The kata is formal exercises which combine basic karate techniques — blocking, punching, striking, and kicking — into a series of predetermined movements. Kata combines offensive and defensive techniques, proper body movement, and changes in direction. The kata teach the student to dispose of numerous attackers from at least four directions. Although the kata do not involve visible opponents, the student, through serious study of the kata, learns the art of self-defense and the ability to calmly and efficiently deal with dangerous situations. For these reasons, the kata have been the core of karate training since ancient times.
In practicing forms, or learning a new one, it is useful to break the form down into components, working on different ones individually and then adding them together. Phase 1 can be considered the basic, or rough draft stage while Phase 2 adds more ingredients that help the form take shape and strengthen it. Phase 3 can be considered the “polishing” phase where refinement of the form takes place.
- Understand the characteristics of the form
- Learn the overall pattern of the form
- Learn the individual movements and integrate them into the form’s pattern
- Focus on breathing, tension / relaxation and power control
- Concentrate on the rhythm of the form
- Practice with a sense of awareness and realism
The final step would be to evaluate the form in its totality, much like a painter stands back to look at his art from a distance. Enjoy your creation
When you haven’t trained for a while, and you are pretty sure that you are out of shape, my recommendation is the light kata workout. It is the best way to overcome burnout and get back into a habit of enjoying your karate training. The workout is simple:
- Perform all of the kata you know – for some of you this is all of the kata.
- While performing them, do them slowly and in a relaxed fashion. No speed, no strong tension. Just move around performing the motions.
- For any jumps, just sort of hop gently from one place to another
- As you warm up, you can speed things up a little, but I wouldn’t do that for the first two weeks.
The first time, just worry about remembering the techniques. This isn’t hard, since now there is youtube with every kata every conceived available for viewing. Most smartphones have the youtube app in them, so you don’t even have to be indoors to do this. You can go outside to your driveway, any parking lot, or a tennis court or basketball court in an apartment complex in your shoes, hat, and jacket and get in some training. If you forget something, just look it up.
Remember that muscles atrophy at different rates. Your right leg might be more resilient than your left. One muscle in your leg might be less tight than another. You may injure yourself by letting that strong muscle pull along the weaker ones beyond their capability. Take it easy – very easy – to avoid the returning karate player two week injury that ends a comeback.
Your goal for the workout is 800 techniques. That’s all 26 kata, or all five Heian kata 8 times each. Repeating the same kata over and over can be mind-numbing. Some people like that. Others find it a recipe to want to quit again and go back to the xbox. In that case, I recommend that you work on a different aspect of the kata with each workout. For those who are repeating the Heian over and over, or, God forbid, just a couple of Heian over and over, pick a different topic with each repetition – but skip speed, strength, and flexibility.
You can work on your posture at the halfway point, 3/4 mark, or completion of any techniques. One time, work on the head and which way it is turned and when. The next, think about your feet. Your shoulders come next. Elbows, knees, back, hips, and lastly, your face. Try to keep a poker face as best you can throughout and avoid gritting your teeth and expressing any sort of telegraphing expression.
Posture is a really good thing to work on. If you have the posture down, or you just don’t care that much about posture, then work on relaxing as much as possible. Again, you can move your attention from one body part to another, from right to left, top to bottom, and change with each repetition or with each workout depending on your tolerance for repetition.
Those are just some ideas to get you started. Most importantly, doing something is better than nothing. If you can remember that, you will avoid pushing yourself too hard and making karate a chore instead of fun. Do what you want, do it the way you want it, and avoid injuries.
Oh, one last thing. You’ll notice I did not put any recommendation that you stretch out. Don’t bother. It’s not helpful to do static stretching. If you want to do that, do it after the workout – maybe after a couple of weeks of light training. Your muscles need strength and warmth to tolerate stretching. The old fashioned workout that begins with stretching is worse for you than no stretching at all.