Progressive layering

Knowledge in all things is cumulative.

We all know that we need to learn to walk before we can learn to run. As with most tasks in life learning to walk, and then learning to run both take a certain amount of time. They also require the repeated successful practice of certain basic skills. It follows then that if the desired outcome is to be achieved within a reasonable amount of time then those skills need to be learnt in a very specific order.

The art of Shotokan karate-do is no different. One of the important ways in which a student’s skills, and progress are measured within the Shotokan system is through the quality of their kata. These katas are considered the "heart" of the Shotokan Karate system. And, for a great many reasons they should be taught to each student in a very specific pre-determined order. This order is based not only upon the technical complexity found within each of the 26 kata, but also on the previous experience, and the current technical ability of each individual student.

This is a process that I refer to as progressive layering. It is precisely because of the fact that knowledge is cumulative that this layering process should be strictly adhered to, and not circumvented. This is because in order to develop a true understanding not only of the kata you are working, but also the ones to follow, it is important for your progress to be linear. That means taking all that you have learnt to date, and only then adding to it what comes next. Those students who jump ahead thinking that knowing a higher kata makes them a better karate-ka are kidding no one but themselves. In fact quite the opposite will occur. For each kata has within it the building blocks of the kata to follow. Therefore, it is imperative that students accept very early on in their karate training that all of the katas should always be learnt in a very specific order. This is by design.

In this fast paced, fast food, I want it now environment that most North Americans are use to, kata may seem to be out of place. Yet I assure you it is not. But, it is only after many years of hard work and dedication that the true value of any kata will ever be reveled to those who truly seek it. Just knowing the embusen of a specific kata, making fierce faces, or having a loud kiai, is not a true indication of "knowing" a kata. Let alone understanding it. Only time can do that, and only for those who spend their time well.

So, practice your katas in their proper order. Learn each one well. If you do you may soon find yourself with a new belt around your waist, and also a new kata to practice.

Remember: "What you learn, and when you learn it, are equally important".