Kata (“a set form, format, mold, or model”) are organized series of blocks, counterattacks, and body movements for solitary practice and the development of 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, strung together into a superficially dance-like routine, against an imagined attacker matching your proportions (i.e., the Grey Man.) For your convenience, we have broken the kata into numbered chunks, or “movements.” However, kata should be practiced as one continuous and unbroken motion. We learn kata in small pieces, and with practice, the boundaries between these pieces 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 the 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, as they had no other means to store and recall information. Even if they did have instructional manuals or websites, what good would they be 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.
In modern times, many kata have replaced bunkai with acrobatic and gymnastic elements, to make them appear more dazzling to tournament judges. While these flashy forms can win chintzy trophies of plastic and brass, and a fleeting sense of victory, those things are without value. They are a poor trade for actual self-defense skills, and the benefits which come with them — the freedom from intimidation, the feeling of personal security, which can be extended to others. Function overrides appearance.
Also in modern times, 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, there is 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, the authors devised a martial art based off the 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 poor 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 to focus part of your attention to the bunkai of each movement.
The goal of kata is not to reach 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 yourself to be perfect will only lead to stagnation, boredom, burnout, and atrophy. This is preventable by coming to terms with the fat that in martial arts, there is no “final result,” and there is no “finished product.” The goal of kata is continuous improvement. While you can never become perfect, you can become slightly better with each passing day. This is achievable by treating karate as a way of life (karate-dō) and not as a bag of fighting tricks (karate-jutsu). Continuous improvement requires diligent training — such as kata practice — which should become a part of your daily routine, like showering or washing the dishes. Daily kata practice requires conviction, to keep from skipping or slacking off. However, this presents you with an opportunity to practice conviction. This sort determination can be transferred to other spheres of your life, helping you achieve other goals, and enriching your relationships with others.
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 friendly training. All kata begins and ends with a bow. All of our kata use the Goshin-Jutsu bow, which identifies kata as being from our system, and though it looks decorative, it too has self-defense applications.
- The first move of every kata is 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. Even if your reflexes completely took over, they would just act defensively, instead of accidentally harming someone. 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 standard 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: