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Shodan Kata?

I am often surprised by how many kata a shodan (1st degree black belt) will know in different Karate systems, including my own. When I ask a shodan how many kata he knows, the answer will often be, "all of them." This is often said with the connotation of, "why all of them, of course." Like why would I even ask?

Should a shodan know all the kata of a system or ryuha of Karate? I know that this is up to the Sensei, but in my dojo, I do not expect shodan to know the 18 empty handed kata that we practice. In particular, I feel that Kusanku, Chinto, Gojushiho, and even Passai and Wanshu should be reserved for more advanced students..., maybe even Wankan.

Of course, it is easy to learn these kata. They may be longer than many of the other kata. That is not the point. Anyone can learn just about any kata. I could teach Chinto to a brand new student -- that doesn't mean that he will be able to do the kata properly, with the correct body mechanics, and with a proper understanding of the possible applications. Just copying the form of the kata means very little. That would be like memorizing a speech in a foreign language without understanding the language.

To me, it is better for a shodan to concentrate on the core basic kata of a system. This does not mean that they are beginner kata. The first kata a student will learn in my dojo is Naihanchi Shodan. That does not mean that it is a beginner's kata. In fact, it is a beginner kata, an intermediate kata, and an advanced kata. It is a kata that the newest student will practice and the most advanced students and instructors will continue to on.

When I hear that a shodan knows many kata, I will think that he knows them in shallow sense. In my experience, this usually is true. When a shodan learns a more concentrated curriculum, he usually knows the material more in depth.

Knowing many kata means nothing at all in and of itself. Knowing even one kata very well means a lot.

Quality, not quantity.


Charles C. Goodin