I see this a lot and i’m not sure why. Many many people go on and teach kata and hold back so much in them its incredible. I have a theory that theyhave this big secret they don’t want anyone to know… Whats’s the big secret???.
Then there are the other people that only show their stuff to the people in the know or the loop. What I call the 10% of people that are exceptional or above the normal, can devote their life to mastering the finest points of kata. I maybe wrong, I don’t know.
To me karate and especially kata and knowing what its all about is for everyone. Now I understand that not eveyone is going to want to know or going to get it. So this I why I call it the 90-90. I feel and believe that kata is designed to work for 90% of the people 90% of the time. So with this in mind I look at the techniques and application for each move or sequence of moves in a kata and see how they can work in the 90-90…
I evaluate the kata based on the movements the techniques as they appear in the kata. These movements and techniques are usually in sequences or groupings.
There are difficulties of course, the eventual changes from the pure movements as is was intended over years of slight changes from teacher to student. the adoption of personal preferences as the kata is molded to the performer… We need to make leaps of faith in our interpretation and find ways to identify the stylised movements in each form.
In reality we cannot fully hope to know the true meaning behind any given sequence. We can only make assumptions based on experience and fact. Yes fact! What facts are there in a stylised movement in a kata that has possibly changed over the years.
The fact as I call is the the basis for most of my interpretation. This is the way the body moves and reacts to certain actions placed upon it. Generally people are made the same way, we react in generally the same way when actions are placed upon our body.
So for simplicity I’ll group these facts in the following manner.
A. balance (the taking of)
B. leverage (the use of)
We know that with certain actions people / bodies will react in similar way every time we do some things. This is core to any kata. It makes sense, if an action will not work instantly because the opponent is doing their attack. Then we can and need to employ a distruptive technique to make the destructive technique ever more effective.
From here we can move into the building and understanding of what movements can do. For the purpose of my analysis I base all attack on arms distance. Anything outside of actually touching your opponent indicates a separate set of events that may or may not lead to the use of any techniques.
It they cant reach you your best action is to not be there. If this is not possible then reassess and move to the next level of threat awareness and do what is needed to not be there.
Geoff Thompson has a detailed explanation of the threat escalation process. I have my own version based on my experiences. But this blog is not about that. This blog is about the analysis and interpretation of kata.
One final thing here… the actual performance of a kata when done correctly can be amazing and very articulate to watch.
A fight is messy and brutal. Don’t be confused or lead to believe anything else. I was once in a scuffle where the way I found to get an advantage was to let my blood drip in my opponents eyes. This gave me enough of a distraction to do what I needed to. After hospital and a number of stitches in my head later I cannot remember how it started or why. It was fast erratic and messy. This is how a fight is, to me this is what kata represents at its core.