An Overview of Karate Kata

Aside from the dojo precepts, kata is traditionally Karate-do's primary tool for personal development. It is the textbook of Karate-do that is to be learned, understood, and applied. It is the tool by which Karate-do demonstrates fighting principles, but also creates unity in one's body, mind, and soul.

The fighting principles, when well applied, will work in many situations. Awareness and defensive principles help avoid, assess, or diffuse encounters. The search for unity means we should use lethal force as a last resort. The key is to move last, but hit first. In this way, there is no first strike in karate, but we meet force with a passive counter. Look for new ways to interpret kata - many secrets may be found…or created.

Mentally, kata teaches focus, and attention to all angles. One must cut through disclarity of mind to understand kata, and with this a growing process takes place. You will find bunkai where you did not before, as you imagine the problems the kata creators faced. This problem solving that kata teaches is invaluable. It balances the mind and grounds it to a reality that is still unpredictable, yet enriched by clearer understanding.

Physically, kata enforces proper use of body structure. It also strengthens the muscles through natural body weight exercises. Practiced vigorously, kata improves cardiovascular efficiency. Kata is therapeutic and empowering.

Spiritually, kata provides a path of self awareness. In practicing or even creating new kata, one builds resolve. In aiming for mastery, one builds patience. In either, one has to continually search in and outside of themselves, that one may learn how to apply the truths contained within kata.

Owen Johnston

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