Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Kata and Kumite

In my previous post, I discussed the importance of evaluating kata. I study traditional Okinawa Kenpo and there are fifty-one kata (21 open hand and 30 weapon). BobSpar, the author of the Middle Aged Martial Artist blog, asked the following question.

"When you spar, how close do you think your execution is to the form you strive for in kata?"

Hopefully...very close. The techniques used in kata should be of the same caliber as the ones used in sparring. The techniques should be clean and technically correct. A punch or kick done properly will generate more power and be more accurate. The practice and study of kata develops timing, precision, control of center line, distancing, two foot movement, removal of target, angles and turning. During kata we strive to remain level and connect our body movement. For example, the power of a punch is not created by the arm alone. The body is connected to the floor and the power is generated through the hip and out the arm to the target.

After my initial reaction to the question, I began to think of the best fighters I know. I ran down the list in my mind. Each and every one of them are excellent kata practitioners. I think of the students in this dojo where kumite is part of the curriculum. We practice kumite but the most of the classes focus on kata, kobudo or application. The students love to spar and sometimes compete in tournaments. The students do extremely well in kumite even against fight focused schools. Good basics and good techniques are the key to their success.

When I watch people spar, I look for their kata. I see it in the way they move and how they cut angles. I look at their techniques and often find pieces of kata. Some examples are the parry reverse punch from Wansu, the rolling back fist from Pinan Yondan or a block back fist from Pinan Sandan. A simple inside forearm block becomes a parry strike when using the prep hand as the block so the block becomes the strike. We read our opponents by picking up cues from the body. Movement in the shoulder or hip can telegraph a punch or a kick. Kata practice helps eliminate the extra body movement.

In my opinion, kata training is the core of my kumite.

What do you think the relationship is between kata and kumite?


Minivan Ninja said...

I think they are entirely inter-related, especially because that is the way I am taught (poomsae & sparring here in TKD land). My grandmaster makes it a point to explain what the moves of the poomsae are used for (striking/blocking & what area of the opponent you are striking) and to teach me to perform poomsae moves as if I had an opponent.

I like to think that poomsae is a way of teaching fighting combinations that I might not come up with on my own, some more practical than others.

Steve said...

Michele ~ Merry Christmas to your family! May all your roads be salted and clear this Holiday Season!!!

John Vesia said...

Great topic. Just posted a response. Hope you're having a good holiday.
: )

Hack Shaft said...

I find the best executed kata I see are the ones where the person is not only looking at their imaginary target, but striking them in the proper place and with full, focused force.

I'm frequently much more exhausted from kata than sparring!

My conclusion: in Kata, anything less than everything is nothing.

BobSpar said...

Hi, Michele, interesting post, thank you. In particular I hadn't thought about kata teaching you not to telegraph your moves.

Mathieu said...

Hello and happy 2009!

When I actually get into a real fight (hopefully never again) I'll tell you if the years of training have changed anything. :)

Who knows until reality strikes?

Be well