Learning kata

I’ve been reading through some different martial arts blogs of late, inspired by some of the comments I’m getting from the wider community on my blog (super props to Black Belt Mama, as I’m pretty sure I can thank her for the recent attention!). I came across an excellent blog on BBM’s website by guest blogger Matthew Apsokardu (of Ikigai | Blogging the Martial Way) about control in martial arts (an excellent topic I’m keen to write about, but I’ll save that for another time), and from there I jumped onto his blog and read up on his post about learning kata.

Personally, I have a real love-hate relationship with kata. I’m typically slow to learn kata, and I find the initial process very defeating as I stumble through the movements. That being said, I’m sure my ultra level of unco is probably very amusing to watch, but nonetheless, it isn’t all that productive 😛

However, once I get the basic pattern down and start refining the technique, I absolutely love it. I also find that learning some of the bunkai as you go makes a huge difference in understanding what you’re doing (something emphasised by last week’s seminar), as it gives context to get a greater visualisation of what you’re trying to achieve. There’s something about getting to the heart and soul of kata that is extremely rewarding, even if I’ve only worked on relatively simple kata given the highest I’ve ever gotten to in either style of karate I’ve trained in is 6th kyu.

But back to kata – I’m currently learning heian nidan, which I’m finding to be quite enjoyable as it incorporates some very different techniques than you often encounter in your basic drills. The amount of shuto in the kata was initially a bit off-putting since my shuto is a bit rubbish (I blame my crappy stances :P), but I’m finding that by doing the kata, my shuto is gradually improving.

But to bring this rant back to some focus and Matthew’s blog, I was reading his excellent post on learning kata faster, and there are some really good pointers in there if, like me, you’re prone to temporary idiocy when learning a new kata 😛 I’ve actually picked up heian nidan much faster than I normally pick up a new kata, and I’ve found that some of the things I’ve been doing to help remember it are a lot of the principles Matthew discusses in his post. I’m going to keep it bookmarked so I can keep referring to it when I start to push beyond memorisation to technical execution of my current kata, and refer to it again when I learn my next kata following my next successful grading.

Still, I’ve been thinking – I should start throwing in more kata practice between classes, as I want to refine my technique and be able to progress at a good pace and training this only in class probably isn’t enough. We’ll see how I go.


3 Responses to “Learning kata”

  1. Sean,

    Thank you very much for your kind words regarding my posts!

    I know what you mean about that love-hate relationship with kata. It be very mentally taxing to burn it into memory and then continuously refresh it so as not to lose it. Luckily it’s almost always worth the effort.

    Great blog here, keep it up!

  2. I love the fact that kata bunkai is simple and effective. My opinion is that if the bunkai is not practical and very simple that people with a low amount of training can do it then it is not a good bunkai.

    The hard part which I hate though is having a technique in a kata and for the life of me, I cant seem to see how it can be applied in combat. After a while though, im either shown or figure out myself that its bunkai is again, very simple.

    Nice blog.

  3. @ Matt: No worries, I really liked that post on your blog, it was a convenient reminder for me to write about this part of kata. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, I really appreciate it!

    @ markstraining: Thanks for sharing your thoughts – I’ve seen simple and more complex bunkai, and while I think I’m only at the stage where I could give relatively simple bunkia, having seen the more advanced practitioners demonstrate just how expansive it can be, I’m definitely aiming to start thinking outside the box early on.

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March 2009