The paradox of kata

The paradox of kata.

Is kata present when you think about it?  Kata does not occupy space such as a bowl or table?  But is it simply an abstraction?

The paradox is simply this; while kata does not physically exist like a table, it comes into existence when you perform it. Therefore it can only exist in the present, not in the past or future.

Kata are the manuscripts written by the teacher for students to study when the teacher is not physically present.

My understanding of kata goes something like this:

First of all, kata are not, as has been stated in the past, a continuous fight against an imaginary four to eight opponents. They can be, and most often are powerful “training tools.” I say that because many misunderstand the purpose of kata.

Second, kata are not as old as most think.  While many Japanese kata were originally derived from Okinawan variations, many of these Okinawan kata as well as many of the Korean variety were of Chinese origin. Many others are no more than sixty-five or seventy years old.

The original purpose of kata was to transmit methods of defense and counter for the exploitation of an opponent’s weaknesses. The secretive nature of original practice was essential to keep outsiders from learning clan or family secrets. Also there were many  “okuden,” hidden techniques and methods within kata so a spy or a less-than-loyal student could not decipher them.  In fact many students spent years studying a ryu’s basics and all of their kata thinking that they had mastered the system when in fact they only had a superficial understanding.

Due to this lack of transmission many secrets were lost when a founder or subsequent master died prematurely.

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4 thoughts on “The paradox of kata”

  1. The paradoxes are this: people think a kata is one continuous fight from beginning to end. The other is that kata does not exist as an entity until its performance.

  2. Happy Saturday! Congratulations for such a great site!. Enjoyed “” although maybe not everyone did. This is an article to return to, bookmarked. Added to my RSS.

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