Practicality of Combat Style Karate Kata, and…

…What a Modern Classical Karate Kata Looks Like

With the advent of Krav Maga, Systema, Sanshou, Jeet Kune Do and MMA people don’t fight like they used to, and one has to examine the functionality of Combat Karate Katas.

People are faster, more vicious, more likely to use power base kicks rather than simple jab type front kicks, and worse they like to go to the ground.

What does this mean for the traditional combat style kata?  Does this mean they are useless?

Personally, I don’t think so.  However, other people do.

While I do not suppose I can speak for him,  Kancho Joko Ninomiya, the founder of Enshin appears to feel that kata are necessary but the old ones don’t quite cut it in the modern world.

If you are unfamiliar with Enshin, here is a quick run down on it.  Kancho Joko Ninomiya won the 1974 All Japan Karate Championships (a Kyokushin bare-knuckle full contact championship).  Then he moved to America and founded his own karate style, using his own bare-knuckle tournament to evolve the style.

When he started to create his own kata, he kept the traditions of kata, but made them fit the new style.  He also didn’t bother with fancy names, instead the names are things like “shiro obi no kata”, or “ao obi no kata”, literally they are “white belt kata” and “blue belt kata” respectively.  However, they include things that were heavily used in Kyokushin, but don’t exist in the original katas like Sanchin and Seisan, things like boxing style jab/cross combinations.

So, this is what a modern kata looks like, and following that are its bunkai (application).

Interested in more combat style Karate? Check out Temple Karate at

2 thoughts on “Practicality of Combat Style Karate Kata, and…

  1. ron brookshire

    Really? This is tournament. It is creative and “looks” good but it reflects that there is no real knowledge in their understanding of the “old ways” for they tact like they finished an opponent that definitely was not finished… except for maybe the last guy in the attacking sequence.

    I must admit it does promote their methods though and many will probably buy into it as what karate should be, but this is only because few teach what is really in kata. The arts really are lacking the definement of what kata really is.

    It’s sad… that it is coming to this. (my personal opinion)

    1. Alaric

      What make you think Enshin is tournament Karate? The fact that they HAVE a tournament? The sabaki tournament is used to see what works and what doesn’t work, in a real situation. Before we start talking about how “real” is eliminated by the fact that it is being tested in a tournament, let us look at the rules in the Sabaki.

      1. Gi, obi, groin cup and mouthpiece. That is your gear, ALL OF IT.
      2. If you hit your opponent and they show pain, that is 1 point.
      3. A take down followed by a controlled followup and Kiai (which would be a finishing blow) is three points
      4. To avoid serious injury in this tournament the following are illegal
      a. arm attacks to the head (knees, and kicks to the head are allowed)
      b. groin attacks
      c. joint/spine attacks

      Thus, kicking to the inner thigh to charlie-horse the thigh is not only allowed, but encouraged, grabbing the gi, and pulling the opponent into a shin kick to the face, is also legal. In short, the tournament is used to be as realistic as possible without doing permanent injury.

      So let us take a second and compare it to something that is also proven, Krav Maga.

      Unlike most karate, Krav doesn’t really open up the hands to do anything but punch. Elbows, knees and punches. Enshin is the same. Enshin takes the same basic approach, to attack with viciousness and repeated strikes quickly, it takes things one step farther than Krav, it wants to get to the dead-side ALWAYS, for protection of the practitioner.

      If we look at the katas in Enshin, you will see something else, we go headhunting, why? Because this is the most effective way to take someone out quickly.

      Just like parent style, Kyokushin, toughness is trained, so when we get hit, we keep fighting, even if injured.

      Karate styles do tend to forget the ground fighting, but you should do anything to keep from going to the ground, for whether you are attacker or defender, when you go to the ground, all it takes is one more person to end you permanently, with a swift kick to the head, or knife or weapon.

      Essentially, if after this you still think that Enshin or Kyokushin is sport karate, I invite you to come practice at one of our dojos.


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