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Kata - Meaning

Kata is a formal exercise whereby the Karate-Ka engages in defence and attack with imaginary opponents. Kata contains all of the techniques and principles of Karate and, after practising each many times, the movements will eventually become automatic and instinctive. This will enable the Karate-Ka to defend against and attack many opponents at once.

Kata is meant to train the mind and body and is not intended only for self-defence. Perhaps most importantly, Kata provides a path leading to spiritual growth and understanding. Kata in the traditional sense is a spiritual ritual. The essence of the art of Karate-Do is attaining a spiritual goal through the practice of the Kata so that the Karate-Ka battles against himself and succeeds in learning about and understanding himself.

As you become older and more experienced, Kata training will change and focus will be modified to allow for the changes in the body that naturally accompany time. The uniqueness of Kata means that you can practice almost anywhere, anytime. You do not need large space, partners or special equipment. The important point is to practice often.

Many Kata's have been handed down by Masters from previous generations and is therefore important that we practice and recreate these Kata in their original form.

The basis of Kata lies in the concept "Karate ni sente nashi", which is translated as "there is no first attack in Karate." All Kata begin with a defensive movement. The Kata teaches that the true Karate-Ka never strikes first, and never strikes in anger.

In addition to demonstrating the correct techniques of a particular Kata, the instructor should also explain some of the other points of the Kata being practised.

"Bunkai" - is the breakdown and analysis of the Kata movements & the application of those techniques.
"Oyo" - is the various applications of the techniques..
"Zanshin" - is to remain in awareness but calm.
"Kiai" - the spirit shout at set points within the Kata.
"Kokyu" - breathing. Breath control is related to the posture and movement of the Kata.

One should take note of the following points when practising Kata:

  1. Kata should start and end with Rei (bow)
  2. Correct Basic techniques
  3. Posture
  4. Dachi (stances)
  5. Tanden Control
  6. Correct Breathing
  7. Chakugan (Focusing)
  8. Bunkai (Meaning and Application)
  9. Zanshin (Awareness)
  10. Repetition - to perfect the Kata

Goju-Ryu Kata are either Heishu Kata or Kaishu Kata

Heishu Kata means "kata with closed hands" or "fundamental kata". This kata teaches fundamentals (not only basics of movement but also principles) of the style while basics are learned during Kihon (Basic Movements). Traditionally, Kaishu Kata was taught as a second kata, or a "speciality kata" of a student, after Heishu kata, Sanchin-kata and/or Tensho-kata for Goju-Ryu is learned (this could take up to several years). Ranking (dan/kyu) and the current kata curriculum with grading were established only after 1953, after Chojun Miyagi Sensei's death.

Kaishu Kata means a "kata with open hands" or "specialist kata". This is more advanced than the Heishu kata type. Kaishu kata serves as a "combat application reference" kata and is open to vast interpretation (Bunkai) of its movements purpose (hence, "open hands").

Goju-Ryu Kata

  • Geki Sai Dai Ichi
  • Geki Sai Dai Ni
  • Saifa
  • Seiyunchin
  • Shisochin
  • Sanseru
  • Sepai
  • Kururunfa
  • Seisan
  • Pechurin
  • Sanchin
  • Tensho

"To Attack and Destroy" No.1

The Geki Sai Kata were formulated by Chojun Miyagi Sensei in 1940 as a form of physical exercise for high school boys and to help popularize Goju-Ryu among the public of Okinawa. In 1948, after WWII, Miyagi Sensei began to teach the Geki Sai Kata in depth as a regular part of Goju-Ryu in his own dojo. Until this time, Sanchin was the first Kata taught in Goju-Ryu. Sanchin Kata is physically and mentally a demanding Kata and requires a great deal of time and patience to learn and perform properly. The Geki Sai Kata however are easier to learn and perform, and contain dynamic techniques which are more attractive to young people.

These Kata contain the same kanji found in Saifa. This would suggest that even though these Kata were designed primarily as a form of exercise, Miyagi Sensei included his understanding of combat as part of their makeup.