1. Sports
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

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

Responses: 25


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. Readers Respond


To be honest,I only learn formal karate for a really short time.Mostly I fight using freestyle street-fight moves.But in the short time that I was able to learn n practice kata,it's really helping me focus n it actually kinda like,for me is like drawing my confidence out.My instructor's explained each n every use of every individual moves.So for me,I see the point of practicing kata.But I'd say it depends on people themselves.
—Guest dazle

Why Do Forms?

Fighting is not like doing forms (katas) and anyone who thinks that's their purpose is simply mistaken. Forms store the system's moves for later use and for passing on to others, they teach the basic principles which underlie those moves, they sharpen and condition technique and they're great for getting and staying in shape. No fight is like doing a kata though, nor should one be surprised at that. You don't need forms practice to learn to fight well, but it helps a lot and, to the extent that a style brings useful stuff to the table, forms practice provides a source for learning it. If you want to retain a record of what a given system is about, they are a sound means for doing that.

Complete waste of time

Katas are a complete waste of time . Most people can only practice 3-4 hrs a week. To make the best of that time, do high intensity practice involving actual, live kicking, punching, grappling etc... Practicing preordained movements is called dancing, not martial arts. For those of you who want to make martial arts a quasi-religion and baffle naive minds, fill your boots. If you want to learn how to defend yourself (yeah I mean HOW to fight) stay away from styles that preach the practice of kata. I would put my money on a Thai boxer, wrestler or mma guy over any practitioner of a kata heavy style, any day of the week. And, I have over 20 yrs of martial arts experience and I've met far too many kata champs who couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag, disgraceful!
—Guest Pat R

I grew up as a street fighter

I did not learn kata until later in life, but it helps me teach. Some beginners move in weak or uncoordinated and weird ways. I now use kata as a tool to help beginners learn to walk and move in a coordinated fashion. MMA fights last so long because a lot of mma fighters lack power. Kata teaches power.
—Guest ifironfingers

Kata is self defense

Kata is not simply a predetermined fight sequence. Kata is really a mnemonic device for learning self defense. Each movement or set of movements is a part of a self defense technique. These parts are then strung together in a kata to aid the student in memorizing the different techniques. You only need to remember a part of the technique, such as an inner strike. That inner strike can be used on a variety of attacks and after you use your inner strike you can follow up with whatever reaction naturally occurs. Kata can be used in a fight and you can teach it as self defense because that is exactly what it is. But you have to stop thinking of kata as a set of movements. Each movement is separate and individual. And each movement has many uses. And a punch may not be just a punch just because that's what's in the kata. Open your mind and really explore the possibility of the kata.


Kata is simply a co-ordinated way to practice various defences against an opponent and contain some deadly technique banned in MMA contest. It is singular ju jutsu and should be practised with an opponent.
—Guest Jeff McCauley

It's good for ya!

Drink your milk, eat your broccoli, do your katas. It's good for you. Plenty of time for sparring and spontaneous reaction drills.
—Guest Big Mike

Katas are more than necessary!

A kata shows the core of your art. Without the techniques you learn in kata, you are merely kickboxing. Efficient? Yes. Art? Not so much.
—Guest Ziggy

Kata benefits across the board

I agree with Mr.Romano that balance, speed, power and technique and overall physical fitness all indispensable for actual fighting. So as he said that kata helps to develop all those he cannot simultaneously say that kata doesn't help in fighting as he has said above. Just an observation.
—Guest Lennox Alexander

Intructor Goju Ryu

With over thirty years experience in martial arts. I will speak upon my art. Kata its very much essential in the martial arts. It is the foundation the art was built on. Many people do not understand the kata's and become frustrated and attest that they do not work where as they do. 1) They show you every attack within your arsenal (strikes). People rely on thinking the stances are not useful. Low stances are for building leg strength, they teach a student how to lower their center of gravity. How to uproot your opponent and imbalance them. We practiced a kata called sanchin meaning 3 battles (mind, body, and spirit. It teaches the student how to strengthen the body to resist blows and injury. It also teach the student how to still fight while being fatigued. It also teach proper alignment and how to generate power fat and efficently. Remember they were made not to be easily understood. I have unlocked many techniques. Stop looking for the obvious applications look for hidden movements
—Guest donmiguelc

How important are katas to self defense?

I hold two black belts in two different styles of karate and the bane of my experiences is that katas have been of little use for spontaneous self-defense until many years are devoted to them. Unfortunately, when involved in a fight, you must react quickly to a "specific" offensive technique. You can't be thinking about any specific component of a kata. You must react quickly, almost without thinking. Katas are all about planned patterns of thinking (fight choreography). Thus, over many years, I have found much disappointment in memorizing katas though they may be viusually awesome to the observer (visually awesome is not a self-defense technique). Over the years I've seen plenty of black belts who can not defend themselves; they put in their time and money and got a black belt. If someone chokes me from behind or in front, how can I react? What are the 2-3 specific defense techniques that I can use? Even fighting barefoot is antiquated. There is a significant difference with shoes on
—Guest Bill Sheehan

What Kata Was Designed For

After practicing Taekwondo forms for about ten years, I could not figure how to use them in sparing / fighting. For me it took going back to one of the Chinese arts (Tai Chi Chaun) to understand what the movments ment. The forms / katas were not designed for fighting. They were designed to stop an attacker quickly and effiently. In addition they were designed to condition your body and mind. In Tai Chi it takes about a year to learn the form and a lifetime to perfect it. Today MMA is the buzz word, but if you look closely at the original arts, they all were MMA.
—Guest Dan

Instructor is Important

There is no best style.Your size, body type and sex have nothing to do with the style you want to chsooe. People that think that your size and body type determine the style know little to nothing about martial artsMost people will tell you there style is the best or they heard such and such is a great style,The style is not important, what matters is how good your instructor is and how you train. The style is secondary, they all have there pro's and con's there are no superior styles.If you have an instructor that can’t teach you how to fight, regardless of the style, what good would it do you?Choose a school with a good instructor in the end that’s all that matters, that and how you train.Its the person that has the ability to fight not the styleReferences : 30yrs ma
—Guest OMngFgRjO

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.

Readers Respond

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

Receive a one-time notification when your response is published.

  1. About.com
  2. Sports
  3. Martial Arts
  4. Training
  5. Katas Forms - Do Katas or Forms Help You Defend Yourself

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.