Kata is Kumite!!!
I have heard some people say that kata is not important. It has been said that kata is not practical or does not represent true fighting I have heard that it is an outdated method of training and does not make you a better fighter. To those statements, I argue that it is not the case. Kata is a pre-arranged form of moves. This is usually practiced either alone or in groups. It is a means of memorizing a set of movements on the surface, but it is also so much more than that.
Kata is understanding how the body works. When we practice Kata, we have to move in a certain manner and have to execute multiple techniques in succession. Understanding how to put combinations together is vital for a good martial artist. Through the practice of Kata, we start to identify potential patterns of techniques and begin to understand how one technique can flow into another. This practice teaches positions the practitioner to begin to think about other opportunities to experiment and mix techniques.
Kata is timing. Timing is essential in fighting. This also holds true with kata. Through the continuous practice of kata, the practitioner begins to understand the importance of executing specified techniques at different speeds. Depending on the form, a kata may require one or more techniques to be executed at different speeds. Some fast, and others slow with emphasis on tension. The use of the kiai (yell) is also seen in kata which helps to focus on the breath control and helps with learning how to tense the muscles at the precise moment of impact.
Kata is movement. Through application of kata, we begin to understand the importance of movement and introduce the concepts of angling (sabaki). The movements in various katas are designed to assist with closing and creating distance. Through movement in kata we also learn how to maximize our power. This is seen in the delivery of a technique when shifting from one stance to another.
Kata is execution. The repetitive movement in karate work to develop muscle memory. Detail is paid to each movement and emphasis is placed on ensuring that they are risp and strong. Punches and kicks are practiced with the goal of each technique being accurate and precise; using the right amount of force.
So essentially the practice of Kata is practicing Kumite (fighting). When we better understand the correlation between the two, we develop a deeper appreciation for this part of training. I would dare say that even non- traditional modern arts implement various aspects of kata ie. mitt work, shadowboxing, and drills. The older I get, the more I have learned to love and appreciate kata.