Practice Your Karate Kata!
First things first! Do your kata. Karate is the pathway between self defense and self improvement. Kata is the initial vehicle for that.
Attitude is everything! I used to hate, detest, dislike Kusanku Dai. I don’t know why I just rebelled at it. When I lived in Chile I was doing this kata before my Goju Ryu class started in the dojo. One of the most attractive young women I have seen watched me from start to finish and said she thought the kata was one of the most beautiful she had ever seen. Now being a serious guy and not vain at all, I suddenly realized that Kusanku Dai suddenly became one of my favorite katas. (Note to self: Erase this stupid comment, Do Not Publish! That is just stupid. No one will believe you.)
The Beer Virus is gonna make us all kinda crazy, grouchy, itchy, you pick a term. Kata will help us stay sane. When life sucks, when you are at the bottom of the pit of emotional well being, you still have your kata. Kata are yours! They are Free! Plus they make you feel better as you imagine your boss, tormentor, ex-, whoever getting pummeled by punches and kicks as you block their feeble attacks on you.
If you do your toughest, hardest to learn kata as described in this article you will perfect it within a week or so as you will have now made that kata your own. Sure there will still be improvements we’ll tweak, but you will notice a completely different feeling when preparing to perform the kata.
Tell me which kata you do/did. Make a list by each day. Send me at the end of the week. Don’t lie, er, I mean stretch the truth. I will know when I see you if you were just tugging at my leg, or gnawing on it like a junk yard dog. If you only did your kata once every day in the morning, afternoon and at night then avoid saying you only did it once. If you didn’t do any kata at all one day say that, too. It is ok. This course isn’t graded. We will determine if it is even pass/fail. Well, if you get promoted right away that is a pass, right?
– Kata that you already know you practice just one time per session. e.g., Kihon Katas. If you know all the way to Chinto or beyond then choose one or two Kihon Katas only to practice during your session. You can mix it up with each session.
For Katas you are working on learning, do what you can. We can fix what you don’t remember.
– Now take one of your kata most recently learned, say Pinan Sandan, or Matsamura Passai. Do it 5 times! (WTF, 5 times!) Yes.
You don’t have to do it extremely fast. Start Facing in one direction and do your kata. Now face in another direction (I try to go clockwise) and do the same kata. Face in another direction and do your kata. It is starting to get a little more difficult without the dojo front wall or mirror for landmarks, isn’t it? Do kata until you repeat the kata facing in the direction where your started. Whew. That was either very easy or very disturbing.
– To keep my incentive up I put a bottle of beer facing the direction of my first kata. (Colin, Maria, and Serah: soda, juice or water for you!) After completing a full circle of kata I take a sip of beer. Hmm. Now this is the really hard part: do I do another round of kata, or sit down and finish the beer as a reward for doing one kata round? I am sure that if you could imagine me doing this, then you would think I would do the right thing in your mind and not even think about drinking the rest of the beer until I had done another round of 5 kata before drinking that beer. Well, you are right. That is not a good reward for me because I usually decide to stop and drink the beer. So I use ice tea now. Even after that beer can we still do another round of kata, and reward ourselves with another beer? Let’s try! Here we go! (For some reason wine and kata don’t mix. Wine slows down your coordination much more quickly than beer.)
– Let’s mix this Kata performance up a little.
1. Do your kata at 3/4 speed.
2. Now do it as if you were a ballet dancer gracefully, but absolutely no power.
3. Now do it slowly and controlled like in a Tai Chi class. Wow, now you identify some foot transitions that you skip over when you do the kata quickly.
4. Let’s try some dynamic tension. Everything tightens up. Remember your legs and toes. Your muscles fight against you with each move. Exhale at the end of each movement so you don’t fall and hit your head on the coffee table.
5. Now do each movement of your kata as fast as you can. Stopping after each move to breathe.
6. Do your kata at 3/4 speed again. Isn’t it easy now?
– Another thing to do is just do all the kata you know start to finish. After a while you will be so intensely moving in a zen state that you will finish the kata, wonder where you are and have no clue as to which kata you just competed. I often wonder if this isn’t the real goal of entering the “Warrior Path”.
– Now if that works for you and you think you have this puppy in your pocket and are ready to take it home to give to a friend, try doing kata slowly, at whatever speed you want, but imagine self defense techniques besides block, kick and punch. Ahhh, grasshopper, you have just put 15 years of training, or more, under your wings! Congratulations! Now go over and pick up that red-hot brazier with your forearms like David Carradine. You have earned those fresh branded dragon marks on your arms. If you look you’ll see mine say “hibachi”. Well, that is what it is supposed to say but that thing was so damn hot I dropped it quicker than a dog with a porcupine in its mouth so I only got the first couple letters. I was still quite proud of the letters until I worked in Bosnia. I had no idea “hiba” is a very dirty, offensive word in Serbian slang.
Do Your Kata!
Kiyoshi, 8th Dan, Virginia Dojo
Roberto is an 8th Dan, Kyoshi, awarded by Grand Master Seikichi Iha, 10th Dan, Beikoku Shidokan Shorin Ryu. Roberto began his martial arts journey in 1969 and started training with Sensei Iha in 1979. He continues to train with Sensei Iha and is now one of Iha’s senior students.
As a retired Foreign Service Officer he concentrates on teaching proven-effective adult-focused self defense karate at the Virginia Dojo in Alexandria VA. Many people call the Virginia Okinawan Karate Dojo the Martial Arts Grad School because Roberto teaches proven effective often brutal, pressure points, joint locks and grappling applications that Sensei Iha taught him during 40+ years of instruction in addition to the obvious percussion techniques of punching, kicking and blocking. See examples of traditional Kata, Kumite, & Bunkai here.
Roberto is a member of the East Coast Beikoku Shidokan Karate Black Belt Promotion Board and the National Black Belt Promotion Board. Among his numerous awards are:
“Best Martial Arts Teacher in Washington, DC” in 2017; “Best Martial Arts in Washington, DC” 2018; “Best Martial Arts in Alexandria” 2019; and “Best of Lessons.com” in 2018 and 2019
Virginia Dojo, 6416 Grovedale Dr., #302-B, Alexandria, VA 22310