Anatomy of a Great Kata

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A post by Sensei Hofmeister:

Kata are a series of movements designed to teach a wide variety of principles in karate: balance, focus, striking height, techniques, combinations, stances, and more.  There are many elements in kata.  So what makes a great kata?


In Yoshukai, the movements in a kata are not all executed at the same tempo, or as quickly as possible.  The transition from one stance to the next should be done quickly, and execution of each technique should be done with kime (focus).  A brief beat should accompany most techniques as kime is used.


It should go without saying that stances should be distinct (e.g. kougeki vs. boubi shikodachi), and the student should settle in to the stance immediately before executing the technique.  Without a solid base, techniques will not have power.  Stance first, then technique.


The student should be relaxed throughout the entire kata, except at the moment of execution of a technique.  At the point of execution, the student should add power and tension to the technique.  The rest of the body- stance, shoulders, etc. should be relaxed- only the muscles required for the technique should be engaged.  After executing the technique, the student should be relaxed again.


Throughout the kata, the student should have the same easy, rhythmic breathing.  This is true even on execution of a technique, since the only muscles which should be contracted are those involved in the technique.  The core can be engaged without altering the rhythm of breathing.  Audible breathing during kata (except when noted), or during execution of a technique, can reveal to an opponent your breathing cycle, which they can use against you.

Hands and Feet

Many students neglect the non-technique hand.  During a technique, the hand in chamber should be stable and closed without being clenched.  The hand executing the technique needs to be correct- the hand position for haito is different from shuto is different from nukite is different from shote.  During kicks, the foot position should be correct- using koshi for mae geri, pointing the toes for mawashi geri, etc.


The student’s gaze should be focused toward the direction of the technique.  The head should be held up, the back straight.  Some students tuck their chin down, hunch their shoulders, or bend forward slightly.  Having correct posture will make balance easier.


Obviously, the actual sequence of techniques and execution of the techniques and stances must be correct.  The above elements, when considered separate from knowing the actual kata, will help students increase their mastery of kata and their own body mechanics.