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One Kata

When I work with an advanced student, I will typically concentrate on one kata, sometimes for several weeks. Knowing many kata has very little value in our dojo. It is nice to know "all" the kata, but we do not participate in tournaments and are not tested by strangers or visitors. We learn and practice kata for the information contained in the kata and the opportunities they present.

Kata, to us, are useful things. If they do not have a use, there is no need to learn or practice them.

Of course, in the beginning it is very difficult to understand what a kata means, what opportunities are presented, and the value of the kata. At first, the kata must be learned step by step.

In the beginning, the kata is like a model of something. It is like a sculpture or a wireframe. It is just a copy of a living thing. The pieces are there and they fit together in some order, but it is just an imitation.

I work with an advanced student on a certain kata because I am trying to help him to turn it on, to activate the kata. Then the kata will be a living thing for the student, and will start to show things to the student on its own. The kata will not be just a copy -- it will be the real thing.

This may sound a little crazy. For most people, a kata is just a kata. That is fine if that is what the student wants. Some students are content to just collect kata -- as soon as one is learned it is time to learn another.

But it is extremely hard to use such a shallow kata. If someone attacks you, kata will be kata the farthest thing from your mind. There will be no time for kata.

But if your kata has come alive, you body will just react, the movements will be natural and a matter of reflex.

I really enjoy the Passai kata (a Tomari version). When I practice Passai, I think, "Who could have developed such a beautiful kata?"

When I practice Passai, I begin to understand the movements of other kata. Passai infects my understanding and performance of other kata. Naihanchi does the same. Each kata influences the other.

Kata are such fine Sensei. You do not need too many!

Learn one kata well. Practice it until it becomes a real, living thing (to you).


Charles C. Goodin