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Just a few principles that apply to Kata

I teach Shurite Kempo three nights a week. Twice a month I write a new principle on the board and my students and I discuss it. This has prompted me to put more thought in to the principles that apply to kata.

Here are seven of the principles I feel apply to the basic movements of our beginning kata, the Kihon. These kata were developed by our Grandmaster to help beginners learn the basic postures and stances and also for kyu rank and black belts to use as a tool for sharpening their own skill.

There are more principles that would apply, although I chose these seven principles because I have taught these the most and they are easily understood by a beginning student.

3. The first movement in kata is too cover, thus there is no first attack in Kempo. Kempo has a doctrine of life protection, not merely self-protection. This includes your attacker if practical.

The beginning movement in all our kata is a cover. When we move from stance to stance, our hands will cover our bodies.

7. Kata can be described as posture and stance practiced in a standardized pattern, posture is from the waist up and stance from the waist down.

The importance of posture is relative to positioning strength. If there is poor posture present, then the execution of the strike will not be accurate. Also, packing of the shoulders or lowering of the shoulders makes one’s posture strong.

The importance of the stance lies in the strength of the lining up of the lower body which will enable it to move in the strongest way possible and “lock” into the strongest position. A foot or a leg not in the proper position will cause weakness in the body.

12. One should breathe naturally during advanced timing kata. When practicing basic level timing, use the power breath.

The power breath is a breath that is generated in the hara. This is the area around your belt and is a back pressure breath. When performing a power breath, one is concerned about the movement and the strength behind the particular movement. At the end of the movement, a power breath is executed indicating for that moment the movement is over. As advanced timing of a kata is preformed, no power breath is used on each movement or the movement will be slower.

13. Priority of movement in kata is head (gaze)-feet-hands waza is not restricted in this manner.

When I am teaching this principle, I tell my students “you wouldn’t walk into a room without looking before entering, so why turn without looking?” Your gaze leads your movement, then your feet arrive, then you are able to strike what is necessary. This is a powerful way to move because the confidence in you movement has been achieved with the gaze, there is no question as to what is in front of you. Gaze leading the movement will enable you to move in the move with balance and in a graceful manner.

19. When moving from stance to stance push hard with the feet and keep the hips level unless directed otherwise by oral tradition.

We as humans, push with our toes as we walk. To push with your feet will assure a strong movement from stance to stance. There are some kata that will dictate different hip movement for purposes of bunkai that is for your instructor to teach you.

22. The arm position during kata should be straight, 90 degrees or 45 degrees. Drive the elbow into position, not the hand.

Straight is a punch, 90 is a block or a strike, 45 is usually a trap. These angles work the best due to the structure of the arm. Everyone has a forearm about the same length, when hitting at 90 degrees, it puts the striking arm at the correct angle to effect the arm, in a vital area.

If one focuses on the hand in a strike instead of an elbow the movement will be weak and not linear. By focusing on driving the elbow into position, the movement is done hard and in a straight line. We practice linear movements not circles. (That’s another principle, another time.)

26. Although it is sometimes necessary to retreat, Kempo strives to move into the attacker and fill vulnerable voids in his defense.

This is actually a very deep principle that can relate to other principles, I won’t go into that. With that said, it is important to push forward (refer to principle 19) into a position that would stop the second attack. We also practice a “fall” step that makes one think that you are moving backward, when you are actually pushing forward.

As I stated in the beginning, there are many other principles that apply to kata, actually all of them do. But for a beginner to understand proper basic movement, I think these are the most important principles for them to learn, not memorize, but study, practice and apply… that is learning.

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