Know a thousand, but master one thoroughly

What is the most important point in studying kata?

Wrong question. Because there are at least two.

As for one, in karate [I always include kobudō when using this word] as well as in other Japanese bujutsu, since olden times it was considered the correct way to master one technique or kata thoroughly. This one technique or kata then leads to the understanding of other techniques and kata. In any case, the above refers to the idea that to master one thing thoroughly is to master 1000 things. On the other hand, to simply know a 1000 things is artificial and leads to nothing.

But the other important point in studying kata seemingly disproves the first one, and vice versa. The point is that the kata ARE the basics, and that cumulation of their practice leads to… the free use and combination of techniques. Some great master said this but I forgot who it was. In any case, it means you ought to study a lot of stuff. For example, in kobudō, everytime I learned a new kata was the point in time when the previous kata disclosed to me. Today, when asked, I also count iai /battō / kenjutsu under karate, just to simplify my life. Naturally, outsiders — and insiders as well — have no clue what I mean by saying karate.

So my personal syllabus is made up by too many kata to mention. But I am only good at one or two, maybe.

Point one and two simply mean that you can and probably should study whatever quantity of kata, techniques, and even martial arts as you like, as long as you thoroughly mastered at least one. So it is no contradiction at all that some say that 3 kata are enough, while other swear 60 kata are barely sufficient.

Know a thousand, but master one thoroughly.


© 2016, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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