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Kata - Form or Function

"One Way at a Time".

As students of Shotokan Karate we know that kata lies at the heart of our training.

It is the essence that holds our style together.

I suspect that hardly a day goes by in any Shotokan dojo where the individual, or group practice of kata, does not take place. If you find yourself in a group setting you might be told not to go at your own pace, but instead to keep time with the other students. When you do get the chance to go and practice your kata alone however, the manner in which you chose to approach each kata is often left entirely up to you.

It is when you find the opportunity to practice a kata on your own that I have a question for you.

Do you practice your solo kata for "form" or do you practice for 'function"?

As a solo "Form" kata has sometimes been referred to as, "moving meditation" or "movement without thought". This implies that as you go through all of the movement and the techniques of the kata, you do so for the sole purpose of practicing each step, each movement, without any "intent" in your actions. In this way no thought is meant to be ever given over at any point in the kata to the question of "what am I doing this technique for". You are simply using the embusen to improve the quality of your karate basics. This is the hardest way to practice a kata. Since at some point in the kata your mind will indeed start to wander from this sole purpose, at which point the "why" and the "how come I am doing this" will begin to enter your thoughts.

"Function" on the other hand is all about "intent". As such the "why" and the "how come I am doing this" are meant to be at the forefront of all of your actions. In this instance, you are meant to go through the movements and the techniques all the while specifically applying purpose, imagining that you are being attacked by one or more individuals. In this case there is no "movement with thought" in this kata your mind is working overtime, everything has a specific "reason why" behind it.

Each of these two scenarios therefore requires a totally different mindset.

In the former, your mindset is focused entirely on simply seeking to improve your basic movements and techniques in a manner that improves their individual quality, while doing so in a predetermined pattern. In this way you are leaving out the "why" and the "what for" that lies dormant in the original design of the kata.

In the latter, however, your mindset is all about power and purpose. Function takes precedence over form. As such the "why" and the "what for" take pride of place in each and every thing you do in the kata.

So, I ask you again.

Do you practice your solo kata for "form" or do you practice for "function"?

Whether you know it or not, your choice each time says a lot about you.

As for me, I find that a good mixture of both is probably not a bad idea.

I just need to remember from the start of the kata which "mindset' to use.

Remember: "To succeed at anything, you must remain focused until the end."