I am not against teaching kata as an art form. That is great. It’s like being a museum curator.
However, I am strongly against kata being presented as a tool for self-defense. That is fraud. That is what I am addressing here.
I spent a decade of my life learning to be one of the country’s top kata competitors and teachers, only to discover that what I believed and taught was pure fantasy. At the bottom of this page, you can see me execute a kata and bunkai in my 3rd-degree black belt test.
Kata for practical training is worse than a waste of time because it creates terrible habits that can get you killed.
It’s confounding to me how many reasonably intelligent adult black belts believe that kata is the end-all to a martial arts curriculum.
Unless it’s only for the art how can you justify spending 50% or more of your classroom time teaching traditional skills and kata?
How can you justify advertising that you teach self-defense when you’re spending 50% or more of your classroom time teaching traditional skills and kata?
In my experience, the best thing a martial arts school can do is to eliminate kata from the curriculum as fast as possible because there are so many far more effective drills and skills you can work on during the time that is wasted on kata.
Traditionalists talk about the “secret moves” in kata that you can only learn if a master reveals the hidden and protected bunkai of the form. These guys are in an eastern hypnotic trance.
Why not just teach the secret move instead of burying it in a bunch of useless moves? Remember, the root word in bunkai is bunk.
Before I get into the bad habits traditional martial arts create, let me help you with some perspective.
Kata was created by Asians that were probably about 5’ 5” foot tall and 130lbs.
They did not fight 6’ 5” 250 lbs drunken males intent on smashing their faces.
As far as I know, they did not collaborate with law enforcement, prison guards, the military or anyone who deals with violent adults day in and day out.
Kata is one size fits all self-defense, which is foolish.
Where in kata can you adjust for a taller fighter? Where in kata can you adjust against someone trying to tackle you? Where in kata can you adjust to fight a shorter, stronger bull of an attacker? Where is there an in-direct attack using a fake in kata?
You can’t. You must execute all the steps in order or you are penalized by your instructor.
Bunkai reveals that all kata are against multiple attackers. Why is the form designed so that you are standing between your opponents rather than moving to the outside and lining them up. That is rule one in fighting multiple attackers, yet kata does an awful job of teaching how to defend against more than one attacker.
Karate and Kung Fu Kata are all theory and teach TERRIBLE HABITS.
- Pulling the hand back to the hip instead of the face.
- Leaving a punch out for good form instead of snapping it back to a guard.
- Thrusting punches instead of snapping them.
- Squaring the center body-line to the opponent instead of turning it away to protect the groin, solar plexus, and throat.
- Becoming “one with the earth” in a deep stance rather than keeping your feet under you for instant mobility.
- Keeping the chin up for good form instead of tucking it down for protection.
- Pulling the shoulders back for good form instead of pulling them up for protection.
The best move I made was to replace traditional karate with modern skills that are much easier to learn and to teach. This is the basis of my Empower Kickboxing curriculum at EmpowerKickboxing.com.