Can you drink from an empty cup?
Kata without thought.
From my point of view there are three fundamental steps in the process of learning any kata.
In step one you will use your mental memory to remember the required sequence of steps, stances, techniques, and other aspects of the new kata. With the proper repeated practice you will soon begin to develop a comfortable familiarity with the kata, and it’s embusen.
In step two you will begin to think less. Instead you will start to develop, body memory. This can take much more time, but over months, and even years, your body will gradually begin to develop a mind of its own. Soon like the tune of a familiar song, what the kata demands will gradually seep into your body and you will find that your mind plays a much smaller part in the kata.
In step three, you must empty your mind. This will be many, many years in the making. This is when you must let your body do all the thinking for you. Prior to this point your mind moved before your body did. Now your body must move before your mind has the time to think of what comes next. You must as the saying goes, “empty your cup”. Step three is "kata without thought”. It is fair to say that by this point in time you will in all likelihood have the rank of Sandan, or higher; and you will have practiced all of your kata many hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of times.
I asked you in the title of this narrative, can you could drink from an empty cup?
How you choose to answer this question I think says a lot about you as a martial artist.
As one karate-ka to another if you ever do decide to try to take a drink from that empty cup, count me in.
Remember: "In order to do a kata well, you must first take your head off of your shoulders and put it on a shelf."