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"Hidden" Kata

Let's assume that the creators of kata intended to "hide" the meanings of the movements in the kata. By "hide" I mean that a civilian (non-Karate student) who observed the kata would not know what the movements meant, or would be able to know so only superficially.

If that was the intent, I think that the creators were a bit too successful because it seems that many Karate students either do not know or only have a superficial understanding of the meanings of the movements in kata. I mean no offense. Certainly some students understand a lot. But you have to admit, if you ask most Karate students what a movement in a kata means, they will either not know or will only know a shallow meaning. Very few students will: (1) know multiple levels of meaning; (2) be able to connect a movement to the movements preceding and following the movement; (3) be able to connect the movement to other movements in the kata; (4) be able to connect the movement to other movements in the kata series; and (5) be able to connect the movement to other movements in other kata of the system.

Have you read Prof. Rick Clark's 75 Down Blocks? That book is just about one block! One block!

Honestly, the meanings of many movements seem hidden from the Karate students themselves, rather than from civilians. In some cases, the movements of kata have become so exaggerated or crystalized (rigid) that the original meanings might no longer apply. In fact, some kata movements, as done by some students, probably have no useful meanings at all.

It is really up to the instructors to enlighten the students to the meanings of the movements of kata. Kata were not designed for tournaments -- either for performance or for kumite. Thus, a tournament emphasis will usually reveal little about the meaning of kata.

In my opinion, the only way to learn to understand the meaning of movements is to pair them off. An intellectual understanding is not enough. You have to apply the techniques in order to be able to understand the techniques and to develop the muscle memory that will enable the movements to be used spontaneously.

When you begin to know the meanings of the movements in kata, they will no longer be hidden to you -- they will seem so obvious. And if you do not know the meanings, at least some of them, how do you know what you are doing and how you should be doing what you are doing?

One interpretation of the term "Karate" is "open hand." It is all open, nothing is hidden, at least not from serious Karate students.


Charles C. Goodin