The Study of Kata

from Mark McCormick’s Physics of Aiki blog

Tomiki Aikido is one of the few Aikido styles that has kata in the sense of an organized collection of techniques that one studies and practices for a long time until one can perform the techniques nearly perfectly before a panel of experts. This is typically required for promotion to higher ranks. At our club, as one gets closer to an imagined promotion date that may yet be months away, one ignores other activities such as randori and other drills, and practices the promotion kata to the exclusion of all else.

I spent a couple of years working on little but the Koryu Dai San kata, practicing in regular classes, and meeting independently with a friend to practice these 50 techniques. I spent a year on the Koryu Dai Ichi, a year on the Goshin Jitsu No Kata of Kodokan Judo, two years on Nariyama Shihan’s Goshin Ho kata.

But there’s a long-standing debate about the value of kata as a vehicle for learning. Does it really make you a better martial artist? Does the study of kata really add anything to your self-defense capabilities?

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