Albert J. Cloutier has directed and produced several award winning films, most recently winning Best Director at The Honolulu Film Awards 2014. Al has been an avid practitioner and student of the Martial Arts for 38 years, studying Isshin Ryu and Uechi Ryu Okinawan Karate.
Kata originally were teaching and training methods by which successful combat techniques were preserved and passed on.
The basic goal of kata is to preserve and transmit proven techniques and to practice self-defence. By practicing in a repetitive manner the learner develops the ability to execute those techniques and movements in a natural, reflex-like manner. Systematic practice does not mean permanently rigid. The goal is to internalize the movements and techniques of a kata so they can be executed and adapted under different circumstances, without thought or hesitation. A novice’s actions will look uneven and difficult, while a master’s appear simple and smooth.
While the Japanese term is most well known in the English language, forms are by no means exclusive to Japan. They have been recorded in China as early as the Tang dynasty, and are referred to in Mandarin as taolu.
South and Southeast Asian martial arts incorporate both preset and freestyle forms. In silat these are referred to as jurus and tari respectively. Malay folklore credits the introduction of forms to the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma.
In Korean martial arts such as taekwondo and Tangsudo, the word hyung or hyeong is usually employed, though in some cases other words are used. The International Taekwon-Do Federation uses the word tul, while the World Taekwondo Federation uses the word poomsae or simply the English translations "pattern" or "form."Taekwondo patterns have multiple variations including Palgwe and the more popular Taeguk forms used by the WTF. Forms are included in certain taekwondo competitions and are a key element of gradings.
In Sanskrit, forms are known either as yudhan (combat form) or pentra (tactical deployment).Other Asian martial arts refer to forms by various terms specific to their respective languages, such as the Burmese word aka, the Vietnamese quyen and the Kashmiri khawankay.
In the Historical European martial arts and their modern reconstructions, forms are referred to as plays, drills or flourishes
The most popular image associated with kata is that of a karate practitioner performing a series of punches and kicks in the air. The kata are executed as a specified series of approximately 20 to 70 moves, generally with stepping and turning, while attempting to maintain perfect form. There are perhaps 100 kata across the various forms of karate, each with many minor variations. The number of moves in a kata may be referred to in the name of the kata, e.g., Gojū Shiho, which means "54 steps." The number of moves may also have links with Buddhist spirituality. The number 108 is significant in Buddhism & Hinduism, signifying the 108 ways the mind can behave (Upanishads) and kata with 54, 36, or 27 moves (divisors of 108) are common. The practitioner is generally counselled to visualize the enemy attacks, and his responses, as actually occurring, and karateka are often told to "read" a kata, to explain the imagined events. The study of the meaning of the movements is referred to as the bunkai, meaning analysis, of the kata.
One explanation of the use of kata is as a reference guide for a set of moves. Not to be used following that "set" pattern but to keep the movements "filed". After learning these kata, this set of learned skills can then be used in a sparring scenario (particularly without points). The main objective here is to try out different combinations of techniques in a safe, practice environment to ultimately find out how to defeat your opponent.
Recently, with the spread of Extreme Martial arts or XMA, a style of kata called Tricking has emerged. These kata are performed in tournaments and include gymnastics related elements, such as backflips, cartwheels, and splits. These kata can also be performed with weapons
"Even after many years, kata practice is never finished, for there is always something new to be learned about executing a movement." ~ Shoshin Nagamin
"Remember the light and heavy elements of kata"
~ Gichin Funakoshi
“Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” ~ Zhuangzi
The meaning of the directions in kata is not well understood, and frequently mistakes are made in the interpretation of kata movements. In extreme cases, it is sometimes heard that "this kata moves in 8 directions so it is designed for fighting 8 opponents" or some such nonsense.” ~ Kenwa Mabuni
“In the past, it was expected that about three years were required to learn a single kata, and usually even an expert of considerable skill would only know three, or at most five, kata.” ~ Gichin Funakoshi
“A kata is not fixed or immoveable. Like water, it’s ever changing and fits itself to the shape of the vessel containing it. However, kata are not some kind of beautiful competitive dance, but a grand martial art of self-defense – which determines life and death.” ~ Kenwa Mabuni
“Our teachers did not give us a clear explanation of the kata from old times. I must find the features and meaning of each form by my own study and effort, by repeating the exercises of form through training.” ~ Tsuyoshi Chitose
“Karate cannot be adequately learned in a short space of time. Like a torpid bull, regardless of how slowly it moves, it will eventually cover a thousand miles. So too, for one who resolves to studyKarate diligently two or three hours every day. After three or four years of unremitting effort one’s body will undergo a great transformation revealing the very essence of Karate.” ~ Anko Itosu
“It takes 1000 days to forge the spirit and 10,000 to polish it.” ~ Miyamoto Musashi
World Famous Karate Historian and Best Selling author Hanshi Patrick McCarthy's excellent treatise on "Kata Culture & The Mind" reprinted here with his permission. Please click here!
WARRIOR ARTS DEADLY DANCE is a uniquely entertaining, highly informative, and a visually compelling study of human ability. We've already started filming interviews and demonstrations with masters in the following styles: Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu, Wu Shu /Tai Chi Chuan, Shorin Ryu Karate, Goju Ryu Karate, Uechi Ryu Karate, Isshin Ryu Karate, Kempo, Taekwon-do, Muay Thai Boran, Jeet Kune Do, Kali, Japanese Swordsmanship, and more.
WARRIOR ARTS DEADLY DANCE!
A documentary of intense human ability, this martial arts film explores the practice of Kata, the essence of the Asian fighting arts. With in-depth interviews and performances from several world renowned martial artists, including; Burton Richardson, Henry Thom, Arcenio J. Advincula, Henry Smalls, Jann Aki, and many more!