The study of kata in judo

“Hey…you guys do kata goooooood.”

Ju No Kata
Two women in Japan demonstrate one of the techniques in Ju No Kata.

I believe his name was Sensei Rodriguez, and we were at a camp in Lafayette, Louisiana. Blake and I were practicing our Nage-No-Kata (forms of throwing) at this camp and I guess we did something right.

Of course we bombed it on our next technique.

Kata training – formal kata training that is – is quite hard. As a black belt, you are practicing techniques you’ve already learned, but in a specific way. And no matter how well you know the individual pieces, it can be an excruciating challenge.

Kata is simply a formalized way of of learning a series of techniques in a particular order and a particular way. ┬áJudo has a love-hate relationship with formal kata (or maybe it is a hate-hate relationship), in part because it can be challenging for the uke – or the one being thrown (or pinned, strangled, or arm locked).

At the end of the day, however, judo players do kata all the time, even though it may not look like the kata we have to learn for our black belt requirements.

Kata, really, is about studying a sequence of set techniques. By that definition, if in the teaching of children, Uke takes a grip and pushes tori, and the child throws uke with Ippon SeoiNage and follows into Kesa Gatame, is that not kata?

It may not be an according-to-Hoyle “official” Kodokan Kata, but aren’t the children studying a specific sequence of techniques? Aren’t they learning the techniques, perfecting them? Isn’t this a basic study in attack and defense?

I think the most important thing is there is an application. Kata – especially the “official” katas, can look like a choreographed dance going on. It should not be that way, but rather should be a dynamic undertaking. If partner A takes a swing at Partner B, and Partner B fails to execute his technique, he should get hit.

In some form, whether a formal, official kata, or some other version of sequential, specific technical training, kata is an essential component of judo training. Kata is practice.

And it is used to perfect the finest points of techniques and the principles of judo.

One Reply to “The study of kata in judo”

  1. It’s also about removing all excuses. If you can’t perform a technique under “ideal” conditions, then you just don’t know it. Side note: Katame-no-kata requires Uke to make a genuine effort to escape. This forces Tori to sharpen his skill in the millions of ways that words/text can’t convey.

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