What is the reason for kata? What are they intended to be used for?

i heard katas are supposed to be simulated fights kind of but how do you know how a fight would pan out? how do you know when, in this fight, you would need to block and when to strike etc. like what if your opponent kicked and you blocked a punch?

i am NOT bashing kata. i just don’t know what they are for. thanks in advance

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17 Responses to What is the reason for kata? What are they intended to be used for?

  1. Jesse says:

    In Karate, George Dillman and Evan Pantazi both have argued that kata forms are a map to pressure points: http://martial.jessecrouch.com/2009/04/learn-pressure-point-martial-arts.html

    Dillman has very strong opinions on this topic and, at least in his early days, was gung-ho about kata being ONLY a way of preserving a map for how to strike pressure points. Lookup Dillman and also Kyusho on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=kyusho&search_type=&aq=f

    They both talk about how some of the “supposed meanings” for moves in kata are completely bogus. I agree with them on most points, but I find it hard to believe that ALL of kata is aiming for pressure points.

    In other arts most of what I’ve heard is that it is purely for solo-training. Basically – drills that you can do with just one person. Drills aren’t designed to teach you how to fight, but are designed to improve your technique.

  2. maelani62 says:

    kata was described to me like this it is a series of techniques put together in such a way as to help you memorize an art

    then he said they were a sort of zip file that contained the entire art but cleverly compacted( this is scary because he was experienced iin martial arts but not so in technology)

    the fight will not play out exactly like in kata but kata really helps you learn the techniques and ways to use them

  3. Brandon says:

    Katas are gay moves that resemble a slow dance and are intended to have parents or unsuspecting adults pay more money. It is to work on form but it can be done at the house instead of wasting time paying money at a mcdojo. They are a scam simply put.

  4. Shihan J says:

    kata is not that simple,
    it takes years to understand the simplest kata, there are different levels of studying bunkai, it can be anywhere from a basic understanding to a very advance one. and its not always a block or punch, take the kata tekki (naihanchin) this kata is all grappling moves with few strikes.
    each kata has a number of interpretations some depend on your level of understand and others very from teach or style. there is no one answer for what the bunkai is.

    Kata at its core teaches the following
    Kokyu (breathe control)
    Kaeshu (reversals)
    Atemi (vital strike to vital area)
    Kyusho (pressure point strikes)
    Kensetsu (bone or joint bending)
    Appaku (applied pressure)
    Kotekitai (absorbing and controlling pain)
    Nage (throwing)
    Chime (choking)

    this question i ask a while goes into the different levels of bunkai and oyo, and everyone gave some great answers.
    i forgot the link

  5. callsignfuzzy says:

    Forms are, if nothing else, a guide book or technical manual. Literacy wasn’t exactly wide-spread when many martial arts were being formulated. Instead of books, fight sequences were constructed.

    Not all forms are “fighting” forms; some are designed to illustrate principles, catalog a set of related techniques, or condition certain muscles and movements. Of those that are fighting forms, which do all of the above anyway, they are not meant to be taken literally, in the sense that a fight would go down exactly how it’s presented in the form.

    Forms are meant to go hand-in-hand with other aspects of martial arts training, most notably sparring. Sparring actually gives you a sense of distance and timing. Without the reference point of actually having a live body in front of you, throwing attacks your way, you’d have no way to visualize the sequences in forms with any degree of realism. But the forms provide you with the tools you’ll use in sparring (ideally). Sparring and forms should be two sides of the same coin; if they’re not, you’re doing one or both of them incorrectly.

    So sparring will tell you when you need to block, and forms will provide you with what you should block with. And also give you some good ideas for a follow-up technique, or counter. On a side note, many techniques that are known as “blocks” in many systems weren’t originally intended for that purpose. In Japanese, the word commonly used for block is “uke”, which is more accurately translated as, “to recieve”, not “to block”. Just food for thought.

  6. pugpaws2 says:

    Here are two past questions like yours. They explain what kata is and why it was created. Be sure to check out some of the answers given by the others that answered these questions too………



    By the way, kata was never intended to teach you how to fight against multiple attackers like it appears to be. The continuity is there to teach you how to go from one technique smoothly to another. It teaches muscle memory, among many other things. Anyone that believes that a kata is how to fight several attackers like they appear is really gullible. As you yourself questioned, attackers will not attack in an organized plan of from specified directions.


    Don’t take to much stock in anything Dillman says. He has some answers, but made up most of what he teaches. If you want the real deal, you must go study with someone Like Seiyu Oyata. And for those that will bring up the Oyata/Dillman connection, it is not even worth mentioning. Oyata and Dillman split before Dillman began to get it right. Oyata says that Dillman is always writing him letters asking stupid questions. Oyata was very mad with Dillman when Dillman went out spreading the crap he calls Kyusho. I went to a Dillman seminar. Wasted my money, He tried unsuccessfully to knock me out. Then I was hustled out of the way so as not to draw attention to his failure.

  7. zgoakland says:

    it is intended to enhance your muscle memory.. so if you are in a live situation you’ll react with no hesitation (thinking) it will be a natural reaction. boxers and wrestler have a similar training also, as do many of sports that require quick reactions. hope this helps.

  8. Ron says:

    Kata came about because there were no good means of passing the content of a style from one person to another. Even today with multi-media where you can record words and video the moves, it is still very different from actually doing the moves. In ancient times, the only medium was 2D diagrams on paper which is a even worse ways to convey a 3D move.

    The ancient instructors had to come up with a mean to enable a student to have a “list” of various moves within the style he is learning. They created something like a patterned dance for their style, just like when you were in kindergarten singing the ABC’s to learn the alphabets.

    In real life you would never fight in the pattern of the kata just as in real life you never had to recite the alphabets from A to Z. But if you learned the kata you would then have the building blocks of your style.

  9. John says:

    Kata helps one develop the speed, power, and ability with which they can do techniques while also learning how to control their balance, weight, and momentum, and refine their agility and coordination. Along with this it is an excellent tool for practicing techniques over-and over much like a boxer does through shadow boxing when he practices moving and throwing punches and combinations. As you perform a movement or technique over and over it becomes faster, smoother, and easier to execute and more powerful since you are exercising the muscles you use in doing that technique.It also helps teach students the use and purpose of various techniques and to reinforce that as they practice doing that kata, I know very few martial artists that are good in kata who are not also good in fighting and in application of those techniques so I think there is some correlation for this.

    Besides this it also teaches you how your body works as you move and do these things so that you better understand them. Along with this better understanding of your own body and its movements you also come to learn and understand more about your opponents and can more easily take advantage of them. I was just talking to one of my students the other day and how I can tell what they are going to do sometimes three to five seconds before they do it just by the way they stand, look, and there movement to set it up and will sometimes tell them what they are about to do when sparring. That can be very frustrating for them so I generally don’t do it very much but I do it so that it raises their awareness and also to help teach them not to give things away and so that they better understand this aspect. At the same time your own ability to control your own body at all times is paramont so that your opponent can not take advantage of you more easily while trying to execute some of these techniques.

  10. asymnation says:

    Kata is an essential part of learning technique. It is a way for the body and mind to develop muscle memory. As was stated, kata may have the appearance of being simple, but in fact many of the movements are very complex in their execution. In order for the brain to execute these complex movements it takes A LOT of repetition! This is simply how the brain functions. Normally, physical movements are executed by the cerebral motor cortex, with the cerebellum and basal ganglia acting to “fine tune” the movements into more precise actions. Over time the motor cortex actually “learns” how to make some of these “precise” movements itself, thus relying less on the cerebellum and basal ganglia, which makes the movements execute much quicker because there is less “calculating” going on. So basically your motor cortex becomes capable of executing these complex movements itself.

    Ultimately, solo kata is designed to help develop technique so that in a combative situation, you could execute the technique without having to think about it. Paired kata is a step up in that it adds an additional layer of complexity by having you execute choreographed techniques while someone is “attacking” you. This continues to enforce proper technique while also allowing you to begin to read your opponent, and putting together responses to specific stimuli. This is called programming a “conditioned reflex”. Normally our instinct if someone was to punch at us would be to flinch or duck, but by developing a conditioned reflex you would be reprogramming your response to throw up a block or dodge, etc. However, to develop a conditioned reflex you have to do the same movements over and over again, so that you are responding a specific way to a specific stimui. This is exactly what is accomplished in paired kata.

    The level beyond that is sparring. Sparring puts everything you know together, with more emphasis on reading and reacting to an opponent on the fly, and improvising. Some arts such as those with weapons cannot safely free spar, and in most cases have to use “safe” weapons which do not have the feel or really replicate live combat in a meaningful way. In unarmed arts, you would still likely use protective gear while sparring to keep things relatively safe.

    In any event, all three of these types of training activities are just that: Training. Nothing replicates live combat perfectly. Some tend to over emphasize sparring…sorry to break this to those people, but being good at sparring just means you’re good at sparring. That does not mean that sparring is useless (quite the contrary it builds many skills which are directly applicable to combat).

    There are some in the MMA community that see kata as useless. That, however, is fundamentally wrong. In fact, if we use the very basic definition of kata, which is a “form”, then nearly everything one does while learning a technique could fall under the umbrella of kata. If you are learning correct punching technique, kicking a bag, or even practicing how to put your training partner into a rear naked choke hold then you are in a sense still performing a kata (albeit without the formalities and etiquette).

    In a way learning how to correctly execute kata is like building a race car. The better your technique gets the higher the speed and handling of your car become. However, just because you have a fast car doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to drive it…this is where paired training and sparring come in (e.g. learning how to implement the techniques). This is why some people with sloppy technique, such as pure street fighters, can still be tough opponents. They know how to drive their “old rusty beat up cars” really well, and why people with excellent technique have no idea how to actually use it when they need it.

    All these forms of training are really necessary to make one a complete fighter. Don’t underestimate the power of kata.

  11. CTC says:

    Katas or Forms were developed over hundreds of years to teach students how to react in different situations. With enough training and proper instruction their use should become a reflex. Forms have many different uses besides the obvious. Good instructors will show u most of the uses but its up to the martial artist to discover more uses for the forms.
    I practice Chen Taijiquan. So far ive learned Lo Jia Yi Lu which has 84 forms. Each form has 10+ hidden uses. Through daily practice i discover more uses for each form.

  12. Sensei Scandal says:

    Jesse – I know that Dillman knows something about bunkai and stuff but he lost any respect due to him for what he does know, and if you mention his name here, you won’t get anyone to take you serious.

    As far as the reason for kata – Shihan J, Puspaws, Bunminjutsu, JimR, NWOhioGuy and many other senior practitioners here, as well as I have answered this question multiple times.

    None of the above should have to explain this for the ‘how many-eth’ time, just because you are the 5,000th person who asked.

    DO A SEARCH and look at our answers.

    Sorry if I left out some of the others, I need to check on my pots.

    Anybody please chime in with other’s names.

    Pugpaws – man! those were two great questions I missed… where was I?


  13. Lex says:

    No, they really weren’t meant to simulate fights at all.

    They were meant first to memorize moves. It’s not unlike learning a song to remember the ABCs. You learn the moves in a sequence, you’re less likely to forget them.

    Secondly they build habits.

    They can also help with balance and stances. A kata is designed to be symmetrical. If you do your stances right, you should end up on the exact same spot you started at.

  14. Shienaran says:

    I’ve always likened Karate to Chemistry class, you have 3 units for lecture and 2 units for laboratory. Kata is the lecture part where you get to learn all the basic formulas, while Kumite or sparring is the laboratory part where you get to experiment with all the applications of the basics. You can’t go right into the laboratory without learning the lecture part or you’ll end up groping in the dark and you can’t just rely on the lecture and not use the laboratory if you want to gain any experience. You must take both the lecture and laboratory class to master the basics of Chemistry. So it is with Karate.

  15. jwbulldogs says:

    Shihan J and Pufgspaw2 have given great answers. I will not attmpt to add anything to it. Like Sensei Scandal where was I when those questions were asked a year ago Pugs? Even Katana was still answering martial arts questions then.

    Anyone heard from Kantana lately?

  16. kempo_jujitsu77 says:

    kata are a textbook that practically nobody know’s how to read.

    contrary to popular opinion…they are NOT essential to learning. what a load of crap. that does NOT meant they are useless however.

    kata are designed so you can pick them apart, learn from them in a myriad of different ways.

    bottom line…kata is a drill. drills are designed to TEACH you something, or many things.

    you cannot learn to fight with kata. as i said…kata are a drill.

    originally they were just techniques strung together most likely. the kata comes from the techniques. however over time it’s become the other way around…the techniques come from the kata.

    the simple truth is…and this applies to kata, to chi sao, to hubud, to sinawali…or any other ‘drill’ or ‘pattern’…they are there so you can separate the ‘martial’ from the ‘art’ …they are not literal interpretations of fights or meant to be used in specific sequence. this is the most common misunderstanding i have encountered…even by karate-ka.

    i often liken them to the ‘self defense techniques” of various styles of kempo/kenpo karate. Ed Parkers American Kenpo Karate is the one that gets bashed the most I find. usually by those who are ignorant of what the art is trying to accomplish.

    the self defenses found in kempo are like miniature kata. you can take one technique, and study it, break it down…and have 50 techniques based on that one technique. they were never designed to be used in sequence. they are just ideas. Ed Parker himself said this in his books.

    they (or kata or drills) can teach you very fundamental things such as balance, distance, timing, awareness of angles, openings (on you and your opponent)…as well as specific techniques or ‘pieces of the puzzle’ so to speak. to advanced things that are not apparent to the ‘kata illiterate’ by simply watching the kata.

    my personal opinion is that kata/and drills are designed as bases to draw from…pools of knowledge if you will. and nothing more. you will never fight the way you do in kata or drills…use your common sense and you’ll come to realize…they are just drills. learn from them. but understand they are not fighting.

  17. idai says:

    Hi there

    kata was put together long after the use of the arts. They gave redundant warriors something to pass on when the arts were fround upon. They do however contain all the techniques and principles that are applicable to fighting. Just that over the years their purpose and feeling has been lost. A routine of techniques they are not! To get the best out of kata you have to break them down and practice them realistically. Bunkai wont teach you that nor will a painting by numbers approach. Kata are not spiritual nor are they there to teach dynamic tension, breathing or the fact that your little toe should be a millimeter to the right. This is just a rather poor method of explanation by instructors. If you dont pull the kata appart and practice the principles they teach then your wasting your time. Repition will never teach the body to move in a natural way!

    Best wishes


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