Kata (形, or more traditionally, 型) (literally: "form") is a Japanese word describing detailed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. Each is a complete fighting system, with the movements and postures of the kata being a living reference guide to the correct form and structure of the techniques used within that system. Karate Kata are executed as a specified series of a variety of moves, with stepping and turning, while attempting to maintain perfect form. The practitioner is counseled to visualise the enemy attacks and their responses. Karateka "read" a kata in order to explain the imagined events. The kata is not intended as a literal depiction of a mock fight, but as a display of transition and flow from one posture and movement to another, teaching the student proper form and position, and encouraging them to visualise different scenarios for the use of each motion and technique. There are various forms of kata, each with many minor variations.
Traditionally, kata are taught in stages. Previously learned kata are repeated to show better technique or power as a student acquires knowledge and experience. It is common for students testing to repeat every kata they have learned but at an improved level of quality. The student will perform one new kata and one or two previous ones, to demonstrate how much they have progressed. As the karate student progressed from beginner to master, they would unlock the more subtle and dangerous techniques hidden in the kata's movements. While some kata may be taught by certain schools only to students who have reached certain levels, in practice any kata may be taught at any level as it takes years of practice for a karateka to discover and master the more dangerous aspects of a given kata.
The various styles of karate study different kata, or variations of a common core. Some kata may therefore be known by two names, one in Japanese, the other in Okinawan/Chinese. This is because Gichin Funakoshi, and others, renamed many kata to help Karate spread throughout Japan.
Kata originated from the practice of paired attack and defence drills by ancient Chinese martial artists. However as the numbers of attacks and defences being practised increased the difficulty of remembering all of the drills also increased. An additional problem with the drills was the requirement for a partner to be present for all practice. Kata/forms were created as solo forms containing the concatenated sequences of movements of the defensive portions of the drills. The initial forms being simply strings of movements, sets of rules were created to allow the creation of kata which could fit comfortably within training spaces.
Symbolism of 108 in kata
The number 108 has mythological significance in Dharmic religions. This number also figures prominently in the symbolism associated with Karate, particularly the Goju-ryū discipline. The ultimate Gōjū-ryū kata, Suparinpei, literally translates to 108. Suparinpei is the Chinese pronunciation of the number 108, while gojushi of Gojūshiho is the Japanese pronunciation of the number 54. The other Gōjū-ryū kata, Sanseru (meaning "36") and Seipai ("18") are factors of the number 108.
Other Buddhist symbols within Karate include the term karate itself, the character kara can also be read as ku, which originates from sunya, positioning at the beginning of kata resembles the hand position of zazen, and custom of the bow upon entering and leaving the dojo and meeting the sensei, as is done in Buddhist temples and Zen dojo.
Kata performed in various styles
Some kata and/or styles are not included here, due but not limited to popularity and common usage for kata, and recognition (or not) of styles by the various governing bodies.
|Suparinpei/Pechurin/Hyaku Hachi Ho||Yes||Yes||Some||Yes||Yes|
|Ten No Kata||Some||Yes|
- Toguchi, Seikichi (2001). Okinawan Goju-Ryu II: Advanced Techniques of Shorei-Kan Karate. Black Belt Communications. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-89750-140-8.
- Hyaku Hachi No Bonno: The Influence of The 108 Defilements and Other Buddhist Concepts on Karate Thought and Practice By Charles C. Goodin. The article has appeared in Issue #7, Winter 1996-97 of Furyu: The Budo Journal.
- Gōjū-ryū kata
- Shitō-ryū kata
- Kobayashi Shōrin-ryū kata