are katas/forms useful?

I’ve recently learned then shaolin karate kempo has a LOT of katas/forms and was wondering will they help in a real life situation ?

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13 Responses to are katas/forms useful?

  1. Keyboard Warrior says:

    Not in the slightest bit. Traditionalists would say they do. But most modern arts don’t practice kata. You’ll see who dominates this forum with the amount of thumbs down I receive.

    edit: @Cheetah, well what would I classify Krav Maga, Boxing, systema, sambo etc…as? They’re certainly not traditional.

    edit: @Cheetah, it’s only bad because you disagree with it. Your a prisoner to your own biases. At least I can admit I’m biased. I never said my opinion is end all be all. I maybe a dick about it sometimes, but in the end, I just state my opinion, as does everyone on here.

    edit @ Cheetah I don’t want to read all of that.

    edit @ Gerry, the problem is though that I’ve stated my opinion time and time again. I agree, evidence is necessary for a good argument, but I’ve stated my opinion on this subject time and time again with proper evidence, and I’m sick of convincing people. I’m sick of having to write this all down. So I’ve decided I’ll simply state my opinion, and if people can’t handle that, then fine, I really don’t care anyways.

  2. Karate Dave says:

    Shaolin Karate Kempo? Shaolin is Chinese and Karate is Japanese. I think you had best either check the name of the style again or find a different class, as I have serious doubts as to the legitimacy.
    Katas / forms / patterns what ever you call them are the manual of your style. They have all the techniques and applications in your style.
    No you will not fight in a set pattern like you do the form, nor will the applications be used in the same order as the form necessarily.
    Forms without breaking them down into the applications are nothing more than a dance and cadio workout. However when you break them down and also practice the applications within they are the backbone of your style.
    A good example, I practice shotokan. The first kata we do is called Taikyoko Shodan. In just the first two techniques a down block and stepping with a punch, I know 20 or so applications and am told there are around another 30 or so. That is just in the first two techniques, and includes a few take downs.

    So to directly answer your question, yes they are useful for self defense but not by themselves and not as a whole. The applications are self defense.

  3. Gerry S says:

    Yes, forms are useful, but they should not dominate training.

    Forms (katas) allow an individual to practice movement, balance, limb positioning, etc., in a controlled manner (either solo or with a partner). If they are used properly, they allow the individual to put in many repetitions on complex movements to build good transitions, etc.

    There are those who will say they are useless, but I wonder if those same people ever practice punches, kicks, etc., without a bag or sparring partner? If so, they are actually practicing a form, though it is not called such in most schools. Basically, a form, in my mind, is any practicing of a technique that doesn’t have to adapt to new variables in a situation. In fact, by that definition, hitting a bag is a form if the bag isn’t moving.

    @KW: The problem is that you state your opinion as pretty much unequivocal fact, without providing any supporting information. Take a look at my answer. I consider my opinion fact (and incontrovertible), but I don’t expect others to accept it as such, so I provide enough information for them to understand my viewpoint. They may still disagree, but at least they can see why I think as I do.

  4. Leo L says:

    Katas are an essential element of training. I practice 14 katas regularly, as part of my TKD training routine. In an emergency, I have actually snapped into a stance and block from a kata. This was the exact right set up for the particular type and angle of attack. My first conscious thought, at the time, was to restrain my counter attack, until I evaluated the threat level. Anybody who says that katas are useless has just not experienced this.

    They are like shadow boxing. You practice with the idea that people are coming at you with different attacks and from various directions. The more katas you perform, the more situational responses you burn into your mind and muscle memory. The secret to making katas effective is to do them as if your life depended on it. Someday, it might. Doing katas with no power and poor technique teaches you to react that way.

    Traditional training takes longer than more streamlined courses of training. However, a well-trained traditionalist is a superior fighter, because he has made his art part of him. After 16 years, I do not need to think to react. Appropriate combinations and stances present themselves, sometimes surprising myself, not just the attacker.

  5. Karateka says:

    They’re useful if you approach them correctly.

    Just doing them over and over doesn’t get you anything outside of a nice looking form and a little muscle soreness. You have to analyze them, dissect them; this is how you learn movements.

  6. blahblueblack says:

    They are like shadow boxing, its a good method of training to develop proper mechanics & movement + to an extent to link techniques. But it in no way is a substitute for application against resistance, its akin to shadow boxing without getting into a ring & thinking you are a good fighter/shooting targets but not placing yourself into hunting in the wild & thinking you can hunt/learning music theory but not applying it to an instrument & thinking you will be able to play etc etc.

    Some folk believe kata is hugely important, others think it is completely irrelevant. I say it has its place though some forms may be questionable (eg some Silat Jurus have the typical ”swat” the attackers punch & do some crazy XYZ flurry of hits & grapples).

  7. Cheetah says:

    Absolutely, to steal a term from Kokoru, forms are the manual for your style. Repetition is the key to learning how to commit techniques to memory so you can perform them without having to think about it. Forms/kata/poomse is exactly that.

    @KW – Modern martial arts? Is that what your new buzzword is now for your sport?

    @KW2 – You receive thumbs downs because you have no idea what you are talking about, but come across like you do. You are subjective, arrogant and biased and refuse to accept anyone else’s experience, because of your hatred of TMAs. Your advise is so bad, it is the equivalent of telling a noob who just learned a weapon defense to use it against a gun when all the perp wants is your wallet.

    @KW3 – Boxing could be considered traditional and certain drills and bagwork could be considered the equivalent to forms. Doing the same moves over and over, committing them to memory so you don’t have to think about them and perfecting certain techniques. Krav Maga is an extended self defense training course, not a martial art or sport. As far as sambo, systema, again, I know nothing about them so I have no comment. If I’m a prisoner of anything, it is what is important to really learning and understanding aspects of TMAs and this question is related to forms regarding a TMA, karate. They are important. There are even aspects of BJJ that are the equivalent of forms, when you learn armbars, paintbrushes or kimuras, doesn’t everyone work on these together? Doesn’t the instructor watch your technique and evaluate them and correct them? This is the BJJ version of a form. TMA forms are just put together in series of movements so you don’t have everyone standing around doing nothing but low blocks for 30 mins, that would be boring. But when an instructor watches students perform kata, that’s is what he is doing, not just making sure that they are doing each movement in the proper sequence but making sure they are doing each technique correctly. When the guy asks about karate kata and you say it is worthless, you are wrong, period. If he asked about BJJ, you could say that, even though, I feel there are kata equivalents in all martial arts or sports, regardless. But in that instance, you would have some grounds, in this one, you simply don’t.

    @Gerry – Very good and well thought out edit.

  8. Tom says:

    Yes, they can be! You can pick up combination techniques from forms. You’re training your left and right arms and feet. You can’t just practice on your right or left side like for instance if you’re right handed, you don’t just practice on your right side.

  9. Jim R says:

    I agree with Karate Dave about the questionable style.
    And about kata. Kata are very important. They teach you much that you can not learn any other way.

    Styles that look down on kata (forms) simply do not understand them. As soon as I see someone comment about forms being useless, I know they have never been properly instructed in forms. Funny thing is that the very best performers of kata are also by far the best actual fighters. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Forms teach concepts and techniques not possible to learn any other way. Naihanshi (naifanchi/tekki) forms are almost pure grappling, and very effective.

    @ KW: opinions are one thing, but to state that kata are not good for training is just wrong, period. Learn of kata before putting your foot so deeply in your mouth, the worth of kata is much more than opinion.

  10. possum says:

    “will they help in real life?” No, not directly. They aren’t meant to be used “in real life”.

    They are a training aid, nothing more. It’s no different than the purpose of a kicking bag, focus targets, sparring, drills, school rules, and etiquette. They are all teaching aids. Some are training aids for improving technique. Others are training aids for improving stamina. Others are training aids for psychology and mindset. Some have multiple purposes, and as well purposes I didn’t mention.

    Take them for what they are: if all you do is perform them without explanation or details behind them, then they are at best a training aid for cardio, dynamic stretching, balance, timing, rhythm, centering, and technique. They can also be as useful as shadow boxing. But if you get details about what you’re doing, then, they can also be self-defense training aids as well.

    For some stylists, they do forms purely for asthetic purposes: they compete or do demonstrations this way. Many taekwondo, wushu, and xma schools do this, though it’s not uncommon to see other styles do this too. Is it wrong or useless? Not necessarily – but it’s not martial arts, either. At least, it’s not what was ever intended.

    Forms, in particular, serve up many uses in martial arts (and even in martial sports). There’s no one, single purpose for them – even in the ultra-traditional schools. It’s what you make of them.

    But in any case, they are not meant to be used per se on the street, and they never were meant to be used that way.

  11. jwbulldogs says:

    I agree with Dave first you should check out that style “shaolin karate kempo”. Generally speaking that doesn’t go together as Dave said karate is Japanese and Shaolin in Chinese.

    Kata/forms or whatever else you may call the do help in real life situations if you learn the application behind the kata. It can even help on some small level when you don’t know the applications behind the kata. I’ll give an example how or what I’m basing my opinion on. My son was 7 years old while learning shorin ryu. He was learning several kata. He was the smart kid in the class and some student didn’t like him because of the attention he got from being smart and not getting into trouble. I taught him to walk away from fights. One day one of the guys was determined to fight him and hid in the restroom on their restroom break. Once my son walked in he tried to punch him (sucker punch). But because of the muscle memory developed through kata he respond without thinking and hurt the kids arm. As soon as I came to the school that day several kids came to tell me what happened. Every child had the same story and I hadn’t seen my son yet. He told me the story the only difference was that he knew he did a middle block to stop the punch. He didn’t know why he did it, he just did. The block wasn’t a black. It was a strike. That is why the other kid was hurt.

    Knowing a few of the applications in kata I’ve had other students that have stopped grown men from raping them. One female had 2 attackers and put one in the hospital the other received medical attention. I have taken a knife from an attacker, sticks and chairs because of kata.

    Only a person ignorant of the applications that are taught in kata would say they kata is not useful. Many of those people are so ignorant they think that you do are supposed to do everything in kata in that set order. They don’t know that each techniques is in itself a separate fight and that the application must be taught along with technique. It should be drilled too. Kata allows you to practice techniques without a partner. But the partner must be added later in order to know how, why, and when you would use the applications of that technique.

    I’m guessing that KW doesn’t realize that everything in systema, krav maga comes from our kata? We just spend more time developing them so that we can use them effectively. We don’t have to think of what to do. It becomes “instinctive” for us because of the way that we train.

  12. Jimbob says:

    yes it is helpful.

    but it wont help you in a real life situation lol it is just a training method.

    that is like saying lifting weights will help you in a real life situation lol

  13. Nathan Grieve says:

    they can help, but they aren’t the best as they are so rigid in structure. they are more for discipline and show

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