortable with a kata, you should gradually start focusing part of your attention to the bunkai of each movement.
The goal of kata is not reaching a state of technical perfection. Perfection is impossible — there is always something that could be better — you could always be stronger, faster, more stable, or more fluid. Thinking that you are perfect only leads to stagnation, boredom, burnout, and atrophy. This is entirely preventable by remaining mindful that martial arts have no “final result,” and there is no “finished product.” The goal of kata is continuous improvement. This is achieved by viewing karate as a way of life (karate-dō) and not as a bag of fighting tricks (karate-jutsu). Continuous improvement requires diligent training, so kata practice must become a part of your daily routine, like showering or washing the dishes. This daily kata practice requires conviction to keep you from skipping or slacking off. However, this presents you with an opportunity to practice conviction, which can be transferred to other spheres of your life, helping you achieve other goals and enriching your relationships.
There are a few other considerations we would like to make about kata:
- Karate begins and ends with etiquette, to clear the air of any ill-will, and to reinforce that this is a friendly training session. All kata begins and ends with the Goshin-Jutsu bow, which identifies forms as being from our system. Although it looks decorative, it too has self-defense applications.
- Kata always begin with a block. Karate is only to be used for self-protection; so by starting every form with a block, you will train your subconscious mind to act in this way. This prevents you from accidentally harming someone; if your reflexes were to suddenly take over, they are conditioned to act defensively. Hitting someone is never an accident — it is either a display of incompetence or malice.
- Goshin-Jutsu kata typically do not begin and end on the same point in space. This is unlike other karate styles; however, each kata still follows a standardized path (embusen).
- The movements in our kata are expressed in terms of the Eight Points of Harmony. This image will be the "Rosetta Stone" or "Secret Decoder Ring" that will make the written instructions understandable: