Kata are the formal exercises of traditional karate, and were the essence of training on Okinawa during the development of karate. In kata, emphasis in training is placed on transitions between movements, directional energy and focus, and the progression of techniques in a combination. A kata is dance-like in nature, constructed of a set series of techniques, in a set order, each with their own unique tempo. The 26 kata typically practiced in Shotokan were likely designed with several intended applications, as a way of passing on hidden strategy and techniques, but many of them have been lost or forgotten over time. Now, it is up to students to study these kata, and learn how they might be applied. Many throwing, grappling, and locking techniques can be found in kata that generally aren't practiced during basics. Advanced karateka are tested on their insights into a chosen kata, and the ability to demonstrate their interpreted application of its techniques. By continuing to practice these kata, karateka have a way of maintaining the heritage and tradition of karatedo. Kata also function as exercise tools, as different kata can emphasize the strength of an individual leg, or specific technique.
Most katas in Shotokan are constructed of several sets of repeating techniques. Like the chorus of a song, these repeating groups often hold the "theme" of a kata. Here, a student must begin to learn how techniques relate, and how they progress. The "chorus" of a kata is often meant as a response to a single attack. An attack will be deflected, and the defender may then soften up the attacker with several lighter blows or feints, before delivering a finishing blow. Kata often demonstrate this progression, moving through several lighter techniques, building up to a climax and finishing blow, which is the kiai point. Every kata in Shotokan has two kiai points, where the performer yells at the completion of the final technique of the series. A kiai is meant to further combine the mind and will with the body to deliver a blow, as well as tighten the core body muscles with a sharp exhalation. Part of performing a kata well is the ability to express this progression of techniques, with proper concentration and intent.
Kata is also a popular tournament event. Team Kata is an event as well, where a kata is performed with a group of three, trying to synchronize all their techniques and tempo. Team kata is judged on how well the team moves together, as well as the individual kata skills of the team members. In individual kata, a performer is judged on their form, body dynamics, speed, and power, as well as understanding of the tempo and progression of the kata. It is important to demonstrate the natural progression leading to a kiai point in a kata. A performer must also demonstrate the intented target of a sequence, by showing awareness of the invisible "opponent". Eye contact and direction are important, and convey intent and focus on the "target". When competing, the first and last movements of a kata also bear special attention. The first movement will set the tempo and mood for the entire kata. If the first technique is done with little energy, it becomes harder to raise that energy level on subsequent techniques. The final techniques in a kata are important because they are the last things to stand out in the judges' minds. As with kumite, a skilled kata performance requires good understanding of the basics with diligent training in kihon, discussed further in About Karate.
Provided here shortly will be downloadable MPEG videos of club members performing the various kata required up to first black belt. Each kata will be performed by a member of the appropriate rank. Videos will be available to club members as a way to learn and remember the outside kata movements outside of class.
This section will contain printable guides for the kata required up to first black belt, similar to the previous kata walkthrough pages. These will be provided to club members as an aid in learning new kata.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.