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One More Kata

From time to time I speak to a student who wants to learn just one more kata to try to understand his Karate better. It is as if that one kata will hold some mysterious secret.

I know many fine sensei who collectively know an amazing number of kata. When we get together, it is very interesting to exchange notes on our various interpretations of the kata we practice. Some of our kata are similar and some are very different despite sharing the same name. There are several different versions of Passai (Patsai), for example, that are all similar in some general ways but also very different. It is interesting to see the differences because the different movements or techniques will give rise to different bunkai (applications).

I also value seeing other versions of kata I practice that may contain movements that are missing or combined in my version of the kata.

However, I do not feel that it is necessary to learn more kata to better understand Karate. If that were true, a person who "knows" 50 kata would understand Karate better than a person who only "knows"18 kata. And a person who "knows" 100 kata would be the best!

Of course, this is not the case. In order to better understand Karate, we should dig deeper in to the kata that we already practice. It is far better to know one kata well than 100 kata poorly. If you can do that one kata very well, then learning a new technique will be very simple.

What is better, to know 100 kata or to have a devastating punch -- a punch that could drop an attacker? A person with such a punch could probably do any kata very well.


Charles C. Goodin