28 May 2016

In karate practice we train by performing a predefined sequences of actions, called “kata”. These include blocks, strikes, stances and jumps in a strictly defined sequence.

Throughout the kata, every body part has an exact purpose. The legs do stances and kicks. The arms and forearms - blocks an punches. Even the smallest parts of the body have a part. The eyes need to look in the direction of the technique, the feet need to “grab” the floor, the fingers need to be tight in a fist, or in a specific open position.

Katas are tiring, because they require intensity, and perfection. And perfection is impossible. No matter how well you’re doing it, unless you are the world champion, there is someone whose kata is closer to perfection. And if you are the world champion, you’re aware of all the little imperfections.

Kata are fun for two reasons.

The first is purely physical. Kata stimulates every muscle and joint in the body, and develops strength, flexibility, speed and energy. And as you do it better, it feels better, less tiring and more enjoyable. Kata makes every muscle and joint in the body feel better.

The second reason is mental. It is impossible to think about anything else during kata. Perfection requires it. If your mind is not focused, you’re not getting close to perfection. Furthermore, eventually it becomes impossible to even think. At least not with words. The mind is still focused on the execution, but since it requires perfect timing, any conscious though is an impediment.

The thoughts during kata have no words. They are just an invocation of our internal image of the kata. Executing the kata is a replay of the movements, the breathing, and the timing of the kata as we imagine it.

Like a movie. When a beginner does kata, the movie is low resolution, it has time lag, missing scenes, wrong scenes. As the person improves, the movie timing becomes more accurate, the scenes become more complete, and resolution improves. Yet, there is always room for improvement. The resolution can improve, the details in each scene can improve, the soundtrack can improve, you can add 3D, you can add virtual reality.

Kata done well never disappoints. Because it is new and better every time.

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