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Origin of the Chinese character for kata[edit]

  • Original post: "The kanji character, for kata is composed of three more simple characters. The one in the upper left means "shape." The one in the upper right means "cut." The bottom character means "ground." A kata is a shape that cuts the ground."

I removed this because it sounds like do-it-yourself linguistics. Better keep to the dictionary definition unless someone can verify it really means "a shape that cuts the ground" to the average Japanese. F. ex. I could claim that "martial arts" actually means "arts practised on the planet Mars", but that's not how the average English speaker would understand it... 22:14, 22 February 2006

  • Response: I would like to provide the correct etymology for and . But first, I must explain a key point about the Chinese written language:
    • It is a common misconception that Chinese characters are all or mostly pictographic in nature. In fact, only a small portion of the earliest Chinese characters were pictographic. As the Chinese writing system evolved, pictographs became inadequate, especially when attempting to describe abstract concepts (for example: it's easy to see how the character looks a little bit like a tree, but what kind of pictograph would you use to depict an adjective like overbearing?). In order to overcome this, phonetic components were gradually introduced into Chinese writing. In linguistic terms, Chinese characters can now be thought of as morphemes. Most characters have at least one phonetic element and one meaning element.
  • With all that in mind, let us now take a closer look at and :
  1. (Pinyin: xíng) contains the sound element (Pinyin: xíng) and the meaning element ("earth"). The character was originally used to denote a clay or earthen mold (in contrast to a mold made from bamboo or wood, each of which had their own terms in Chinese). Later on, it came to more generally mean shape, form, pattern etc. The meaning for is irrelevant in this case because its only purpose is to give you an idea of how to pronounce the word. But let's break it down anyway: (punishment) also contains a sound element (, Pinyin: jĭng) and a meaning element (, knife).
    Note: I have provided the Standard Mandarin romanizations for the sound elements in order to demonstrate the phonetic similarities (which have not survived the transition to Japanese). However, bear in mind that these are based on current usage; nobody knows for sure exactly what Chinese sounded like 2500 years ago.
  2. (Pinyin: xíng) contains the sound element (Pinyin: jĭng) and a meaning element . The three marks in were meant to convey the idea of drawing a picture. As time passed, also took on the meaning for "to describe," "shape," "form," "pattern" etc.
  • Now on to Japan:
    • Japan did not originally have a writing system of its own, so the Chinese writing system was adopted. It is generally believed that Chinese characters were introduced to Japan by Korean monks who brought with them Buddhist texts that were written in Chinese. Initial attempts to use Chinese characters to write Japanese proved awkward at best because Japanese and Chinese are not in the same language family. As a result, a Chinese character whose meaning matched a native Japanese term was often used for its meaning only; the original Chinese sound element was often either discarded or modified to suit the sounds that existed within the Japanese language. "kata" is a native Japanese word (not imported from China). The characters and were chosen to represent the word "kata" in written Japanese because their meanings approximated the Japanese word.


A-cai 09:33, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

they are comminly know as a sequence of karate moves that will be proformed during a gradeing—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Requested Move[edit]


Add *Support or *Oppose followed by an optional one-sentence explanation, then sign your opinion with ~~~~
Done. —Nightstallion (?) Seen this already? 11:11, 12 April 2006 (UTC)


I recently added a stub on Kopasho, an Indian kata which makes liberal use of animal imitations. It is a splendid kata and deserves a much better page than mine. If any more information or photos could be added, that would be an extraordinary assistance.


Mbrutus 21:34, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

Rebuttal to kata criticism[edit]

As a taekwondo instructor, I know for a fact that katas(or as I call them forms) do teach the students something. They are the martial art. They aren't done for tradition's sake, katas and forms were the only way of preserving the martial art during the many times in history when martial arts where banned in their respective country. The forms themselves are all the techniques of the particular martial art. In Taekwondo, all the kicks are found in ascending diffuclty with each belt. All combinations of blocks and punches are found in the forms. Another component of forms which make them effective as a teaching tool is that they enforce strong stances. Without strong stances, one cannot have a strong fighter. Kicks one can practice on a kicking bag, but one must practice stances in forms and how to transition from one stance to another depending on the situation. Katas are the omnibus of the respective martial art, they are the indicator of the level of compitency in their repsective art. To perfect a kata is to master the martial art. It is true that katas have a ceremonial function, and many have themes like "mountain" or "lightning", and indeed many are beautiful. They are part of the martial "art". Another thing to note is that there isn't just one kata, katas are as numerous as poems. Each one has its own mood.--Xlegiofalco 02:30, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Further Rebutal to Kata Criticism[edit]

  • Kata training does not teach anything that is useful in a self-defence or fighting situation.
That is not its purpose; the purpose of Kata is primarily physical fitness, and refinement of techniques. No respectable martial arts school makes the claim "if you master Kata, you will become a Karate master!" It certainly helps on the road to mastery, but, usually the self defense stuff is done with another person. Kata helps increase physical strength, endurance, and hand-eye coordination so that the student's body is fit enough to endure self-defense training, which is done with a partner. Also, a person does not always have a partner for training readily avialable, and if they must train alone, you can't go wrong with Kata. Also, agreeing the first rebutal somewhat, it is pretty much impossible to master a martial art without mastering Kata. But, to become a master, Kihon, Kata, and Kumite, all three, must be mastered.
  • A kata is just a "dead pattern", and by following a pattern one becomes bound by it
Master Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate, himself said "Kata is one thing; engaging in a real fight is another." He also said "move according to your opponent." The purpose of the "dead pattern" is not to be bound by it, but rather, eventually be set free. You train in a technique, and you are bound by tradition, but, eventually, you transcend it. But, you can only transcend it when you master it. So, no, Kata does not bind its students, quite the opposite; mastering the techniques presented can actually help a student go beyond the limits of their art.
  • Kata are taught because they provide an easy source of income for the instructor
If a martial arts instructor wanted an easy source of income, the last thing on earth he or she should do is teach Kata; in ANY style of martial arts, Katas are extremely arduous and students hate them with a passion.
  • Kata are unnecessary ritual and tradition for tradition's sake
In martial arts, all and any forms of fitness a student has the time to do is necessary. As far as fitness is concerned, practiced for an hour a day, six days a week, Kata can be used as fitness that simultaneously polishes the techniques. Also, going back to the first point, a partner is not always readily avialable, and if one can't practice techniques with a partner, again, you can't go wrong with Kata. Basically, Kata is for learning and perfecting techniques. Pre-arranged Kumite is to give those same techniques the final polish, while sparring is supposed to provide some form of "experience" for an actual fight. Without toughening up the body somewhat with an fitness regimen that Kata can provide, the strength and coordination necessary to do well in sparring simply isn't there.

I will agree with the point, that Kata should not be done all by itself. Doing Kihon makes your Kata better, while doing Kata makes your pre-arragned Kumite better, and pre-arranged Kumite in turn, makes free form Kumite better. I learned from bitter experience that neglecting Kihon made it so that progress within Kata was slow, and my overall form sloppy. When I started incorporating Kihon again, my form was smooth, my attacks crisp, and my blocks fast. As far as self-defense, it was also a lot easier because I was in better shape. Of course, I only got better when Kihon and Kata were polished by Kumite with a partner. You simply can't advance without learning to apply the techniques.

Right now though, my pursuit of Kihon and Kata is largely ascetic, and I do not use them for martial arts. When I need self-defense, I will seek out an instructor.

Still, I hope I turned a few people in favor of Kata, or at least made them more open minded. Thank you all for your time.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Scientific Rebuttal to Kata Criticism?[edit]

Has anyone ever done studies that have analyzed Kata's relationship to "muscle memory"? A golfer will make swings without hitting a ball. This is to build/re-enforce muscle memory of a proper swing. Although I have only a passing knowledge of martial arts I would imagine that practicing Kata builds "muscle memory" for movements that would come without thinking when fighting. I would think that someone has done some sort of paper or study on this already and if so a reference to such work may be appropriate (if not there is a possible good field of study for someone). —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Bradford.Taylor (talkcontribs) 20:12, 2 March 2007 (UTC).

That is the generally accepted major purpose of kata. If anyone can find references for this, it should be discussed in the article. Bradford44 16:50, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

Not sure if this will work or not: Canadian Ninja 16:46, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

The reason for criticism is not that kata fail to build muscle memory, but that they build memories of exaggerated movements executed without resistance, and of combo movements that are for the most part not usable. Most reputable martial arts teachers will have a way around this problem, although approaches to it vary. Leushenko (talk) 16:23, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

Change article name to "Form (martial arts)"[edit]

Hi guys! I propose to change the article name from "Kata" to "Form (martial arts)". 'Form' is an internationally recognized as well as culture-free term, removing any connotations to Japanese martial arts. (In fact, one would think that Chinese martial arts would be the 'big brother' in the realm of such Asian martial arts, but that is another matter.)
In the article "Form (martial arts)", we will provide information that pertains to all different cultures' martial arts. We will then proceed to provide links to the respective cultures' term.
Chinese - Taolu
Japanese - Kata
Korean - Hyung
The list will then continue with other martial arts, including but not limited to the mentioned Burmese, Indonesian, and Vietnamese.Ohnobananas (talk) 20:46, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

Hi. I completely support this. In Japanese, the word 'kata' is quite meaningless on its own. (You'll note that the corresponding Japanese page is not called Kata, but katakeiko. The word 'kata' has almost no meaning in Japanese, so vague it is, jaa. We need to use a native English word so as to avoid being Orientalist. EID EIDETIV (talk) 00:41, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

No. Wikipedia is not meant to promote language activism. Kata is the common word. Overloading an already highly polysemic word would do no good: kata is more precise. Almost all words have their roots in foreign culture; words rarely are born out of thin air, loanwords are not a problem. The fact that Japanese does not use the term in the same way is irrelevant: the article is not written in Japanese, thus it uses the English avatar of the word. (Can I say “avatar” without bringing up pictures of Vishnu? I think so.) Palpalpalpal (talk) 19:43, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

what do you mean, "language activism"? I do not think you understand the proposal. This is, at present, the article on "forms" in all martial arts, not just Japanese. The use of "kata" may suggest that the article is specifically about Japanese martial arts. And indeed the article so far cannot make up its mind whether it is "primarily" about Japanese martial arts. There should be a general article about "forms", and then there can be articles dedicated to individual arts, such as kata (karate), kata (judo) etc. The division "Japanese" vs. "non-Japanese" doesn't make a lot of sense though.

Here is the OED's definition of the English noun "kata":

"A system of basic exercises or formal practice used to teach and improve the execution of Judo techniques, devised by Prof. Jigoro Kano (1860–1938)."

I.e., according to OED, "kata" = "kata (judo)". This is not what this article is about. This article is about the concept of "forms" in martial arts in general. --dab (𒁳) 14:33, 19 August 2011 (UTC)

I agree. Kata is only the accepted English term when dealing with Japanese martial arts. People who are not practicing a Japanese art do not call it kata. Though I would propose that it be changed to "Forms (martial arts)". Livingston 05:12, 3 August 2012 (UTC)

This article is in sore need of correct non-Asian usage.[edit]

This article seems to deal with the concept, as talked about in Japanese martial arts ...with some reference to how it is referred to in non-Japanese Asian martial arts ...or how it is referred to in English, in non-Japanese Asian martial arts.

What about how it is referred to in European martial arts? Where English terms have been used, for as long as the English language has existed (or for as long as the martial art has existed), such as wrestling, boxing, stick fighting, knife fighting, swordsmanship (be it with medieval swords, broadswords, rapiers, sport fencing...) and the like?

There is a mention, in the lead, of the term "form" being used for non-Japanese martial arts, but I doubt that this is a term used (or at least one that is commonly used) in English, for anything other than non-Japanese Asian martial arts.--ZarlanTheGreen (talk) 22:53, 29 November 2013 (UTC)