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Tournament Kata

Not long ago, I was watching kata performances during a tournament. I kept thinking to myself, "Do these people know what they are doing?"

I don't mean that they do not know how to do the movements of the kata -- the steps. I mean that I wonder if they understand the meanings of the movements of the kata -- the applications. In many cases, I strongly suspect that the contestants were merely going through the steps with little or no appreciation of the meanings.

Tournaments are bound by rules, even for kata. Generally, it appears that each movement must be precise and clean. There also seems to be a dramatic flare to the performances. Pauses in the kata are often accompanied by dramatic facial expressions and exaggerated kiai.

When I perform a kata, I sort of visualize/feel what I am doing. It is purely self defense. I have already failed -- the fact that I am defending myself means that I have been unable to avoid the violent situation or did not foresee it at all. I have been attacked. Having failed, I must now resort to self defense, which could injure or kill the attacker. I could become injured or killed too. It is not a good situation. My main thought is to get away safely as quickly as possible.

There is no element of drama here. If I poke the attacker in the throat or eyes, I am not going to put on a dramatic face. If I kick him in the groin or attempt to break his spine, I am not going to smile like a movie star. I am horrified that I have had to resort to violence, and I am paranoid that there may be other attackers, who may be armed, I have not yet seen. I want to get out of there -- not put on a show.

Performing a kata is not a great or magnificent thing. There should be no theatrics or flare to it. It is a rehearsal for an unfortunate, grave situation.

Knowing what you are doing makes you not want to have to do it. You can see this on the faces of some people when they perform kata, but not many -- regret.


Charles C. Goodin