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Readers Respond: Do katas help you to improve fighting skills or defend yourself?

Responses: 13

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For centuries, martial arts practitioners have been doing katas or preordained individual fighting moves designed to protect against and subdue imaginary attacker(s). But as far back as Bruce Lee (likely even further), experts have wondered aloud if the practice of these movements was worth it. Does the practice of forms or katas really help people to improve fighting skills and defend against attackers?

You be the judge.

Kata is key

The argument can go on, endlessly. If kata works for you fine, if not, it's not an obligation to make it part of your training ritual. Still, it shouldn't be belittle for many of the great fighters new and old have benefited from it. Look at some MMA fighters that come from such tradition like Lyoto Machida who practices kata daily and kumite champs like Kenji Yamaki who is one of only 14 people who was able to endure the 100 man kumite. It is ignorant to say kata is useless.
—Guest BoriquaDo

Yes and no

To say not to practice katas is not to be a martial artist is very sad. Many styles of martial arts do not use Katas as they are known in styles like Karate. Martial arts predates writing, printing and film, so it was a logical way to document and codify techniques. I think it can help only if the application of the moves are learned and also practiced with a partner, specially for self defense. That being said Martial arts is all about interacting with others, to truly develop fighting skills and self-defense one as to engage in, if not combat, drills that will mimic as closely as possible reality and that as to be done with partners. Kata can improve focus but to improve timing, range or "warrior spirit" one as to interact. Most people do not like to engage in strenuous activity's, specifically involving contact. So it is not surprising that styles that put forward katas are so popular. To much katas can give you a false sense of efficiency and create a kind of martial art pathology
—Guest Eric Alphonso

only if you practice

In addition to 'the basics', kata help develop muscle memory, mental focus, timing and ki. I don't recall ever consciously using a 'kata move' in a tournament round, though I'm sure I have included some techniques polished in kata. And most certainly, when a buddy of mine tried to sneak up on me from behind recently, my automatic response was straight out of Pinan sandan.
—tonyva

If taught correctly...

If kata's are taught correctly by an instructor who knows the real applications of each technique within that kata, then they play a major part in training as you will not just be going through the motions but learning what the techniques are actually there for. This is called Bunkai. As with all aspects of Martial Arts training it is the collective knowledge of a Martial Art that makes it effective in the real world and not a singular aspect. Kata, sparring, kihon, fitness and dedication. All of these will give you an advantage over someone with no training. But they must be used together to compliment each ones strengths and cover any weaknesses. Lets face it. Anyone whose been involved in a real life fight knows the only thing that works in reality is 'doing anything you can to stop that person from hurting you'. Rules and regulations don't exist on the street. To sum up, I love practicing Kata and if you don't then concentrate on something else.
—Guest bernard

nessesary

i firmly beleave kata is nessesary for development of technique and improves power and focus speed and timing` all necessary for sharp fighting skills and aesthetically vital for preserving the traditions of each art.
—Guest kevin kreckel

Kata are part of the package

The complete MA package includes kata. It also includes drills, conditioning, sparring, and so forth. Lose any one and you have a less-than-complete art. Do them all diligently and you have a highly effective art that can meet a variety of situations; not just the cage, not just the dojo, not just the street.
—mikejaqua

No, Kata are silly

Determine how long it takes you to learn the first "basic" kata (say 2-3 months?) then I'll take another person and teach them "basics" for 2-3 months and then lets have them fight - one using only the techniques they learned in kata, the other with the "basics" they learned in 2-3 months. Point being, there may be some nominal value in kata, but there is nominal value in flower-arranging (patience, symmetry, aesthetics, etc.); however most kata-based schools won't waste valuable training time with stuff that has a negligble return on actual fighting skill (like flower-arranging).
—Guest Artexerxes

Katas Are The Foundation

katas or hyungs are the very foundation of all of martial arts! Once you can do your forms (katas/hyungs) without thinking yourway throu8gh them then and only then are truly an accomplishe dmartial artist. When the moves become automatic then you can defend yourself without having to think about it. Knowing what each move in a form is supposed to do really helps as well. Stidy the form, learn the moves & above all learn the reason for the form's moves.
—DokKozzak

Kata forms

Katas are esential in developing warrior spirit . You can use kata to develope breth power, awarness of center , focus , timing and range. What the Japanese call heragi or "belly art" means to focus on center . You really can use kata to develope mushin or "no mind " like the author in one of the articles said a meditative stat of mind . I may never use any of the techniqes that are in my katas but If you know the real purpose behined kata then you know how to use them to develope the spirit of a warrior.
—Guest

Open the box

Within kata are all of the self defence applications you can imagine. Many violent and extreme. You can work on different scenarios to cover one section of a kata. A couple of my students have returned to me after unexpected and dangerous assaults one an underground carpark grab against a female and another an ATM grab from behind. In both cases they stated that the scenarios practised with moves from a couple of katas were instinctively brought into play. I think it should be remembered that MMA is still a rule bound sport and of course the training methods will dictate the outcome. Kata usually deals with a surprise attack and the techniques are used as a last resort.
—Guest Jeff McCauley

Love those katas!

Katas help to organize martial thinking. Practicing katas without considering applications (bunkai) is as useless as learning a multiplication table without putting it to use. In much the same way that it's hard to multiply 6 x 4 unless you know the math fact, it can be hard to use a downblock - step-punch combination as, say, an armbar-and-finish set unless you have a technique vocabulary developed in kata. Fundamentals are the key to every physical endeavor as every coach will say. Master them, and building to excellence is straightforward. neglect them and lose. Kata are the shortest route to mastering fundamental combinations so their many different applications can be explored and applied.
—Guest Hector Lareau

for kata

I believe in the use of kata, I was grabbed once from behind while at a party store and my body automatically went into a technique learned from kata. It saved my life. Besides, isn't shadowboxing a form of kata?
—Guest Tgreaper

Katas have much value

I am a 40 year vet of martial arts and have seen this question kicked around for years. (it's a good question) Katas (or Hyung, Poomse, etc) have great value in certain areas. I don't believe one of those areas is preparing to fight. If all a person is concerned about is fighting (wether competitively or street) I think Kata practice has very limited value. Contained within the katas for those who understand them are some good self defense techniques, but there are more effective ways to practice them. I believe kata practice is very valuable for the following: physical fitness- practiced hard, and practicing advanced katas works the whole body and helps balance, speed, power, technique, etc. artistic expression - katas are like a violent ballet. Once again, if all a person wants to do is fight, they are not interested in this aspect of training. mental and spiritual development - as a 40 year veteran, doing all the katas I know keeps me sharp
—Guest Gary Romano
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