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Creating a New Kata

Once in a while I will break my students into groups and ask them to create a new kata. This is to make them think about the process that went into the creation of the kata that we practice.

Sometimes the students will come up with some very novel sequences of movements. But generally, they come away feeling that their kata are not as good as the ones we practice.

And that is the point -- or at least one point I am hoping that they will get. My students cannot make kata that are as good as the kata we practice. I cannot make kata that are as good as the kata we practice. I dare say, that almost no one can accomplish this.

From time to time I will see a "new" kata that was made by a sensei, usually a famous sensei. Some famous sensei feel the need to make a new kata, perhaps so that their students will feel good about practicing a special kata. So far, I have not seen a "new" kata that was impressive. In fact, most are quite terrible!

I am aways moved when I practice kata such as Naihanchi, Rohai, Passai and Chinto, among other kata. Passai, in particular, is such a beautiful kata. We practice the Tomari version of the kata, which is especially beautiful. It is as if the creator studied both Karate and Okinawan dance.

How can any kata I create compare to Passai? It would be far better for my students to practice Passai than any kata I could create.

Somewhere I read that Yabu Sensei used to say that if you know the Kusanku kata, you should practice that rather than the Pinan kata. To him, the Pinan kata were new ones, created by his Sensei, Anko Itosu, to teach in the public school system. Itosu Sensei was certainly great, but can his Pinan kata compare to Kusanku (or Passai)?

Kata are like DNA sequences. Our job is to recreate the animal from these sequences. They are building blocks. The idea is not to collect many kata, but to grow one to adulthood.

And why start over with "new" kata when we already have such rich and beautiful kata?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin