The classic question, Why practice kata (forms). There will always be the great divide between those who practice kata and those who believe it is a waste of time as it does not replicate real fighting. My personal belief is that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Forms training is an integral part of our curriculum at Villari’s Self Defense Centers. At first the learning of forms teaches us about stances, balance, foot placement, blocking, striking, kicking, and transitions of position and posture through movement. As you learn the moves you begin to increase your power and speed, which builds conditioning and stamina.
After some time of performing your kata, the forms begin to take on a different concept. You will begin to see technique hidden within the movements. These “hidden Techniques” will take the form of kempo’s (self-defense techniques). This process occurs over time as I can attest to. After 20 plus years of practicing certain forms I continue to find new, unseen applications to the moves. not unseen really but unrecognized due to my lack of understanding.
Now I am not saying that kata is the one true and only way to train martial arts, in fact far from it, nor is it a waste of time. Alone it will not make you a great fighter just as doing nothing but sparring will make you a great martial artist. After you have learned the moves you must begin to visualize what the technique is doing and what other possible applications can be made from the specific actions of the movement. This meditative process of “peeling the layers” takes time and patience. Until you can see the hidden techniques enjoy the healthy benefit of the exercise.
Now for those individuals who believe that it is a waste of time to train in forms, I respect your position but give this some thought, you don’t always have a training partner to work with so adapt a kata to fit a concept you with to train, work on the transitions of position with speed and balance, but remember to always visualize what it is your doing. Another plus is the reality that we all get older and there will come a point that physical sparring will no longer be an option. As long as we can move we will have our kata.
As I have dealt with students over the years there are always those who will question the validity of training the kata, to them I say open your mind and explore the possibilities of what you can learn, or don’t. The journey is yours, you decide.
Master Brian Sebastian