Don Came Karate

“Competition” Kata is a Mime!

Competition Kata is a mime.

Watching a typical kata performance, when it is done well, is very much like watching a really good mime artist at work. ”What on earth are you talking about, kata is nothing like a mime, absolute nonsense!” I hear you cry? 

Well when we watch a performance of kata, especially a “competition” biased delivery, we are watching a piece of theatre. The performers job is to sell the intensity, the drama, as the kata unfolds. The whole kata is being exaggerated for effect in an attempt to draw in the audience – it is a show!

While there is no doubt that the high level of showmanship and physical skill required to “sell” a kata can be a beautiful thing to watch, whether for competition, grading or dojo, it is a very different thing to using kata as a schematic for study, whether it be for the kinetic linking or to explore bunkai. I would even go as far as to suggest that a good dancer or gymnast with no martial arts experience could probably learn a kata very quickly and do a very decent job of selling the performance in the process. However this does not mean that they have an understanding – or even need to have an understanding – of its function outside of the performance, it just means that they can perform the movements convincingly enough to sell it to the audience.

The problem is that often when we learn kata we focus too heavily on its outward appearance instead of on how it feels, with little or no reference to context or functional application. We externalise the form instead of internalising it. Of course correct posture is paramount, but In my opinion, if we were to focus more on the function of the form instead of the aesthetic, the end result would not only be a functional kata in terms of its applications but we would also have a kata that is very pleasing to watch. Not as showy perhaps, but one with much more depth and meaning.

I would like to leave you with this thought – out of function comes form, not the other way around! Enjoy your kata practice.

Copyright Don Came BSc, 7th Dan Kyoshi, Kissaki-Kai UK