Tag Archives: martial arts kata

Martial Arts Kata, Prison or Essential Tool?

Martial Arts Kata, Good or Bad?

in the Martial Arts Kata are often translated as martial arts forms, so I use the terms interchangeably.

Bruce Lee said in “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do” the following about forms:

“Too much horsing around with unrealistic stances and classic forms and rituals is just too artificial and mechanical, and doesn’t really prepare the student for actual combat.”

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Is this true? Or is it meaningful, do forms actually teach you combat? Certainly looking at Pinan/Heian 1, or Kenpo Long 1, you have to wonder, is this meaningful? Are they honestly expecting me to drop the opposite hand when I block and punch?  And why are they having me drop my hands when in sparring they tell me to keep my hands up?

Even with something so entrenched as Sanchin, or the Sil Lum Tao those that lack correct teaching have to wonder, “how is this teaching me to fight?”.

In stark contrast are kata such as sanseirui, where it is very apparent that the kata is truly a combat scenario that captured and formalized into a form. This is evidenced by the lack of symmetry in the form, you don’t have “do the exact same thing on the other side” or “first do it on the right, then on the left”.

But do any of them provide you with anything useful? Or do they lock you into a routine.

Bruce was an incredible man, certainly what he said must have some value.  Besides, if not for forms, how do we transmit the style, untarnished, to the next generation?

The problem with Bruce, is that he was amazing. He was so amazing that somewhere along the line he seems to have forgotten that you have to explain to a new student how to make a fist, not to punch with the flat part of your fist, to line up the bones, to add CBM.  We can see that he knew this, for he said (paraphrasing here) “before I learned to punch, a punch was just a punch, while I was learning, a punch was much more than a punch.  Now, a punch is just a punch”.  However, he repeatedly wanted to throw away all the tools that are used to learn basics.

To quote my sensei, “you have to have a set of basics before you start learning to break free of the forms”.

I feel that all forms are intended to serve a purpose, but what is that purpose?

Let us start with the so simple that they are obnoxious forms, like the early Kenpo forms and the Pinans.  They are not meant to be combat forms, they are meant to be a way to train symmetry, and to familiarize you with the “alphabet of movement” that your system trains.  Think of the movements in these forms as “this is my footwork, these are my blocks, these are my strikes,  there are many like them, but these are mine”.  Symmetry is important, you need to be able to block, thrust, flick, parry and strike on both sides, these forms teach you exactly that, and they force you to practice equally on both sides.  Bruce may have been so good that he only needed five techniques and only those on his lead side, but that doesn’t account for most people, nor does it address what you are supposed to do if you get injured during combat.

So basic, boring forms have a purpose, even if it is only training.  However, when we go back to the question of dropping the hand, you do have to stop and wonder why practice something that we would never want to do in combat.   This is where I personally feel that some of these forms are less valuable than they could be.

Sanchin appears to be one of these boring beginner forms; however, it is an exceptional kata, Please see the earlier article I wrote on Sanchin (add a link to the other blog post).  My sensei was fond of saying that he could tell your belt level by watching your performance of Sanchin.

The Sil lum tao, is also a form that appears to be on the boring scale, however, it is a very internal form. It is meant to isolate the hand movements used in Wing Chun so they can be practiced separately from any foot movement, and to build Chi power.  These 2 aspects mean that it can be practiced and improved on for the rest of your life, just like Sanchin.

None of the seemingly boring kata teach you to fight, not even sanchin.  They may teach you many critical elements of fighting, blocks and strikes that you can combine, a clear calm mind, the ability to take a hit and continue. These things and more can be learned from kata.

Learning to fight from a kata though?  That is tough, there are people that have been reputed to have done so, I have a very hard time believing that.

In my mind the only way to improve reflexes, and learn to handle unexpected things is to get into sparring (at all contact levels) with as many different people as possible.  Try to get with people of different levels, different arts, and no arts.

In my personal opinion, I feel kata are very important, both for handing down the style, uncompromised. They are critical for training your body to use all the different tools in the styles toolbox.

I do not feel that they are a prison, rather an encyclopedia of motion and much more.  In my mind all kata should give you as many tools as Sanchin, Sil lum tao and Sanseirui.   However, if the form teaches you to do dangerous things, like drop your hands, you might want to re-evaluate the validity of that particular form.

If you want to align and make logical your Martial Arts Kata, check out the Master Instructor Course at MonsterMartialArts.com.

Martial Arts Kata Resemble a Crippled Old Man

Martial Arts Kata, you see, are random strings of data. That’s like trying to learn to count by memorizing 3, 8, a dead cat, and a haircut.

Still, the amount of power a martial artist generates is absolutely incredible. And this on only one tenth of the realknowledge available in the martial arts.

So what would happen if the data was put in the right order?

Well, obviously, you’d learn ten times faster. Your mind would start to function faster. Your body would become strong and quick, for your motions would be aligned with your actual DNA.

The truth is that Karate, or Kung Fu, or Kenpo or Taekwondo or whatever that system you’re studying has been so messed up that it is like a crippled old man.

And the truth is that when you straighten out the system, make the bones grow the right way, fill in the organs and muscles, then you suddenly look like a Greek God.

Your muscles grow to the original DNA specifications. You get amazingly fast because the data in your head is not all jumbled around. And the truths hidden inside your martial arts kata bursts forth. If what I say here makes sense, then you want to find Monster Martial Arts. If not…see ya.

Learning The Martial Arts Forms Art By Art

When we consider the best martial arts forms we are considering those martial arts kata that give the most benefit to the student. I usually recommend learning as many patterns and arts as possible, then working on the ones that the student prefers, although there can be oddities in this method. I also hold that one should learn entire arts, first taekwondo, then karate, then kung fu.

The kebons are good, basic kata taught in both karate styles and taekwondo styles. Though there are three to five of these introductory patterns, I don’t usually count them as forms because they are actually the ABCs of the martial arts.

The next batch of kata to consider would be the Taeguks from Tae kwon do. These are basic moves, a bit more advanced than the kebons, but not as advanced as the Okinawan Pinans (Japanese Heians). Though they take a few moves from the Pinan forms, they serve them up as straight block and counter techniques, no hidden throws or weapons disarms, and no real generation of internal energy.

After the taeguk patterns one should learn the Pinan forms from the Shotokan system, the Kyokushinkai system, and other Japanese martial styles. The Pinan kata are actually designed more for weapons defenses, though not many people know this. The idea here is that one learns the Taeguks for hand to hand combat, then moves into the Pinans for a basic understanding of weapons defenses, and the beginnings of chi eneergy generation.

After the Pinans I recommend the three forms from Pan Gai Noon, which is the base art of Uechi ryu Karate, and which are actually three extremely hard core kung fu forms. These three forms are sanchin, seisan, and sanseirui, though sanseirui is considered more of a show form. These three unique kata are specifically designed to generate internal energy.

Sanchin teaches a student to bolt the body/motor down to the ground. There are not a lot of moves in it, but the moves are perfectly designed for adapting hard energy to excellent self defense moves.

Sanchin may be the power form, but seisan is the technique kata. This form takes the power of sanchin and transfigures it into (probably) 13 specific self defense moves. These are all based on one specific move called wa uke, which is a circle block with a flesh tearing grab on the end.

So, Kebons to Taeguk to Pinans to Sanchin and seisan; taekwondo to karate to kung fu. This sequencing of martial arts forms provides the student with the absolute best and most complete arrangement of classical training possible. Other forms can and should be learned, but the heart of the art is really in this arrangement of art.

You find a lot more concerning the correct arrangementof form and art by visiting Monster Martial Arts. Evolution of Art might be of specific interest to classicists.