What experience do you have that enables you to say this?

This question is for people that say that kata is worthless, or that kata will not help you in self defense.

What qualafications do you have to make this statement?
Have you ever trained it under an instructor that knew what they were doing?
How many of you are simply saying what you have heard, or say it because that is what Bruce Lee said?

I am really wanting to know what experience you people that trash kata actually have with it.
Cialano- I agree that there are faster methods of teaching, however I disagree that kata is outdated. Many peopl do not mind taking extra long to learn something. For those that don’t have the patientce thats fine, however kata will still get you there, just at a slower pace.
Also since you no longer teach kata you actually no longer teach kempo.
God answers so far. Judo-I agree that the actual physical act of self defense is a very minor part, and that the other stuff you mention is far more valuble. I do however disagree with your other assesments, and feel that kata trained right will get you there. I do not think that anyone who truly knows how to train kata would say that doing the motions are all that yu need. You do have to pull individual motions out and work them with live people, who are offering resistence. Then you tweak them to work for you, and some wont. I have many moves in kata that I would not do in actual self defense. However by knowing what each technique is for, and visualizing what it is in your mind as you do it, it does get burned into your memory. So yes learnin each motion with aliveness is vital, I do not think anybody that knows what they are doing would disagree with that.

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17 Responses to What experience do you have that enables you to say this?

  1. cailano says:

    Kata isn’t useless. It teaches basic coordination, perfection of movement, balance and endurance. This is assuming you have a good teacher.

    But I would say that kata is outdated. There are better ways to learn the martial arts.

    I feel very qualified to say this. I have a fifth degree black belt in kempo karate, and another black belt in TKD. I’ve studied traditional karate as well. I’m a stickler for correct technique, especially in stances and body mechanics. I’ve won multiple kata competitions at various levels all the way up to international competition. My students have won state, national and world championships in traditional forms, creative forms and weapons forms.

    For those who shrug off competitive forms as a measure of ability, I’d have to say that in my experience, not competing certainly isn’t a guarantee of success. I know good forms from “empty” forms, and nearly all the best kata schools I know of compete. Not all, but most.

    All that being said, you can more effectively teach self defense though hard drill, pad work, sparring, grappling and technique practice. Obviously, there was a time I taught kata extensively. I will never do so again. I brought MMA style training into my traditional karate / jujitsu school and it worked so much faster and so much better than kata oriented training that I can’t even compare the two. My students were more than twice as good as before, with more discipline, more coordination, better and more effective technique, and better strength and endurance. Night and day difference.

    So useless? No. But its like using a handsaw instead of a chainsaw to fell a tree. There is just a better way now. I hope you try to learn it.

    EDIT: Actually, I don’t teach at all right now as I am joining the army and dedicating myself to that. But I hope to land a job teaching combatives while I’m in, once I learn the whole system, which is a lot like BJJ.

  2. next13miles says:


    Well in my opinion the “Kata” isn’t going to more or less help you with self defense. It enables you to develop your skill as a fighter, and to increase the repertoire of movements at your disposal. However the real life application of these movements are going to morph to fit the situation.

    So in a way yes the “Kata” will help you defend yourself. But only the movements embedded in them. Not the actual “Kata” since it is a simulated fight.

    One last thing, people are ignorant and what they don’t understand they will criticize. The only thing that matters is that when push comes to shove your are capable of handling yourself. The opinions of the populace should be frivolous in the eyes of a true martial artist.

  3. SiFu frank says:

    If Bruce Le meant that Kata was worthless, than why did he spend Hours practicing on the stick man? I believe he is quoted out of context frequently by those to lazy and lacking in discipline to follow Kata. Of course Kata by itself is no good. That is why you have training partners.
    Sorry I had to put my two cents in.
    Thanks for all of the Bruce Lee quotes SHOOTERS. Bruce was a classically trained Martial Artiest. You can see the Wing Chun Kung Fu in his fighting style. Certainly he is correct when he implies it is foolish to be dogmatic about any particular style. What works for the short stout fighter like me may be fool hardy for a long lanky guy to try. You must learn to adapt. With that said I would compare trying to learn a formless art with trying to write without an alphabet.
    Bluto is right to be riping Mcdojos about spending hours and hours on a fancy lengthly Kata without breaking down the aplications. I think that is the focus of his answer. It is very prevalent in Taekwando. As a Taekwando instructor it makes me sad.

  4. shootersway says:

    SIFU FRANK is correct .Lee was quoted out of context and misquoted by article writers who never met or knew him..He said do not deny or condemn the classical approach as you will only trap yourself in another form.

    Those who don’t do form kid themselves into thinking not doing form is reality based or that they are free.As LEE said that’s their delusion their trap.

    Further LEE sayings
    “To tell the truth….I could beat anyone in the world.”[citation needed]
    “If I tell you I’m good, you would probably think I’m boasting. If I tell you I’m no good, you know I’m lying.”[citation needed]
    “Fighting is not something sought after, yet it is something that seeks you.”[citation needed]
    “Be formless… shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot; it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, and it can crash. Be like water, my friend…”[58]
    “Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”[59]
    “The more relaxed the muscles are, the more energy can flow through the body. Using muscular tensions to try to ‘do’ the punch or attempting to use brute force to knock someone over will only work to opposite effect.”[citation needed]
    “Mere technical knowledge is only the beginning of Gung Fu. To master it, one must enter into the spirit of it.”[citation needed]
    “There are lots of guys around the world that are lazy. They have big fat guts. They talk about chi power and things they can do, but don’t believe it.”[citation needed]
    “I’m not a master. I’m a student-master, meaning that I have the knowledge of a master and the expertise of a master, but I’m still learning. So I’m a student-master. I don’t believe in the word ‘master.’ I consider the master as such when they close the casket.”[citation needed]
    “Do not deny the classical approach form, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there.”[60]
    “Jeet Kune Do: it’s just a name; don’t fuss over it. There’s no such thing as a style if you understand the roots of combat.”[citation needed]
    “Unfortunately, now in boxing people are only allowed to punch. In Judo, people are only allowed to throw. I do not despise these kinds of martial arts. What I mean is, we now find rigid forms which create differences among clans, and the world of martial art is shattered as a result.”[citation needed]
    “I think the high state of martial art, in application, must have no absolute form. And, to tackle pattern A with pattern B may not be absolutely correct.”[citation needed]
    “True observation begins when one is devoid of set patterns.”[citation needed]
    “The other weakness is, when clans are formed, the people of a clan will hold their kind of martial art as the only truth and do not dare to reform or improve it. Thus they are confined in their own tiny little world. Their students become machines which imitate martial art forms.”[citation needed]
    “Some people are tall; some are short. Some are stout; some are slim. There are various different kinds of people. If all of them learn the same martial art form, then who does it fit?”[citation needed]
    “Ultimately, martial art means honestly expressing yourself. It is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky so I can show you some really fancy movement. But to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself, and to express myself honestly enough; that, my friend, is very hard to do.”[citation needed]

    Those that do static training that is training without sparring and developing their own adaptations to make what they are being taught fit them are the people he was talking about .As he said some are short some are tall etc etc whether you do forms or not has nothing to do with it .Can you make it fit you and is your sensei wise enough to let you do it?
    And LEE’s comments about being formless like water have been said by both ancient and modern masters long before he said them .To go learn something and try to be formless from the beggining is useless .That’s not formless that’s confusion.

  5. btw says:

    Some people say that Kata won’t help you with self defense. If we say this is true (not that it is or isn’t, just play along for this moment), then martial arts is all about self defense, which is false. We who are true martial artists know that MA is about the inner person, a MA is a tool not a weapon. You are the weapon.
    OR if Kata does help you with self defense then it’s about fighting, which is true since martial arts does focus on fighting. in order for the artist himself to recognize his responsibility to himself to train.
    Kata teaches movement, Kata is literally basic movements (and since basics are required for everything in martial arts..), Kata teaches balance and timing, angle, power, speed, combinations, it helps with being fluid. Kata is definitely useful.
    Also, you say “Those that don’t have the patience thats fine”.. martial arts is all about patience. Patience with yourself, others. Because an artist can never stop learning, an art can never really be perfected. And since it can never really be perfected, learning (and therefor the art) must go on for ever. One must have patience for forever.

  6. jwbulldogs says:

    This is a good question.

    Kata do help in self defense. I agree that they are not outdated. The kata my sons learned was beneficial to him when he was attacked unexpectedly. He was able to block and strike without thinking about it. It was a natural reflex for him.

    I am puzzled. A 5th degree black belt that i trying to join the service. That appears to odd to me. You don’t join the military after a certain age. You don’t get a 5 dan before a certain age. Maybe it is just me.

  7. Shihan J says:

    kata contains everything in your style, all the blocks, strikes, grappling etc. without kata it is no longer karate.
    the problem is a lot of people that teach kata dont know the bunkai, and only teach it as a kick and punch exercise or to help stance.

    the other problem is people misunderstand the bunkai and say it is one thing, and it doesn’t work, when the move is something else, kata bunkai works when applied correctly.

    it is still very applicable. every move that you spar with comes from kata

  8. Breaking the Demon says:

    no one has a right to say that, not even bruce lee! bruce lee wasn’t perfect. he didn’t even realize how much he got from kata. its that misunderstanding that robs a lot fo jeet kune do studiers of good technique because they are misquoting and misunderstanding him. it is rare to see one (JKD students) with nice kicks.

    Kata is NOT outdated. People just don’t understand its uses! this is aggravating… and I agree with BTW and Shihan J wholeheartedly.

    you don’t use a kata in a fight, so don’t think of it that way. you use the technqiues from kat, and the kata itself refines the techniques artfully and practically, while sparring allows you to ADAPT them to a situation and refine them further, in another way. Golly wiz

  9. judomofo says:

    I would say kata will not help you in self defense.

    Actual unnarmed techniques are such a miniscule part of self defense that it isn’t even funny. Awareness of your surroundings, Common Sense, Avoiding dangerous areas or situations, and avoiding confrontation are so much more of self defense than any single unnarmed technique that it isn’t even funny.

    People seeking Martial Arts completely as a means of self defense are fooling themselves outright, as the vast majority of it won’t help you in 99.9% of your ever day self protection, and it won’t help you in 95% of what is considered “Self Defense Scenarios” now a days.

    You going to throw a punch or kick at a gun wielding person seeking to rob you?

    If attacked by a crazed homicidal maniac, and you are truly in fear of your life are you going to just use your hands?

    Myself, despite whatever unnarmed skill I have, if I am fear for my life I am using my gun, my knife, or whatever else I can pick up, and my “techniques” consist of hit as hard as I can with a blunt object, and stick the pointy end in as many times as I can with a pointed object.

    Most unnarmed fighting techniques are good for about 1% of self defense, hell maybe even less, as I don’t count fighting with drunks, or ego fueled confrontations as self defense.

    Understandably I know your stances on kata. However I think that it is circular argument. For example one guy is going to say that by focussing on kata your instructor doesn’t know what he is doing, you are going to say he does, etc.

    Vice Versa, someone who says they used to do kata and now don’t like it, you are going to say that they truly aren’t doing the art, or that they didn’t learn kata from an instructor who knew what they are doing, they are going to say that their instructor kicks ass etc.

    Personally I have some experience with Kata. I feel that it is useful as a conditioning tool, and as a means of defining the mechanics of a technique. All techniques have to be altered from kata, or from how they are taught by each individual period. The entire Bunkai aspect of long drawn out forms is interesting to me, only because of the various interpretations each person has in them.

    I see nothing wrong with kata, but I disagree with the “kata will get you there only slower” argument.

    Without sparring and contact, no amount of kata will help you. You will lack timing, rythm, and the ability to see openings in defenses, and the application of the technique at full speed against a moving resisting target. However the mechanics of the block, of the strike or technique can be further and further refined in kata to make them stronger, more functional, more natural and not awkward. So that using them in sparring becomes easier, and the techniques themselves are stronger. Adapting them becomes easier because you more wholly understand the technique.

    Competetive Judo players will tell you how much more they learned about throws and the art when they started doing kata, (most start at an older age, after they can no longer keep up the rigors of Shiai) Few actually focus on it outside and find out how much it can help their shiai.
    However, without the randori or shiai, sparring, or fighting, you won’t have the ability to use the tools kata presents you.

    You need to develop timing, and autonomous muscle memory that kicks in during fight or flight. You have seen the guys on the verge of losing win it all back with one punch that they threw automatically in reaction to a certain technique.

    Not to mention the ability to actually have defense, which you will never get without someone trying to hit you and you stopping them repeatedly.

    Kata helps you refine the mechanics and understanding of the technique, but it’s application and muscle memory as a reflex has to be built in sparring. Otherwise you won’t know which blows an upwards block truly blocks, or when you need to start it in reaction to a punch to actually block a blow, too soon or too late you are getting hit. That kind of stuff doesn’t get developed in kata.

    But I don’t think an entire 100 step kata is necessary for that, but it is a useful way of passing on the curriculum and techniques of the art. The rest (the application of the techniques) varies from person to person as they modify them to work for them.

    That is my two cents..

    My words and logic are a testament of my experience.

  10. Bluto Blutarsky 67 says:

    i’m probably the most vocal one saying that here and my experiences are that yes- iv’e seen it, trained in it (weapons actually and as a child unarmed) and trained in more effective methods-

    however, when i do say that i’ll admit to generalizing-

    ok- there is some benefit that can be gained from it if trained properly- problem is that there is too much emphasis on the form itself, and not what it is supposed to teach AND i think that if there is another more efficient way to teach the theory and purpose and technique (whatever) behind it then that should be taught.

    IMO- the only reason to teach the “longer” version when a shorter more efficient method exists is to keep the student around longer to collect more money from them. in essence to teach them something in 5 years or 6 years that they could learn in 4.

    and the vast majority of people that i come across who have trained in kata tend to come from those kinds of schools where they dont teach application and the proper mechanics behind each technique that makes it up.

    I know it is not a simple issue- i know even what i have typed here has many exceptions- other details, examples, etc. but to write a thesis on the internet every time kata comes up is ridiculous. so to go with the basic generalization and steer people away from what is most of the time going to be bad is IMO a better tactic on a message board and this is even more limited than a message board.

    so in the limited paramaters of the y/a system and over the internet in general- it is better advice IMO to steer a person away- who does not have the background and knowledge to know for themselves (or they would not be asking on y/a) the difference between a good teacher who uses kata as a method to train, and a bad one.

    same reason why i seem to come down hard here on the arts that are the most fraught with crappy gyms and poor training methods- simply the attention span of the reader and the limitations of this forum and the internet in general-

    sure i can say how you can learn kicking techs from tkd and apply them to what you know or the merits of aikido schools that teach proper breakfalls and include how some joint locks can be incorporated into an overall art or how some of the solo forms of cma can be used as a body-weight excercise to build muscle and add to grip sensativity.

    however if i do that i’m all over the place and the odds of a person who isn’t “in the know” taking that information and bieng utterly confused by it is high while if they keep training they will eventually come across someone who does do some of that well for them to add to thier repotiore.

    as for kata- i thik the same thing, in the overall picture on greater than avereage frequency it is not used efficiently or effectively for training methodology so when you have no specific information about a gym to go on or an instructor- what the hell are we supposed to do?

    even writing an answer as long as i have here is too much but people here are looking for discussion in this question- not simple answers for confused and uninformed people.

    as it is i feel i write too much in those answers when people actually looking for help zone out after one or two sentances.

    IMO- in actuallity i don’t think there are any legit crappy martial arts (“chi” masters and jedi force practitioner types excluded), only crappy training- even a less applicable art has something of use- it might only be a small part of the style or techniques but there is something to learn from any art- but to say that is to possibly send a person who doesn’t know better to the clutches of a crappy teacher just looking to rip them off or a low quality mcdojo.

    granted- i send people along the route that worked for me- i started really training with boxing, and was able to discern whats legit and not becasue i knew what it was like to have someone coming after me throwing blows.

    i used to get into “ray leonard vs bruce lee” type discussions with friends all the time when i was younger and my bias was obvious then. now- it is not. but if i started with shotokahn forms and nothing else then i feel i would be talking out of my ass based upon lack of real knowledge and contact training and not out of bias that can later be dropped.

  11. Zenlife says:

    With being a former Karateka in shukokai and shotokan I loved kata training and with reading Iain Abernathy’s book, recently I’ve become inspired all over again after all these years as in my day the Bunkai was not explained in such detail.

    So in my mind Kata is very useful if taught and explained correctly.

    Best wishes :)***

  12. timmay cahill is back ! says:

    The more i do advanced techniques, the more i rely on the body movement that I develop from Katas. Alot of grappling techniques are just blocking movements found in Katas. Without kata there is no karate, just another form of kickboxing.

  13. idai says:

    Hi there

    Forms exists in every martial art regardless of the style. People choose to call them technqiues but isnt that what a form is? Its just less moves? Like you have said every long massive form is only made up from individual small moves. If you take them out of the big kata and practice them in a realisitc shiken gata way then they work!

    The major problem is not with the forms themselves but the practitioners eyes in which they choose to view them. I am a big fan of imperfection in the arts because perfection doesnt exist. I also beleive that muscle memory doesnt create natural movement either. I stopped along time ago thinking that repetition creates instinctive movement!

    Yet im still a traditional martial artist?

    The forms are there for a reason and they need to be trained correctly. Not parrot fashion, perfect stance or with dynamic tenstion but by learning the distance, timing and flow agaisnt a real uke. Thats what the forms are there to show us but it takes experience to see this on face value!

    I have nothing against the modern interpritation of forms and how they are taught to beginners because thats how everyone must start out. But making up forms is just silly as is only practicing them in line work. Parrot fashion creates lots of parrots that are incapable of moving and thinking by themselves!

    Best wishes


  14. clowns says:

    I have no experience that makes me say this, hence I do not say it. In fact it is the opposite.

    Any ways I find it odd that out of all of the kata bashing people we have on here you only have two people that had the balls to answer this question. I actually have never seen Judomofo bash Kata, but I have see Bluto do it. Despite his trolling in some other areas I really think he deserves credit for his answer here.

  15. Shienaran says:

    Just to add my two cents worth. To me, Kata is to Karate, what Shadow boxing is to Boxing. Both help aid with one’s training in coordination, proper body mechanics, reflex and rythm. The only difference is, in boxing they don’t have Shadow boxing competions unlike in Karate where they have Kata competitions(sometimes independent of Kumite matches). So it’s a lot easier for people to lose focus on the goals of training in Karate, which is the actual sparring against an opponent, since winning Kata competitions sometimes becomes a goal in itself. While most boxers know that the goal of shadow boxing is to improve his actual performance in the ring. I agree with most opinions posted above regarding the need for a good teacher who understand and teaches the proper applications of Kata for it to be useful in self defense. Regarding the slow pace issue, I’d suppose it’s all about personal preference and what your goals for training are. Most people train for self defense, so it is understandable why they would be more result oriented and would prefer the faster and, in their opinion, more effective methods. But there are some who train just for the joy of experiencing the training. For them, as the saying goes, “it’s about the journey and not the destination”. So I would not be inclined hold it against them either.

  16. Elden B says:

    Kata is not worthless, it might help you in self defense. But be assured that I will not start doing my kata during a self defense situation.

    Being a martial artist qualifies me to make this statement. I have trained under numerous knowledgeable instructors some heavy handed on kata others not so heavy handed.

    Bruce Lee’s principles do have a degree of validity in self defense application. Just as kata is not completely worthless.

  17. Ripper says:

    Bruce Lee wasn’t against kata itself, but the fix positions that they have in them. He didn’t like the dead space involved or the non realistic reactions of opponents. I am not a Bruce Lee expert but from what I read this is what he meant.

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