Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo.
Part of the material in this article is not directly linked to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or Shodokan approach. Other concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.
In Western languages we can write “kata” as one word, but the word does not actually mean anything to the average person in our society. Persons with an interest in Japanese arts have an idea of “kata”.
There are several explanations for the word “kata” depending on the context. If we can read the “kanji”, the meaning becomes more clear, but still the real meaning need some context. Unfortunately, most of us cannot read kanji.
- 型(かたkata) type, style,model, pattern – set or sequence of positions and movements in martial arts, style in kabuki, noh, etc.
- 形(かたkata) form, shape, figure
- 方(かたkata) method of, manner of, way of
- 肩(かたkata) shoulder
- and many more….
The word kata in the context of martial arts and describing a set of movements, can be written by two different kanji (型 and 形).
And to make it a little more complicated, we cannot ignore the word “katachi” (かたち) which is often used to give a name to a logical sequence of basic movements.
かたち (katachi) and かた (kata) are different, though related, words.
かた (kata) is a somewhat more complicated term to describe a structure of physical and mental actions. On most of its uses, it’s more commonly written with the kanji 型 than 形, though they can be interchangeable.
In the book of Takeshi Inoue (Tomiki Aikido) Kata no Subete, both kanji are used.
Kata or a virtual Obeya
Obeya: Big Room or Creating a place where people come together to develop a clear understanding about the who, why, what, how and when.Tim Wolput – Lean Japan Study Tours
Kata serves as a source of information to transfer knowledge through concrete actions. This is a virtual place in which knowledge is stored by teachers and experts. Knowledge is directly bound up with action.
Action without knowledge is a waste of effort, whereas knowledge without action is unnecessary.
Chiko-go-itsu – Knowledge and action are oneYoshida Shōin
It’s the Sensei’s role.
To learn the kata you need someone with expertise and who is eager to transfer the knowledge by using the action of doing. Most of the Sensei will teach you in a special place called Dojo. Of course, this may occur in the house of the Sensei or in a place specially built as a dojo.
Studying kata is an incredible way of feeling mind and body. A qualified teacher will feel your problems and can provide solutions to resolve them. Of course, the solution (knowledge) is pointless unless practiced.
Real development can only be reached through knowledge and action.
The “purpose” of practising kata
Sen-no Rikyu, who founded the practice of the tea ceremony made an interesting commentary: “Keep in mind that the tea ceremony is no more than making tea and drinking it.”
It takes a lot of effort to make this “natural” thing happens.
The basic idea of kata or katachi is to introduce understanding of the relationship between form, function and meaning.“the Society for Science on Form”
Making natural movements is no simple task. We all know the Sensei’s remark: lower your shoulders, release the tension….. relax…..
Practicing kata is a great tool to experience all your unnecessary tension during your movements.
When Hideo Ohba created the kata forms of the dai-Ichi (first) to dai-roku (sixth), we were taught to practise these forms for purposes other than randori or demonstrations (grading, Embu…). Doing a grading is not to show how many kata you know, but to demonstrate your sensei the result and fusion of knowledge and action. In fact, you do not demonstrate the kata, you should become the kata.
What Ohba Sensei particularly stressed in formulating these kata was the organization of different techniques in such a way that students could learn connections between techniques easily and naturally.
The real “kata” test: Randori
The tea ceremony is based on kata, but the goal is to drink tea in a joyful atmosphere without unnecessary tension and stress. You must become a “Uke” for the person preparing the tea. Become “one” with master of tea.
When referring to uke within a martial art context, the perception is mainly of someone who attacks and then becomes totally passive. Another perception can be of someone taking big breakfall or jumping to show big dramatic ukemi (breakfall).
Uke must become an active part of the kata and mind and body move in coordination with tori.
The interesting point is the use of power during the movements. You always need power to develop a technique that works.
In this blog you will find articles related to power and its efficient use. The problem is “how to use power”.
Martial art kata is a tool for learning natural movements in a situation without unnecessary tension. There’s no stress in losing a battle. The mind is free to do any action learned during your stay in the virtual Obeya studying how to move in a natural way.
The practice of «randori» is accessible to all ages, males and females, adults and children…
And what about “shiai”?
There are many forms of competition. But the purpose of competition is not to become champion, but to perform in the most efficient way.
What is the purpose of kata competition?
What is the value of becoming a kata champion?
Just drink your tea and relax 😉