A Guide to Performing Kata

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By Mitchell Saba

  1. The Kata begins the moment you take a start position. Your mental state, concentration and focus, must reflect the respect and seriousness required.
  2. Execute the Kata correctly and in the right order. The number of movements in each Kata is fixed and the student must perform all of them, in the correct order, without mistake.
  3. Move accurately, in the correct directions from the starting position. The karateka must end the Kata at the same physical spot they began from. This is impossible if the wrong moves, directions or stride of the steps is not consistent and accurate.
  4. Understand the meaning and intent of each move contained in the Kata. Express the movements fully with the proper power, speed, control and as always accuracy. The movements have meaning, honor them.
  5. Focus. Be aware of the intended target of the Kata. This means the karateka must understand the intended defense/offense of the imaginary opponent, knowing how and when to block/strike.
  6. Execute the Kata clearly so that an observer can clearly understand the meaning and intent of your movements.
  7. Perform the Kata rhythmically, making transitions between movements smooth not jerky. The Kata should be executed with confidence, boldly and powerfully. The end of one Kata is the beginning of the next, this is why it is important to keep movements rhythmic start to finish.
  8. Remember the three factors maintaining rhythm is dependent on:
    1. Proper application of power (timing and target)
    2. Fluency of movement (like a dance)
    3. Body flexibility

There are four primary physical aspect when performing a Kata:

  1. Breathing – This is number one for a reason. Improper breathing ruins your focus, power, accuracy and speed, in other words your Kata. The Kata begins with breathing, the ceremonial exhale and bow, to clear the lungs and mind of the karateka. The karateka inhales as they begin their first movement. Proper breathing is important for the performance of any Kei required in a Kata.
  2. Footwork – Proper placement and spacing of the feet are the foundation of every Kata and karate movement. Inconsistencies insure the karateka will not return to the exact location from which they began. Improper footwork will leave the karateka unbalanced. The feet are the foundation, if placed on sand they are unsure, placed on bedrock they can not move, this is the way to understanding and perfection.
  3. Technique – The karateka must be constantly aware (consciously or subconsciously) of the exact location of every part of their body. This is often referred to as body awareness. Body awareness must be perfected for the karateka to know if their technique is perfect. Only through constant practice can the karateka perform Kata as it was intended.
  4. Timing – This is as important as breathing. Proper timing of the movements gives a Kata its beauty. A Kata performed to quickly or slowly will appear off balance, incorrect even to the untrained eye. Like the saying goes, timing is everything!
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