Why do we practise kata?
Kata is a set series of moves, involving different techniques and stances. Within the traditional Wado Ryu karate style there are 15 kata’s that are practised in most schools. Kata allows us to practise fundamental techniques and stances, as well improving our physical conditioning, muscle memory, focus/concentration, and balance.
We create habits throughout our life, often without realising we're doing so. For example, learning to walk, riding a bike, driving a car. How often do you consciously think of every movement whilst performing these actions?
By practising kata we are creating habits. The ability to move our body in angles, not just forwards and backwards. Understanding where we're placing our body weight so we don't fall over whilst doing so.
Stance changes teach us about positioning of our body weight. Our centre of gravity is different with each stance, some having emphasis of on the back leg, some central. We learn to shifting our body weight seamlessly between moves, and being able to change it without having to consciously think of where to move it too.
Each move in a kata is a combative move, and teaches us key principles. It’s not an absolute explanation of how to apply the technique, which will differ from person to person as we all have different strengths. It a method of learning constant movement from one technique to another, creating flow-drills. We need to be able to stop and start immediately, not have to think of each technique as a ‘unique’ response.
The act of performing a kata is mindful as well. The Japanese term ‘Mushin’ refers to the mental state of freeing your mind from all thoughts and emotion. A zen term it translates into ‘mind without mind’. By quietening our mind we allow ourselves to move without conscious thought.
Our Bonsai Chi kata’s are based on the Wado Ryu katas I’ve learnt over the years. The moves are adapted so we practise the softer element of kata, rather than the harder, impact effect of traditional karate training.
Once learnt we can practise the kata on our own, perfecting the moves, developing the ability to quieten our mind when required. It’s a good way of releasing stress at the end of the day.
Here Hywel shows us the kata Pinan Shodan as practised and performed in Wado Ryu. You can see how it's been adapted to create our Bonsai Chi kata 1.