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Old March 18, 2005, 06:19 AM   #1
Scott Evans
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Katas / Forms useless or helpful ...?

I’ve heard both extremes, such as: “without mastering the forms you cannot be proficient in Martial arts” to; “forms are a complete waist of time”.

What are the opinions here as to why forms should or should not be used in the training cycle?
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Old March 18, 2005, 07:02 AM   #2
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interesting post...

I have been taught that the secrets are in the forms. For example a form teaches an attack in a specific way, after mastering the form it is often discovered that the attack can also be an effective block or evasive move or still an attack. When that happens it opens up the entire form to a different point of view.
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Old March 18, 2005, 09:27 AM   #3
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The original purpose of kata is often misunderstood. Today it seems kata is an art form used to win trophies -- it didn't start out that way.

Kata is really just one aspect of a traditional martial artist's training, and it serves to complement the other aspects. The "heart" of a particular style can often be seen in the kata, and it is much more than a performance art. Too much can be made of "hidden moves" and "secret techniques" (though there is some truth to that). Perhaps the most significant benefit of kata training is teaching the body precision and efficiency of movement, along with a balance of finesse and power.

In a traditional school, kata is usually accompanied with bunkai, which is a means of breaking down the kata into practical application of a kata's techniques. In other words, a study of how the strikes, movements, etc... in a kata can be utilized in a real-world scenario. This is good because it takes kata out of the realm of theory into the practical realm.

I think the main reason some people pass kata training off as ineffective is because so often it is practiced with the wrong emphases in modern schools. Certainly it is possible to become a good fighter without ever practicing kata, but if kata training is done properly with the correct mindset it can be very valuable. Kata should not be practiced simply for the sake of "art" or as a means of advancement in belt rank. It is a training tool that offers much to the student that understands it and it should always be practiced with the utmost seriousness.
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Old March 18, 2005, 11:05 AM   #4
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At it's heart, a form is intended to build muscle memory. If you repeat any movement often enough the movement will become automatic. So if your movement is "textbook" the automatic expression of that movement will be close to "textbook" also.

The problem with forms is that when they are done without thought about their purpose and you don't vary the form so that the movements are done in different order you risk training your body to only respond in a limited way. There are plenty of instances where martial arts students loose a fight because the fought a form instead of an oponent.
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Old March 18, 2005, 02:26 PM   #5
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It depends.

Forms were originally developed to be the catalogue/encyclopedia of a style as most were not able to read generations ago. They have many side benefits (conditioning, teaching counters in the two and three person forms, slotting in the "muscle memory", inter alia), sort of like dry firing/practice in shooting.

Depends on what you wish to do. If you want to learn to fight quickly, do not waste your time and find a good combative gym (often MT coupled with BJJ) with solid instruction and people who share the same goals. If you want to learn a system, then take the time.

In my art, praying mantis boxing, the forms have another side or sides to them. I.e. you are not just punching air. It takes much dedication and effort to incorporate them into our sparring--skill through time and effort.

Just my $.02.
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Old March 22, 2005, 10:37 AM   #6
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To Kata or Not to Kata

I realize the martial arts class I attend is not run in the traditional manner, very informal, don't bow much and such. And I have never gone to any other style of class I probably only think I know what they do.

Our art is Aikido, though we sometimes bring in other useful techniques as we earn of them from a new student who has come from another school. I'm sure an Aikido purist would think we've "bastardized" it, but we try to be as practical as possible.

We use kata to learn the techneque without hurting anyone. Most of what we do is not solo-form kata, but a student will execute a given attack and another student will practice a given defensive technique. This not what I would have called kata, in that it is done with a partner, but I've read that this would be considered kata as opposed to sparring. We generally work at half to three-quarter speed. Any faster and the risk of injury goes up dramatically (the more energy in an attack, the more energy availible for defense). I mean, if you are practicing a move that uses pain compliance and can dislocate joints or break bones if carried to full completion, you need to go slow or you run out of students.

We do use solo kata forms with weapons (jo, short stick and cane), but once again one cannot practice hitting someone with a stick without hurting them.

I realize this makes it difficult to know how your going to respond in a real situation, but it is the same with a firearm. You train your body and prepare your mind.

Last edited by 20cows; March 23, 2005 at 04:00 PM.
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Old March 22, 2005, 11:24 AM   #7
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Depends on your instructor.

If you learn what the kata means, what the moves are, and spend time studying each move (breaking it down to it's many parts)...yes, it's a great tool. You'll find there are several "tricks of the trade" hidden in those simple moves.

If all you're doing is going through the motions to get the next belt....might as well learn a new dance routine.

Just my opinion...
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Old March 23, 2005, 02:12 AM   #8
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My school is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Kata are used as the test medium to gain rank in the system, because they are standardized measures of technique, but they are not regared as vitally important. Our view is that they enhance physical coordination, good form, and also train students in situational options. That is, show practitioners just how many things they can do to an opponent, so in an actual fight, when katas have gone to hell, they still have a huge arsenal of ideas from which to draw their next move.
But our school is not really true Kenpo karate. Our instructor has studied in half a dozen different martial arts, and has infused elements of Thai boxing and brazilian jujitsu with the karate. As a result, we fight better than traditional schools, but our technique is bastardized.
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