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Learning the System

This is a story.

A Karate student said this to his Sensei. "Sensei, I have now learned all the kata of our system. Now I know it!"

The Sensei laughed hard and replied, "It is good that you have learned the kata. Please think about this. You are like a chef who has gone to the market and assembled all the ingredients for a fine meal. Now you have to go back to the kitchen and cook!"

There is a big difference between a shopping cart full of ingredients and a fine meal. There is also too much emphasis today on being able to simply "do" a kata rather than learning the kata, working on the body dynamics, working on the connection of the movements to each other and in other kata, working on the variations, understanding the applications, etc. Learning the kata is step 1. Imagine that there are 10 steps. Don't just complete step 1 and move on to another kata. You still have 9 steps to go!

Simply being able to "do" a kata is like memorizing a passage in a foreign language without know what any of the words mean. That is sort of like a person receiving a dan certificate in Japanese which actually talks about beer or sake. Don't laugh. It happens.

Kata is not something you "do," it is something you work on... for a very, very long time (and then continue to do so). You don't "do" the kata, they do you.


Charles C. Goodin