Kata is a japanese term meaning form, model, style, shape.
Kata is the essence of karate, consisting in a series of coordinated harmonious movements which are made in a fixed order and according to a specified rhythm. Each kata shows an imaginary fight with a few opponents at the same time. The movements of kata always start from the defence position, which proves the defensive application of kata. Karateka never attacks first and does not use the techniques which he knows with violence. Each kata consists of a series of consecutive movements made along the line called embusen. The last kata movement should be made in the same point in which the exercise started, of course after faultless execution of all techniques of the simulated fight. Zanshin (watchful readiness) is an integral part of kata and should be as perfect as kamae (stance).
Each kata has its own characteristic features. They should be stressed by an individual who trains karate. He ought to put his individual character into hand and foot techniques, never forgetting about his imaginary opponent.
During the execution of kata one must pay attention to alternate muscle contraction and relaxation, regular breath and watchfulness (but it cannot lead to stiffening). First of all, one has to achieve a necessary degree of inner concentration (spiritual). At the same time, all these elements make the movement smooth and harmonious, rhythmical and full of grace. This is achieved by using the force in the right moment and by setting the body in motion with elasticity and liberty of movement. No kata movement is redundant. In every exercise a series of particular techniques is not a spectacular action aiming at creation of a visual effect but these are movements needed for the fight, studied and improved by karate masters who created them. Some did it in order to acquire physical strength, to strengthen their muscles and bones, others to improve their reflex and increase their speed.
As far as the classification is concerned, katas are generally divided into these belonging to Shorei (strength and power) and Shorin style (speed and lightness). Kata training begins with the study of five basic forms of Heian group. This term comes from the name of the historical capital of Japan, Kyoto, which meant “reign in peace and with peace”. It allows to understand a deeper sense of applying the term Heian to the first five katas. Karate students who master them to a sufficient degree, acquire foundations allowing them to develop speed, reflex, technical abilities and physical strength. First of all , however, it gives them inner peace,which in turn is the guarantee of an effective self-defence.
After the forms from Heian group, there is a long list of higher katas (more complex). They include exercises from a series of Tekki, Bassai, Empi, Join, Kanku, Jitte, Gankaku, Hangetsu, and many others. It is thanks to practising of kata that karate survived till the present day. The combination of all techniques in the framework of respective katas helped to preserve the heritage of karate, this great art. of fight, and pass it from one generation to another, thanks to which it continued till the present day.
Individual and Team Katas
They are judged through a point system. When judging katas, judges take into consideration: technical correctness of kata movements, their order, continuation of techniques, speed characteristic of every kata, interpretation of the application of particular kata techniques. In team kata there is also an element of synchronisation of team’s movement. The team consists of three men or women.
Bunkai (the application of the kata techniques) is invaluable. It is this element, where the kata can be broken down and the techniques put into practice, that allows the student to really “know” the kata, and to polish and “buff it up” constantly until the moves become refined. A perfect display of kata is where seeing the practitioner perform the kata enables you to visualize an actual fight taking place without an opponent. The true essence of karate-do is in the continuous practice of kata.